It has been highlighted recently how more and more big name brands are turning to social media outlets for their advertising. A report in today's Financial Times reports that Facebook is now attracting input from global giants such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola.
Facebook is an interesting case study because it allows companies to establish a presense on their site for free using it's Pages funtction. This is complemented by a paid advertising system that displays targetted ads on the right hand side of the screen. As Facebook’s chief operating officer points out “If you look at people’s profile pages, you’ll see a lot of commercial activity even without advertising.”and this makes it an excellent medium for building up a promotional presence.
The advantage inherent with social media sites like this is that the very nature of the sites makes it extremely easy to target ads at specific users. The advertising systems can cross-match the data contained in user profiles with the parameters selected by advertisers in order to get their ads showing to a very specific target audience.
The problem social media advertising has is a question of user motivation. If someone is search on Google they are actively looking for something, generally users are not looking for products and services whilst on sites like Facebook. Therefore the types of promotion highlighted needs to change, the focus should generally be on informational content and event announcements. This is key to running a successfull social media advertising campaign with a tangible return on investment. It is essential to be providing something that will be of interest to a user rather than trying to meet a pre-existing demand as with systems like Google adWords.
Also it is fair to say that currently the model for dedicated social media advertising is very much B to C, there is little evidence to suggest the benefits of a B to B campaign using Facebook. LinkedIn, which has a much more corporate model, is served by the Google Placement Network.
So social media advertising with it's targetting advantages is opening up a new avenue for companies wanting to advertise however it is not as simple as just picking your audience and running your ads. A report in today's Telegraph highlights research that shows that despite it's growing popularity social networking adverts fail to engage with over 90% of users.
The article quotes Liane Dietrich, managing director of affiliate network company LinkShare
"Less than 10 per cent of our respondents are interacting with adverts across social networking sites. This just proves that there is still long way to go until people using networks, such as Facebook, are converted to online shoppers through targeted advertising. We don’t think brands should walk away but rather need to evolve what message their adverts are conveying. Online users are information shoppers – they are looking for buyer reviews – so adverts need relay more information to cater for this need."
This shows how picking the right message and displaying it in the right way is vital to the success of a social media advertising campaign. They do however offer unparalled accuracy in reaching the exact audience advertising are hoping ot engage with and so, if the underlying message is engaging enough, offer outstanding value for money.