by Michael O'Neill
January 22nd, 2013

The term ‘social advertising’ throws off too many marketers and advertisers because they think it is advertising. But it really isn’t.

Social advertising should promote social content. Putting banner ads in people’s Twitter and Facebook streams isn’t the way to engage them on social channels. Brands should be using social advertising to push people to interactive and multimedia content on those channels.

And this is where it gets funky. Because regular advertising works best in long, sustained campaigns. Repetition over the length of a campaign hammers home brand awareness and increases message penetration. But this doesn’t work for social content.

Why? Because social content has a short lifespan. Days, a week, but rarely longer than that (ask any blogger how many people are reading posts from last year — or even last month? Answer: not many).  People simply don’t share and engage with old content on the Internet like they do with the new stuff.

New content is the currency of Internet. Search engines love it. Social networks share it. It’s a fact: new content has a better shot of going viral.

And going viral happens in a flash. A piece of social content reaches a certain amount of viewers and then it will tip. And suddenly the content is viral — being shared, being commented on, being written about by media and bloggers. It will explode everywhere.

The goal of social advertising isn’t to build long sustained brand awareness campaigns. It is to provide lift-off for social content. To power your content to find the tipping point it needs to penetrate its target audience. Social advertising is a jet propulsion pack. It needs to be fast, powerful and pushing in the right direction.

And that’s why social advertising isn’t always enough for lift-off. You also need to help lift-off by putting the content on your own social channels, on your customers and partners’ social channels (even your employees). And how about pitching it to media and bloggers? Or entering into a sponsorship or syndication deal with them?

Lift-off. That’s what you want social advertising to provide.

George F. Snell III is senior vice-president, digital & social communications, at Weber Shandwick Boston. This article first appeared on his blog High Talk

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