comScore, in collaboration with Facebook, has attempted to address recent skepticism over the social network’s effectiveness as an advertising platform.

In a study released last week, comScore claims earned media exposure on social services can have a tangible, measurable effect on lifting consumer purchase intent.

ComScore’s study, “The Power of Like 2”, is available for download here with more detail at the company’s blog. Here are five claims we found noteworthy:

1. Facebook is a branding vehicle with measurable, latent effects on purchase intent. The platform is not meant to drive immediate action, but to inspire conversion in the coming weeks. The below graph illustrates the cumulative lift in purchase behavior for Fans and Friends of Fans versus those not exposed to the brand’s content on Facebook. Over the course of the four week study, comScore recorded a 38 percent increase in purchase conversion among those exposed to Starbucks’ social marketing versus the control. (We’ve written more on why Facebook matters previously.)

2. Engagement should be the focus, but even low engagement should not be a point of major concern. Traditional click through rate has been an awful metric both in terms of its ability to measure  consumer engagement and with the extremely low percentages that have been adopted as industry standards. Engagement rates on Facebook are generally higher, and each interaction on Facebook has an earned media value that would not be included in a direct CTR comparison. A reader clicks on a banner ad and the experience is done; a Facebook user clicks Like and the experience is broadcast outward to their own networks.

3. It does not matter if you have millions of Fans if you’re not willing to do anything for them. It’s easy to point at large follower number as the key performance metric, and marketers need to rethink their success metrics for social platforms. The goal should be to reach, engage, and resonate with as many readers as possible and influence consumers towards a purchase action. Fans are the starting point, and many brands forget the middle steps to use social channels as effective marketing vehicles:

4. Nearly 40 percent of time on Facebook is spent on the News Feed, which must be considered the main channel for native brand exposure. The primary method of media consumption is the News Feed, and brands need to participate in this natural format by creating content. Brands should not focus on creating isolated social experiences, but instead create content at scale to reach users. The number of brand interactions that occur on the News Feed is multiples greater than on the brand’s page itself. I would bet heavily that this pattern of consumption is mirrored with Tumblr’s Dashboard and Twitter’s stream.

5. Social presences are replacing a brand’s own dot-com. This isn’t earth-shattering news, but the behavior above has a broader effect on the way people are consuming brand media, leaving standalone brand sites isolated on the web. The Skittles Facebook page attracted nearly 14 times as many visitors as in March of this year. Marketers should not overlook the potential network effect of having a built-in audience for engagement and content amplification across social services – Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

Bonus study – Users are now more willing to accept brands on social networks and are allowing them to influence their buying decisions. Edison Research (the same firm that provides exit polling for the Presidential elections) released The Social Habit earlier in the month at BlogWorld New York. Their findings align with comScore’s, showing a year over year increase in the influence Facebook and other social networks have over purchase decisions. Nearly half of sampled consumers now cite Facebook as influencing buying behavior, nearly doubling last year’s affirmative response.

The percentage of consumers not influenced by social media also decreased by nearly half, down to 36% from 68% of consumers last year. This unsurprisingly coincides with a rise in brand following behavior, which has doubled over the last two years. A third of consumers now follow brands on some social media source, according to their research.

I would expect more studies like these two to surface as Facebook looks to justify its platform to marketers and investors. With brand audiences growing well into the millions across social channels, many marketers are challenged by maximizing their investments in Fan acquisition. The above studies suggest that by creating engaging content, brands can effectively use social channels as marketing channels and inspire real-world action.