How To Fix The Problems With Social Media Advertising

Blair Currie is the CEO of Snibble, a next-generation social video platform where content plus conversation rule the entertainment world.

People increasingly report problems with advertising on the big digital platforms. Is it the advertising, platforms or both in combination that’s the main cause of these problems?

Advertising Problems

Regarding advertising, there are many issues confronting viewers, including the quality, quantity, frequency, duration and relevance of the ads. People don’t want to wade through a thicket of ads to view the content they want. Further, they don’t like to be tracked and retargeted, which seems like an invasion of privacy. Finally, they don’t want to be treated like fools by having ads served to them that are irrelevant, boring or repeatedly shown.

Platform Problems

With respect to the big digital platforms, the problems facing brands include brand safety and suitability. Problems facing users include the unauthorized use of data. With respect to brand safety, the big digital platforms—Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube—all feature user-generated content, which is fundamentally unsafe.

Although these platforms try to police the content, there’s just so much posted each minute around the world that it’s impossible to track it all. For example, in 2020, there were 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube alone every minute. This means there’s no way to guarantee that your ads won’t appear next to unsavory videos.

Joint Advertising And Platform Problems

Moreover, studies show that almost 75% of viewers think there are too many ads on social media platforms. Many ads please advertisers because their brands get noticed by the target audience. They also please the platforms and their shareholders because of the revenue they generate. But this isn’t good news for users.

How To Fix The Problems

Next are some strategies that your company can use to avoid or work around the problems with big digital platforms that reduce the stress put on viewers and help increase your returns on advertising investment (ROAI).

1. Make better ads. Advertisers should invest more in creativity because audiences appreciate well-crafted ads. This is clear in the lively discussions around the Super Bowl ads.

2. Run fewer ads. A simple rule of microeconomics is that pricing increases with scarcity. Ads have more effectiveness and are of higher value when there’s little competition. P&G, one of the largest advertisers in the world, has found that cutting back on ads can increase effectiveness.

3. Provide something useful. Consumers, and especially young viewers, are buying from brands that support causes and reflect their values. Consider investing in corporate social responsibility goals in addition to promoting your products or services. This is all part of giving more value in exchange for viewer attention.

4. Be diverse and inclusive. Because today’s consumers require companies to embrace diversity and inclusion, your ads should reflect this in their messaging and casting.

5. Run ads next to professionally generated content. There are a few reasons why you don’t want to put your brand at risk by running it near user-generated content. If your ads run next to inappropriate content, consumers could believe that this was done intentionally. And they will punish brands when mistakes happen.

6. Aim to maximize ROAI. Advertisers should support new platforms that are designed to maximize advertising effectiveness and not only those designed to attract the largest audience. And you’ll want to avoid the ones that inundate their audience with interruptive ads.

7. Focus on relevance. Advertisers should focus more on the context of the content than on tracking and retargeting individuals. This helps address brand suitability and can increase ROAI. Further, this should be made apparent to the platform users. At the same time, ads need to be contextually targeted to some extent, so that they aren’t seen to be irrelevant.

8. Don’t interrupt. Ads should be placed in a “native” context and avoid interrupting the viewing experience with annoying advertising pop-ups as much as possible.

9. Give the viewer a fair trade for their attention. Platforms need to make money by either charging a subscription or running advertising—not both. For young viewers who can’t afford another subscription, a well-designed ad-supported platform is appealing. But you need to make sure there’s a fair trade of advertising for viewer attention.

10. Run shorter ads. As consumers move more to short-form videos, ads need to reflect this preference. There’s been a significant amount of research done that shows that a six-second nonskippable video ad can be the most effective unit. If ads are longer, they should have skippable options.

11. Apply frequency caps. One of the biggest complaints about ads is that 63% of users say they only see a few advertisements shown repeatedly. The best way to manage this is to ensure there are frequency caps in place to reduce overexposure.

12. Consider branded content. Branded content, if done correctly, can be both entertaining and able to promote a brand. Advertisers such as GoPro and Red Bull do this well. Some branded content, such as movie and game trailers, is seen by users as short-form videos rather than promotional pieces. Some are even strong enough to support ads placed in front of the branded content.

13. Reward users. Advertisers can run ads on new platforms that reward users for viewing the ads or content.

Summary

Although the big digital platforms have become successful, they’ve done so largely at the expense of consumers, advertisers and content providers. They’ve lost sight that the main audience is the users. And because they either buy, shamelessly copy or bury the competition, they don’t see the need to change.

That said, it’s time for advertisers and content providers to support platforms that believe the system is broken—those that believe digital platforms can, and really should, be better, especially when it comes to advertising on social media.


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