Online advertising is a fickle beast. Whilst it’s true that the fruits of adopting an online advertising strategy are now starting to rival, and indeed in some cases overshoot, other forms of promotion for your business, this is only really the case if you know precisely what you are doing.
Advertising online is as easy as it is difficult. By this, we mean that the act of promoting a company, business or item, via online platforms is quite literally a click away, however, the success of doing so depends almost entirely on having a plan of action that is fit for purpose.
The number of social channels worth covering with your online ad budget is also increasing, and again this is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Whereas previously you may have chosen to lump your entire financial sum in one platform (for good or bad), now you’ll have to access the quality of each available social network, as well as the relevance to your campaign.
Online Ad Formats
As the market for online advertising has increased, so has the number of different ways you might wish to do so. Some of these changes have been technological in nature while others have been related to the way the social media advertising market has been shaped by a fast level of growth.
Ad formats tend to come in two tranches, video ad formats or Display ad formats. You encounter a mixture of both every time you log in to your many social media accounts on a daily basis, without even really knowing it (such as the level of integration that has taken place).
These can come in the form of long-form ads, not dissimilar to what you’d watch on your TV, or in the form of shorter-form segments (on YouTube, for instance, these are referred to as Bumper ads).
The placement of these ads can feature ahead of existing content, at the close of a pre-existing video, or in masthead ads or GIF format. Basically, a good strategy to adopt when it comes to video is to be able to cut your pie in as many ways as possible.
In other words, the production of a video ad can be sliced (edited) in as many ways as possible, designed to work for each format you use them within.
A key element of online video ads is the factor of subtlety. The narrative, unless you are being exceedingly meta, should be educational/informative without being so overtly promotional.
Selling your products via any form of video ads is aided by pursuing a humorous approach, as opposed to being overly serious (again, unless you are making a parody). Here, creativity is key, as is knowing the relevant audience for your product and the social media you are using to do so.
If the video ad formats are the creative angle then display ad formats are, in many ways, the bread and butter option, one that requires a different level of interaction with your audience.
Display ads come in many shapes and sizes, such as the following.
- Static Ads: As you’d imagine, this is just a single ad, usually a flat image with text. Frankly much the same as you might see in an offline option (such as a physical magazine or newspaper).
- Interactive Ads: These can look, and feel, like static ads but will entail some level of ‘buy in’ from a user. Traditionally comes in the form of a short survey or query.
- Animated Ads: Positioned in a prime location on a network, usually a short textual message backed by a GIF or short-animation.
- Banner Ads: As the name suggests, a banner ad that could sit at the top of a site, page, with a hugely clickable CTA (Call to action).
- Native Ads: This is a sneaky ad that appears to fit the site/social network it sits within. For instance, you may be scrolling through Instagram and another account (which you don’t follow) gets in your feed, encouraging interaction.
- Interstitial Ads/Pop-Ups: A very aggressive form of online advertising where your entire screen (on any device) is taken up by an ad that may or may not have any relevance to the site it’s hosted on or the audience consuming it. These are still very effective but clearly have some level of irritation for the user.
Social Channels and the Audience Demographic of Each
A great percentage of online advertising occurs on key social network platforms, and for that reason, we take a look at some of the big players next.
No two social networks are the same and the way they work, the costs of using their paid advertising services, and the audiences they cater to, are all markedly different.
With this in mind, here are the five big guns in the market.
Look, there’s no getting away from it. Facebook has become very much a social network you either love or hate. Bad press has haunted the platform for a number of years but frankly, this isn’t greatly affecting their business model.
So, if your question is “Why should I advertise my wares via Facebook” the simplest answer would have to be, “Facebook has 2 billion active monthly users”. It really is that clear cut.
The breadth of advertising options via Facebook is vast and the ease with which these can be ably used, analyzed, and strategized just makes using the channel something of a no-brainer.
If Facebook is still the leading platform to spend your advertising dollars, and then chiefly due to the size and targeting potential of doing so, then Instagram comes in a very close second.
The user engagement enjoyed on the Facebook-owned entity is significantly higher than their parent company and with over 500 million monthly users it’s clear the audience is large enough to be worth your attention.
As a visual medium, the ability to sell and promote your products is in many ways far more of an obvious fit than running a similar campaign anywhere else. Instagram’s audience is far younger than Facebook and leans more to a female market as well as that of minority groups.
This means that by promoting your products on both platforms, you are kind of covering your bases.
YouTube is the second-most visited website/platform on planet earth. Every month 3.25 billion hours of videos are consumed by their voracious audience. As an advertising space, it’s one that can’t be ignored.
Advertising on this platform is relatively cheap in comparison to others and the demographic you reach could be considered quite a niche.
For instance, 80% of the audience is outside of the US and as such could bring you custom from localities you haven’t successfully tapped before. The gender demographic is skewed to male, around 62%, but isn’t so skewed that you can’t effectively target pretty much whoever you wish.
There is the additional benefit from advertising on YouTube and that comes from the side-benefit of improving your ranking on YouTube’s parent company, Google.
Seen by many as a far darker social platform in terms of its voice and tone, Twitter is used primarily as a brand awareness tool as opposed to a direct promotional tool. You can promote on Twitter for free but clearly paying for promotion on their service gets your ad seen by more potential customers.
Most research suggests that Twitter users are far more shopping orientated and can be seen in that regard as something of a golden goose.
Twitter’s big-sell, not just in relation to promotions and advertising, comes in the fact that they are very geared to very timely developments. In much the same way that users flock to Twitter to see what’s happening right now, whereas other networks feel less ‘real-time’, and as such your short-term/immediate forms of advertising can benefit from that level of reactivity.
LinkedIn’s specialty comes in the B2B market, whereas the likes of Facebook/Instagram and Twitter are almost exclusively for the benefit of the B2C environment. Another bonus is the professional nature of the audience.
The fact that the audience using this network is, on average, significantly more well off is clearly of interest to high-end businesses and companies. There are also obvious benefits in the field of recruitment and education.
Worth noting, however, as you might expect, the CPC (cost per click) on LinkedIn is generally higher than other networks.
Something of an outsider in the field, Pinterest is a fast-growing market when it comes to its use by companies and individuals as an advertising avenue.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is clearly visually driven and has a high rate of success when it comes to conversion but it also has a few other interesting benefits.
Over 80% of the audience is female and interestingly the age of their audience is mixed so you are able to reach customers you might not so easily attract using other social channels.
175 million users a month enjoy what Pinterest has to offer and as such, they should be part of your overall social media advertising plans.
Playing the Online Ad Game, the Right Way
Some companies, even in 2021, use online advertising as something of a haphazard fashion, indeed some choose to do so without even hiring specifically trained, highly-regarded personnel to do so.
Advertising your brand and products online isn’t the same as doing so offline and as such, you can’t wing it and if you are doing so you are almost certainly losing out by doing so.
The online advertising market is a complex minefield where the benefits can very easily be missed by those who are not able to best read the market effectively.
The subject matter related to the online advertising world is immense and as with anything in relation to this topic, research and the right ad formats are key. Keep in mind that each advertising platform has its own requirements, so be sure to learn more about digital ads specs before creating your campaign. Online advertising is a nut that your business will need to work very hard on, if you wish to crack it effectively, efficiently, and rewardingly.
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