Social advertising’s blurred lines

When Facebook, Twitter and YouTube shifted away from the ad-free platforms we got hooked on, angry statuses and tweets emphatically declared that their users would turn their backs.

As we know, the big three saw no such mass exodus. Instagram and Tumblr saw this eventual user acceptance and decided to jump aboard the ad revenue train themselves. Similarly, their communities reacted with abject horror.

But a new era of advertising is upon us that, when done well, blurs the lines of content and advertising. Why? Millennials are fickle. They don’t mind being told something – they just dislike being sold something. It’s why we’re seeing “sponsored content” as the preferred method of advertising on social media, rather than traditional banner ads.

Facebook has spearheaded this content-sponsoring trend. Want to promote it? The network will restrict your images to include just 20 percent copy. This is Facebook’s attempt to have its cake and eat it too – making money off brands who want to use Facebook’s reach while trying to keep users content by showing them advertising that still feels more like “regular” content.

Twitter’s promoted tweets follow a similar approach, minus any 20 percent copy restrictions. Even Instagram introduced sponsored posts into its feed with extreme caution. The company is very selective about the brands and imagery allowed, so as not to tarnish the Instagram experience. It works. Most of the time, you don’t know you’re looking at a sponsored post until reading the caption. It therefore doesn’t feel intrusive.

Tumblr’s known for its love of animated GIFs and captioned photos. Memes we see on Facebook or Twitter often got their start on Tumblr well before making their way over. Advertisers who have found success have done so because they know and play to this with their sponsored content.

Your content is your company’s advertising on social media. The brands that get this show as much by producing content that utilizes each medium’s specialties and combines this with the targeting capabilities of each social network’s ad platforms.
Bruce Dierbeck
is a senior account executive at Milwaukee-based BVK.

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