Insights: What Ad Blocking Means for Social Media Marketing

On a rainy Tuesday, I figured if I was going to write about ad blocking, I should probably try it out for myself. Even Googling “Adblock Plus” made me feel a little uneasy. But with one click of a button it was installed, and I was presented with a cleaner version of the web. No more pop-up ads; no more ads lined up and down the side of the page. My screen was an uncluttered version of a previously chaotic experience.

I strongly believe ad blocking is a misguided concept. The Internet is a messy place, and some (read: most) ads are annoying and intrusive. But those ads largely support the very essence of the Internet where you devour listicles and seek refuge in cat videos on a bad day; where you read long-form investigative reports; or where you video chat with your friends who live across the country –– all for free. FREE.

Ads play a key role in that freedom, whether you like it or not. When you install ad blocking software, you eliminate a primary source of revenue for many publications. Essentially, you stop “paying” (via ad impressions) for content.

But on the other hand, ads are annoying, ugly and often not relevant. Ads take large amounts of bandwidth to download on your mobile device and desktop. Ads provoke security concerns with the prevalence of malware (a fact recently pointed out by America’s favorite fugitive) and tracking.

Regardless of your stance on the issue, ad blocking software usage is up big time and marketers need to figure out what that means for them ASAP. Luckily, we’ve already been thinking about it for you.

Bye Haters!

Unsurprisingly, right rail ads on Facebook disappeared after I installed the Chrome plugin, but somewhat surprisingly, all promoted content and website clicks ads disappeared, too. Over on Twitter, it was the same story: all promoted tweets were gone. Poof.

This can be discouraging for marketers because it means advertising content –– banner ads, promoted posts on social, etc. –– isn’t being seen by people who use an ad blocker, plain and simple. But, *clouds part* those people didn’t want to see your content anyways. They actively chose to not see your ads, so they’re clearly not your target audience.

So, an ad blocker is, in a sense, helping you do your job better by weeding out those who aren’t interested in what you have to say to begin with. Those people very truly don’t want to be served your ad, so it’s best (for you and for them) that they’re not.

Sponsored Content Will Thrive

So, how does a plucky marketer get around pesky ad blocking software? One way is to partner up with a publication to create sponsored content. We wrote about sponsored content a ways back, but with the addition of ad blocking software on iOS 9 and (a while back) on Android, it’s more relevant than ever.

If Friskies teams up with Buzzfeed for a sponsored post, for example, that article will show up to those who have an ad blocker installed, and if Buzzfeed tweets about it using #ad or #sponsored in the copy, it will still show up in the social feed. Here’s an example:

As ad blocking usage continues to increase, partnerships between brands and publications will become much more crucial.  

Social Is More Important Than Ever

All of this comes down to one big thing: Social media is now more important than ever. It’s one of the few places on the Internet where users opt-in to receive updates from brands. And if a user opts-in, they’ll see your content.

Facebook throws a wrench in this with its continual plummeting of organic reach, but thankfully other social platforms are without its harsh algorithm. Plus, if a Facebook fan loves your content, and engages with it regularly, it will be served to him or her organically.

Perhaps most importantly, while popular ad blockers eliminate social ads on a desktop browser, they won’t be able to block them for mobile users who are accessing the platform via an app. So, those 1.39 billion people who access Facebook via mobile every month are being served your sponsored posts and ads regardless of if they have an ad blocker installed or not.

I waited only 10 minutes before uninstalling the Adblock Plus plugin. It just doesn’t feel right to me to block revenue for publications I enjoy reading for free. While I lament the future of the “Free Internet” (especially for smaller indie publications), I’m confident that social media will remain a bastion of effective advertising, as long as brands do a fantastic job of posting engaging content.