Social-Search Engine Marketing Moves Into Ad Experimentation

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It takes more than acquiring Facebook Fans or Google+ followers to gain long-term value for brands from social campaigns, making experimentation with targeting options and emerging ad formats increasingly important for search marketers.

Marin Software will release several features Tuesday in its Facebook platform supporting media. These include Campaign Wizard to tweak headlines, Creative Rotation Optimization across a variety of ad types to curb banner blindness, and Bidding Enhancements to support financial investments and analyze metrics.

"The shelf life of a social ad is considerably shorter compared with search," said Jason Young, senior director of product marketing at Marin. "Combine that with experimentation and it makes it more difficult to tee-up campaigns."

Brand strategies differ on Facebook. Some want to generate Likes, while others drive customers to ecommerce sites. More Likes means more people can see the message. The Ranch Restaurant looks for Fans to share reviews, but Publishers Clearing House, 1800flowers.com, and Sainsbury find that two-way interactions work better to support search efforts through Facebook ads and social streams.

Discovery and targeting ads in social remain broken, but executives at 1800Flowers.com believe Facebook continues to work toward an answer supported by programmatic buying, which is consistent with the acceleration of online display ads. Challenges still remain, as indicated by blackouts in the mobile iOS6 and some Firefox browsers that don't allow marketers to track and target.

As demand rises, it becomes increasingly difficult for marketing experts to support both social and search, Young said. Marin supports about 200 clients on Facebook, and the majority have the same requirements as search engine marketing.

"They want to incorporate data -- not just from social conversions, but also revenue -- and have the information at their fingertips to make decisions," Young said.

Along with the features, Marin released the white paper -- The Marketer's Guide to Successful Facebook Advertising -- outlining steps that take marketers from basic to advanced campaign tactics. One strategy capitalizes on the desire by Facebook Fans to share information. That need supports advertising audience targeting. Through personal profiles people share their age, occupation, hometown, friends, and interests. Through actions, they share likes and dislikes for brands and pages.

Similar to banner blindness, consumers respond better to new images. Marketers should frequently swap old with new ads to ensure that marketers capture the attention of as many consumers as possible. This combats ad fatigue. The white paper suggests marketers keep track of the ads that work best and use similar themes and messages in future ads.

Facebook's advertising revenue rose 43% to $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the prior year, and up sequentially from around $1.3 billion. About 7.5% of page views globally take place on Facebook, with the average member spending 28 minutes on the site viewing 18 unique pages daily.

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