Social network advertising

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Social network advertising, also known as social media targeting, is a group of terms used to describe forms of online advertising and digital marketing focusing on social networking services. A significant aspect of this type of advertising is that advertisers can take advantage of users' demographic information, psychographics, and other data points to target their ads.

Social media targeting combines targeting options (such as geotargeting, behavioural targeting, and socio-psychographic targeting) to make detailed target group identification possible. Essential factors also include users' likes, comments, views, and follows on social media platforms.[1] With social media targeting, advertisements are distributed based on information gathered from target group profiles.

Social network advertising differs from social media targeting. Social media targeting enhances advertising by leveraging profile data to deliver ads directly to individual users. Conversely, social network advertising involves aligning social network users with target groups specified by the advertiser. Social media advertising encompasses the creation of content on social media platforms, interaction with followers, and the execution of advertisements.


People who use social networking sites share a variety of personal information data points about themselves, including their age, gender, interests, and location, and this stored information allows advertisers to create specific target groups and individualize their advertisements. The advantage for advertisers is that their ads can reach a particular set of audiences who are interested in the product or service. The benefit for users is that they can see advertisements that may be more relevant to their interests. The data collected goes beyond personal demographics. The content a user has engaged with, including the length of time they remained engaged forms a key part of data collection and targeting.


Facebook has developed targeting technology that allows advertisements to reach a specific audience. This is within the Facebook Ads product, available to users and businesses alike. While posting an ad through the Facebook Ad Manager, an advertiser is provided with a set of characteristics that will define their target market. These traits include geographical location, gender, age, work, relationship status, and interests such as music.[2] Facebook claims advertisers can customize their target audience based on their behaviour, such as purchasing patterns, device usage, and other activities. This makes the ads less intrusive and more successful in delivering the appropriate content to the right audience. The advertisement algorithm is also capable of monitoring performance so that advertisers or Facebook marketers can modify their audience and the nature, budget, and duration of the ads based on their performance. Many new advertisers use Facebook as a platform because they have easy-to-use dashboards that are free to access while having a large audience for their advertisements.[3]


As of 2022, there are about 1 billion users on Instagram, and about 500 million users access the app every day.[4] On Instagram, companies can employ influencers for advertising, post from a corporate account, or buy ads from Meta, Instagram's parent company.[5] The programs evaluate how a consumer engages with the content based on the number of likes, followers, and specific interests of the user. Instagram takes the information gathered about the consumer and creates an environment for the advertisement.[1] Instagram is used on average around 72 minutes a day, with users seeing many different advertisements while they scroll through the app.[6]


Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app developed by Snap Inc. One of the principal features of the app is that pictures and messages are usually only available briefly before they become inaccessible to their recipients. Facebook is the most popular social advertising platform, but an increasing number of young people use Snapchat. Pew Research Center data show that 78% of young Americans (18–24 years old) use Snapchat, and 54% in the 25–29-year-old group.[7] The app engages in targeting ads by Snap Audience Mix, Pixel Custom Audience, Ad Engagement Audience, and Third-Party Custom Audience.[8]

Twitter (X)[edit]

X, formerly known as Twitter, was founded on July 15, 2006.[9] Advertising on Twitter is based solely on the interactions an individual makes on the app. Advertisements shown on an individual's Twitter feed are based on the information provided in that individual's profile. Ads that are shown on Twitter are classified under three categories: promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trends.[10] Certain advertisements that are placed on an individual's feed can be based on what is popular around the world, or local to that individual's location if their device's location services are on. Twitter's product manager, Deepak Rao, stated that Twitter runs tests on their timeline every month to help Twitter's critical metrics increase. The platform also does not have a complete algorithmic timeline, unlike Instagram's feed and Facebook news.[11]


The LinkedIn social media platform was created as an online platform to help employers connect with potential employees. The most common type of advertisement on LinkedIn is sponsored posts or direct sponsor content. These advertisements are used to share content and company updates and direct users to a landing page.[12] LinkedIn uses location, and audience attributes such as company, job experience, education, demographics, interests, and traits, as well as custom audiences created using matched audiences.[13] All of these indicated ads are displayed to LinkedIn users if they are targeted for what is being promoted.

