Social networking and advertising – the new oil and water?

I read an interesting article in Marketing Week this week regarding the apparent dislike of advertising across social media. It’s close to my heart as I myself find adverts on Facebook and other social platforms an irritation rather than an enhancement.

According to the IAB/ValueClick report 20% of the 2,000 consumers polled agreed with me, they were “unhappy” when presented with ads. That’s quite a chunk of potential customers to turn off. Only 37% of the audience polled were happy to see ads on social media sites making social media platforms the least supportive media to use for advertising.

Social media has been a tantalising space for advertisers for quite some time – so many users, which can potentially self-generate the spread of ads. But there’s one problem. Social media by its nature is personal. It’s people connecting with predominantly personal contacts, talking and sharing personal things. Users select who they want to interact with, they set up groups within their sphere of contacts to further limit and personalise the interactions. Advertising by its nature is at odds with this private space.

Some would argue that advertising is becoming more personal, and to some extent I agree. Advertising is becoming more tailored to the audience, which is a good thing, but as users become savvier there is the potential that they close off from advertising and any marketing that they feel encroaches on their private space, damaging the potential to interact with a brand through other media. This is evident through the survey with over half the respondents saying that they had deleted cookies in the past six months. The use of cookies and other consumer tracking is becoming more regulated and consumers should be asked for their explicit consent for their behavioural data to be used for wider marketing purposes. I have to say that I wholeheartedly support this move, as marketing should be about trying to build an open relationship with your audience rather than sneaking into the party through the back door.

So how should we, as marketers and brands, be using social media platforms? The answer is simple, but effective – use it as a social experience. There is a lot to be said for becoming more open and accessible to your audience. Social media needs to be woven into your customer interactions. These platforms are an excellent way of keeping subscribers (willing listeners) up to date with what’s happening. And more importantly, they are a platform to have an open dialogue with them; outside of the traditional customer service routes that are saved traditionally for order/servicing queries.

Social media platforms are a great way to involve customers with your brand – sharing your thoughts, bringing a face to the name, a voice, a less formal contact structure that can be as up to date as picking up the phone. Used wisely, social media enhances the customer journey and experience, brings an added dimension to your relationship and adds long-term value. Done right, it’s a brand builder, get it wrong – think cold caller, interrupting a well-earned coffee and butting into your conversation.

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