Understanding Social Media as a Real Advertising Channel

Sean O'Neal, President, Adaptly

Understanding Social Media as a Real Advertising Channel

For most CEO's the world of social media is shrouded in mysteries that only their teenagers can fathom. But just as they learned to buy cable when it matured as a marketing channel and later learned to buy digital (both online and now, mobile and tablet), so too will competitive pressures have them asking their CMO's "What about social media as a marketing channel?"

There is still a fair amount of experimentation with social media including trying to use the "free" aspects of the various social networks to push out company POV's, building fan pages, developing apps, and creating compelling content. And there is great value in this.  But, today, given the increasing competition for attention within the social networks and their evolving ad-supported business models, marketers are facing a new set of challenges in achieving the same level of success from their owned and earned marketing efforts as it has simply become more difficult to get your message out organically. Brands just can't reach these social communities as freely any longer. 

We are now starting a new phase of social marketing: paid social media advertising.  Brands have amassed large and loyal audiences within the social network platforms, which has taken years of effort and significant investment.  The opportunities for activating these audiences is great, but the reality is that continued activation will require further investment, new approaches, and a new set of tools.  

Paid advertising opportunities are as advanced, and in many ways more precise than what exists in general online display advertising.  But along with these sophisticated new opportunities are serious complexities. Understanding all of the ways a brand can activate its audiences in social media, and managing those activation efforts, requires expertise and dedication.  In addition to strategic abilities, technology also plays a vital role. 

The new reality of social marketing is that a brand’s “owned” media is only the foundation of a successful effort, and that activation of their audiences through “paid” social advertising is now a necessary part of achieving the ever-important “earned” media.  Paid-Owned-Earned is no longer a string of independent marketing tactics, they are three legs of the same stool, and if any one of those legs is missing the stool just doesn’t hold up.  This next phase of omni-channel marketing will consist of a new set of best practices for applying paid social media strategy as a way to link the three legs together and unlock the synergies of an integrated media plan.


About the Author 

Sean O'Neal is the President of Adaptly.  Previously, Mr. O’Neal was global CMO at The Daily Mail Online, and prior to that was President of Vizu Corporation.