Facebook Releases Feature to Gain Credit for Ads That Work

Facebook Inc., which has faced questions about the effectiveness of its advertisements, is releasing a new tool to prove that the promotions work even when people don’t buy something directly after seeing the ads.

The social network’s new feature -- called conversion lift measurement -- lets advertisers track the behavior of two sets of people: one that saw the ad campaign on Facebook, and a group with the same demographics that didn’t. If the first group buys more of the product, the marketers know their Facebook promotion worked.

The tool helps solve a problem for Facebook, which is that individuals may not immediately buy a product after seeing an ad on the social network and instead later use Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. to search for and purchase the item. In those scenarios, Google and Amazon get credit for spurring the purchase rather than Menlo Park, California-based Facebook.

Facebook’s sales team will visit all of the company’s biggest advertisers, explaining how the new tool can help them figure out where to spend, according to Brad Smallwood, head of advertising measurement and insights at the company. Smallwood used the analogy of a restaurant owner thinking that a sign outside the window was convincing people to come in, when really it was another reason.

“They’re misattributing where they should be spending their advertising dollars,” he said.

Facebook can give marketers data on its users’ behavior after seeing an ad since it built technology to anonymously track individuals across their various devices and websites, which it calls “people-based marketing.” The technology is a main feature of Facebook’s Atlas ad server.

Facebook, which will report quarterly earnings on Wednesday, derives more than 85 percent of its annual revenue from social ads on personal computers and mobile devices.