One of the most interesting topics within the growing field of social media is the role of advertising. While many rules and regulations have been laid out in the past to develop a standard for advertisers, many of the lines that the regulations set can be blurred through social media. Companies have been able to use the traditional advertising techniques while adapting them to the new social media landscape.
An example of this in the real world is the growing use of influencers in advertising. Influencers, or people with large followings on the internet who have influence, can partner directly with brands to help promote their product. The content produced for the brands, called sponsored content, can vary depending on the influencer, the brand, and the social media platform being used. An ad on Instagram may be a picture of the influencer wearing a product, while on Youtube the ad may be a scripted read within the video.
Influencer advertising is the modernization of the celebrity endorsement technique used by advertisers for ages. The execution is mostly dependent on the choice of influencer. The best examples are the brands who choose the influencer who best fits their brand.
According to an article in the International Journal of Information Management, up to 30% of all United States ad spending was on digital ads. This wave of advertising moving online has sparked controversy for man social networking sites.
Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of congress after Russian Officials bought over 3,000 ads on Facebook in order to influence the election.
Influencers on Youtube saw huge revenue losses in 2017 when top marketers on the site withdrew for fears of their ads showing on inappropriate content. Some of the sites top creators, like h3h3 productions, saw an 85% decrease in ad revenue following the boycott.
While many macro issues like these capture our attention, they all are linked to the collection of data by social networking sites and the sales of that data to advertisers.
Advertisers can access public data in order to better target their advertisements towards people who may use their products. Pepsi, for example, may choose to advertise to younger people, so they can use services within a social media sites advertising tools to target the age group of their target market.
It can go even farther in depth as well. Through the use of social media analytics, companies can sort through a variety of things that go onto public social media profiles, like content, relationships, and a whole list of other useful advertising data points.
Controversy arrises when the collection of the data is overreaching or the data is used in harmful ways.
Mark Zuckerberg was repeatedly questioned in his testimony to Congress on Facebook’s access to private conversations on their messaging app WhatsApp. Legislators were trying to uncover the scope of Facebook’s data collection.
Youtube is undergoing massive changes to their terms of service in order to comply with regulations on advertising towards children. In the past, advertisers could directly target children’s videos on Youtube. Children’s Youtube influencers were also free to create sponsored content to help grow their channel.
Concerns over laws in place to protect children from malicious advertisements have forced Youtube to make changes. According to the interpretation of the law, children cannot differentiate between regular and sponsored content. Youtube was forced to remove the ability to buy ads for targeted ages under 13, and banned sponsored content from the Youtube Kids site.
The world of adverting is moving rapidly into the digital world. Some companies and advertisers have been able to adapt their strategies, while others can struggle behind. Meanwhile, social media sites and the public are left trying to sort out the law and ethics of all of it.