How to make the most of social media advertising

How to make the most of social media advertising

Navigating the world of social media advertising can be confusing for professionals, many of whom are new to the game.

They have been told that social media advertising is important but are lost when it comes to how to apply it and, more importantly, what is trending in the industry.

A recent report by research firm eMarketer sheds some helpful light. The report, Canada Social Media 2018: The Platforms Grabbing Social Ad Dollars, makes it clear that social media audience penetration is flat at about 60 per cent of the population.

In 2017, there were 21 million social network users in the country representing 57.8 per cent of the population. That’s expected to rise to 23 million people – 60.7 per cent of the population – by 2021.

social media advertising

It’s no surprise that Facebook dominates. Fully 76 per cent of internet users in Canada have a Facebook account.

social media advertising platforms

While social media platforms have hit a relative saturation point, they are still growing.

As the eMarketer report says: “The social advertising business is booming as a result of improved ad products, particularly mobile video ad units used in newsfeeds. Advertisers have flocked to these units to increase awareness, and in many cases that budget comes at TV’s expense.”

The report also notes that live video has gained traction for event-based marketing, and influencer marketing has become an essential tool for amplifying content marketing. “At the same time, sponsored posts aren’t going anywhere—they remain a simple and heavily used promotional tactic.”

Doug Lacombe, president and founder of Communicatto, a digital advertising agency in Calgary, says social media advertising is in its infancy.

“There’s a lot of sophistication in both techniques and technologies, but it’s still a bit Wild West,” he says. “The old adage of buyer beware definitely applies.”

Several obstacles are hindering success, Lacombe says.

“The online ad industry is struggling with issues like click fraud, banner blindness, exaggerated impressions, and a lack of accountability.”

There are ways to mitigate these problems. Lacombe recommends that, rather than focusing on impressions, pay more attention to conversion rates and conversion-rate optimization.

“A ruthless assessment of the return on investment (ROI) provided by one medium, campaign, or creative set over another is a requirement.”

Here are some trends Lacombe sees in the social media advertising world:

  • Digital advertising is largely a duopoly in Canada, involving Facebook and Google.
  • Social ads (that is, not Google but including Google’s YouTube) and traffic are dominated by Facebook and its affiliated apps (Messenger and Instagram).
  • Facebook ads drive more referral traffic than any other network.
  • Platforms are continuously opening new ad space inventory and different formats to maximize ad revenue and appeal to both advertisers and users.
  • Video and live video are at the forefront of that space and format growth.
  • Online ads have a long way to go to establish trust with the audience, especially among older populations.


Lacombe cites David Ogilvy, considered the father of modern advertising. Ogilvy said there is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 per cent more readers. The more they look like ads, the more likely they will be ignored or blocked.

That’s something to consider in this time of more programmatic advertising and sponsored content.

“Canadian social media adoption has plateaued,” says Lacombe. “Therefore, advertisers will have to focus on capturing and winning over existing audience rather than relying on newly acquired audience.”

That will put more pressure on strategy and creative. In short, campaigns will have to be “laser-targeted, compelling and offer a psychological payoff” to a particular audience.

The days of soapbox lecture-style ads are over, Lacombe says.

“Concentrating on solving audience problems, intriguing them, and providing lightly branded infotainment are acts of generosity that the audience will tolerate and reward with actions.”

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