Why Social Media Ads Don’t Work [Research]

Is Your Content Marketing Fake?

Beyond fueling social media and search, the one reason content marketing works is that customers trust it; they don’t trust advertising. Additionally, content marketing is more cost effective than digital advertising.

There is one caveat: You can’t dress your advertising up as content marketing and hope prospects won’t notice! They will. Consumers are smart and can see that fake content marketing is really an ad a mile away. Even worse, consumers don’t consider advertising credible.

Content marketing must be authentic

While consumers like authentic, valuable content marketing, grounded in the principles of David Ogilvy in its editorial appearance and Leo Burnett in the integration of important brand attributes, they don’t like being tricked with fake information that interrupts and promotes. These sentiments are at the heart of social media participation.  Marketers should follow the old writing adage: Always assume that your readers are at least as smart as you are.

These consumer sentiments were confirmed by recent Harris Interactive research for Mediabrix. It focused on perceptions about ads that attempt to appear as part of the content in any medium including print, television and digital – including social and mobile platforms.

Social Media Ads Don’t Work!

Consumers view social media advertising as misleading. As a result, these ads either have no impact or worse cause a negative one towards the advertised brand. Here are three select data points from the Harris Interactive research:

  1. 85%  of those who had seen them in the past 12 months said sponsored video ads that appear to be content negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand being advertised.
  2. 72% of those who had seen them in the past 12 months said Facebook sponsored stories negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand being advertised.
  3. 62% of those who had seen them in the past 12 months said Twitter promoted tweets negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand being advertised.

To put this consumer reaction to social media advertising in the context of marketing spend, 20% of US marketers who used Facebook employed Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and 26% of all marketers used Twitter’s Promoted Tweets based on September 2012 Chief Marketer findings.

While there are increased advertising options across various social media venues and social media advertising has been touted for its ability to extend social media engagement, the problem remains that marketers must earn trust one participant at a time. This is an activity that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to scaling to achieve mass reach. While some ways are more effective than others to build a social media following, you just can’t buy an audience or credibility.

How to avoid consumers’ negative reactions to social media advertising

Marketers take heed and use social media advertising only to drive prospects to your home base on the social media venue.

Here are five social media tips for marketers. To this end, it’s critical to understand why your prospects and customers are on social media platforms and what they’re looking for from your organization

  1. Eliminate promotions from your social media content and communications. Share quality content related to your products. Instead of shouting buy, buy, buy, include links to your product pages where appropriate.
  2. Be authentic in your social media content and communications. This is at the core of social media. Making a social media ad look like content is deceptive and contrary to participants’ expectations. If you do this, don’t be surprised when it backfires.
  3. Answer customer questions on social media. This should help your brand to stand out since most companies don’t answer questions raised on social media.
  4. Use social media ads to drive participants to your social media page or home base. In addition to not annoying participants, these ads can be more effective since they don’t need to drive prospects to another website.
  5. Invest in quality, non-promotional content, social media pages and staff to engage with participants. Use your social media budget to enhance your participants’ experience on social media rather than trying to persuade them to leave the site.

As a marketer you must have a presence on various social media platforms. Be authentic and transparent because fake content marketing hurts your brand.

What are your recommendations for extending your content marketing across social media venues without being fake?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo source: http://www.noupe.com/freebie/find-your-perfect-match-social-icons-sets-73334.html

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  • http://newraycom.com Ray Hiltz

    This post hits a sensitive nerve.
    When social media was new and marketers were trying to get their head around it, the best they could do was to come up with a strategy of “pretending” to be interested in people, then when they established a relationship, reel them in like fish and make them pay. It’s a strategy as old as the oldest profession.
    The phrase, “social advertising” sticks in my craw. It’s oxymoronic.
    If you’re selling something, then say so. As you say, people will respect you more if you’re authentic, especially if you’ve already built a trusting relationship.
    Thanks, Heidi.
    It was good getting that off my chest. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/creativeoncall Chuck Kent

    I think point #4 is under-appreciated and under-utilized. Advertising, social or traditional, can be a great way to promote content. Direct response advertising has done this successfully for years, using content as a response-generating offer. To your point, however, the advertising is clearly advertising and therefore doesn’t undermine trust.

  • writing service

    It is not really surprising that the hard sell doesn’t work on social media and that in fact it may turn people away. Social media is where people go to socialize not shop and so it makes sense to tailor your Facebook or Twitter posts to that expectation. The surprising statistic is that businesses are still missing the opportunity to engage with their customers who post queries on brand pages. Perhaps this is one area where smaller businesses have the edge over the larger corporate users.

  • https://www.facebook.com/DakinAssociates Shaun Dakin

    Actually, for my clients, we use paid media (on Facebook and other places) and have found it extremely effective in growing the community. Of course, it is then up to us to keep them there and “convert” them to members. We have been able to see pretty amazing retention rates and “conversion” rates to members as well.

    2 cents.

    Shaun Dakin

  • Nina

    I don’t agree with your post. Top brands are pairing social media with TV ads now because of the success they’ve had with social media advertising… http://creativebubetube.com/why-brands-are-pairing-social-media-with-tv-advertising/