Social Media Monetization: Why Audience Focus Brings More Value

In the last 15 years, we’ve expanded from three major channels of communication (print, radio, broadcast) to hundreds. Among the most ubiquitous? Social networks. As marketers adjust their investments and re-prioritize platforms, they’ve simultaneously struggled to understand how to measure success on each of these platforms: how can marketers compare success of a social ad to a banner ad to a TV ad?

In the early days of marketers’ exploration of social advertising, the standard for measuring success quickly became impressions—an “impression” was originally thought to be the closest equivalent to the way media buyers measure traditional media performance: viewership.

However, as social and digital have evolved, marketers have collectively discovered that impressions are not a true, reliable indicator of impact. For one, impressions are an estimate of asset facetime that does not allow us to measure sentiment, resonance, or engagement.

Marketers have discovered that impressions are not a true, reliable indicator of impact.


Additionally, all impressions are not created equal. On social specifically, the meaning of “impressions” is not consistent across channels, further complicating efforts to understand asset impact, and leaving us with the ultimate questions: who really saw my ad, and did it work?

Strong brands are no longer measured by name recognition or frequency–like humans, they’re assessed by their personalities: their ability to connect with and relate to the people who are interacting with them. It’s no longer enough to slap a logo on something and call it a sponsorship. Social is an inherent part in this shift, giving brands the opportunity to identify with their audiences in a very real way. To truly understand how your investments are driving value—influencing brand health and sentiment—you must put your people (target audience) at the center of your strategy.

How does an audience-focused monetization model change the game?

Metaphorically speaking, using impressions to determine campaign success is like shooting at a target while blindfolded: you know the general direction to aim, and after you’ve shot, you can tell whether or not you hit the target somewhere. But, what you can’t know is: What made you miss? What about your approach worked, and how can you improve in the future? How can you get closer to the bullseye?

Building campaigns around audiences not only removes the blindfold, but gives you a wind meter and scope as well, providing all the tools you need to hit the bullseye— to ensure lasting campaign impact (the right content, at the right time, in the right place).

Social networks give you a plethora of information about your audience. If you know who your consumer is (as much personally identifiable information as possible), where they are (location in real life, as well as the platforms they interact with), what they’re doing (interests, behaviors), when they’re doing it (time of day, what triggers them to take action) and how they want to receive their information (platform preference; i.e. I like my news via Facebook but use Twitter or FB Messenger for customer support), then you will have an ocean of information that can be used in various stages of the monetization process: from the target of a sales pitch, to creative direction, to content resonance. Advertising has always driven content– if it’s targeted to the right audience using social insights, that context will be valuable to both the advertiser and the consumer.

Social networks give you a plethora of information about your audience.


It’s not-so-risky business.

As Brian Foley, VP of global accounts, noted in our webinar Monetize On-air and Off-air Interactions, there appears to be a disproportionate amount of regulation and caution associated with anything social in a way that doesn’t happen with other marketing assets.

Take outdoor marketing as one example: in most enterprise organizations, there is a sizable portion of the marketing budget that is put towards traditional advertising channels, like billboards, that isn’t questioned–despite having very little data to support the ROI. Do you measure foot traffic? For digital: is it your website’s subscriber base? There’s no real barometer.

Conversely, social has the most effective system of measurement of any ad medium, and yet it is viewed more critically when it comes to budget. However, Forrester projects that the US digital marketing spend will near $120 billion by 2021, and consume 46% of all advertising in five years. Likewise, there is more caution about testing new channels (be it Snapchat or YouTube), while failing to acknowledge that social itself is a testing ground: anything can be walked back. This muscle memory has to change in order for a real uptick in social monetization.

Digital marketing spend will near $120 billion by 2021.


If audiences are core to successful monetization, does standardizing measurement even matter?

Of course it does. Some of the largest tech platforms in the world have made headlines lately as they make more detailed metrics available to help marketers better measure their successes. Standardizing measurement has also been top of mind for some of the industry’s largest regulating bodies, like the MRC, IAB and 4A's (see: Coalition for Better Ads). However, as Marketing Dive’s David Kirkpatrick points out, industry change must come from the inside out. This shift in measurement standards signifies a broader shift within the marketing landscape: those that don’t lead the change–rooted in and greatly assisted by the vast availability of social data–may quickly find their brands speaking to an absent audience. Or worse, the wrong one.

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Sam is a social and digital media consultant to Spredfast prospects and customers with 12 years of experience in media, sports and entertainment. A Tennessee girl, you can find her on any given night in the fall and winter enthralled in a sporting event with her second screen in her hand and her dog in her lap.