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The Social Media Marketer

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Social Advertising: The New AdSense?


As Google has implemented AdSense over the last eight years, an advertising revolution occurred.  No longer did advertisers need to rely on demographics to target consumers.  Advertisers could rely on what the consumer searched.  Hardly even a concept eight years ago, social networking has now become perhaps the single most radical phenomenon of the 21st century.  With it, a new advertising revolution is taking place: social advertising.  Now advertisers can rely on who the consumer is. 

What is Social Advertising?

Simply put, social advertising is the use of a consumer's web-based social footprint to determine which of many possible ads should be shown to the consumer.  The consumer's social footprint consists of:

-His or her own data
-The data of his or her contacts, otherwise known as the consumer's social graph
-The content of interactions between the consumer and his or her contacts

By analyzing the consumer's social footprint, a social advertising platform can identify the best ad to display to the consumer.  For instance, a consumer who displays an interest in jazz music, has contacts who display an interest in jazz music, and who often discusses jazz music on the site would likely be shown an advertisement about jazz music.

Why is Social Advertising Revolutionary?

Platforms like Google AdSense display ads based on what the consumer is searching for at any given moment.  Social advertising displays ads based on who the consumer is.  Consumers don't always have an inclination to spend money on goods or services related to their searches.  On the other hand, consumers are usually receptive to spending money related to their personal interests.  

Social advertising also tends to be within the user-area of the social networking site.  Research indicates that consumers have trained their eyes to ignore search-based advertising altogether. 

Lastly, social advertising is designed to be reproductive.  Because the ad appears on a social networking site, it can be easily shared with others.  And, given that the consumer is being shown an ad which is already known to interest him and his contacts, the consumer is more likely to share it.  More importantly, his contacts are more likely to appreciate it.

An Example

Imagine a college student who is very interested in bicycling.  The topic of bicycling shows up consistently in her social footprint.  Imagine that the same college student has a research paper due tomorrow on the subject of Louis Armstrong.  She plans to spend her evening alternating between researching Louis Armstrong and surfing various social networking sites.

The student will see two types of ads over the course of the night, but only one will be effective.  While performing Louis Armstrong-related searches on Google, she will see various jazz-related advertisements, which won't interest her even if she notices them.  She will also see a variety of bicycling-related advertisements.  Given her interest in bicycling, which is established by its consistent presence in her social footprint, she is more likely to be interested in bicycling ads.  She is also more likely to share the ad with others, because the ad offers a convenient method for doing so and because many of her contacts also enjoy bicycling.

Social Advertising Platforms

It should not be a surprise to you that Facebook and Twitter are the most influential platforms for social advertising.  Here's what you need to know about each.

Facebook's Sponsored Stories - When one of a consumer's contacts makes a business part of his or her social footprint, the business will show up in the consumer's News Feed.  The content will appear much like a headline rather than an advertisement.  It will read something like "Jimmy visited ESPNZone today", not "Visit ESPNZone Today!", and will give the consumer an opportunity to visit ESPNZone's Facebook page.
Twitter's Promoted Products - Twitter actually promotes a suite of three products, the foundation of which is Promoted Tweets.  A Promoted Tweet is identified as promoted by the advertiser, but otherwise acts exactly like a regular tweet.  It appears in search results, in users' timelines, and as a related tweet, and consumers can mark it as a favorite, reply to the tweet, or retweet it. 

Facebook will likely reach 1 billion users within the next two years.  This represents about 15% of the world's population, and about 50% of people with Internet access.  Twitter is used by about 200 million people.  Social advertising offers you an opportunity to target these consumers more precisely than any other advertising methodology in history. 


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