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How To Make Paid Social Media Ads Effective And Engaging

While advertising on social media makes sense for advertisers, the owners of ‘free’ sites like Twitter and Facebook still need to make money. Ad banners have been the answer for many social media sites for a long time. However, banner blindness has created a large problem for advertisers since they are paying for impressions, but people are more and more frequently ignoring the banner and the typical website template locations in which they’re shown.


So how do businesses combat ad blindness, especially when users are going out of their way to install plug-ins to block ads? The answer comes with embracing social media and working with it instead of using traditional advertising language and methods.

Social aggregation advertising: blend in

Social news aggregation sites, like Digg and StumbleUpon, are offering sponsoring links and submissions for advertisers that want a chance to promote their content without being too intrusive. Digg Ads are part of the regular submissions, but they are clearly marked as sponsored. Digg is reporting that sponsored submissions are posting a 2-3% click through rate, which is a lot better than many pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engine platforms. Because Digg advertising looks similar to organic submissions, and users are able to interact with the sponsored post just like they would with non-paid links, ads get better CTR.

Facebook ads: grow your audience

There are two types of ads on Facebook – one where users can ‘like’ a page by clicking ‘like’ underneath the ad, and one where a click on an ad will take the user to an outside URL, like a company’s website. Both of these ads can have very high impression counts (depending on the ad target demographics that are chosen) and in many cases, the ‘like’ ad may help drive more overall traffic and interest to a business than a traditional ad to an outside URL.

This is because ‘like’ ads allow a user to grow their audience on Facebook. Once a page is ‘liked’, that page’s updates, posts, etc. will be posted on users’ newsfeeds. This may lead to more continual traffic, as users will regularly click on links that interest them. Therefore, when compared to a basic ad that goes directly to a home page of a site, ‘like’ ads may generate a greater audience and steadier traffic with repeat visitors.

Sponsored tweets: making influence and trust persuade consumers

It’s a basic principle of marketing that people trust others they know over people they don’t. If someone raves about a new book, you will be more likely to pick it up, especially if you know that person likes the same things you do. This is why sponsored tweets and social media posts have brought in great amounts of traffic for some advertisers.

Even though the majority of people don’t know any celebrities, due to the public nature of their lives, many feel like they know them personally. This is truer than ever since sites like Twitter and Facebook have allowed users a way to personally connect with celebrities and what is happening in their everyday lives.

This is where sites like Sponsored Tweets come in. These sites connect companies with celebrities and other social media users with high follower counts to tweet messages about their products. According to many reports, Kim Kardashian gets paid as much as $10,000 for every sponsored tweet she sends out to her over 4.7 million followers. That’s a lot of people her message could be reaching.

New legislation from the FTC requires bloggers and to report when what they are saying is an ad as a result, many celebrities are still tweeting out sponsored posts, but adding “(Ad)” or “Sponsored” at the end. (Ad.ly makes this a requirement of their users: “The end of every Ad.ly post is marked with “(Ad)” notifying the publisher’s audience that this is an advertisement. In order to ensure authenticity, every Ad.ly post has to be explicitly approved by the publisher and is disclosed as an ad.”)

This helps users differentiate between a celebrity’s opinion and something they got paid to say. Kim Kardashian has complained of many accusing her of sponsored messages when she was simply sharing something she liked:

“Kim Kardashian made headlines this week when she vehemently denied getting paid on her blog after endorsing a Carl’s Jr. salad. “Am I not allowed to talk about something I like without people assuming I must have been paid to do it?” the New York Post quoted her as saying. “I want my fans to know what products, gadgets, foods, clothes and beauty products I like and I love sharing all that with my fans,” she added.””

A free endorsement to millions of twitter users? I’m sure Carl’s Jr. had no problem with that, especially because Kim’s influence in the beauty and fashion industry makes her a role model for many teens and women.

