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Contextual Advertising in Social Media: Where Is It Headed?

  • Contextual advertising is considered as one of the most indispensable means of getting your ads online. However, it can also be the trickiest, as the process is often rather complicated. And the emergence of social media has made the work even harder. So, how can contextual ads be of better use in this new landscape?


    The emergence of context-based advertising on social media


    Being one of the most popular social media sites, Facebook was one of the first to try and implement a context-based advertisement feature. In 2011, the site started testing the ‘Relative Adverts” features. This particular feature allows the site to display specific ads on a user’s newsfeed based on the content of his posts, working on a similar manner as the already present “Related Stories” sidebar. While it was eventually never released as a permanent tool, it served to pave the way to the introduction of contextual ads to social media.


    On the other hand, it would be the microblogging portal Twitter which would eventually launch the firstcontext-based advertisement platform for businesses through their Twitter Ads, released in the same year. With this, tweets coming from various companies will be in users’ view without them having to follow these first. And since tweets are pretty short, they are not really going to distract from the user’s regular feeds.


    The challenges


    As have already been said in the beginning, contextual advertising can be quite difficult to pull through. And this is specially the case with doing it in social media, what with the platform’s own quirks.


    The biggest challenge that face contextual marketers working on social media is that these sites themselves might not really know all there is about their users. As writer Alex Iskold points out, Facebook, for instance, does not always have a complete picture of its users. This is mainly due to users themselves not providing everything, simply sharing what they like. As such, trying to provide a truly specific ads feed to a particular user.


    Another challenge that contextual marketers have to face when doing their work on social media is ensuring that these ads do indeed convert. Iskold further says that, since social media is used by people mainly to interact with others online, they are often not in the mood to actively browse through all the ads coming in and look for deals. Hence, even if these do reach the intended targets, the chance that they will be acted upon is not always large.


    What’s in store?


    Despite all these challenges, the prospect of contextual ads becoming more prominent in social media is still highly anticipated. Here, one of the most awaited developments would be the transition from simply riding on user preferences into fully becoming behavioural advertising. In this transformation, the user’s online habits determine what ads are displayed to him. Here, social media will be an even more important platform, as it will be able to give a better picture of how the user does his online interactions.


    However, as this new development also involves using implements to track user behaviour, the question of user privacy is also expected to turn up sooner or later. As such, businesses and marketers need to assure the social media public that these will not intrude in their online activities. Users themselves also need to fully aware of this particular development.