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Friday, Jul. 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Tapping the Power of Social Media to Advertise to Women

By Holly Buchanan
July 11th, 2008

social media logosSocial media is exploding. Everyone’s talking about the huge advertising potential. I see companies and marketers getting positively giddy:

“Think of it! Millions and millions of people we can hyper target with relevant messages and offers, contextual targeting, behavioral targeting – THINK OF THE VIRAL OPPORTUNITIES!”

Um, you’ve got a little bit of spittle there at the corner of your mouth…there, yeah, you wiped it off.

Yes, the potential is huge. But some companies have been disappointed with the results in their early efforts. They have some great ideas, but aren’t always sure how to monetize them. (Read this insightful article on the challenges of monetizing Facebook applications.)

I couldn’t agree more – the opportunity is huge. But how can you really make money from social media?

Go Into Relationship Mode

I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time the other day with Joseph Carrabis of NextStage Evolution. (Are you jealous? You should be.)

One of my many questions to him was about social media – it’s all the rage, but can advertisers really tap into that power to sell their products and services? I was particularly interested in advertisers hoping to reach women. Women are huge consumers of social media. A recent rapleaf study found, while both men and women are using social media in increasing numbers, women far out-pace the men.

Joseph pointed out that social media is about building relationships – if advertisers want to reach her in that medium, they have to be in relationship-building mode.

I thought this was interesting. I was at a recent marketing to women conference where two presenters talked about the “mode” women are in on the Internet and how you need to match that mode. Shopping, communicating, and entertainment are just a few modes she might be in.

Which brings up an important point. If she is in relationship mode, respect her space. She may not want to deal with anyone who is too pushy or does not respect her space. For example, look at women on MySpace decorating and customizing their pages. This is their private sanctuary – just like decorating their room in a house. Be aware of that. It’s one thing to barge into a website she is viewing (with your ad). It’s another thing to barge into her “room.”

Another idea we discussed in relation to women and social media and building relationships is the importance of the concept of fair value. As Joseph says, “You have to give as good as you get.” Is there something of value you can give to her? Are you giving more than you are asking for?

And how do you build that relationship? A great way to start is through a conversation. Social Media is often a great way to have a two-way conversation with your customers and potential customers. Just keep in mind, does she actually want to have a conversation with you? And if so, what does she want to talk to you about? A good place to start would be to answer her questions.

Use Persuasion Architecture to Get The Most Out of Social Media

Some of the best advice I’ve heard on the subject came during a recent podcast interview with Forrester’s Josh Bernoff. Josh points out that you can’t start with the technology. You have to start with people and objectives FIRST. What a great point. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to me and said, “I need to start a blog,” or, “I need to tap into the Internet,” or, “I want to create a discussion forum.” My reply is always, “Who are your customers and what do they want?” THAT’S the first question. What do they care about? How can you make a difference in their lives? What are your objectives? Next, you can come up with which technologies can help you achieve those objectives (i.e., blogs, forums, Facebook, etc.).

It’s a novel idea – start with the consumer and what she wants. (This is the entire basis for Persuasion Architecture.) It’s also about communicating with customers in the manner they want to communicate.

How Do Your Customers Want to Interact With You?

FutureNow recently put up a Facebook page. As our Director of Marketing, Brian Bond said,

“The way I see it, technology evolves to better facilitate the needs of consumers, to have their questions and motivations addressed. The evolution of tools like Facebook is an answer to a need to communicate differently. Just like letter writing was largely replaced by email as a more efficient communication method, I see apps like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc., all evolving as alternatives to email and other current communication methods. For marketers and businesses, this represents a great opportunity to communicate with their audience with the method their audience chooses. This change is something we have to embrace because it’s how our audience wishes to interact with our brand. Who are we to tell them they are wrong? The beauty of the Persuasion Architecture approach, in my mind, is that is that it applies equally well to all marketing/communication methods. It’s all about communicating with customers the way they want to be communicated with and addressing customers’ motivations. If there are technologies that better support this communication, then we must embrace them to be relevant to the customer.”

