Latest resource: Maturing from social listening to digital consumer intelligence

A practical guide to levelling up how consumer insights are used across your organization

Read the guide

Latest resource: Maturing from social listening to digital consumer intelligence

A practical guide to levelling up how consumer insights are used across your organization

Read the guide

Published January 17th 2012

Does Social Media Advertising Actually Work?

Many years ago, adverts run by Google started showing up on web pages in virtually every country in the world. Even today, Google certainly do not make much of a song and dance about their Google Ads, preferring instead to allow them to blend into the pages on which they show up.

They have done very handsomely out of it too. As many businesses will testify, a well-run ad campaign through Google’s pay-per-click advertising can really help a company to develop, especially with its easy-to-use analytical programs that have the ability to place these ads.

It makes it straightforward for businesses to see just how productive these adverts are for them and to make instant decisions that can cost or earn millions.

Of course, despite the fact that Google like to hold as many of the cards as possible, it was inevitable that other web-based companies would soon look to take a chip out of Google’s gold block.

Social media sites have garnered a huge proportion of today’s most valued web users – Facebook alone has 800 million active users – so it’s unsurprising that which have looked to mirror and even eclipse Google’s efforts in terms of generating money through advertising.

Social media advertising is a new approach. This Reddit how-to guide from ‘The Oatmeal’ says it all:

The question is of course: does social media advertising actually work? To answer that we have to take a look at some examples and none spring to mind more readily than Facebook.

Facebook Advertising

 The first thing to note about Facebook advertising is that it is easy to use, the administration is straightforward and the targeting is finely tuned.

Secondly, and just as importantly, it is accessible to everyone and you do not need a big budget to start a pay per click campaign.

Facebook will allow you to target potential clients through the use of keyword targeting and this is an attractive part of the package. You can also focus on individual countries too, so you know that your product or page is being seen by the right people.

However, a 2011 surveybyWebtrends, using over 11,000 Facebook campaigns as a test group, noticed that they underperformed compared to some traditional banner ads in terms of click-throughs despite reportedly also costing quite a lot more.

So why is it that trillions of adverts are served on the platform if it doesn’t work for advertisers?

There’s no doubt that Facebook campaigns can deliver views, and small marketing campaigns often do well getting their brand in front of millions of people via this platform.

Recommendations from friends definitely improve Facebook’s advert performance too. Click-through rates on adverts that users see their friends have ‘liked’ have been shown to double in clicks.

But what is really important with Facebook advertising is the lasting effect of the adverts via word of mouth. This is again friend-driven, so even if some campaigns experience lower click through rates and high view counts, the discussions amongst friends outlast the adverts by weeks.

This ultimately means visits to the page or products will come in slowly and surely for some time to come following the initial campaign.

The bottom line for Facebook is that it is a site that retains the people who are browsing it – users spend around 8 hours a month on Facebook, far more time than is spent on Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and Amazon.

Considering buyer behaviour, if a site like Facebook manages to retain a customer during the purchasing decision up to the point of sale, then it’s on to a winner.

Can Twitter Work In Isolation?

 Twitter’s decision to start offering what are effectively pay-per-click ads on the site came as a bit of an unwelcome decision to some, although it was not a shock. It was inevitable given a lack of other obvious ways to monetise the site.

Wrigleys were the main sponsors of the Coachella festival in America last year, and they have used Twitter as a driving force in their ad campaign.

Surprisingly, the basis of their promotion has been to drive traffic from Twitter across to YouTube so potential customers can view live content through their YouTube channel.

It’s hard to be sure of the exact success of the campaign, but if the rumours are to be believed then Wrigleys are spending in the vicinity of $120,000 per day on Twitter advertising.

Stats back in April of last year showed that their content had been viewed almost a million times, which indicated a great result. The growth in their social audience also increased:Facebook fans grew about 10 per cent to 208,000, and itsTwitter followers grew about 16 per cent to top 87,050.

But when the click-through to the actual social object (the video) are scrutinised the campaign quickly starts to lose credibility with only 36,207 clicks.

So it transpires that Twitter did a superb job at building awareness of the campaign, it just didn’t deliver on it.

A key question to ask would be: why run a Youtube campaign on Twitter?

But all this comes down to is the industry getting used to these new advertising methods and in Wrigleys’ case the result was a good deal of interaction – but one that could have been managed better.

Would you read it on Reddit?

 If you intend to advertise on Reddit, you have to tread carefully. This is a social bookmarking site which is used predominantly by some very web-savvy individuals, so without targeting the right subreddits, you are likely to find nothing more than scorn (no smiley face).

However, the very fact that it allows you to target specifically is a big plus. You should be able to hit your target market fairly easily with a bit of research and this should yield good results.

Advertising on the home page of Reddit is also a tried and tested approach and can work well. The format is an interesting one, with bids for the top spot taken between $20 and $9,999.99.

You then receive a proportional amount of time atop the page for that day. This means some degree of trial and error is involved and you can never be sure from one day to the next how much time you are going to enjoy on the home page, which can be unnerving.

The fact that the sponsored links look so similar to the normal subs only goes to help conversion rates.

You will find plenty of tools to help you to assess the performance of your adverts, which makes Reddit a great site to advertise on, as long as you know your market.

The key to Reddit advertising is that you have to know the community and what makes it tick. Selling something on Reddit without playing to the community’s use of language or memes would be a pointless waste of money.

Should You Use YouTube?

 YouTube is a great way of making money if you know how to use it. YouTube itself will tell you that it can give you a 53 per cent increase in message recall when linked with television adverts, which gives you some indication of just how many users are using YouTube and paying attention to what they see.

One option when using YouTube is to go for video ads. There are reach ads, which include home page ads over the course of 24 hours, or can be first-watch videos in the suggestion column. Another route is the more traditional display ads located right next to popular video footage.

Prime positions on YouTube do cost a hefty sum however, with a homepage advert costing over $375,000… a day. With over 18 million eyeballs viewing it, some would argue that it’s worth it.

Social Media Advertising Works!

 There’s no doubt that social media advertising works, but caution is essential if you want it to work well for you. Know your market, get a strong understanding of the online social behaviour of your potential customers and you should be able to use social media advertising to draw them to you.

Just don’t rely on one network, rather use a whole range together to make sure that you are covering all the bases.

Check in a few times a day to monitor progress and make sure your accounts are up-to-date and relevant to current trends for best success.

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Crimson Hexagon has merged with Brandwatch. You’re in the right place!

From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.