Are Social Media’s King and Queen Worth Your Advertising Dollars?

With 200 million and 125 million users respectively, Facebook and MySpace have got marketers everywhere frothing at the mouth. “Look at all those potential customers!” they say. “How can we harness the overwhelming popularity of these sites to our benefit?”

Alexis Siemon has written before about marketing your business via social networking websites like these. Usually, that means interacting with members of the network, answering questions, leaving comments, and branding yourself as an expert in your field.

And now, not only can social media networking help you build a relationship with potential customers – which is essential to getting them to trust you enough to buy your products – this marketing channel can (apparently) help you amp up your traffic by increasing the number of inbound links to your site.

Facebook and MySpace have given us a way to use social networking sites to market a business or product by setting up banner ads on the sites themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you might think.

Let me tell you about my experience…

I’d been reading a lot about the new advertising possibilities at Facebook.com and MySpace.com, and I figured I should start testing ads on both to determine if they would be effective marketing channels for ETR. So I decided to open accounts on both of these social media platforms.

The first one I tried was Facebook – and I have to tell you… they’re going to be leaving BIG money on the table if this is how they plan to run their program.

I’ll explain.

The sign-up process for Facebook was simple. I managed to set up an account quickly, so my experience started out as a positive one.

Then the problems began…

I started to create an ad using their (somewhat user-friendly) system, and I found that it was similar to Google’s AdWords interface. So I thought, “Great. I will zip through all of my ads quickly and begin tracking the results.”

That wasn’t the case.

For openers, they ask you to make choices from a set of audience-targeting criteria, including such things as Location, Age, Sex, Education, and Relationship Interests. It made me feel like I was putting up a personals ad to look for a lover.

When I finally finished my ad and clicked Submit, I was told that it had to be approved… and I had to wait. (Awful compared to Google’s instant reviewing system.) After a few hours I received an e-mail from Facebook telling me the ad was declined, but with no explanation as to why. Instead, they told me to look at their guidelines, which outline so many different things that I had no idea what the problem(s) could have been.

I tried to clean up my ad (using EVERY rule they had in place) and resubmitted it. After a few hours I got the same e-mail telling me it was declined. Again, with no explanation – just pointing me to their stupid guidelines page.

I tried five more times and finally gave up. Maybe they didn’t like my landing page. Maybe the verbiage was wrong. Or maybe there was a misspelled word. Who knows?

So I decided to try my luck with MySpace.

I created an account for ETR and was pleasantly surprised by their interface. They give you much more control over how your ad looks and have an easy-to-use system that allows you to customize it down to the last detail.

I created and submitted my first ad. As with Facebook, I was told that the ad had to be approved. I understand the need for quality control, but considering how quickly you get feedback from other programs – like Google AdWords – the slow response is ridiculous.

I waited more than 24 hours but didn’t hear from them. I logged onto my account and there was my ad… still pending.

I can’t believe that posting ads to these websites takes so long. I want to give them money, but they don’t seem to want it.

I started writing this article when I started submitting my ads to Facebook and MySpace, and decided to wait until at least one of them was approved so I could share my results with you. But it’s been six days… and NONE of my ads have made it through.

At this point, I think I’ve done enough research to confidently say that Facebook and MySpace ads are just not worth it for us.

Listen, despite their massive popularity with users, these sites just aren’t making sales. According to an article in the MIT Technology Review, “The sites seem largely incapable of generating revenues commensurate with their popularity.”

In an interview for the MIT Technology Review, Anthony Acquisti of New York-based emerging media agency OMD says this about advertising on social media sites: “You don’t want to be there.”

Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc. and Mahalo.com says, “Social networking is second only to chat rooms as the worst place to advertise.” He adds, “When you’re on Facebook, we know you’re looking to meet a girl or talk to your friends. It’s a terrible platform for advertising.”

Says Ryan Hupfer of HubPages, writing for TechCrunch.com about advertising with the social media giants, “The one thing that I do worry about is how much noise their users will take before the ads begin to get in the way of what they’re actually there for – communicating with their friends.”

These comments all add up to some serious problems with the existing advertising models on Facebook and MySpace.

For now, based on my experience and on what my research has turned up, I can’t imagine Facebook or MySpace becoming a competitor for ETR’s advertising dollars.

Here’s the way I see it…

1. Google offers a much quicker turnaround time for new ads. Your ads are reviewed quickly, and there’s no waiting hours (or days) for them to be approved and get posted.

2. Google is the leader in PPC advertising, and there’s a reason for that. Their advertising platform is extremely user-friendly.

3. Google’s conversion ratio (from the anecdotal evidence I can find) is MUCH higher than that of either of the two social media giants. This could be due to the fact that most of the (young) surfers on those portals are there for socializing and nothing else. They’re not looking for information or ads.

Of course, you never know how these sites will work for you until you TEST. So, yes, go ahead and test Facebook and MySpace. Still, in my opinion, they need to do some major overhauling if they plan to develop serious ad revenue. And you will never get the results that Google AdWords provides.

[Ed. Note: You should test out multiple marketing platforms – social media sites included. For 12 proven, effective marketing channels and how to use them, pick up a copy of the Amazon.com bestseller Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business

  • Your article was interesting until you made this statement
    “This could be due to the fact that most of the (young) surfers on those portals are there for socializing and nothing else. They’re not looking for information or ads.”

    Haven’t you been reading all the reports about the aging of facebook? The majority of members are now females over 35.

    I haven’t tried Facebook advertising yet, so I can’t speak to their procedures. The big advantage that they offer is to businesses that have a geographic or gender/age target market. Since you don’t, if I were your marketing advisor, I wouldn’t recommend it to you. But imagine that you were a restaurant and your target market was people 40 years and up living in 95819. Facebook would be an excellent way to reach your prospects.

  • edwin

    You have a valid point Julie, but the numbers have been bad for MANY of my fellow marketers regardless of their industry. I DO understand what you’re saying though. I would’ve ALSO thought that this would be a great channel for those types of industries, but I’ve heard from MANY e commerce enabled Websites that have had no success as well.

    I guess there is still plenty of testing to do 🙂