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Why Social Media Advertising Is Set To Explode In The Next 3 Years

Both display ads and paid search ads have their place, however columnist Sonny Ganguly argues that social media advertising is vastly becoming a powerful player in the online advertising game. Social media advertising has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.  At the time Facebook launched its very first advertising option in May 2005, no one could have predicted that social media advertising revenue would be estimated to reach $8.4 billion in 2015, just 10 years later.

A natural choice for modern businesses is online advertising, however after the decline of the banner ad, companies started searching for alternatives. A great online advertising medium for attracting visitors to your site is paid search. However, what if a situation occurs where there are no identifiable (or affordable) keywords you can bid on to drive traffic? And what about those businesses that wants to create brand awareness rather than capturing user intent?

Social media advertising helps companies discover new potential clients by using users’ own shared information to identify interest. As opposed to reactively targeting users that search for a particular term, social media advertising proactively targets relevant users before they even start their search. A good option for advertisers is social networks due to the advanced targeting options, reliable conversion tracking, and prevalence on mobile devices. Because social networks collects such a larger amount of user information, social media advertising is capable of targeting your audience in a larger variety of ways compared to other online platforms. Reaching far beyond general demographic and geographic data, social media advertising has opened the door to deeper interest, behavioural and connection-based targeting methods.

The advanced targeting options increase your ad’s relevance to your users and offer a level of personalisation that is not available on other advertising channels. Here are 4 of these advanced targeting options:

  • Interest targeting: Reach specific audiences by searching at their self-reported interests, activities, skills, pages/users they have engaged with, etc. Interest targeting is often linked to keyword targeting, so some platforms will allow you to enter both. Interests can be as general as an industry (e.g. automotive industry) or as specific as a product (e.g. convertibles). Provided by: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (under “Skill”), and Pinterest.    
  • Behavioural / Connection targeting: In terms of behavioural targeting, you are able to reach people based on their purchase behaviours or intents and/or device usage. With connection targeting, you can reach people that have a key type of connection to your page, app, group, or event. Both kinds of targeting take past behaviour into account to assist you in determining intent. Provided by: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
  • Custom targeting: By uploading a list of email addresses, phone numbers, users IDs, or usernames, you can reach audiences more effectively. Facebook calls its custom targeting Custom Audiences, whilst Twitter refers to it as Tailored Audiences. They are largely based on the same concept: if you have a known group of people you would like to target, you can just upload them and target them directly (given that the social network can match the data you’re uploading with real profiles).
  • Lookalike targeting: This allows you to reach new people who are similar to an audience you care about. Lookalike targeting assists companies to extend their custom audiences to achieve new, similar users. For companies who are looking to acquire new customers through social media advertising, lookalike targeting can be a fantastic acquisition tool. Provided by: Facebook, LinkedIn.

With all of the options available for targeting users, tracking the performance of your social media advertising campaign is even more important for justifying your spend and requesting a budget. Whilst you are still able to pay-per-click to your website or choose other metrics to measure the success of your ad, most social networks now offer website conversion tracking.

Social media ads which drive the user to take some measureable action, such as purchasing your product or registering for an event, can actually report on how effective the ad was in driving those conversions, as long as you configure it correctly. Conversion tracking does require you to add a snippet of code to the web page where the conversion takes place, so it does mean that a bit of technical ability and extra effort is needed, however, you will then be able to attribute any conversions on that page to the ads you’re running.

Conversion tracking allows your business to become much more knowledgeable about your ad spends and strategy. If your ad is receiving a lot of clicks (which you are paying for) but there are no conversions, then it is a wasted investment. This data will allow you to optimise your ad copy much more efficiently.

With complete activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for 60% of digital media time spent in the U.S., it’s inevitable that reaching users whilst on mobile devices is the next innovation in terms of advertising – and social media advertising is the best choice. Mobile users are already looking at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Pinterest multiple times a day; therefore, advertising to them while they are within those apps is the best way to reach them without being disruptive.

The data supports this, mobile advertising was on course to comprise 68% of Facebook’s revenue and 84% of Twitter’s in 2014, and two-thirds of social media advertising spend is forecasted to go towards mobile ads in 2018, creating a $9.1 billion market on mobile. This, together with the fact that nearly half of mobile phone users globally will have smartphones in 2018, meaning that social media advertising on mobile is a massive growth market in the following three years. When choosing specific channels to use to increase your business in 2015 and beyond, use social media advertising as a supplement to your existing growth strategies.

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