A fast-growing social media app called TikTok


Launched in 2009, WhatsApp is a multi-platform messaging app that lets users make video and voice calls, and send text messages.[14] WhatsApp has gained popularity as it allows international calling through Wi-Fi. It is the most popular messaging app worldwide and is used in over 150 countries, as of 2022.[15] In 2020 Facebook, owned by Meta alongside WhatsApp, announced that it would use WhatsApp to show ads on the platform, through WhatsApp statuses like Instagram and Facebook stories to promote paid content.[16]


YouTube is a video-sharing website that makes it easy to watch online videos. Created in 2005, YouTube is now one of the most popular websites, with visitors watching around 6 billion hours of video every month.[17] The demographics of YouTube are:

  • In the US, 82% of adult men and 80% of adult women report using YouTube.[18][19]
  • 45.8% of YouTube's total advertising audience is female, and 54.2% is male. (Hootsuite)[19]

YouTube participates in ad targeting by analyzing Google searches and reviewing content searched. Ads can be targeted to specific video topics and keywords, and placed on channels or videos.[20][non-primary source needed]


Within social communities, users provide demographic information, interests, and images. This information is accessed by social media targeting software and enables advertisers to create display ads with characteristics that match those of social network users. A critical component of social media targeting is providing the users' demographic and interest information. Using this information, social media targeting heightens the likelihood of users seeing advertisements that interest them. The availability of user data allows for detailed analysis and reporting, which is a significant part of social media targeting and what makes it more effective than statistical projections alone.


About three-quarters of Internet users are members of at least one social network. 49% of US adult women visit social media sites a few times daily, whereas only 34% of men do. The fastest-growing age group on Twitter is 55- to 64-year-olds, up 79% since 2012, and the 45–54 age group is the fastest-growing on Facebook and Google+. Social media use is more common in the 18–29 age group, with 89% being Internet users, versus 43% of those 65 and older.[21]

Types of advertising[edit]

Popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube offer different ways to advertise brands. Facebook gives advertisers options such as promoted posts, sponsored stories, page post ads, Facebook object (like) ads, and external website (standard) ads. To advertise on Twitter, there are promoted tweets, trends, and promoted accounts that show up on users' news feeds. There are branded channels, promoted videos, and video advertising for advertising on YouTube.[22]

In July 2015, during its second quarter earnings call, Facebook revealed that it had achieved $2.9 billion in mobile revenue, amounting to over 76% of its overall quarterly revenue.[23] A large portion of this revenue was from app install ads, which developers buy on a cost-per-install basis.

Another type of advertising is using a tool called buy buttons. Some networks already involve buy buttons or are direct marketers for various products a business wishes to promote on its social media platform. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are already involved in such partnerships. These buttons appear in advertisements which appear in the news feeds of social media interfaces and give users the option to purchase an item immediately. These account for just under 2% of online sales.[24] The buy button can be traced back to a system patented by Amazon in 1997.[25]

Social media advertising has also been used for political campaigns. For example, social media played a significant role in the 2008 presidential race. Videos that involved both Barack Obama and John McCain were able to garner 1.45 billion views.[26] Some of those views and videos could have influenced one's voting decision. Social media advertising also greatly affects a brand's or company's reputation and reception. The way a company presents itself can determine its popularity and audience. This phenomenon has been shown by some studies to occur on a global scale.[27]


Social media advertising involves creating content on social media platforms, engaging with followers, and running advertisements. Advertising helps companies spread awareness of their brand. Participating in different advertising campaigns can bring more customers to a brand.[28]


One must know the goals they want to achieve and decide which social media platform they will use. In other words, brands need to set specific advertising objectives when creating online social media ads. Customer engagement, increased revenue and brand awareness, enhanced customer experiences, and thought leadership positioning are typical marketing objectives for social media marketing.[29]

Planning and publishing[edit]

