Advertising on Social Media via Nielsen

The Nielsen 2012 State of Social Media report was released earlier last week. I previously went over the report’s findings about the largest social networks of 2012. The report also contains some interesting information about advertising on social media and what it means for consumers.

Consumer Sentiment towards Social Media Advertising

Nielsen found a surprising statistic about consumer sentiment towards social media advertising. Nearly one-third of users believe that ads on social media sites are more annoying than other ads online. Social media isn’t supposed to be annoying. It’s supposed to be meaningful.

There are a few things this statistic tells me. Number one is social integration. In an attempt to make advertising more social, many social networking sites “hide” advertising within other content. An example of this is promoted trends on Twitter. These ad units are tied into other trends and tweets on Twitter. To some consumers, this might appear to be deceptive. The result is an annoyance and distrust of the brand advertising, when it should in fact be upon the social network.

This number also tells me some businesses aren’t using social media advertising correctly. Many social media platforms offer robust targeting options to their advertising. The goal is to display the right ads to the right people. Many businesses fail at this, and the result is irrelevant and sometimes irritating ads. It becomes frustrating when you see an ad in a language you don’t speak, an area you don’t live in (I’ve had ads for NYC bars in Facebook), and when the ads surely shouldn’t be targeting someone your age. Businesses can avoid this frustration by developing targeting strategies that make sense.

Finally, there is the aspect of spam and quality businesses advertising. For example, I have noticed a big drop in quality brands advertising on Facebook. The more lesser quality businesses advertising on a site, the less likely consumers will find these ads trustworthy and relate able. The result is a drop in engagement and an increase in frustration. It’s up to social media sites to develop ways to increase the quality of ads being served on their own sites.

Consumer Actions after Seeing Social Media Advertising

The study also digs into consumer actions after seeing social media advertising. Nielsen found that after seeing social ads:

  • 15% shared the ads
  • 26% liked the ads
  • 14% purchased the product

Though noting that these percentages are not actual share/like rates, these actions are still proof that social media advertising works and helps drive sales. Remember that those who like Pages after seeing ads get future brand content in their newsfeed. This organic content will only further the brand’s messaging and is where I believe the true bread and butter of social media marketing lies.

Influence of Social Media Advertising

Nielsen discovered organic and organic-like posts on social media continue to have a greater influence on consumers. 26% of users are more likely to pay attention to an ad posted by a friend. In this instance, we’re talking about advertising such as Sponsored Stories on Facebook. These ad units display content in a more social manner, listening a user’s friend’s name in the ad. An example would be “Mary likes Nike.” Consumers see this content as more trustworthy, thinking “I value Mary’s opinion about Nike, so I’m going to like Nike’s page, too.” Social networks must create paid media that connects with social connections to make advertising more effective and relevant to users. At the same time, they cannot be deceptive and place too much paid media within organic content.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Nielsen study shows that social media advertising can be effective. However, care must be made to ensure consumer sentiment towards these ads remains positive. As more and more brands take the plunge into social media advertising, it will become increasingly important to ensure ad placements, ad types, and ad targeting appears legitimate and applicable to the targeted consumers.

- Bryan Nagy

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