Visit alamy.com


Social media advertising: the effects of social media on the advertising world

Black woman using digital tablet on sofa
Blend Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Get to grips with social media advertising and its impact on the advertising world as we delve into what’s really going on.

Social media has created endless opportunities for companies to reach their customers on a more personal level, but is it all good news? We’re looking at how advertising has transitioned over time and the pros and cons that advertisers are now facing in a digitally-dominated world.

Let’s rewind to a simpler time…

Before the internet took the world by storm and at a time when fewer advertising mediums existed, brands created ads designed to reach large audiences. Their ads needed to reach out to the masses in the hope that some of the people who saw the ad would convert to customers.

As we discussed in our blog ‘Advertising through the ages: before the internet’  the sole purpose of advertisements was once ‘to sell’. But as technology advanced, brands began to develop better understanding of their customers and were able to create more relevant campaigns for their audience.

With the introduction of social media advertising, it is now possible to create ads that target specific sections of your audience based on things like demographics, buying behaviour or even the interests listed on your social media profile. What’s more, adverts can be set up to achieve different goals, deliver multiple messages and advertise different products and services.

A collection of well-known social media brands printed on paper and placed on plastic signs
Anatolii Babii / Alamy Stock Photo

With so many options, what’s the best route?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula that everyone can follow. Every brand will be different and their audiences will have different needs and respond to different things.

But one of the key things to master for successful social media advertising is how to make your audience feel like you’re talking to them personally. A report by Kantar Media found that 55% of people agreed they find ads that are tailored to them more interesting than those that aren’t.

The challenge comes with finding out just what it is that interests your audience. Luckily, with the rise in social advertising also came the rise in big data. Brands now have access to more information about their audience than ever before – so make sure you’re using it! With more in-depth analytics, brands can get better insight into the behaviour and preferences of their customers, which in turn can aid strategic decisions.

More channels, more problems…?

Despite all the benefits that come with social targeting, one of the most complex aspects of the whole advertising process is figuring out where your customers spend their time. Here are a few quick stats from a study by Sprout Social to demonstrate the sheer scale of factors that might need to be considered when creating a social campaign:

  • 79% of internet users use Facebook, making it the most popular social network
  • 86% of Snapchat users are under 35 years old
  • Instagram has more female users than male users – 38% of online females use Instagram compared to 28% of men
  • 79% of Twitter accounts are located outside of the US, making geo-targeting that bit more difficult
But what does all this mean?

In short – there’s a lot more to consider before creating an ad than ever before. To make sure you’re spending your money in the right places, advertisers today need to know which sectors of the target audience are present on each social channel, and what they’re interested in.

This will all depend on how you segment your audience, but whatever demographics you use, there will be differences in the preferences of each customer group. From the types of products advertised, to the images used in the ads and where the ads are positioned on the page, there are multiple factors that’ll affect whether someone responds to an ad or not.

With such an uplift in the use of social media for advertising purposes, there’s one more major difficulty to overcome: advertising blindness. People are exposed to more than 5,000 ads on a daily basis, and the boundaries between advertisements and editorial content are being blurred. With so much content out there, the competition to be noticed is more intense than it’s ever been.

Get your placement, messaging and targeting right – you’re in for a great return on investment. Get it wrong? Well, you’ll know about it…

The power of social media advertising

There are advantages and disadvantages to the growth of social media advertising. On one hand, it’s never been easier to get your brand and products in front of potential customers. On the other, everything you post online is open to scrutiny – it’s there to be loved or hated, and people aren’t afraid to tell you what they think!

Case Study: Unilever, Dove

Things are more transparent than ever, and in the example below we’re looking at how Unilever’s beauty giant ‘Dove’ used social media advertising to transition from scrutiny to success.

Dove’s empowering ‘Real Beauty’ campaign started off well until it released a new range of ‘body-shaped bottles’. Designed to reflect the ‘one of a kind’ body types of their customers, the campaign actually ended up causing offence to women. One woman tweeted “the dove bottle with my body type hurts my feelings, whilst others took the opportunity to mock the idea. The result? The bottles were never released for sale and Dove were left with some serious repair work to get their reputation back on track!

Bouncing back from what’s now being referred to as ‘Bottlegate’, Unilever utilised social media advertising to promote Dove products to different sectors of their audience on different platforms. In a recent campaign for Dove, they used Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to promote their products to three different demographics.

They used Facebook as a tool to target Millennials, Snapchat to reach out to Gen Z and YouTube to spread the word to #RealMoms. Each advert was tailored to resonate with the target audience, from a fun virtual shower filter on Snapchat to an empowering video celebrating motherhood.

A contributing factor to the impact these ads was that Unilever have taken on board the key advertising trend of using real people in their ads. We’ve been watching this trend with enthusiasm as it’s flourished throughout 2017, with its popularity being expressed through the images being uploaded and purchased on Alamy.

Our previous advertising blog looks at the power of using relatable people in advertising and appealing to the emotions of the audience. Some awesome image collections for you to check out include:

Trump’s election campaign

Another example of effective use of social media targeting was the Trump election campaign. There’s a lot of information to support the claim that utilisation of social media was a key player in securing the Trump presidency. Using Twitter and Facebook in particular, the campaign targeted members of the public who had no clear allegiance to another party.

Some interesting stats that help to explain the strength of the social media influence include:

  • Interest in Trump on Twitter was three times higher than Clinton
  • Trump was the most Googled candidate
  • Trump had 4 million more Twitter followers than Clinton

Without social media, many of those who turned up to the polling station may not have even set foot out of the door.

Is there still a place for traditional advertising?

Yes. The growth of social media advertising doesn’t mean more traditional methods like radio, TV or billboards are now irrelevant. It’s simply opened up the scope for advertisers and marketers to reach their customers on a more personal level than ever before. Traditional methods are still useful for reaching large groups of customers and getting a big brand message out there in front of millions of people.

Consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages per day and research suggests a person may see an advert 20 times before deciding to take action. The key here is to make sure you’re your messaging is consistent. This will help people to relate the ad they see on Facebook to the message they read in their Instagram Story. Cross-channel targeting can be effective in some ways, but bombarding someone with multiple ads containing different messaging can be an effective way of losing custom.

More from the author

More articles about...

Alamy’s WorldTips and Tricks

Latest Imagery

With 100,000 new images added everyday there is always something new to see on Alamy. See our editor's pick of what's new...

See Latest Imagery