Pay up if you want success on social networks, study claims

By Chris Lee

New research has found that most large Internet marketers are more likely to implement free, “organic” tactics such as creating branded pages and content than to use paid ads. Yet paid advertising on social networks is the most successful tactic, according to “The Key to Successful Social Advertising” report, commissioned by global social marketing platform Kenshoo Social and conducted by Forrester Consulting.

The study of 105 large social advertisers who spend more than $100,000 per year on social media ads found that those who paid to promote their branded content were most satisfied with the awareness they created; while those who bought paid social ads were happiest with their ability to drive purchases. Organic posting is the most popular social media tactic, but paid advertising is the most successful.

More than one-third of social marketers were not satisfied with their efforts, the study found. While many marketers still think of social media as a free channel, marketers who used paid social tactics — whether paying for social advertising or paying to promote social content — say they are more successful than those who do not, the report found. The lesson to take away is that social marketing can be free — but if you want it to deliver results, it should not be free, the report’s author argues.

Pay to play

Social advertisers use a wide range of social sites and strategies. The most popular tactic is maintaining branded pages on general social networks, business networks and microblogs. Branded pages alone, however, do not make an effective social marketing strategy, according to Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at Kenshoo.

“With more than half of all marketers surveyed now actively buying ads on social networks, it’s clear that this channel has become an important part of the media mix,” Goldman told NMK. “But advertisers are only scratching the surface in terms of the incredible targeting capabilities available through the social graph such as likes, interests, job titles, friends of fans and custom audiences.”

Advanced optimisation tactics

Social advertisers still are not using advanced optimisation tactics, according to the study. More than half of large social advertisers use ad rotation, but only one-third use granular targeting to reach the right audiences. Most of those who do target primarily use basic criteria like demographic targeting.

Goldman explained: “Our study found that only a third of social advertisers are creating campaigns around small, niche audience targets and, similarly, only a third are doing any A/B testing. With billions of people interacting on social networks each day, there’s a lot of potential waste for advertisers who aren’t using sophisticated targeting strategies and using advanced technology platforms to create micro-targeted campaigns at scale.”

Social marketers should pay for promoted content to drive awareness and buy ads to drive sales, Goldman argued. The survey measured the tactics of satisfied social advertisers and found that different paid social strategies drove different kinds of success.

The Forrester study concludes with four initial steps marketers can use to immediately improve results:

– Start with clear marketing objectives.

– Promote your brand and your content.

– Take advantage of robust targeting.

– Develop a holistic approach for greater success.

Social advertisers who paid to promote their branded content were most satisfied with the awareness they created; while those who bought standard social ad units were happiest with their ability to drive purchases. Brand-focused social advertisers and response-focused social advertisers must deploy the tactics proven best for meeting their specific objectives, Kenshoo Social concluded.

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