Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 2: Social Media Advertising

When most of you think of social media you think of Facebook or Twitter. There are actually many forms of social media that attract a wide variety of users intent on doing a number of diverse things. These sites include personal blogs, consumer review sites, professional networking sites like LinkedIn, local city sites, travel sites, online book clubs, and so much more. This part of the series will discuss user intent on social media sites and what things to consider when developing your online advertising strategy and content for campaigns to be used on social media platforms. For those of you who are new to this series, you may wish to begin by reading Online Advertising and Reader Intent: Part 1: Intro, which explains the idea of intent and how it is important to online advertising.

To illustrate the key points, I will discuss a social media site most people are already familiar with: Facebook.

Advertising on Facebook

Facebook is a social networking site. The intent of users who frequent the site is to share aspects of their life and interests with the people in their network, who may be family, friends, colleagues, or virtual strangers they allowed to connect with them; or conversely, to learn new information from those within their network who are sharing with them. The point is they are there to share personal stuff – not to shop, not to do research, and typically not to find something specific for their home or work.

This distinction is critical to make when developing your online advertising campaign for a social networking platform. Bottom line is – Facebook users are not specifically looking for what you are offering them at this time.

Your carefully crafted message has to draw their attention away from what they are engaged in without interfering with their intent for being on the social networking site in the first place.

To demonstrate what I mean, I’ll share with you a typical offline experience I am sure most of you have had: have you ever walked into Home Depot and had a financial services rep try to get you to sign up for the store’s credit card?

Your intent was not to go to Home Depot for a credit card. Your intent was to run in, get the exact elbow pipe you need, and run home to finish the job so you can get it done before the football game starts. Right?

Well, your online ad is faced with the same scenario only you don’t have the advantage of getting someone’s attention by shouting out, “Excuse me, sir, are you planning on buying something today?” So how do you get their attention then?

First of all, you have to know whom you are targeting. Luckily for you, Facebook allows you to choose your audience by location, age, and interests. One successful advertiser targeted female users aged 24-30 who indicated they were ‘engaged.’ The very straightforward ad message spoke to the stated interests AND intent of the users: “Recently engaged? CM Photographics would love to be a part of your event. Mention this ad for $500 off.”

If we analyze this ad we see how the advertiser made use of what was ‘known’ and ‘understood’ about the target group:

  1. Made use of known intent important to targeted users: “Recently engaged?”
  2. Generally still establishing themselves at 24-30 years of age and faced with the upcoming costs of their wedding, the advertiser made use of the understanding that this group is typically looking to save money: “Mention this ad for $500 off!”
  3. Most probably dreaming of the big day, the photographer included a photograph of a bride and groom kissing out in a field on their wedding day.

All of the elements of the ad indicate the advertiser understood the users’ intent and was able to incorporate accurate assumptions that served to strengthen the ad’s effectiveness. Another important point to make here is where your call to action takes users who respond to your ad by clicking on it. Ideally, you do not want to take users away from the web site they are ‘socializing’ on. Ensure the target is set to ‘open in a new window’, or better yet a tab,  so that they can easily get what you offer without having to completely disengage from what they were already doing.

To summarize, in order for your online advertising on social media platforms like Facebook to be effective you have to:

1.       Know whom you are targeting

2.       Use your understanding of their intent to address their known interests

3.       Use your understanding of their intent to address their assumed interests as they relate to their known interests

4.       Include an image that indicates what you offer and taps into an emotion related to the known intent of the users

5.       Include a call to action that when clicked is set to ‘open in a new window’ so that users do not have to abandon their intent for being on the social media site in order to engage with your message.

Stay tuned for Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 3: Search Engine Advertising coming soon!

Read posts in this Series:

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 1: Intro

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 2: Social Media Advertising

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 3: Search Engine Advertising

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 4: 3rd-Party Website Advertising