Social media advertising isn’t social media, it’s just ads

Twitter small bizA couple of weeks ago Twitter announced that advertising is now available for small and medium sized business in UK, Ireland and Canada. This move now makes social media advertising affordable for those of us with more modest marketing budgets across the Big Three (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) by using their self-serve ad platforms. Certainly more affordable than the £5k minimum spend per month per @handle which I was recently quoted by their ads team (not a great fit for a large business such as UBM which is made up of lots of individual brands which are independently budgeted for).

That aside, what’s really important to remember when we’re talking about social media advertising is that it isn’t social media, it’s just digital ads. There is no real social aspect to this marketing activity other than the fact it’s taking place on a social network, in short it’s a misnomer.

To get the most from social media you need to be social – and by that I mean that you need to engage and be engaging. It’s about those personal connections, having a conversation and doing something which resonates with your customers and wider community.

Whereas social media advertising is just another push marketing medium, it doesn’t build the relationship between the community and your brand. While it might help to grow your followers or increase your click throughs, it’s only a short term solution to the much bigger challenge of really understanding and getting to the heart of how your business can leverage the power social interactions. And promoting your tweets is not it.

The big business benefits come from social when you earn it. Take a look at this blog from Martin Zwilling in which he discusses Jim Tobin’s new book ‘Earn It. Don’t Buy It’, which really highlights the importance of engagement, engagement, engagement. And also take a look at Sarah Mason’s blog on why follower numbers are not the most important measurement of social success.

So while advertising on a social network might get you lots of lovely digital advertising metrics, which you may or may not actually be able to track back to real business benefit (does getting more followers mean we get more conversions?), just remember not to confuse it with actual social media engagement. Social media advertising is not a social media strategy, the two things are worlds apart.

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