By adaptive - June 19th, 2012

[A]dvertisers need to understand social media advertising is not just about placing ads it’s about context and content. Twitter, passed 10 million active users in the UK this week, Facebook ha...

Advertisers need to understand social media advertising is not just about placing ads it’s about context and content.

Twitter, passed 10 million active users in the UK this week, Facebook has 30 million users in the UK but will an advert on Facebook be three times as effective as one on Twitter and is it less effective as an advert on Google? We look at how you make the right choice for your business and get the most out of your social media advertising.

Calculating the return on investment on social media is a problem for most businesses; just what is the value of a tweet on Twitter to your business, and what is the real cost to a business for the creation and day-to-day management of a Facebook page? If you’re looking at the web and to other businesses for answers to this sort of question then you won’t find them.

The market is still to new and the differences between Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. are just too big for this to be a fair comparison. So it’s no surprise that businesses are looking to do more conventional online advertising than social media, as it’s easier to calculate the ROI, and it’s a lot less work to put a toe in the online media water. But, that doesn’t mean you should ignore social media entirely. However to be successful and effective you need to be aware of the pitfalls.

Social messages

The main question for most businesses looking at advertising on social media is which social media channel to choose. The answer really depends on your potential audience and what you are trying to advertise. With Facebook, there are over 900 million users worldwide, and with a market that big and with the level of information that Facebook has on each user, it’s possible to get an advert in front of any demographic that you can think of.

Will Ashton, Global Strategy Director, TechlightenmentTechlightenment, Global Strategy Director, Will Ashton agrees but with a slight caveat, “On Facebook the numbers are so large, for users and page views – they’re over a trillion a month – that if you filter out the users that are just going to be interested in your product with good targeted adverts, then you can hit your audience and get a good conversion rate.”

However, will that demographic be happy to see your advert next to the pictures of their friends stag or hen do? A report released in November 2011 by research group TNS said that 61% of Britons do not want to engage with brands via social media, and just a quarter of consumers in developed markets see social networks as a place to buy products.

Additionally the other major criticism of social media is whether the audience are in the right frame of mind for advertising. AdWords works for Google because people are actively searching for those things that the ads are selling, whereas people are on social media for other reasons and they're probably not in buying mode at all.

The figures seem to back this assertion up. A recent poll of Facebook users by the Associated Press and CNBC found more than half (57%) of Facebook users have never clicked on an advert or sponsored content when using the social network, and 26% hardly ever clicked on an advert, although that’s not to say that the brand message hasn’t sunk in.

Ashton accepts the argument but doesn’t see this happening in practice. “Facebook can still work very well for direct response, yes you’re not searching for a specific term, and therefore you are not ready to buy something, and when you place an advert on Facebook click-through-rates are lower. But with an intelligent strategy you are able to see conversion rates and cost per conversion rates comparable to search, and we have advertisers who have a lower cost for conversion on Facebook than search.”

In addition, Ashton thinks the secret to being successful on Facebook is creativity and context, “It’s important as with any advertising to understand the context of the medium you are advertising on. You have to be more creative with social media than search. If you just put an advert out and do blanket targeting then you are not going to have much success. As well as the advert you also need to have a fan page with relevant up-to-date content and details on your products, and then promote that with sponsored stories.”

Message received

Garret Keogh, MD, of social media agency Telegraph Hill, believes you also need to look at the way users engage with the channel, “Each platform is used in a different way and any content or advertising approach needs to understand how users engage with Facebook and Twitter content, for example. We always talk about there being three levels of engagement. Twitter is really just everyone running around shouting and being enthusiastic (or negative). It’s incredibly unfocussed but also high energy and immediate. Facebook shows a closer level of engagement eg a comment or a like, but there's still lots of passing traffic, lots of dissenting voices in the mix.”

Ashton warns that businesses should also expect different sorts of responses from different channels, “With Twitter it’s all about real-time information, and immediacy. So having a promoted tweet you can have a huge uplift, with an immediate effect, but the longevity isn’t there on a promoted tweet.”

facebook-small-business-boostSo is social media advertising worth it? General Motors don’t seem to think so. They pulled their advertising in the same week as Facebook floated, claiming their advertising had little impact on sales, despite spending $10 million in 2011. Was it bad luck, a failure of the platform, or was there something else? Keogh thinks the answer is to look deeper than just creating an advert. "I think the future for brands and companies on social media spaces is a strategy that goes beyond advertising but also includes a parallel social media content strategy. What is your voice on these platforms? Who is writing your content? Don't underestimate the potential opportunities - but also the possible pitfalls."

Simon-Milner Facebook UK Director PolicyIn order to help businesses decide if Facebook is right for them, Facebook has created the Business Boost programme an initiative that offers businesses up to £60 of free advertising on the Facebook platform. Facebook, UK Director of Policy, Simon Milner explains the reasons behind the new programme, “We were aware that there were a lot of businesses who feel they need to be on Facebook, but don’t quite what that means or how to do it, so we put some effort into some initiatives to try and help them use Facebook more efficiently.”

Social media is still a very young discipline when it comes to advertising, so there are bound to be teething problems, but like all advertising there’s only one way that any business is going to get better, and more effective and that’s to test, test, test.

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