Ther term “social media advertising” is, to some, an oxymoron. They will tell you it doesn’t work for the simple reason that people don’t visit social networks to view advertising, but to interact with their community. It’s a mindset issue.
You may be familiar with the recent report by Knowledge Networks, which found that less than five percent of social media users say they regularly turn to social media for guidance on purchase decisions, and only 16% say they are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social sites.
However, for every person who says it doesn’t work, there is one who attests that it does. Here’s a brief litany of pro and con:
“In the end, selling clicks and traffic when people don’t want to click or navigate the Web will inevitably fail.” – Joe Marchese, MediaPost
“Despite the fact that social media advertising has yet to hit its stride and is taking some lumps for low click rates when compared to high pageviews, it will succeed.” – Rich Ord, WebProNews
“Money can’t buy you love. It just doesn’t work – at least not anymore in an era where we’re getting better at ignoring the marketers obsessed with interrupting us.” – Andy Sernovitz, SmartBlog on Social Media
“Incorporating social media advertisements with social media networking practices can give more impressions to the companies’ targeted users as well as a channel for users to connect with the company they trust.” – Dana Larson, Top Rank blog
“Any marketer worth their salt knows the value of setting up a social media advertising campaign…” – Heather Lutze, TechJournal South
“Forrester Predicts Huge Growth for Social Media Marketing” – Forrester Research (from Marketing Pilgrim blog post)
“eMarketer Predicts Social Media Advertising Will Fizzle in 2009″ – eMarketer (from Marketing Pilgrim blog post)
I think you get my point. There is much confusion and lack of clear direction on whether social media advertising will work or not. Yet, there is empirical evidence that it is working for some.
For example, online retailer Bonobos found a profitable market using Facebook Ads. It works “incredibly well and is very easy to use,” said Dave Eisenberg, the company’s chief of staff and acting VP of marketing.
And no one can deny that Dell has found a very profitable niche with its Dell Outlet Twitter account (@DellOutlet), selling over two million dollars in inventory in just under two years. While that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the computer manufacturer’s overall revenues, it cost little, if anything, in advertising and marketing expense to produce those returns.
So, does social media advertising work or doesn’t it? Yes, “if you know how to use it” states the title of a blog post from BazaarVoice, the company that creates customer rating and review software. They even introduce what, to me, is a new term: Social commerce marketing.
“Successful social commerce marketing is about soliciting structured feedback relevant to shopping and buying, and making this feedback available to customers making these purchase decisions,” says the post.
One more time with feeling: Does social media advertising work or doesn’t it?
I think it can when the right factors are in place. Dana Larson, whose post I referenced above, lists four key elements:
- Understand your targeted social media channel
- Target the correct users with your message
- Ensure the advertisements are supplementing the present content on the social site
- Have a social networking presence
The first two points are tantamount to marketing 101. It’s the last two that are most significant to finding true social media advertising nirvana. Let your advertising supplment other content you’ve created on the site, and be an active participant in the ongoing conversation.
In other words, simply popping a few ads in Facebook won’t do the trick. As I’ve often said (quoting the Cluetrain), “markets are conversations,” therefore, “participation is marketing.”
I’m not ready to write off social media as an advertising channel. It’s just that old ways of doing things don’t work as well in this new environment. You can’t put “new wine into old wineskins,” so to speak.
What’s your take? Does social media advertising work or does it not? Or, is the jury still out? If you have some examples either pro or con, please feel free to include them in a comment.