Putting Social Media Advertising to the Test

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Putting Social Media Advertising to the Test

For many marketers, the Facebook advertising concepts seemed too good to be true:  a network of 950 million users focused on communicating and viewing images.  This is, after all, what advertising is all about:  delivering a company's message and reinforcing a visual brand.  In reality, however, years of exposure to Facebook and other social media have left executives asking a lot of questions and still testing the waters rather than fully diving in.

The biggest question is that of ROI.  Companies still aren't confident that they will see a return on their investments if they spend money on social media sites such as Facebook.  The concern is whether their spending will actually lead to the sale of goods, and how the effectiveness of this spending can be measured so the media can be compared to other advertising options.

Some firms are still working on a basic understanding of how advertising on social media works.  For those used to traditional media such as TV and print, and more recently Internet search engines and banners, the social media model is quite different.  

A good starting point is to be clear on what social media advertising is not.  It does not involve a traditional approach where you come up with an offer, get it in front of prospective customers, and drive them to your online or off-line presence where they buy.  Social media ads are rarely an offer to directly buy something.  Nor are they like Internet ads on conventional digital platforms where the goal is to get people to click-through to a digital site.

The value in Facebook and other social media is their ability to let companies create a community of consumers.  The idea is to engage with the members of that community in such a way that they learn to "love" the company and therefore recommend it to their friends.  The goal is for the community to remember to buy the company's products or services when the need arises. 

This approach is actually as old as advertising itself, since it is a high-tech way for spreading a message by word-of-mouth.  The successful business will engage an audience for a period of time and on a regular basis.  This is very different from an Internet ad, for example, that is by design expected to be a very brief encounter with the goal of redirecting the prospect to a particular site. 

On Facebook, the approach is to create a so-called "brand page."1  Without one, nothing can be accomplished.  Most companies fail in their attempts to create an effective brand page because they focus on themselves, rather than their "fans."  These companies need to learn to seem selfless...

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