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While traditional search ads have driven traffic and sales for more than a decade, social ads are starting to drive more long-term value, especially for marketers of lifestyle products, where emotion and inspiration, rather than ratings and reviews, are the keys to getting consumers to purchase.

In lifestyle categories like fashion and home decor, search ads are a challenging medium. It’s difficult to trigger an emotional response to a product in that restricted ad format and users don’t see search ads until they’ve decided what they want to buy.

In contrast, social ads allow marketers to create visually engaging content that inspires consumers to click, engage and share. Here’s why.

1. Social ads deliver brand equity and free traffic

When you buy search ads, you get exactly what you pay for: clicks.

When you buy social ads, you not only get the clicks you pay for, but you also receive the free impressions and clicks from users sharing your ads with their networks.

This creates an immediate halo effect for your campaign, increasing your brand equity and raising your overall return on ad spend.

For example, when you promote a tweet on Twitter, you get retweets and favorites for free. When you promote your pin on Pinterest you get re-pins for free. And, when you promote your products on Polyvore, you create outfits and share them for free.

Across all three platforms, the more engaging your tweet, pin or product, the more engagement and brand equity you can potentially create. That’ll drive more traffic…for free.

2. Social ads trigger purchases in visual product categories

Social ads offer a larger canvas to tell your message, especially on visual platforms, like Pinterest, Polyvore and Instagram.

These social networks are ideal for lifestyle product categories like fashion and home decor, where using content to inspire consumers is key to triggering purchases.

On Pinterest and Instagram, you can promote a pin or photo of an influencer wearing your product, and on Polyvore, you can promote your entire product catalog to a global community of users who love to create and share outfits. Across all three platforms, the expanded visual canvas enables you to showcase your brand and products in a native environment that feels like magazine content. You can’t do any of that with search ads.

3. Social ads drive long-term engagement

Creating social ads that resonate with consumers can lead to longer-term, deeper engagement because consumers become personally involved with — and more connected — to your products.

This is in stark contrast to search ads, which are only seen by consumers right before the point of purchase.

On Twitter, a promoted tweet invites consumers to have a conversation around the content, helping it spread and encouraging others to join in. On Pinterest, a promoted pin encourages users to pin it to a board, which they may reference multiple times as they plan what they are going to do. On Polyvore, users save products and create shoppable outfits that live on Polyvore forever. Compare this to finite search ads, which only appear when you search.

Social advertising is an effective way to get consumers to engage with your message in a thoughtful and organic way.

Social ads create stronger long-term value as the content continues to get amplified across consumers networks.

By spending on social instead of search, your brand connects with consumers who ultimately drive traffic and sales to your site.