How do your customers want to interact with you? How can you provide genuine value to them? Remember, relationships are a two-way street. You can’t always ask ask ask – you have to give in return. Think about what you could give your customers that would be of value to them.

Do Facebook Ads Relate

Here’s a Facebook ad that got my attention:

facebook ad_1.jpg

Now, I deleted the header because it was “(my age) year-old-woman.” That creeped me out. I don’t like someone calling out my specific age. It’s not that I’m that old (I’m barely out of my twenties, really). But screaming my personal information at me like that made me feel a little violated.

Despite the header, the ad got my attention because it was for free samples of products – many of which I recognized in the image. The fact that this company was willing to give me something first appealed to me. It felt like a welcome gift. It felt like the way I’d like to start a relationship. (Rather than flashing the usual banner ad at me, screaming at me, “Buy our stuff! Give us your money!”) Remember, I’m in relationship mode right now, NOT shopping mode. Offering me a gift appealed to me more than offering a percentage off a purchase.

facebook_second_ad.jpgI know some people would joke that women are always in shopping mode. But ads like this one to the left are a big flop; a belly flop. Ads like this make me want to ban all advertising on Facebook.

Want your social media ads to work?

Start with People

By all means, embrace social media. But start with people, in particular, your customers. Who are they? What do they want? Start with their goals first. THEN bring in technology to achieve your goals. And remember, conversations are a two-way street. Don’t just ask…listen. You’ll form stronger relationships. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Since I’ve focused so much on Facebook, I’d love to hear from you – Advertisers – have you had success using Facebook? Tell me about it. Facebook Users – how do you feel about ads and applications on Facebook? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Sound off in the comments.

If you are doing social media advertising, would you like to do a research project with FutureNow to see how you can make those efforts more effective?  If you’re interested, let’s have a conversation about it. You can start by leaving a comment below.

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Comments (27)

  1. Howdy,
    Thanks for the nod. Your statements about decorating MySpace pages is excellent. Sometime we’ll need to talk about the cultural anthropology of sacred spaces (not the new age concept, please) and how these manifest in the webworld.
    Again, thanks for the nod.

  2. I think social marketing is extremely effective. I’d like to see the results of the research project you are going to be doing on it.

  3. I’ve just created a couple of social networking accounts (on myspace and facebook) in order to promote my online retail store and my professional blog. My business caters to professional women, so I’ve started by adding professional women’s organizations to my “friends list”. I have a lot to learn about social networking, thanks for the start.

  4. I agree with you that Social media has huge potential but there are now worthless social network sites cropping up every now and then, means this area has already exploded. only few of them are worth.

  5. The hidden key to social marketing success…

    What one thing separates successful social marketers from everyone else? Read on and see for yourself…

  6. Social Networking really started with MSN Chat/Messenger and the “my room” analogy is extremely accurate but Facebook, et al, seem to be more “my coffee shop” then “my room” where personal space is concerned. Targeting your customers one on one is beneficial if you are selling something like real estate but not for widgets that “take years off” or “melt away fat” (yeesh). If you have to persuade each customer individually that your product is right for them personally then your approach isn’t much different then telemarketing.

  7. We created a page and have promoted in our email newsletters for people to add us as “fans”. We have over 300 fans and push out “updates” to them. We do not use any of the advertising, but we have seen facebook become one of our top traffic forwarders to our website.

  8. It seems that just with any other type of marketing, targeting the actual group as opposed to the masses of a general social media site will be more effective when you’re planning on an immediate return on your advertising dollars.

    Nevertheless, marketing on Facebook will increase name recognition, cement branding and bring new visitors to a site; even if it doesn’t result in immediate conversions, it will have long term benefits.

    Maybe women are more relationship oriented, but they’re also very practical when it comes to taking care of their families – getting free stuff probably works, if it doesn’t take too much effort to get it :)

  9. Hi Holly – I was thinking of you guys on Friday.

    We were talking about social media and the topic of Persuasion Architecture came up. When you are in control of the site and web experience, you can obviously implement it.

    But what about across other social media and collaborative websites outside of your domain? I suppose the principles are the same, but the implementation and tracking is the trick.

    Any thoughts?


