Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | 5 min read
With the decline of organic reach on Facebook, and the sheer volume of content published on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other major social platforms, brands are eager to use paid social advertising to get noticed by their target consumer. And they should be. As the battle for the consumer’s attention becomes even more heated, brands that don’t master paid social will be left in the dust.
But in the rush to get content in front of consumers when and where they’re most likely to take notice, brands sometimes lose sight of why these social platforms exist, and what initially drew users to them (hint: it wasn’t the opportunity to see ads).
This article serves as a gentle reminder of what your brand is actually doing when you create an ad for my newsfeed (or Twitter feed, Instagram feed, and so on—for the sake of brevity, I’ll use “newsfeed” to refer to the main stream of content on all personal social network accounts).
The newsfeed is my special place; a curated feed of people and information that I want to see when I remove myself from the real world and enter the digital one. Everything in my newsfeed is there for a specific reason—I want it to be there.
There is a reason that new social networks wait before letting advertisers buy their way in. Brands need to understand that when they do show up in my feed, they need to arrive with a message that adds value to my experience.
Therein lies the greatest challenge for marketers as budgets shift to where the eyeballs reside in 2016. You’re now directing ad dollars to platforms where the user has been conditioned to not expect advertising. We’re used to ads in other types of media channels, like TV or news sites, but this is fairly new to social. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s actually a great thing for users.
The flip side of the coin is that it creates more work for brands.
In a world where people are willing to pay a premium for ad-free content (Netflix, HBO, Spotify, etc.), how do you, as a brand, leverage the advertising capabilities of social networks without damaging your credibility?
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have some suggestions:
If I wanted you in my newsfeed, you’d probably already be there. So, use a holistic approach to customer research, including social listening, to understand who your audience is, what types of content resonate with them, and what types of messaging work.
Think about it this way: If you knock on my door and try to sell me something I have zero interest in, you’ll probably get a door in your face. If you show up with a pitch for an inexpensive way to protect my lawn in the dry summer months, having noticed that I have an impeccably cared-for lawn, you’re much more likely to get my attention.
We all want to be original, creative, and edgy, but let’s keep it within reason. Take calculated risks and use data to identify the opportunities for experimentation. If you want to test different styles for your brand voice or make pop cultural references, have enough self awareness to understand how far you can realistically extend yourself.
Buzzfeed built a billion dollar business on helping brands figure this out. Vayner Media is another great example of an agency that helps brands pick the spots where they can win and steer them away from opportunities where they’ll most likely lose.
Native ads are awesome if they’re done effectively, and Netflix is setting the gold standard in this space. Their native campaigns with Politico for House of Cards and The Wall Street Journal for Narcos were brilliant because the people that watch these shows also read these publications.
So, before you hit that “buy” button and enter my personal newsfeed with an ad, be mindful of the user experience and let data guide the way. There’s no ceiling for how much social media can help your brand, but the caveat is that there is no floor determining how far you can fall, either. Listen before you speak—if you’re going to ask people to do something, ask them when the moment is right, and don’t show up uninvited into people’s private space without adding real value.