One of the best, but potentially overwhelming, facets of advertising in social media is the dizzying number of ways advertisers can engage with an audience. This new methodology of breaking down popular and niche user interests, to identify specific and detailed demographics and then optimising campaigns against them, represents a fantastic advertising opportunity.
True, the more layers you uncover and the deeper you delve down the social graph, the more labour is required. There are some who discount the process as too work intensive, mostly through a lack of understanding of the ultimate benefits. But those who view niche targeting as a turn-off are missing a trick. Forget what you thought you knew about the advertising industry -- when it comes to social media it pays to think small.
Facebook, as an example, uses both broad category targeting and narrow interest targeting to help advertisers fine hone their optimum audience segmentation. It's possible to target campaigns across every imaginable category, either single or combined. Not only can you choose to advertise to people interested in 'Arts & Entertainment', you can break that down between sub-categories such as 'humour', 'movies' or 'music radio stations'.
If you know your audience well enough you can deploy broad targeting to pick out and direct campaigns towards those segments interested in, let's say, 'music'. Drill down another level and further sub-categories present themselves: 'Alternative', 'Blues', 'Rap'. Feeling curious? Why not identify those people interested in individual artists, albums or tracks?
We looked at groupings of popular musical interests and found together: 'Rock', 'Led Zeppelin', 'Guns n Roses', 'U2', 'Coldplay' and 'White Stripes'. Beneath that were groupings of smaller interests, including: 'LCD Soundsystem', 'The Black Keys', 'Ting Tings', 'MGMT', 'The Kooks', 'The Gaslight Anthem', 'The Smiths', and many more. The options are so multifarious it begins to beg the question: how low should we go? How much does super-fine resolution matter in campaign planning? Do the niche interest numbers become so small as to not resonate? Does targeting many niche groups improve upon results from the same size group made up of larger niches?
Using our own technology Adaptly decided to scrutinize and test the theory that people with a tendency to list small or niche interests on their social media pages are the ones most likely to interact with similar products, ergo someone really passionate about a certain niche of rap music will like other similar niches in addition to, more generally, the whole rap genre. It would also stand to reason that a user who has taken the time to list detailed hobbies and interests might demonstrate a more proactive level of interaction with the network, and hence be better primed to respond to targeted messaging. They could even already be engaged with a brand's social conversation, or willing to participate.
We ran a series of campaigns, both as pure tests and with real blue-chip clients, using identical sets of creative, but with nuances in the targeting. As the control we used broader interest groups and for the other campaigns we advertised different sets of the hundreds of finer interests contained within these broader interest groups. Aggregated targeted groups were kept the same and we maintained all other conditions to be as similar as possible. The only major difference was that one target group was made up of a few, very popular interests, while the other groups were comprised from many, less popular interests.
Our campaign results confirmed that overall this theory is true. Within a broader interest group, engaged users are not distributed evenly across more refined interests. Certainly, not all niche interests necessarily perform better - many failed miserably. But some of the smaller groups, typically with an order of magnitude and fewer users than the broader interest groups, performed significantly better. Interestingly, across many networks, the performance was not a simple average weighted by the size of the subcategories - it was consistently skewed away from the expected mean.
So, from our perspective there is no denying that when it comes to social media advertising, the devil is in the detail. While niche targeting inevitably means more work for the advertiser, it is a hugely beneficial asset of social media that shouldn't be ignored, and with a little help from the experts the returns on investment of that extra time and effort could be epic.Anthony Chong is the head of optimisation at Adaptly