There is a compelling argument to be made that we are currently living in a social media ad bubble. While the major social media platforms continue to take up more of our time as consumers, an increasing number of people are questioning whether they are getting a sufficient ROI from social media ads. Put another way, companies both large and small are taking a closer look at whether the hype over social media ads is truly borne out in the numbers.

Consequently, I want to spend some time exploring this question of whether we are living in a social media ad bubble. Even though it is difficult to be absolutely certain, there seems to be convincing evidence that we are, in fact, in a social media ad bubble. Because of this, individuals and businesses alike need to find more creative and transparent ways to advertise their messages. Specifically, they need to figure out ways to integrate promotions into their content.

Exploring the Flaws of Social Media Ads

To better understand why we may be in a social media ad bubble, I had the privilege of speaking with Manu Goswami on Dubb’s podcast Connection Loop. Manu is better known by his nickname Swish. Swish is a serial entrepreneur and TedX speaker. Most recently, he started Trufan and has raised over $2 million for his new venture. Ultimately, Swish lives and breathes entrepreneurship and technology, so I was really excited to get his thoughts on the current state of social media ads.

Simply put, social media ads aren’t as effective as they used to be. In fact, he has come up with several reasons why he thinks social media ads—like those found on Instagram, Google, and Facebook—are now highly ineffective.

To start, one of the key flaws in social media ads today is ad fraud. Essentially, many brands today don’t know where their ads are being placed.  Ad fraud is extremely costly. According to one study by eMarketer, ad fraud will cost the advertising industry approximately $100 billion by the year 2023. 

There are many different types of ad fraud. You can find a list of the eight most common forms of ad fraud by clicking here. For instance, there may be situations where advertisers think that they are placing an ad in one place but the ad is being placed in an entirely different place. This is one practice in what is called domain spoofing, and it can be seriously damaging to advertisers and publishers.

Along with domain spoofing is click injection. Here, fraudsters “inject” fake clicks into advertising campaigns and inflate the number of clicks produced. On social media websites, this is often due to the behavior of bots that are working 24/7. While it may seem like your specific ad is resonating with your audience, the simple fact is that most (if not all) of the traction that you are getting is fake. 

These are just two examples of the many types of ad fraud that occur on the Internet today. The bottom line? There are plenty of ways where social media ads may not deliver the returns that your company expects.  

Along with ad fraud is the continued rise of ad blockers. Simply put, more people are using ad blockers when they are browsing the Internet. Their use is at an all-time high and they are continuing to proliferate on platforms like YouTube. Even though you may think that your ads are being displayed in front of your target audience, the simple reality may be that your most valuable prospects aren’t even seeing your ads. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to control the use of ad blockers. There is little chance of broad regulation or some other governmental action that will drastically limit their spread. Because of this, ad blockers will continue to create noise as companies try to reach their prospects and customers.

Finally, costs per click (“CPCs”) for social media ads have risen and have remained elevated. Looking at CPCs on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s easy to find CPCs of $12 per click. While some larger companies can afford these rates and monetize their social media ad campaigns, many other companies cannot. 

Ultimately, high CPCs make it much more difficult to obtain a satisfactory return on investment. While it can still be done, it’s safe to say that it is getting much harder. Because of this, social media ads seem much less attractive compared to other marketing strategies. 

Moving Beyond Social Media Ads

These are just some of the reasons why the social media ad ecosystem may be in a bubble. Granted, it can be difficult to recognize that we are in a bubble as it is happening. That being said, there’s a good argument to be made that all of us need to think of different ways to reach our audiences. Because when the bubble pops, many of your competitors will be searching for alternative marketing strategies. By acting now, you can beat them to the punch. 

As a starting point, it’s clear that all types of businesses will continue to rely on digital content and digital advertising. Newspaper and television advertising really aren’t relevant anymore. While we’ll continue to see some old-school businesses invest in newspaper and television ads, the digital world provides immense opportunities. You can both reach a huge audience and rely on data to make increasingly effective digital marketing strategies. 

