Social media advertising
Facebook isn’t just the world’s biggest social network. It’s now one of the world’s biggest online media companies, thanks to billions in advertising revenues. And we’re likely to see more advertising on social media as other social networks develop their own advertising products.
In spite of this, advertising on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn remains a controversial area for both advertisers and users.
Social network advertising faces a particular problem in being seen as intrusive by users, and efforts to minimize this often result in forms of advertising that are less effective for advertisers.
Before we look at Facebook, let’s look briefly at what advertising opportunities some of the other social networks offer.
Examples of advertising on social networks
To give you a flavor of how advertising on social media is evolving, here are a couple of examples currently offered.
Twitter is relatively new to advertising but it’s ramping up fast and beginning to match rivals in the types of ads it offers and the effectiveness of its advertising. It’s developing into an important player in the online advertising landscape.
Twitter offers several products, each of which works with widely-used features of Twitter, but is clearly marked as advertising to avoid confusion and maintain the integrity of the network (https://business.twitter.com/en/advertise/). Examples are:
Promoted Tweets. These are ordinary tweets you make from your account but you can pay to have them ‘promoted’. Twitter will feature them in your followers’ news streams (‘timelines’) so they’re less likely to miss them, and will distribute them beyond your own followers.
Promoted Accounts. Instead of promoting an individual tweet, you can promote your Twitter account in order to gain more followers. Twitter’s algorithm promotes you to users it knows might be interested in following you.
Twitter Cards. Twitter has introduced its own version of an online display ads which they call Cards. Cards appear in a user’s stream of Tweets and have a headline, image (or video) and brief text with call to action. Cards will typically link back to your website. Like its rivals, Twitter offers pricing based on pay-per-click and extensive analytics to track your campaigns’ success.
Promoted Trends. Trending topics list the top #hashtags and topics being talked about on Twitter and are shown to users on their home pages. Promoted trends let advertisers promote a topic to generate discussion. Again, they’re marked as advertising to separate them from the user-generated trends but have a prominent location on users’ Twitter pages.
Goodreads is a dedicated social network for book lovers so its audience of more than 10 million is well-targeted.
Its advertising products are specifically designed for selling books with features such as links to Goodreads reviews or giveaway offers (currently ebooks aren’t accepted for giveaways but check for a policy change).
Small budget advertisers can use its online self-service system where they bid on a cost per click basis. The ads are short and simple with a small image, headline, a few words of copy and a call-to-action link.
Advertisers with a bigger budget can contact Goodreads directly for customized packages such as book launch programs (http://www.goodreads.com/advertisers).
Let’s look at Facebook advertising in more detail. It’s the most-developed advertising platform among the social media and reaches the largest audience.
Facebook offers a number of advertising options and not all of them depend on you having an active Facebook Page. And unlike Google’s AdWords search advertising, you don’t have to target based on keywords.
Facebook lets you pick who your ads will be shown to based on criteria such as demographics, interests, region, users’ activity on other sites (yes, you’re tracked as you surf the internet), and will even let you show different ads to people on your own mailing lists from those shown other Facebook users.
If you have a Facebook business page, you can run advertising in using the “promoted post” style in which you pay to get your post seen by a larger pool of Facebook users. Or you can run display ads that can be set to appear to Facebook users who meet various criteria that you set.
Here are two examples of Facebook advertising products.
Advertisers can pay to highlight posts or other activities from the news feed, such as Likes, comments, or event attendance.
The sponsored stories appear as Facebook ads, or as ‘featured’ stories in the user’s news feed. Ironically, this is necessary in part due to Facebook’s own policy of filtering its users’ news feeds to prevent most posts from getting through. Facebook’s official claim is that only 16% of posts get seen by users.
These simple ads comprise a short headline, some brief copy and a small image. They run down the side of Facebook Pages and Profiles.
A unique feature allows Facebook to add pictures of your friends to the ad based on who Likes the Page or product advertised. Facebook calls these ‘social ads’ and claims they are more effective because of the implied recommendation from friends.
Try before you buy
You can make mock-ups of your ads and see how they’ll look when they run — without having to use your live Page — by using the Facebook Demo Tool (http://www.facebook.com/FacebookStudio/app_252363594842548).
How to buy Facebook ads
Facebook provides an online self-service system to buy and manage your ad campaigns.
- To get started, click on the Create an Advert link which is accessible from the admin panel of your Page. Ads can be targeted to users and their friends who already Like your Page, or to those who don’t, and can be selected on a number of demographics such as location, age, and interests.
- Next, you nominate the campaign objective from the two choices for user actions: To click on your ad, or to Like your Page.
- Facebook advertising is sold on either a cost-per-click or a cost-per-1000-impressions basis, depending on the campaign objective you selected. If the objective was clicks, the ads are sold on a CPC basis. If it was Likes, they’re only sold on a CPM basis. You can bid for CPC advertising but not for ads bought on a CPM basis: Facebook has the unusual policy of not disclosing the cost per 1000 impressions until the campaign is running. Advertisers instead set a daily budget limit.
Monitoring Facebook ad campaigns
Once you’ve set up an ad campaign, Facebook provides a Reports Manager to let you track and analyse ad performance based on a number of metrics.
- Ad performance: impressions, clicks, click-through rates, etc.
- Demographics of users who’ve responded to your ads
- Interactions with your ad, such as photo views or video plays
These reports are specific to your Facebook ads and sponsored stories. To get reports on your Page such as Likes, number of people seeing your posts, etc., use the Facebook Insights tool that we learned about in the earlier section on promoting your Facebook Page.
Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.