Mobile ads: know your user

Mobile advertising has steadily grown in popularity, especially with the growing presence of smart phones, applications, and mobile websites. Now advertisers want advertising that appeals with mobile users—but the key is being accessible without being intrusive. While many technology users take advertising for granted while browsing the Internet on their computers, seeing ads on their phones is a completely different experience. This is why short, succinct messages are crucial towards a high CTR.

Two of the most popular types of mobile advertising are on the mobile web and through smart phone applications, which are offered by AdMob, a mobile advertising company recently acquired by Google. Unlike full-browser surfing, mobile ads shouldn’t interrupt a user’s mobile experience.

Opening an ad in a new window on a computer is much easier than on a phone. Users need to feel like clicking on a mobile ad will not interrupt their current activity. This is why ads need to be highly relevant to the platform and content they are displayed on, as well as making it easy to fully engage in the ad’s message.

For example, a free blackjack app with ads about casinos and poker websites will have a much-higher CTR than if it had ads about jewelry or online degrees. Knowing a user’s behavior and what their relevant interests are important in all types of advertising, but most crucial in mobile advertising because company’s only have seconds to make their case before a user closes an app or website on their phone.

LinkedIn ads: target the decision-makers

LinkedIn is the professional networking equivalent to Facebook. Connections are usually made with people you know from your professional career and users’ work history and expertise are the main features of their profile. Not much emphasis is placed on personal interests (such as favorite TV shows or bands) and personal references can be given to connections, making it an instant resume booster for users on the job search or just looking to increase their networking circle.

With 75 million users worldwide and 32 million users in the United States alone, LinkedIn has 7.9 million “business decision makers” and 1.3 million small business owners that have profiles, according to their direct ads page. Targeting the decision makers through an ad platform that is much like search engines’ (user decide their budget and only pay for impressions or clicks their ad receives), but on a website that is geared towards the business frame of mind may be effective for many advertisers.

Relying on a CEO’s LinkedIn activity may be more beneficial than hoping they will do a search for an advertiser’s product—for example, maybe a small business owner didn’t know there was  a cheaper paper supplier than their current one, but now that they’ve seen an ad for it on LinkedIn, they might be interested.

YouTube: turning viral traffic into real interest

Since Google acquired YouTube, it began offering users the chance to add banner advertising to their videos, making uploads profitable for many popular users with thousands of subscribers. When a video goes viral, garnishing thousands to millions of views in a short amount of time, placing banner ads will help users cash in on their usually unexpected online hit.

Whether a user gets a one-time viral classic or is an online celebrity (like iJustine), Google banner ads can attract traffic in a place they wouldn’t normally have it. For example, if the now infamous “Sneezing Baby Panda” video had a banner ad about donations for endangered pandas by the World Wildlife Fund, they may get funds from donors who would have never searched for WWF or “help endangered animals online” on a search engine.

MySpace: tap into unused resources

While some may argue that MySpace is dead, the fact remains that it still has 150 million users and continues to be a valuable resource to musicians and other users. MySpace Advertising has 1,100 targeting options and budgets can start at just $5. Additionally, it is part of the MyAds network, which is owned by the FOX Audience Network, which hosts advertising on over 1,000 websites.

Because platforms like Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and Microsoft/Yahoo Sponsored Search are usually first in an advertiser’s mind, advertising on platforms like MyAds may get a company the same exposure for less competition and cost.

Parting thoughts

Just because something is the most popular, doesn’t mean it’s the best or most cost-effective solution for a certain company. Researching less popular ad platforms may help stretch an advertiser’s budget while still allowing them to get results.

Overall, when it comes to paid advertising on social media, it’s important to be relevant, conducive, and quick to the point. Social media allows users to connect with people they know and to share their interests. Users are more receptive to relevant advertising that is highly targeted to what they like and their behavior online. Be perceptive about your target demographic and open-minded towards creating advertising that is different than traditional methods, but in many cases, just as or more effective.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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