Social network advertising is the process of advertising through text, images, or other methods on social network websites, where users provide personal data about themselves and participate in public conversations with their friends. Users may also share photos, videos, or favorite music on these social networks, and social network advertisers keep track of this data and use it to create targeted advertisements. Social network advertising, then, can be a very effective method of targeted advertising, because the ads shown to the users are often chosen based on keywords in their profiles.
The process of social network advertising is not often made clear to users of social networks. For instance, users may not realize, when they are listing their favorite hobbies, books, music, and movies in their profiles, that advertisers are aggregating this data in order to create advertisements. Of course, this is not the case with every social network, but it is a fairly common practice because it is a very effective method. Advertisers no longer need to research patterns or send out surveys; social network users are more than happy to provide them with all the data they need as the users create their personal profiles.
There are different methods of social network advertising used. Text-based ads are exactly what they sound like; clickable links that are only text. Ads that are a combination of images and text are fairly common as well, and may show up in the header or sidebar of a site, for example. Banner ads and pop-up ads, while once extremely common, are now used less frequently; this is because many users have installed programs in their web browsers that block pop-ups or banner ads from appearing. Because social networks are typically free, social network advertising is used to fund the sites so that they can remain free for all users.
As mentioned above, in some cases social network advertising is based on keywords included in the user's profile. For instance, if a user lists a particular band as a favorite, the advertisers might then choose to show an ad featuring that band because they believe the user will be more likely to click on the ad. Some advertisers consider the keywords included on users' friends' pages as well, to get even more data. If users do not want their preferences shown to advertisers, they must often change the privacy settings within the social network site to keep their information hidden.