  10. Hi Holly –

    I truly agree with you on this article. The most important thing women want on the internet is a sense of community – and from that viewpoint they will feel comfortable to support, buy, participate, etc.

    Spirited Woman, a very inspired women’s empowerment community, recently began the Spirited Woman Blogger Team with that entire concept in mind.

    It is a team effort of women from LA to Paris to Hong Kong providing spirited women from around the globe with news meant to inspire, live life fully with a sense of adventure, freedom, energy, fun – taking a spirited woman approach to life.

    The response has been very powerful in the short time since we launched it. We know from this vantage point we will build sponsorships, ad dollars, etc. We believe we are part of the social media platform, but in a new way.

    The blogger team posts can be found at:

    I’ve been following you for years. I think your specialization on the women’s internet market is outstanding.

    I look toward the day when Spirited Woman will be able to contribute to your statistics of the women’s market further exploding on the internet.

    Best, Nancy Mills

  11. I agree, those facebook ads that call out my age are upsetting, the just make me feel creepy, invaded and horrible about myself – they are always talking about wrinkles and weight and other things I don’t really want to be reminded about. But there are others I have definitely clicked on – about recording songs, and coffee shops with open mics and such.

    Oh and I really don’t get the ones that seem like craigslist ads or something, and then they are misspelled on top of it…

  12. Great article. We agree – the age and belly photos certainly are a waste of money for advertisers but advertisers like those deserve to lose money!

  13. I just noticed something – I don’t know if this is new, but you can give the ads on Facebook a thumbs up or thumbs down and then say WHY you did it – it was interesting, relevant, misleading, offensive, repetitive, etc

    Except now I can’t quite decide if I think that’s cool or creepy. heh.

  14. I think social marketing is effective for the bloggers to market there products.

  15. Hi,

    Insightful post! i did a similar article on gender differences and appeal in social networking sites

    Do let me know what you think, thanks!

  16. I agree. I find the ads on Facebook presumptuous and somewhat offensive. They are poorly executed as well! Thanks for your post!

  17. Somehow I keep coming back to this post!! I just found this blogger who took out her own ads in response to the weightloss ones, telling people that they are healthy and to be happy in their own bodies! Very cool!

  18. Hi
    I use facebook social adverts alot. I like that you can target your adverts to gender and age type. I also like that you can have a photo. It would be handy for me if people also added a category to say if they were pregnant or had young children etc, as i sell maternity products and breastfeeding lingerie. at the moment i set my adverts to married women age 27 to 35. though i change that aroudn a bit. I used to have a nice lingerie shot on the advert, but then i found that a photo of a newborn baby, (my cute son) had a higher click through rate.

  19. I use Facebook a lot and find the adverts intrusive.

  20. I think there’s so many lessons here. A) social networks are definitely useful for marketing purposes. Look at Ron Paul Girl (Mona Gillen) for instance. She uploaded 1 video, and now has following in the hundreds of thousands. All dying to get a pre-release of her DVD.

    On the other hand, most of it is very obnoxious. Myspace is currently teetering on overboard, and as such will be losing my participation and I’m sure many others. Most of the other social networks are well on their way to the same conclusion.

  21. [...] you all think and have to say. Do you consult? If so, how do you handle multiple clients, and which social media sites do you utilize the most. Are you frustrated with consulting? What are you ideas, suggestions [...]

  22. [...] you all think and have to say. Do you consult? If so, how do you handle multiple clients, and which social media sites do you utilize the most. Are you frustrated with consulting? What are you ideas, suggestions [...]

  23. Social Media is one of the greatest techniques not only to advertise your products but also to build your online reputation and might as well a higher ranking in SERP.

  24. “How do your customers want to interact with you” That is a big question and one that can only be answered by saying “in all ways”. You have to be everywhere if you can to get the maximum from your customers and potential customers and if they want Facebook you need to be on it!!

  25. I believe social marketing is amazingly effective. I’d love to see the results from your research project.

  26. I find the ads on Facebook assumative and offensive. Thanks for your post!

  27. Great read. I agree that the age and photos definitely are a waste of money for advertisers. But some of them deserve to lose money.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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