The answer is "yes" according to a Nielsen/Facebook study. Nielsen studied more than 125 Facebook ad campaigns and concluded that:
...earned media and social advocacy made Facebook users more likely to notice ads, absorb their content and make purchases."
And just how well did the combination work?
"The data clearly shows that the social advocacy of earned media played a substantial role in the performance of homepage ads on Facebook. According to the data, ad recall grew from 10% to 16%, awareness doubled from 4% to 8% and purchase intent quadrupled from 2% to 8%. That last metric is perhaps the most telling, and shows that when a Facebook user advocates for an ad, the ad is 4x more likely to result in a purchase.
In the organic impression department, Nielsen found that "those users exposed to both the 'paid ad' and the organic impression remembered the ad at three times the rate of those just exposed to the paid homepage ad," and that "homepage ads increased awareness of the product or brand by 4% on average, but exposure to both homepage ads and organic ads increased awareness by a delta of 13% versus the control group.""
Now, while these are proxies of purchase (and I don't know how many of the roughly 70 manufacturers ad campaigns were CPG), the numbers do clearly show the power that social media has to amplify paid digital media. Why, in this case, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression, April 2010, Jon Gibs
The Formula for Effective Facebook Ads, May 2010, Jennifer Van Grove
Frank Cotignola is the Consumer Insights Manager, CIS Center of Excellence, Knowledge Management at Kraft Foods, where he leads the group's Knowledge Management and social media listening/consulting efforts. Frank helped develop the Community Intelligence Portal, which is the largest site of its type at Kraft Foods. He also authors "Randomness," which is the top blog at the company. His efforts to develop both free and paid (with NetBase, Radian6, and MotiveQuest) listening platforms and insights have led to the integration and usage of such research into traditional "asking" research and shopper insights. Frank has 19+ years of analytic research experience across a number of well-known suppliers and manufacturers. He recently presented "Listening with a Mix of Free and Paid Tools," at the ARF University Social Media Bootcamp.