Are Social Media Users Already Desensitized to Ads?

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Jim Terry
Jim Terry




social media users desensitized: image shows woman with megaphone yelling at desensitized social media user

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “the only constant is change.” That’s always been true of marketing and advertising, but the rapid shift from traditional advertising to social advertising has come at a blistering pace. According to a recent article by AdAge, in just a few short years, Facebook alone has surpassed the reach of the four TV broadcast networks in two key demographics: 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year-olds. Pretty incredible really – and a testament to how many people are on social media. Pew Research Center issued a report and noted that an eye-popping 71 percent of all U.S. adults are on a social network. When this usage is broken down by demographic, the numbers get even more impressive: 89 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are posting, while 78 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds are on, as are 60 percent of 50-to-64-year-olds and 43 percent of those over 65.

With that kind of volume and reach to consumers, it’s easy to understand why social networks and brands big and small are banking on social media advertising. As brands evaluate a media landscape that’s increasingly fractured, many are intrigued by the opportunity to target specific demographics, social connections, interests, and habits. Combine that targeting with high engagement and desirable demographics and you can begin to understand the growth predictions. BIA/Kelsey recently came out with a study that offers one view, forecasting $11 billion of social ad spend in 2017, up from $4.7 billion last year.

social media desensitizedSo, with the explosion of social advertising across platforms, how will consumers react? Will they continue to be receptive to messages in their social environments or will they tune out? Consumers generally are presented with somewhere between 30 and 300 ads for every hour that they’re online, including social media. Marketers are bombarding consumers with thousands of messages every day. Some are relevant, many are not.

While the opportunity exists to reach these audiences in a targeted, cost-effective way there is also the opportunity to desensitize them to social media “noise.”

Have we reached the point where we have become overexposed to social media marketing? Engagement rates for social advertising are still high, and there’s no data to support that we’re at that point yet. But we could draw on past history that we will reach a tipping point.

Marketers must be aware of this potential and develop social advertising strategies that not only promote the brand, its products and services, but that also deliver value for the consumer. Value in the form of utility, entertainment, information, education – something that adds to the brand/customer relationship. As social platforms evolve and advertising on them becomes more sophisticated, brands are able to deliver messages consumers are more receptive to. Ads that are tailored to personal interests, specific to location and contextually relevant to what consumers are doing at a point in time.

While there has been a tremendous amount of data collection from and about consumers in recent years, advertisers are now moving toward using that intelligence to deliver better advertising that is based on more relevant connections with consumers. According to Social Media Today, look for two major trends in 2014 that will: a) help marketers reach who they want, when they need and on the touch point that will deliver the best results; and b) give total control to the brand in every stage of an advertising campaign. The shifts in the use of data as well as planning and buying mechanisms will alter the overall advertising process in favor of the brand and the consumer alike.

Social advertising is still in its infancy. It will continue to evolve and take on new forms and be challenged with many of the same things outlets before it have faced, including ad saturation. We’re not there yet, but we will reach that point.

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