Sponsored posts often have this way of creeping up on us without warning. Have you ever come across a post on your Instagram feed that you didn’t actually notice was sponsored content until you took a much closer look? I feel like this happens to me a scary amount of the time. And it’s brilliant. Maybe I wasn’t following that brand/retailer, but now I feel like I should be. Or maybe you ask yourself why you weren’t following them. Now with new sneaky algorithms, the Internet knows us all too well. For example, I don’t follow Bloomingdales on Instagram, but this post blends in so well and I do follow the model in this photo, Joan Smalls. I’m sure I also follow a lot of retailers that sell their clothes at Bloomingdales.
In Chapter 6, Shields discusses different types of social media marketing assets. These are organic media, shared media, sponsored media, and influencer media. Within sponsored media we see acquisition advertising, amplification advertising (this is where we’ll see sponsored or “boosted” posts), and native advertising. The most successful advertising techniques that I’ve seen have been either amplification ads or native ads. Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest are cluttered with advertisements disguised as trendy, platform-relevant content. Facebook even provides developer tools for incorporating native ads into brand strategies.
Facebook seems to be especially good at integrating these amplification ads into their landscape. The specific language of “suggested post” makes the audience feel like they aren’t being forced into anything–it’s simply a suggestion. It comes across almost like they want to help you out more than promote a specific brand for their own monetary gain. Here’s a “Suggested Post” that showed up on my News Feed recently from the Gap:
The post looks clean and doesn’t stand out too much from the rest of my feed, has a disclaimer noting sponsored content, but it isn’t super obvious or flashy.
Ads through Facebook are not only amplified through these sponsoring mechanisms, but through certain aspects of social influence as well. In addition to advertisements brought to us as “suggestions”, we also get them because one or more of our friends “Like” the brand or retailer’s pages. This could very easily be considered influencer media (Shields, Chapter 6) because it utilizes our familiarity and trust of our social networks. Because so-and-so like this brand, there’s a small chance that you would like it too! It’s kind of scary how well this strategy ends up working. Facebook is a master manipulator, but a really great resource for brand marketing.
Shields, Ben Ryan. Social Media Management: Persuasion in Networked Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2016. Print.