Forecaster eMarketer has raised its outlook for U.S. social networks advertising spending this year by nearly 30 percent. As I discuss in a post at GigaOM Pro, chances are, the next big advancement in social media marketing will be less about the actual technology and more about coordinating and integrating across media formats: traditional media for reach, interactive media for targeting, and social media for engagement. For this to happen, three social media advertising areas need help: scale, distribution and targeting, and format.
Scale: Audiences Lack Concentration
A Nielsen survey shows that social networks in toto now consume almost a quarter of all time spent online: more than any other category. Unlike broadcast television, however, social media’s audience is scattered across millions of individual pages, limiting the effectiveness of mass-reach, simultaneous impact. Unlike traditional portals like Yahoo, Facebook doesn’t really have a home page or major channel hubs to concentrate users. To mimic the impact of a traditional TV ad, marketers with time-sensitive campaigns must understand what portions of those large-scale audiences are high-frequency users, so that a network blast really will hit its required audience counts. Providers need to offer that capability.
Distribution and Targeting: Walled Garden or Bust?
Social media promises marketers the chance to target audiences by interest and behavior. But is most social network advertising actually doing that? A few years ago, MySpace had better ad targeting technology than Facebook did, yet the bulk of its impressions were sold as remnant inventory at market-bottom prices. While both those sites, through third-party tools, have improved their targeting, how many times do you see, say, the exact same dating service ads when you visit Facebook? Much of the promise of social technology is delivered through APIs and loosely linked ecosystems. Like the still-nascent RSS ad feed market, marketers are waiting for vendors and agencies to solve cross-network targeting and measurement issues.
Format: Is It Really “Social?”
Besides targeting, social media’s big marketing promise was tapping into friends’ recommendations. Burned by the creepiness of Beacon, most marketers continue to shy away from anything but opt-in “friend-following.” Social media needs to get beyond product pages, lightly-targeted display ads and remnant inventory optimized by click-through tracking, especially if it wants to exploit traditional brand advertisers.
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Image Source: flickr user aresauburn.