Social networks are sucking up huge amounts of time from users, so the ad content on there is pretty key. As it turns out, a study by Psychster showed that sponsored content pages were among the most engaging but least produced sort of ad content.

The study showed that social-networking sites where users could fan or add a logo to their own page produced greater purchase intent, while “give and get” widgets were more engaging than banner ads but no more effective in driving up purchase intent.

“From banner ads, to widgets and branded profiles, ad types differ in the cognitive, social, and motivational foundations that make them a success, as well as the time and cost to bring them to market,” said David Evans Ph.D., CEO of Psychster to MediaPost.

The study distinguished itself by looking at consumer attitudes towards ads and the brands they promoted, rather than performance metrics. “No ad type was so engaging that it overcame the advantage found by matching the brand to the Web site,” added Evans. “It is widely believed that ads are at an advantage when the brand relates to the site on which it appears . . . Our findings replicated this effect, such that the soup brand performed better on Allrecipes than it did on Facebook.”

The study also found that consumers properly identified all the ads as marketing sponsored pages were seen as less direct marketing than banners and newsletters, but the latter two were better at purchase intent.