No Magic Bullet For Replicable Social Advertising Success

Aug 10, 2011 by

The Trends in Social Advertising, research from the Pivot Conference in late Spring of 2011, was conducted by the Pivot team to measure the interest in and utilization of social advertising. An invitation to the online survey was extended to marketers and agency professionals via email, blogs,Twitter and Facebook.Of those businesses that responded to the survey, 60% anticipate that social advertising will be very valuable to them. Another 32% view social advertising as valuable, regardless of the level of satisfaction with past efforts.
Value of Social Advertising Over Next Two Years (% of Respondents)
Value % of Respondents
Very valuable 60%
Valuable 32
Somewhat valuable 8
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

Consumers increasingly spend time in social networks and less in their email inboxes and visiting traditional websites. As such, brands continue to race to social media sites in the hopes of connecting with consumers when their attention is focused on conversations relevant to those brands. Part of the challenge however, is earning the attention of consumers not just once, but also building a relationship with them over time.

Digital advertising, such as banners and keyword buys, has long provided businesses with products to generate opportunities for clickthroughs, but these products are proving ineffective in social networks. In a phenomenon dubbed “banner blindness,” consumers are learning to ignore many forms of digital advertising in favor of the desired content within their area of focus. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen demonstrated through heat maps where eyes are focused on a website screen. Consumer attention is shown to zero in on text and not the banners around it.

On the social web, banner blindness is even more prevalent. In social networks, content populates the social streams of consumer profiles. If we apply the heat map model to social streams, attention may mirror the behavior in traditional web sites. Advertising blindness is a real threat within social networks, but at the same time, represents a new opportunity to rethink paid media, says the report.

Of the respondents in the 2011 Pivot social advertising survey, 85% were either currently experimenting with social advertising or planned to do so within the next 12 months. 

Current Involvement in Social Advertising
Involvement % of Respondents
Currently conducting 67%
Not now; plan to within 12 months 18
Not now; no plans to do so 15
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

Businesses appear to find social advertising successful or worthy of investment. 54% are satisfied or very satisfied with their experiences within social advertising to date.

Satisfaction With Social Advertising
Satisfaction % of Respondents
Very satisfied 11%
Satisfied 43
Somewhat satisfied 45
Not satisfied 1
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

The Pivot study learned that the major social platforms dominate social advertising plans. 93%, 78%, and 61% of those surveyed have already deployed campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube respectively. Within the next 12 months, businesses will explore social advertising programs beyond these networks to include Foursquare, LinkedIn and YouTube. Despite its popularity in media and on Wall Street, brands aren’t ready to advertise on Zynga. Only 2% use Zynga, with 49% stating they’ve no plans to so. However, 13% of respondents do plan to advertise on Zynga within the next 12 months.

Platforms Deployed for Social Advertising Campaign (Base: Respondents Currently Conducting Social Advertising)
Platform Have Deployed Campaign No, ButPlan Within 12 Mos.
Facebook 93% 5
Twitter 78 9
YouTube 61 20
LinkedIn 44 21
Foursquare 16 26
MySpace 7 2
Meebo 4 2
Zynga 2 13
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

For brands to experiment in social advertising, they must find the available products make sense to them. Facebook ranks at the top for the services it offers. YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare do not fair as well, however. Marketing professionals, executives and brand managers state that social advertising products on these services are mostly just good and fair as opposed to excellent.

Ratings of Paid Program Offerings
Platform Excellent Good Fair Poor
Facebook 31% 38 23 2
YouTube 16 30 16 3
Twitter 11 25 25 5
LinkedIn 6 18 35 3
My Space 1 4 16 11
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

Objectives for social advertising appeared all over the map in the survey, as brands evaluate various outcomes. At 17%, a brand using social advertising to support product introductions or other announcements is the current most common outcome. 13% are seeking to engage existing customers. Tied at 12%, deploying social ads to increase the size of the community or drive traffic to outside destinations. 11% of respondents designed social ads to build brand awareness.

Social Advertising Objectives
Objective % of Respondents
Build brand awareness 17%
Engage existing customers 13
Increase size of community 12
Drive traffic to online destination 12
Support product intro/announcements 11
Sell products 9
Gain feedback and intelligence 9
Generate leads/build data base 9
Generate video views 4
Shift sentiment 4
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

Experimentation with social media must now give way to measurable business impact, opines the report.  For social advertisers, the greatest obstacle they face is demonstrating ROI, with 42% and 44% claiming it is either a significant or occasional obstacle. Securing budget is next with 34% and 53% reporting it as a notable or periodic challenge. Getting executive signoff follows

Obstacles to Social Advertising (% of Responses)
Obstacle Significant Sometimes Not an Obstacle
Demonstrating ROI 42% 44 14
Securing budgets 34 53 13
Getting exec sign-off 21 43 29
Finding skilled specialists 12 56 32
Targeting preferred audience 9 44 45
Source: PIVOT conference, May 2011

The report concludes by suggesting that social advertising is evolving and is forcing creative professionals to think outside of a box that may not, in fact, yet exist. The study did not find a magic bullet to replicable success. The guide for best practices in social advertising is being written as we go. Additionally, the culture of each social network behaves uniquely and requires a customized approach.

As revealed in the report, ROI is important for future funding. Additionally, overcoming banner blindness is essential to success. Without designing metrics or outcomes into the campaign, it will be difficult for marketers to prove value to executives. Without designing personalization and relevance into social advertising programs, it will be difficult to prove value to consumers.

For additional information from PIVOT, please visit here.

Leave a Reply

Digital Arteries