Social media and advertising

Apart from providing a public space for sharing videos of surfing dogs, giggling babies and what not to eat, social media is an advertising platform. You should be using it that way if you run a business.

The reason why social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram encourage you to publish, share and like messages of all kinds, is because it allows them to learn private stuff about you. This in turn allows them to target personalised advertisements at you.

This may upset you in case nobody told you this. You may have felt that the people at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer their services because they love you and because they believe in free stuff for all. Right …

But once you know, you may come to the conclusion that you can turn these advertising platforms to work to your benefit. Because social media works in this grey zone of public diaries, personal confessions and bluntly commercial advertisements, advertising doesn’t really feel like advertising, and may be more effective for this very reason. Let me explain.

When you watch a movie on TV, and the movie is interrupted 27643 times for an advert, you get annoyed. It’s interruptive. When you listen to the radio, and the same advert is repeated every 15 minutes, you get annoyed. It’s interruptive, you get the point. When I scroll down my timeline on Facebook, and in between the paragliding hamsters and pseudo-philosophical quotes and advert for cheap travels to India appear, I don’t get annoyed. I don’t feel interrupted. Even less so since I’ve been searching “cheap deals for India travels” just a day before, and discussed it with a friend on Facebook. Welcome to the world on non-interruptive, personalised advertising.

Well then, which social media app should you be focusing on to advertise your business? Here’s how it works for me:

  • Facebook

  • Facebook is powerful. She has been collecting a whole lot of personal data for a whole lot of time, and she offers this data to her advertisers. You can post anything anytime free of charge on Facebook, and you may want to try that before you look at other (paying) options. Your main focus would then be to collect “Likes” for your Facebook page. The more “Likes”, the more people that receive your publications on their timelines. But you should look a little further than that, because Facebook is a little bigger than the 101 people that have “Liked” your page. A whole gazillion times bigger, that is. If you pay Facebook to advertise (or “Boost” as they call it) a post, event or website, you get to select who you’re advertising to. Boys? Girls? Middle-aged housewives with a penchant for abused animals, living in Cape Town or 25 miles around Cape Town? You name it, you select it, you target it.

  • Instagram

  • Instagram is a little trickier. Everybody is an artist on Instagram. You share pictures (and short videos) on Instagram, not so much text messages. Instagram offers great ways to make amateur home-made pictures look great and interesting … and yes, errr … artistic. So your advertising would be very visual. Puzzling: Instagram does not allow you to load pictures from your computer, but only via their phone app.

  • Twitter

  • Many people will disagree with me – Twitter claims 271 million monthly active users – but Twitter doesn’t really work for advertising. It works for journalists, who need information straight from the horse’s mouth, and it works for many people that share all kinds of opinions and information, but it doesn’t work for advertising.

Just remember that you walk a very fine line when advertising on social media. People are on social media because they want to share personal stuff and read about other people’s personal stuff. People are like that. When you advertise, stay away from blunt, in-your-face advertising. People will feel like your have interrupted them, invaded their personal space with capitalist money-grabbing intentions. It will turn people away. They will stop liking you. Give people something they can relate to, they can connect with, emotionally and socially. You’ll see, people can be very grateful for a good advertisement, and may even decide to like or share your ad, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities, in which “going viral” is king …


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