Fast Lane: A lesson from a sword swallower in targeting social media

Fast Lane: A lesson from a sword swallower in targeting social media

The first step for many SMEs is setting up social media accounts.

That’s easy and free to do, but the harder step is actually utilising them properly.

A great example of this untapped potential can be found in the case of the alarming ads which showed up on the Facebook page of professional sword swallower, Roderick Russell, last month.

Russell can swallow swords no problem, but has trouble swallowing his vitamin pills without gagging and Facebook was onto him.

His Facebook ad display included: “Trouble swallowing pills? Does it seem ironic that swallowing swords is easy and then small pills make you gag?”

It turned out what Russell described as the “most targeted ad in the history of ad targeting” was a practical joke by his roommate, who used Facebook’s ad targeting tools, Custom Audiences, to build a campaign geared to one person (you can read about how he did it on his blog post here).

Joke or not, this little prank showed the power of Facebook’s targeted advertising.

Last week I attended the WGSN Live conference in Melbourne where Rachel Arthur, senior editor at WGSN, called for businesses to use social media more wisely. 

Arthur describes the sword swallower prank as demonstrating the “enormous potential” of social media targeting.

“Social media opens the door for accuracy that has not been seen before,” she says.

While you may not want to target an ad to one person, the same techniques can be applied to make sure your advertising reaches your potential clients.

The problem is that this is where you may have to cough up some cash.

Even though social media is free to join and get started on, to target your advertising, some outlay is needed.

Arthur told the conference the idea of seeing social media as free is a “short-lived strategy”.

“Those doing social well are spending real money in this space,” she says.

According to WGSN, many retailers are now spending up to 20% of their marketing budget on social media. 

Social media platforms are getting increasingly sophisticated and providing more opportunities to measure and target customers.

Twitter ads for SMEs have hit Australia while Instagram is now offering advertising in more countries.

Facebook is well established as a player in this sector.

But what about those SMEs which claim they don’t have the time or money for social media?

You need to make time and find money for something that is valuable to your business.

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