I Want My Social Media Without Advertising!

Social Media-No Advertising

Advertising, promotion and other marketing messages are integrated into almost every aspect of our waking lives. We accept advertising; even enjoy it, when it enhances our experiences, but we don’t want advertising to interfere with our social media encounters!

Why do we get angry at social media advertising?

We don’t want paid promotional notices on social media because these platforms are about us and our family, our friends and colleagues. Social media is about authenticity and our personal interactions. We want to hear from our peers and the experts we choose to pay attention to, not to intrusive advertising messages we never asked for. Recent research supports this point showing that the more personal the platform, the more its users hate advertising.

So how’s a social media platform to drive revenue?

As users, we understand that social media requires revenue to cover the cost of development and maintenance. However, since they’ve always been free, we expect them to stay free. If fees were applied, most social media platforms, if not all, would loose a large proportion of their users.

Therefore, some form of advertising is needed to support social media networks and keep them running. Like the other forms of advertising we accept it must be unobtrusive and relevant. As consumers, we “like” companies on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to get deals and promotions. By contrast, we dislike promoted tweets because they aren’t authentic to us.

8 Social media revenue generating options

Given the amount of information that social media platforms have, they should be able to develop social media marketing and advertising policies that’re useful to consumers. This can be critical for some industries and categories of advertising, such as promoting a new movie. Here are eight options social media platforms can use to extend their advertising.

  1. Extend company page functionality so that companies and organizations can enhance these mini-sites.
  2. Provide special add-ons. This can take a variety of formats such as virtual gifts – a growing marketplace.
  3. Offer exclusive benefits. Charge for special access or for throwing the equivalent of parties and conferences. For example, HARO founder Peter Shankman recently threw a party where invitees were determined by their Klout score. Think of it as the velvet rope paradigm. These benefits could be purchased by organizations or by individuals.
  4. Provide special company sponsored apps. These can be on smartphones, e-readers or gaming systems. They can be targeted at special audiences or be available to the public for a fee.
  5. Add fees based on size. To accommodate high profile companies and individuals, charge fees for high numbers of followers and numbers of tweets. Especially since this effects a very small percentage of accounts.
  6. Incorporate relevant text advertising. Facebook has a form of this type of advertising that allows very specific targeting which can be useful to members.
  7. Distribute Groupon type promotions. Since all social media entities have an email address, why not offer a version of time limited group offers that members can opt into? If done well, users find the information useful and welcome like Groupon and Woot. Further, customers follow companies that tweet offers.
  8. Sell data from social media platforms. This isn’t creepy data about individual’s specific movements but rather aggregated data that other firms find useful. [Hint: Some of this already occurs on social media platforms and other media entities.]

Since users are acclimated to social media platforms that are advertising-free, it’s difficult to introduce intrusive placements without upsetting them. The key for social media networks is to provide opportunities for companies to integrate their message in a way that enhances users’ experiences.

What do you think about social media advertising? Are there other options that can be used by these platforms? If so, please include them in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Tip of my hat to Judy Gombita who inspired this post during last week’s #SMChat.

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Photo credit:  Loozrboy via Flickr

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  • http://www.prconversations.com Judy Gombita

    Nicely done, Heidi!

    I’m wondering if you are familiar with the “The Age of Persuasion,” book (and first CBC Radio show) by Terry O’Reilly & Mike Tennant?

    One of the most compelling themes is the idea of the “implicit contract.” (Which I think you’ve done a GREAT job of detailing) some examples of successful implicit contracts above.

    I’ve lifted a section I used in a guest post back in January 2010, “Mobile tech: Gombita speaks out against Foursquare”

    Billboards or Twitter, borrowing the “implicit contract” concept

    Billboards are a symptom of a large, growing problem in the age of persuasion. While much of the work is highly creative, it, like many other media, must figure out a way to honour an implicit contract between advertisers and consumers which, simply put, promises that advertisers must give you something in exchange for their imposition on your time, attention, and space. An ad might offer useful information, an insight, or a solution to a problem. It might help pay for the TV show you’re watching or the magazine you’re reading. It might simply entertain you. The key is that it offers some tangible benefit.

    Your job as a consumer is to discern which marketers are keeping their end of the bargain and which are not. With that knowledge, you’ll have the power to reward the honest brokers and punish the transgressors. I suspect few people realize they have that power, but they—that is, you—really do.

    [bolding mine]

    The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture, Chapter 2: “Breaking the Contract,” Terry O’Reilly & Mike Tennant

    (BTW, the CBC Radio show returns in January 2010. Even if you don’t have access to the radio broadcast, it can be live-streamed from http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ –a very robust media site.)

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Judy–Thank you for adding to the conversation and pointing out new references to readers. I agree that advertising has an implicit agreement with consumers that is overlooked in many media formats. Both marketers and media entities often overlook that our attention and time as consumers is the most valuable commodity that we have. In terms of social media, it’s even more critical because of the personal nature of the content. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen