The unequivocal consensus among brands - large, small, national, and local alike - is that there's value to advertising on social media sites. It's 2001 all over again, only this time it isn't paid search advertising that's on everyone's lips but a more interactive approach to reaching consumers that promises to have just as much staying power.
It's easy to look back and see why search engine advertising blew up. When consumers search for information and a paid ad appears, they're already actively engaged. The majority of the media buyer's work is done; not only has she found interested users, but users who are interested right now. Because of that, click rates can be high and easily lead to product purchases.
Can the same be said about social media? That's the question, and perhaps the only thing holding brands back. From the perspective of exposure - be it increasing brand awareness, recall, or affinity - social media marketing has demonstrated its power, but the recent news that General Motors would be terminating its Facebook ad spending sent up a red flag. Enquiries followed. Automotive News, among many other publications, asked whether Facebook could really help sell cars at all. Brand awareness? Experts told the publication that yes, for that, the site has its uses. Generating automotive sales leads? Not so much.
And yet, brands like Ford have continued to place display ads on the site, citing a strong execution as the key to success. They aren't the only ones spending. In the first quarter of this year $872 million of Facebook's $1.06 billion in revenue came from ads. It's the industry leader in U.S. display ad revenue, topping even Yahoo (ironically, Google is expected to surpass Facebook in ad sales by next year).
Meanwhile, other forms of social media are becoming lead generation tools in their own right. One recent survey reports that 32 percent of Pinterest users have made a purchase after seeing an image on the site, some by clicking directly on the link and others by searching elsewhere for the product. Another survey conducted by blog ad network BlogHer found social sites could influence a purchase among female users, with 47 percent of Pinterest users, 31 percent of Twitter users, and 33 percent of Facebook claiming this to be true. But these purchases were incited by social media recommendations, not paid ads.
Every campaign is unique; every digital marketing success subjective in its relevance to product type, brand objectives, and campaign goals. If Facebook's ads didn't work out for GM, does that mean others should cut and run? Of course not. It's expected there will be 1.43 billion social network users worldwide by the end of this year, up nearly 20 percent over 2011. Facebook has 900 million of these, along with your competitor's ads. What it doesn't have, however, is the same type of user behavior that lured marketers to paid search, and this is where media buyers must be wary. If it's customer acquisition you have in mind, keep these tips close.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT