As I write this article the world of social advertising is in upheaval. General Motors, after considerable testing, pulled its banner ads from Facebook…just days before the young Mr. Zuckerberg became one of the world’s wealthiest individuals from the initial stock offering. Facebook opened at $38 a share, seesawed up and down to close at $38 on the opening day, taking a dip a few days later. Ford announced it would keep its advertising bookmark in social media despite GM’s pullout. Who’s right? What’s wrong? What does this all mean to you?
Young America hailed Facebook as the great new social frontier a few years back. A place where they could post pictures, bios, gossip, rumors, etc. Sort of a mini-blog/diary that was open to just a few friends or the entire world at the poster’s option. And what was the very best thing about Facebook? Just like it’s video predecessor, YouTube, Facebook was/is free. There’s a lot to like about free. The only problem is, just like YouTube, free is only as good as long as it takes the website creator to figure out a way to generate revenue. And that generally means advertising, changing the free landscape to kinda-sorta free. And boy do the folks who were bred on free despise any kind of revenue conversion.
When I was a boy, commercial radio (there were only three to four AM radio stations in each market) came right out of the chute with a revenue stream. We got used to the commercial breaks from the get-go. We’d get aggravated when the spot clusters grew from just a couple of ads to three to four minutes of ads, but we understood that was the price to pay to enjoy our favorite tunes.
Same with TV. We knew the price of an entertainment program was endurance of the sponsorship. Of course back in the ‘good ole days’ many of us actually looked forward to, and even enjoyed the commercials! We’d sing the tag lines and jingles. We’d memorize the slogans. Remember ‘Bucky Beaver’ …who had Ipana fever? Remember the famous Alka Seltzer character, Speedy Alka-Seltzer singing “Plop plop…fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is”…or the ad showing just the shots of peoples stomachs with the theme song that actually became a hit tune by the T-Bones: “No matter what shape.”
When you give someone something with no strings initially, they rebel when you start attaching the strings. Happened with YouTube (where short lead-in commercials are aborted and banner ads ‘x’d out at alarming rates) and it’s happening with Facebook and other social media. Facebook user’s response to advertisers intruding in their space: “Hey you…get offa my cloud!”
So, does that mean I’m down on social/digital media? No. But I do have some strong opinions on effective use and reasonable return-on-investment or those allocating substantial budgets to these mediums.
Cost. Don’t even think for one moment you can buy impressions, CPMs, rating points for digital media in the same parallel universe as traditional media. Fraud in measurement/reachable claims abounds in digital media. For example, can you imagine a company advertising to radio stations that they can boost their Arbitron ratings by paying a third party to fill out questionnaires favorable to the radio station? What about a company selling a service to up TV station ratings for Nielsen? Two days ago someone forwarded me a solicitation for a company that will guarantee a certain number of ‘likes’ for a price. (increaselikes.net) In fact, you can ‘buy’ as many likes as you want. What about clicks and visits? How many are robot generated? How many accidental? How many clicks on your ad are paid? Measurement analytics are fraught with deception. Even legitimate ‘hits’ can be misleading. Your own website analytics are probably the best possible measurement, however the ultimate impression is your customer’s signature on a buyer’s order. Unless you have an accurate tracking method for actual sales directly attributable to your social media investment, your best guess of value is as good as any. Negotiate hard. Take no prisoners. Don’t lay down for the published impressions gibberish without a counter-offer.
Don’t go overboard. It’s way to easy to overspend on e-advertising including website, web video, e-mail marketing and social mediums. The lion’s share of your share-of-market is still driven by traditional media spends. How much you should spend in the digital world depends on your market, models and available demographics. Most dealers will spend between 9% and 17% of their advertising budget in the e-world this year.
Instrusive gimmicks. There is a certain amount of built-in resentment from the ‘free-lovers’ to any kind of advertising. It increases dramatically when banners ‘splash’ the page and cover the content the reader is really interested in or switch to a different linked site. Auto-start video/audio is really a turn-off.
Relevant creative. The most important factor in effective social media advertising is how relevant the ad is to the reader. Of course that’s true with any advertising, but with social marketing it’s super-critical. Think of it this way. With social media, it’s like walking around a gathering and introducing/involving yourself in the various conversations. How well does your message fit with the conversation/situation?
Branding is best. Share-of-mind (vs. promotional share-of-market) seems to have the greatest potential with social media. While ‘branding’ is generally less intrusive in nature, it can still bring both ‘gotta buyers’ and ‘wanna buyers’ to your website for more information. While manufacturers love factory beauty shots of their models in dealer ads, unless there is coop, a beauty shot with a payment or price helps the factory far more than the dealer. A picture of a real customer with a quote about you your great customer service (and a link to a video of same) can do more to engage a customer with your brand. What about a simple bolded question such as “Do you ever wonder what so many Hondas have our name on the license frame?” (link to a customer testimonial on your site.)
Integrated messaging. Don’t make the mistake of ‘testing’ social mediums as a stand-alone brand tool. Don’t use a separate slogan tagline. Accept the fact that there is no firm science in branding. Brand reinforcement is an aggregate total of impressions from many different mediums/resources. Careful monitoring of your web analytics, quantity and quality of sales in relationship to the overall marketing plan will give you some sense of whether the social component is a good investment. But the truth is, you’ll never know for sure just what social media branding (or any other branding effort) is bringing to the table.
Konsistency is king. Yes, I know consistency starts with a C. The K just looked better. Branding is better when done consistently. There is a new term in marketing that surpasses ‘reach’ and ‘frequency.’ The word is ‘recency.’ It isn’t as important as how often your intended audience sees your ad, or even how many see your ad, as opposed to your best potential buyer seeing a message at a time closest to planned purchase.
Want to learn more on social media marketing. Among the many offerings you might try the book Advertising 2.0, Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 World by Tracy Tuten (available at Amazon for around $23).