Before companies launch social media advertising campaigns, they may consider and plan out the campaign's elements. This includes considering their target audience, in order for a brand to advertise more effectively, and determining which social media is best to reach the target audience. Companies must also plan what content they will produce on social media for advertising. Some examples of this content include short-form videos, user-created content, and photo campaigns.[30]

Listening and engagement[edit]

How people connect with advertisers' social media accounts and content is measured as part of social media engagement. Engagement can take a wide range of behaviours on social media. Examples include 'likes', marking an item as a 'favourite', commenting on the content, direct messages (DM's), replying to other peoples comments, sharing existing content ('retweets' on X), saves, clicks, or mentions.[31] Engagement is very context and platform-specific and consists of varied experiences on each social media platform, allowing for a distinctive user experience on each. Additionally, the experiences associated with advertising evaluations vary depending on the platform.[1]


Analytics involve knowing how social media marketing is performing. For example, this includes how many people were reached on a social media platform or how many mentions a brand had in a month. Business accounts allow brands to track and analyze their analytics. Social media advertising acts as a monitoring tool that provides quantifiable measures, such as the number of likes, shares, comments, opens, views, followers, or clicks, as indicators of engagement. These metrics are used to evaluate the performance of such digital engagement campaigns.[1]


Pros and cons[edit]

Proponents of social media advertising suggest the following advantages:

  • Advertisers can reach users who are interested in their products[32]
  • Allows for detailed analysis and reporting (including business intelligence). Companies have access to analytics options on each social network to learn how well their brand profile is doing.[33]
  • The information gathered is real, not from statistical projections
  • Improved brand loyalty – Advertising in social media helps companies create a platform where their customers can share their feelings about the product or services offered.
  • Increased brand awareness, as businesses understand the value of having more engagement between customers and brand, and using social media allows them to satisfy client demand more effectively.[34]
  • Low cost advertising – Most social media advertising strategies work on a pay-per-click (PPC) or pay-per-view (PPV) basis, which means businesses only pay when someone clicks on their advertisement or watches their video advertisement. Brands can reduce their advertising expenses by only spending money when a customer takes an action.[35]
  • Better search engine ranking – Advertising on social media will bring more online traffic to the company. Individuals use Google to find products, so advertising on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook will help companies with their search engine ranking.

A disadvantage for users and consumers in terms of internet privacy is the widespread use of web tracking techniques, which can serve to measure social media reach, but which allow the construction of complete personality profiles from ad viewing and clicking.[36]

Critics of social media advertising and marketing cite abuse in the areas of political interference, racism and stereotyping of groups, as well as undue influence in the shaping of values for unsuspecting young people. In addition, there are concerns about privacy and user security.[37][self-published source]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Voorveld, Hilde A. M.; van Noort, Guda; Muntinga, Daniël G.; Bronner, Fred (January 2, 2018). "Engagement with Social Media and Social Media Advertising: The Differentiating Role of Platform Type". Journal of Advertising. 47 (1): 38–54. doi:10.1080/00913367.2017.1405754. hdl:11245.1/72058760-e3ed-48cd-bb5e-52900be8d08e. ISSN 0091-3367. S2CID 148806377.
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  3. ^ Northcott, Celine; Curtis, Rachel; Bogomolova, Svetlana; Olds, Timothy; Vandelanotte, Corneel; Plotnikoff, Ronald; Maher, Carol (January 23, 2021). "Evaluating the effectiveness of a physical activity social media advertising campaign using Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram". Translational Behavioral Medicine. 11 (3): 870–881. doi:10.1093/tbm/ibaa139. ISSN 1869-6716. PMID 33484152.
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  17. ^ "YouTube: What is YouTube?". Retrieved November 25, 2022.
  18. ^ Anderson, Monica; Auxier, Brooke (April 7, 2021). "Social Media Use in 2021". Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 17, 2024.
  19. ^ a b "YouTube Demographics & Data to Know in 2022 [+ Generational Patterns]". Retrieved November 25, 2022.
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  22. ^ Goyal 2013, p. 222.
  23. ^ Kokalitcheva, Kia. "Mobile is Facebook's cash cow". Fortune. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
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