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Contextual Targeting on Social Media: Why You Need It

Whether you’re just jumping into the world of social media or you’ve been balancing the act of writing, editing, and publishing paid social ads for a while now, you’re probably wondering what contextual targeting is and why on earth you need it. After all, something brought you here. 


The truth is, contextual targeting on social media can be complicated. And that’s why we’ve decided to write up an all-encompassing and easy-to-understand guide to contextual targeting that you can carry into your paid social advertising and organic social media efforts.

Ready to jump in? 🏁 Let’s go! 

What Is Contextual Targeting?

If it sounds complicated, don’t sweat. It’s really less confusing than it sounds. 

Here’s an illustration: let’s say you’re scrolling through Instagram for recipe ideas, and a sponsored post pops up for a particular meal delivery service. The relation to what you’re searching for+the fact that it very well might be something that could solve a problem for you can make you more receptive to clicking on it. 

It’s a smart–and a rather predictable move for marketing professionals and paid social advertising experts to utilize the browsing activities of their audience as a part of their overall strategy. And while cookies-based targeting still remains a popular first choice, it won’t always be with user privacy taking a front seat in social media. 

How Does Contextual Targeting Work?

Once you know what you’ll be advertising and have a specific platform in mind, the work gets easier. For starters, you’ll want to establish some keywords. Your keywords should ALWAYS be directly relevant to your products and services, and we recommend avoiding branded keywords unless your brand is already fairly well-known

When you’ve chosen your keywords, whatever social media platform you’re using will dish up your content to hungry “customers” when it makes the most sense. This means it will also be taking language, location and other vital advertising demographics in mind so that you get the most out of your contextual targeting efforts. 

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Contextual Targeting VS Behavioral Targeting 

If you’re well-versed in social media paid advertising already, you might be wondering what the difference is between contextual targeting and behavioral targeting. The answer: it’s a little complicated. After all, both of these show relevant content with relevant searches in the right places and at the right times. So, what gives? 

Contextual targeting shows ads in relevant places and times REGARDLESS of previous pages they’ve visited, what links they’ve clicked and what products they’ve purchased or added to their cart. By comparison, behavioral targeting is cookies-based, which means it WILL be taking into account a user’s previous site visits, purchases from frequently visited sites and more. As an example, these retargeting ads examples are a great example of a behavioral targeting strategy.

Contextual Targeting: Here’s Why It’s Becoming More Popular and Why It’s Here to Stay?

With the average time spent on social media worldwide being set to around two hours and 47 minutes a day in 2022, we're officially in the zone for the highest-ever recorded average time spent on social media. 

All of this time on social media translates into something powerful for marketing professionals, like a doorway to increasing their CTR and ROI, for starters.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” and after over a decade of utilizing cookies-based targeting, users are much more likely to be distrustful of advertising than trust-filled and ready-to-buy.

This is where contextual targeting can be very effective, as it doesn’t require user data to find and pitch to the right audience!

Which brings us to another vital point: most users won’t even see ads. Given the sheer number of advertisements they’re navigating daily, social media ad fatigue is a massive issue for marketers and businesses alike. 

So how do we, as marketing professionals, overcome the noise and put our best foot forward? The answer is in utilizing every tool and resource available–incredible content, an on-point paid advertising strategy and a thorough understanding of our target audience and what they need from us. This “back to the basics” approach has never been more valuable. 

Contextual Targeting: How Do I Make My Target Audience Pay Attention to My Ads?

You want clicks, right? You want your audience to pay attention–to purchase–and go on their merry way. 

But it just HAD to be more complicated than that, and now Marketing Melvin is scratching his head at a loss about what’s next. 

This isn’t the end. In fact, with a few steps, you can start counting on your audience spending less time ignoring your ads and more time intrigued and delighted by them. Here’s the scoop: 

#1 The Story is Everything

No, seriously. It is. If your contextual targeting ads can successfully tell a good story that will engage and delight your audience, you’re already ten steps ahead of the competition. 

#2 Do the Necessary Research for On-Point Contextual Targeting and Ads

Nobody can quite expect to be an expert with the answers right out of the gate. However, by doing some research, you’ll know what your audience is searching for, watching and spending their time doing, and thus you’ll be ready with a highly-targeted, story-rich ad on the plaforms and in the places they’re most likely to see it.

#3 Play Your Contextual Targeting Into Every Marketing Effort

Your contextual targeting advertising campaigns shouldn’t be the ONLY thing you’re doing and it should never be a stand-alone feature in a successful social media marketing campaign. Instead, leverage the magic of social media contextual targeting alongside efforts like:

  • Organic Social Media Campaign
  • Community Management
  • Influencer Marketing
for the best results.

#4 Spend Your Money Wisely and Be Relevant! 

No wide nets welcome here. Only precise shots for successful campaigns. If your go-to marketing strategy, especially for contextual targeting is to case a wide net, we’d recommend hiring an agency or finding an expert to help. Your money matters! Make the most of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s hop right into the frequently asked questions behind the complicated madness that IS contextual targeting on social media. 🔎

Is Contextual Targeting Worth It?

Absolutely! Especially with rising concerns around user data privacy and the elimination of cookies and trackers, contextual targeting has never been more effective for marketing professionals and businesses alike. 

What Does Contextual Mean?

Contextual means something that depends on or relates to a particular event or circumstance that then form the setting for an event, statement, or idea. In the case of advertising, this means that an ad for a free meal delivery over $20 would fit very well on a social media page with hashtags about quick, lazy dinner ideas under $30.

Related Post: Restaurant Marketing Ideas by Sociallyin

What is Contextual Tageting on Adwords?

While our focus is social media marketing, we do have an entire division that works closely with our clients on Adwords. And when it comes to Google Ads, contextual targeting takes on a different tone. 

Instead of relevant social media pages, ads are displayed on relevant websites and pages. I.e an ad for a cleaning service on a page for 22 ways to get your home into luxury shape by 2023, or a blog around cleaning your home to the best advantage 

Contextual Targeting: That’s a Wrap! 🌯

Now that you know everything there is to know about contextual targeting and how you can leverage it to the best advantage of your business, we’d love to know how it goes for you! We’re always on the hunt for ways we can improve, so let us know what you think in the comments below, or let SociallyIn know how we can HELP YOU jump start your journey into social media marketing, social paid ads and contextual targeting in the space. 

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Keith Kakadia

I am a native of New Orleans, LA with a passion for social media marketing, entrepreneurship, and making new connections. I enjoy the opportunity to work with amazing individuals and brands everyday.

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