Programmatic advertising on social media


While programmatic advertising has been around for decades and is an important aspect of a PPC campaign, the growth of social media advertising over the last few years has enhanced interest in it. Over the years social media platforms have enhanced their advertising platforms and utilise programmatic advertising effectively so that it provides advertisers with a strong return on investment that ensures social media promotions are seen by the right people at the right time to generate the most engagement.


How does programmatic advertising work on social media?

Carrying out a programmatic advertising campaign on social media is using the platform’s data to automatically decide who should see the promotion, in which format and at what time. While this might seem like it takes a lot of control away from advertisers and into the hands of the social media platform, there are many elements still controlled by the advertiser that will determine the success of the promotion, as well as this, advertisers can opt out of programmatic advertising while still promoting on the platform. Even when opting into programmatic advertising advertisers will need to ensure that promotions are highly targeted to enable the platform’s algorithms the ability to show the promotions to the right users and at the right times to gain a strong return on investment.


Why programmatic advertising works on social media

The reason why programmatic advertising is so popular on social media is because it works. Social media platforms gain a vast amount of data on their users that they then use to create algorithms that ensure promotions are seen by the most relevant user at a time and place that is likely to create the most engagement and conversion for the advertiser. Take Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform that challenges Google for most digital ad spend, as an example. Facebook uses programmatic advertising effectively on its platform as it collects data given freely by its users to determine the format of the advert, such as showing up in a Facebook news feed or appearing on Facebook Messenger; as well as who should see the promotion, at what time of day and in which location to gain the most engagement with the promotion. This saves advertisers the need to invest resources into collecting this data themselves; while brands also benefit from the fact that many platforms provide a breakdown of who has engaged with the promotion at the end of the campaign, thus providing advertisers with valuable information with no extra cost. In addition to this, many social media platforms including Facebook enable specific targeting of customers on their database, as well as lookalike targeting. Lookalike targeting uses a client’s customer database to profile similar, or lookalike, users on the platform and ensure that adverts are targeted to these users.  


The reason why social media platforms invest so much time in ensuring their programmatic advertising is effective is because most platforms’ advertising format is based around charging cost per click. This means that advertisers only pay for the number of users who click on the advert, so if the promotion is not being seen by the correct demographic, at the right time and place it means that the platform will generate less revenue from the promotion.


At affinity we regularly use programmatic advertising for our client’s paid social media advertising, as from our experience it gains cost-effective results that provide the strongest return on investment for clients. When setting up a paid social media promotion, whether it is a one-off or an ongoing campaign, we always ensure we work closely with our clients to determine exactly the right demographic we should be targeting and use ongoing optimisation and monitoring techniques to ensure that they are fully engaging the target audience throughout the campaign. As well as this, our social media team work closely with our in-house data analysts to use these algorithms to maximise clients return on investment in the paid social space.



Written by Derin Clark, Content Strategist 

Programmatic advertising on social media

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