Social media: A new platform for advertising?

Just as social media are becoming an important platform for online news distribution and consumption, they are also becoming a new platform for online advertising.

The Pew Research Center indicates that social media sites, such as Facebook, have the highest number of users and are becoming a pathway to news and advertising in the U.S. Indeed, globally, there are today over 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users, which is an 18 percent increase year over year, according to a 2017 Facebook Investor Relations result.

YouTube also indicates that it now has over a billion users (1,300,000,000 to be exact) who watch almost five billion videos every single day via their smartphones and tablets.

As mobile media smartphones and tablets now dominate Internet access and give rise to social media, Lipschultz and Smith, contributing authors to “The new advertising: Branding, content, and consumer relationships in the data-driven social media era”, say marketers are also following suit. These advertisers seek to track data, understand the value of hyper-local target marketing, and apply personalized social media behavior in order to increase their sale.

It may then be surprising today, I think, especially in developed countries, to know that advertisers aren’t targeting social media as their advertising platform.

But just because we can place our ads on social media where a deluge number of users are there doesn’t necessarily mean we can motivate them to purchase, warns Mary Long, who writes “How social media is changing adverting – for better and worse”.  Fons Van Dyck, author of “Advertising transformed: The new rules for the digital age”, thus advises involving consumers in that ad process in a more meaningful way.

Citing a 2012 research finding by ChristodouIides, Jevons and Bonhomme, Dyck suggests that advertisers give consumers an opportunity not only to experience using their brand’s product, but also to become an integral part of and even influence that brand’s narrative, in a process called user-generated content – content that is created by members of the public about the brands they use. Through this process, consumers regard themselves as a valuable and important part of the company or brand.

In their study on “We’re all connected: The power of social media ecosystem”, Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden show that when a person shares a brand experience on social media, it reaches their entire network in a way that is more impactful than promoting sponsored content.

This sharing of positive experiences about brands on social network sites, as Jay Baer, author of “Youtility, why smart marketing is about help not hype, argues, is found to be potentially influential in customers’ ultimate decision to buy a product or service.

Yet since there are an overwhelming majority of social media users (90%) who “simply consume content passively” while only about one percent of the users make that content, Dyck warns us to be mindful about this as it can be a trap.

That’s why having a great experiential team, or becoming one ourselves, who understands the nuances of in-person engagement is so important, I believe. And this won’t be an easy task.

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