By Eric Berry
Social marketing is one of the hottest areas of internet advertising, and it is vital for a brand’s awareness and market presence.
For many, social marketing translates into advertising on Facebook. This means either banner ads on the right or sponsored content in the feed. Exploring this more closely, there is nothing inherently social about Facebook’s banner ads. They are targeted using individual demographic and taste data (and correlations) for users on the platform, and appear simply as banner ads on the site. More recently, the targeting was expanded through the Facebook Exchange to include third-party data, making these ads even less social. The ads and the content thereof aren’t social, and one user’s interaction with a banner is not influenced by, and doesn’t influence their social network.
Unlike Facebook’s banner ads, sponsored content more accurately fits the moniker of social advertising. This is content created by brands to be distributed through the vast network of likes that they have acquired through the years. My friend Jeff likes Amazon on Facebook (for a reason that I may never understand), so now Amazon’s posts show up in my with Jeff’s name attached to them, and I can like and share them. This is native advertising and recent data shows it’s particularly effective on mobile . Indeed, having a friend vouch for a product or brand, and having it show up in the newsfeed is an incredibly effective advertising strategy.
Social marketing may also be considered to be the efforts a brand makes on its Facebook page itself. Facebook, however, has made these activities less important as distribution now comes at a premium. Thus the economics change dramatically – the cost of social marketing in this channel includes both the very expensive distribution price plus the equally expensive agency cost to create the content. While an effective form of marketing, the aggregate ROI is a question to consider.
This all begs the question, why are brands only thinking about social advertising in these channels. Having a brand’s content in users’ feeds is vital, and this doesn’t just include Facebook. Pinterest is a very effective driver of sales , and Tumblr is gaining substantial mindshare, especially among the younger generation . For a brand to effectively market socially, they must embrace what social actually means – leveraging the influence of social networks to drive brand awareness and purchase decisions. Success requires a holistic approach – everything should be driven towards sharing. Any time a piece of content is either not sharable, or not meant to be shared, brands lose out on a powerful opportunity to allow curators and influencers to promote their content in earned media channels. Brands should embrace this holistically, from how they advertise to how they create their sites. Fostering and promoting organic engagement, simply put, is the most effective marketing.