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Advertisers go social

It can be hard for clients to find out how competitors are divvying up their online ad budgets. This is particularly true when it comes to adverts on social networking sites, which are notoriously difficult to track because of the sheer number of pages and people involved.

Web users are a sociable bunch

Nevertheless, a recent report has underlined that digital marketers and their clients can no longer afford to ignore the opportunities of Facebook and MySpace. According to Ofcom, 41 per cent of UK adult web users now visit a social networking site daily, up from 30 per cent in 2007. And 38 per cent have their own profile as opposed to 22 per cent two years ago. Potential customers are flocking to social media in remarkable numbers.

Total display ad views on social media

But a new study suggests certain industries are following their consumers online – while others are missing out.

Data from the comScore Ad Metrix service shows there were an astonishing 13.8 billion UK display ad impressions on social networking sites in August 2009. The ten sectors with the largest total number of views on social networking sites, in order, were telecommunications, retail, banking, travel, entertainment, online gambling, online dating, online gaming, government and teens. Here's a good example of a display ad from a client in the travel sector on TravelBlog:


Proportion of display ad views on social media

But much more interesting are figures showing which sectors are getting the highest proportion of their display ad impressions on social networking sites:

  1. Teens – 37.3 per cent

  2. Online dating – 33.8 per cent

  3. Retail – 30.1 per cent

  4. Government – 29.7 per cent

  5. Telecommunications – 27.1 per cent

  6. Banking – 20.9 per cent

  7. Online gambling – 19.8 per cent

  8. Entertainment – 16.9 per cent

  9. Travel – 11.5 per cent

  10. Online gaming – 11.1 per cent


Those at the top of this list are targeting their display ad campaigns towards Facebook and its peers. Those at the bottom aren't. So who's right?

To get an answer, we'll need to put these figures into some context. Data from comScore shows that more than 25 per cent of all display ad views come on social networking sites. This means that companies specialising in teens (37.3 per cent) and online dating (33.8 per cent) are well ahead of the general population but those in entertainment (16.9 per cent) and travel (11.5 per cent) are way behind. Bearing in mind that social media is growing at an explosive rate, it's a fair bet that display ad impressions will continue to rise, meaning the heavy investment of teen and online dating advertisers will ultimately be rewarded with even more views.

No-show from ents and travel

What seems clear is that certain sectors are missing a trick in terms of social media advertising. Entertainment and travel companies may be among the top ten buyers of display ads on Facebook and its ilk, but even so they are failing to keep up with just how many eyeballs are trained on these ads.

This is even more surprising when you consider that these industries are particularly well served by relevant social media portals. Entertainment companies can focus on MySpace and the countless blogs on TV and celebrities while travel specialists can focus on the ad opportunities of TravelBlog, Blogger, etc. In the following example, you can see how a display ad promotes the US rock band Weezer on the MySpace page for UK group Arctic Monkeys:


Mike Read, managing director of comScore Europe, sums up the message for advertisers rather well. "Given the overall reach and volume of ads delivered on social networking sites, brand advertisers who ignore this channel may be missing a significant opportunity and enabling their competitors to gain a dominant share of voice in the channel," he said. And frankly, it's hard to argue with that.

Richard Frost
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