One tried and true way to move beyond social media ads is through influencer marketing. Swish and I agree that influencer marketing is going to be dominant for the foreseeable future. Whatever your niche, you are sure to find influencers that are entertaining and educating a passionate group of followers. Influencer marketing lets you “borrow” the goodwill that the influencer has built with their audience when promoting your product or service. While you will likely need to compensate the influencer for his or her time, you will likely find that the ROI is much more attractive than social media ads.

So influencer marketing is something that you’ll definitely want to consider. But there’s something even more effective and powerful than that. It is purpose-driven marketing. Specifically, it is purpose-driven marketing that reaches out to grassroots communities that are made up of super fans and micro-influencers. 

I think that super fans now have even more power than influencers. This is because super fans legitimately believe in your brand. They aren’t speaking about your product or service because you are providing them with compensation. Instead, super fans are truly invested. However they came across your product or service, your super fans want your company to succeed. They tell their family and friends about your product or service, thereby helping you leverage all of the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing. 

There are so many benefits to purpose-driven marketing. Because of this, I strongly encourage you to leverage it in your own marketing work. To do so, take stock of the content that your audience is creating about your brand. You can even encourage your audience to create specific content about your company’s product or service. From there, you are taking that user-generated content and putting ad spend behind it. You can then show your prospects ads from real customers, as compared to influencers that are being paid to upload a post to their profiles. 

You can even go so far as to create little documentaries about your company’s super fans. You can then edit those documentaries together to create a larger video, which you can post on YouTube and other social media platforms. Yes, this extra work takes time out of your team’s busy schedule. Yet by doing it, you can create even stronger bonds between your company and your micro-influencers. 

Converting Customers Into Evangelists

Purpose-driven marketing is an extremely powerful marketing strategy. It is most powerful when you already have a base of superfans or micro-influencers that are already speaking about your company. But what happens if you don’t have a huge roster of micro-influencers that are raving about your business? Or what happens if you have a long list of micro-influencers, yet you want to convert even more customers into evangelists?

There are several things that you can consider. For one, you can become a Trufan user. Trufan leverages social intelligence to help your business identify valuable followers and make smarter marketing decisions.

But whether or not you use Trufan, the core principle here is hard work. You and your team need to start building relationships with your audience and rewarding them. The good news? You don’t need a massive audience to get started. In fact, having a smaller audience may be an advantage, as you can reach out to all of your followers and start building those relationships. You can understand what makes them tick and what they like about your product or service. Along with this, you can reward these early adopters by giving them things like 20% discounts or early access to upcoming products or services.

Again, the goal here is to build solid relationships so that customers turn into superfans. I’m not going to lie: it is going to require a lot of hard work. Members of your audience are busy. They likely have a million things on their plate. But having said this, find time in both your and your audience’s schedules to have a conversation. Try to better understand what makes them tick and how your product or service can create even more value in their lives. If you feel like it will help, go ahead and offer these monetary incentives to show your appreciation for their feedback and continued business. 

Like anything, luck will be involved. One conversation with a prospect or customer can lead to a superfan that brings in a whole host of loyal prospects or customers. Ultimately, the best way to find luck is to make your own luck. Continue to put yourself out there and speak with your customers. As long as you show up every day, you are putting yourself into a position where magic can happen. You are putting yourself in a position to succeed—even if your day isn’t going as well as you would have liked. 

Staying Aggressive

Generally speaking, marketing is a discipline that requires you to stay diligent and embrace experimentation. What worked six or twelve months ago won’t necessarily work right now. The same is true of social media ads. There is a credible argument to be made that there is, in fact, a social media ad bubble. When it will deflate or pop is anyone’s guess. That being said, it’s important to act now and experiment with different types of marketing strategies before that bubble pops.

Ultimately, I hope that you seriously consider incorporating purpose-driven marketing into your marketing strategy. Whether you have a small audience or a larger audience, purpose-driven marketing can go a long way in helping you find new prospects and build much closer relationships with your customers. It is an extremely effective strategy and one that you should incorporate into your business.

As always, feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about Dubb or how we can help you move beyond social media ads. You can click here to learn more about Dubb’s features and click here to contact us. 

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