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Social media advertising is impossible to ignore, no matter how hard you try. Everywhere we go, every social networking website we log into, we are bombarded with advertisements trying to persuade us to buy the latest products or gadgets. But is social media advertising really that effective? Does it actually influence people’s buying choices? Or is it like white noise – in the background and pretty easy to ignore after a while?

Ask any Facebook or Twitter executive whether social media advertising is effective and they are bound to say “yes”. Well they would do, wouldn’t they! These guys spend an awful lot of money encouraging businesses large and small to sign up for their marketing tools and strategies, so it stands to reason that they want you to believe in the power of social media advertising.

How Much Influence does Social Media Have?

A recent survey conducted by Gallup says that only 5% of Americans believe that social media advertising influences what they buy. Interestingly, 62% think it has no influence whatsoever and they are more likely to pay attention to shop window displays and other more traditional forms of advertising.

Hanging Out with Friends

In some ways this result is not all that surprising. We use social media websites to hang out with friends, not interact with brands (although we might visit a brand’s social media page to complain about their service). But, and this is a big but, some experts have put forward the hypothesis that the results are based on responses to questions rather than actual behavior. So it is entirely possible that many consumers make buying decisions based on subliminal influences. Or in other words, they are not aware of how much influence social media advertising really has on their behavior.

The Rise of Social Media

When television was first invented, traditional print-print advertising was turned on its head. The same has since applied to social media. The advertising industry has had to adapt to the changes wrought by websites such as Facebook and Twitter. In many cases they have adopted the ‘blanket approach’ and plastered advertising all over the internet and social media websites in the hope that something sticks.

White Noise

Unfortunately, consumers have become de-sensitised to such material. Our eyes are able to ‘tune out’ adverts on a page, particularly those in the side bars. Younger consumers are even less likely to click on an advert, which is hardly good news if your entire marketing budget is spent on social media advertising.

The moral of the story is this: social media may well influence buyers on a subliminal level, but it can be hard to quantity how successful it really is. So don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Ideally have a marketing strategy that encompasses more than one technique. For example, social media could be part of your marketing campaign, but less than 30%, with the rest of the budget spent on traditional types of advertising such as radio adverts, printed flyers, etc.

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