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Does Social Media Advertising Work

A key part of my role at PushOn is to look at Social Media optimisation and engage in relevant conversations for my clients. Although there are some great strategies out there for creating and engaging with communities I have recently been intrigued by social media advertising. More importantly I wanted to know which platforms work best for which sites and what do advertisers really get out of it? Early discussions with industry insiders shaded a rather negative light upon the concept however this did not appease me so thought it would be worth while testing a few of them.

As with any marketing project I began by carrying out some extensive research. I expected to see large social media user numbers but some of the other information I came across was literally mind blowing. According to a recent E-Consultancy report advertising in social networks will increase to £115 million in the UK in 2008. This shows a real commitment to the format but more interestingly the report went on to suggest that branded pages don’t attract high visitor volumes. This could imply that advertising could be a more effective use of time and money. This would be the alternative to developing a brand page heavily. Finally the report mentioned that friends and social networks influenced peoples purchasing decisions of music.

So to carry out this experiment we needed a site, two advertising platforms and a budget. This experiment is in by no means meant to be extensive but would give us an idea on what might work with other clients. So we chose one of our own sites which sold scented candles and selected the networks StumbleUpon and Facebook. These networks were chosen for different reasons. Firstly Facebook is by far one of the most popular social network here in the UK so we would have a large user group to experiment with and StumbleUpon has a nicely targeted network which could encourage natural link building. Link building obviously helps with rankings in search engines which all fall under the online marketing umbrella.

What We Learnt:

Facebook:

Advertising with Facebook generates a huge number of impressions for your advert which makes me think it is ideal for promoting a brand and creating awareness however click through rates on the site seem relatively poor. So if you are advertising a particular product like we were, then Facebook is far from ideal. I’m sure that many of you simply ignore ads on Facebook or in most instances fail to even notice them. This maybe something that Facebook could look into. Advert placement can of course be a huge factor. The pricing models of the advertising system also bothered me as you could either chose between CPC or CPM. At present I’m not entirely sure if the CPM model is cost effective as the CPC model generates a huge amount of impressions and little click through.

StumbleUpon:

The most noticeable thing about StumbleUpon is the speed at which it uses up your daily budget. You can easily get through your budget within a couple of hours. This makes me think that they need to look at more varied ad serving options.

I also wanted to use StumbleUpon as I thought it might help with link building efforts and general site awareness. When users are presented with your site they can rate it. However many don’t bother unless it’s something really special. E-Commerce sites are rarely exciting so getting good review levels is difficult.

What Other’s Have Found

It seems that others have had similar advertising experiences and an article entitled “Facebook ‘Consistantly the Worst Performing Site’” goes on to make some interesting points about the social network. It discusses the notion that Facebook is predominantly used by students who have low levels of disposable income. The article also relates to our findings on high impress rates while achieving poor click throughs. In fact they go on to discuss the idea that users have become indifferent to advertising. So it could certainly be reasonable to assume that Facebook is not for most ecommerce stores.

Others have gone on to have great success with social media advertising and probably one of the most noticable examples is Jet Airways. There campaign was so successful that they were achieving higher conversions from their social media advertising than their organic rankings. The reason for this success was down to their clever targeting and understanding of the user groups. They were offering discounted airline tickets to students.

Although there have variably been down and lows in social media advertising a lot can still be said for social media marketing. Building up a community and membership pages can change an entire age groups perception of a brand. One SMM campaign by FedEx has been one of the highlights for me. They studied the Facebook system and found there was no way for people to send attachments. So they developed a Facebook App and once the download was delivered a message appeared saying as delivery by FedEx. The campaign was extremely successful.

Conclusions and General Social Advertising Pointers

In conclusion I would say that its difficult to draw conclusive results from the experiment as we only tested one type of site however we can see that using these networks for e-commerce sites is going to take meticulous planning and make use of unique and out there ideas. From our experiment I would be much more tempted to put funds into AdWords or other advertising platforms but in order to increase our knowledge we will continue to test others sites and different platforms.

Extending The Experiment

To gain a further understanding of the two platforms and social media advertising as a whole I feel there are several options that need to be explored. With StumbleUpon we could change the focus group and the page in which a user is presented with. We could also increase the budget and target larger focus groups. It is my general opinion that Stumble Upon users would be turned off by a general e-commerce site as they a rather techy crowd. Maybe its worth directing users to a blog page about candle decorating and how candles are scented. This in turn maybe more interesting to users as people generally use the internet as an informational resource. This may eventually increase conversions.

As for Facebook i would be reluctant to use again as it is clearly not the right audience for this product. We would probably test another platform. If you have any suggestions then we would love to hear them.

Social Media Advertising Pointers

Whichever social media advertising platform people decide to use they should consider some of the following points first.

  • Understand which audiences use the social network. Make sure that you select a network that is relevant to your business and where you think users will benefit from your content.
  • Target the right user with the right message. Specific targeting on social network sites is becoming more and more powerful so take the time to choose your options carefully.
  • Build your presence. Many follow the philosophy that two is better than one so why not adopt this approach with your advertising. You could have your social network page showing up alongside your social network advert.
  • Advertising through search engines like Google and Yahoo can help as your adverts can appear on social networks through them.

There are essentially many things to consider and its well worth spending the time doing your research before making your decision.

Other Useful Articles:

What Kill’s A Social Media Campaign
Social Media Marketing for small businesses
What Kills A Social Media Campaign

To find out how PushON research & analysis services can give your company a competitive online edge, simply call 0844 967 0565 or contact us via our form.

  • Ben

    Just wondering how these compare with your adwords campaigns? Your facebook campaign looked at success to me, 33000 impressions, 18 clicks and you only paid $9.20 for it. Try that on Google and see all your keywords disabled.

  • http://www.ppcmanchester.co.uk SimonR

    Great article.

  • http://www.pushon.co.uk Mark

    Cheers Si, how are you doing these days?