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Previewing Digital Summit Detroit: Why Your Social Media Ads Are Useless

Nick Mattar is the director of marketing at the Detroit Regional Chamber and will be speaking on social media advertising at Digital Summit Detroit on Sept. 13. You can register for the Summit at the Chamber’s discounted rate using the code DRC50 at checkout. Visit to register.

The Detroit Regional Chamber hosts a multitude of events every year, marketing constantly to member companies and individuals. As a result, it can be difficult to ask the same people to attend several events over the course of the year.

This is where social media advertising can be helpful. Since 2012, the Chamber has run more than 100 social media advertising campaigns, largely centered around events. And since I have been the point person on most of them, I have witnessed the best and the worst, assembling a concrete list of positives and negatives that help dictate social media advertising success. It should be noted that I still face the ups and downs that are inevitable with any ad campaign.

First, a quick word on some other forms of online advertising. Banner ads are a form of advertising that I do not believe will ever give a company the return on investment they are hoping to see. They can be costly, limited in content, and have existed for so long that “banner blindness” has substantially weakened their effectiveness. On the other hand, sponsored content is a great way to drive brand awareness and conversions. But, they are much more expensive and require additional resources to develop compelling content.

Social media advertising is a happy medium between sponsored content and banner ads. Most social media ads require both text and imagery while driving users to a final destination URL. At the same time, it is a form of native advertising designed to fight “banner blindness” by inserting the content directly into the traditional social feed. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and others allow users to publish their own versions of advertising, varying in format and key performance indicators (KPIs). But the major statistic for all them is the number of resulting conversions.

Some typical headlines that you might encounter on social media:

  • “Only ’90s kids will understand this”
  • “Millennials are killing [insert anything here]”

The one thing these three headlines all have in common is that they are too obvious to the end user that advertisers want money or cheap website visits. If the end user is going to click on your ad, he or she needs to feel compelled to continue reading. But these headlines are exactly why many social media ads are useless.

In my travels across the digital marketing landscape from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, I failed at social media advertising enough to develop a list of reasons why my ads failed. Thankfully, I noticed I was not alone in this endeavor, as many others failed the same ways. Social media advertising is still new enough that there is no definitive “best practice” and every social media site operates its advertising platform differently. I maintain my own list of best practices, but to better communicate the ebb and flow of social media ads, I have assembled a list of reasons why your social media ads are useless:

  • Your ads are not noticed
  • Your ads tell people rather than show them
  • Your ads fail to connect original content with the final goal
  • You don’t monitor your KPIs
  • You don’t learn from your ad mistakes

Interested about these five points? I will dive more into them all at the Digital Summit Detroit, Sept. 13 at 4:40 p.m.