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Category: Social Advertising

Why Targeted Social Ads Are a Good Thing (Just Hear Me Out)

Why Targeted Social Ads Are a Good Thing (Just Hear Me Out)

This week, Adblock Plus announced that it would start serving ads, which is of course, the most predictably ironic thing to happen online in some time. But my question is this: are targeted social ads really that bad?

No; they’re not.

Admittedly, in answering this question, I’m a little bias. After all, if it wasn’t for things like social ads and the industry in which they find themselves, I’d probably be out of a job. This one, anyway. But my professional reliance on advertising notwithstanding, I still think that targeted social ads are, in fact, a good thing. The problem is with the lack of knowledge marketers have about their capabilities, resulting in the removal of the word ‘targeted’ from the equation.

Sick of advertising

An Explosion in Advertising

Call it what you want – direct advertising, social media advertising, content marketing, influencer outreach – paid media is paid media in all its forms. And, considering we have seen the amount of branded content we are exposed to on a daily basis increase by tenfold in the last three decades (about 5,000 pieces of branded content per day, by the way) I can understand why consumers are so sick of it. In this generation of free, the last thing we want is to have our highly tailored experience online ruined with ad content we didn’t ask for, right? And yet, there we are, at every turn, facing a brand new ad.

Advertising is nothing new. Broadcasting messages to a wide audience dates back about 6,000 years (in the form of flash banner ads, obviously) and modern advertising (arguably) dates back to 1836, when ‘La Presse’ in France sold space in its newspaper so that it could lower its price to consumers. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing these ads, we might just have hit a tipping point in terms of how much irrelevant content we are willing to take in. And right there is why targeted social ads can be a good thing.

Getting to Know You

Social presents an incredible opportunity to advertisers that so few are properly identifying. Blanketing your ads to the general public will lead to a higher cost-per-click, a lower click-through rate and an overall underperforming campaign. That’s unfortunate when social provides the tools necessary to generate the exact opposite.

By properly identifying your audience and drilling down into the specifics that make up a persona, you can serve ads that fit right into their online experience. That means that instead of angrily resisting your content, they will be much more likely to explore it. This, of course, won’t always be the case, but by implementing these kinds of strategies, marketers can begin to join in on the experience of social as opposed to taking away from it. This leads users to seek out the ad blocking software that has grown so rapidly in the last few years.

Alas, this is largely not the case. The simplicity with which marketers can use these ad platforms and the cost effectiveness of running large-scale campaigns with generic messages has rendered the social audience exhausted. Targeted social ads can mean a greater connection to your audience, and the first steps in the development of a deeper connection, but so few brands are properly utilizing that strategy. Until they do, social ads are going to be more of an experience detractor rather than something that can benefit both sides of the transaction.

Some Marketing Trends for Which to Be Thankful

Some Marketing Trends for Which to Be Thankful

In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few marketing trends for which we can all be thankful this year!

We all know that the marketing world evolves rapidly. In just a few short years we’ve seen the landscape change from buying print ads to AdWords to social advertising, and as we approach Thanksgiving, there is yet another collection of new marketing trends for which to be thankful this year.

Smart Automation

Marketing automation has been refined considerably over the last few years, and the powerful tools that exist on the market make it one of the most valuable assets in a marketer’s arsenal. What we are starting to see is the evolution of these technologies thanks in large part to their improved and more powerful analytical capabilities.

According to research conducted by Smart Insights, marketers feel as though marketing automation will have the greatest impact on their strategies and success in the coming year (shown below).

Marketing trends and commercial impact

This shouldn’t surprise us considering the power behind a marketing automation software. As machine learning becomes less of a luxury and more of a standard and these technologies become more intelligent and capable of truly optimizing conversion rates and decreasing the length of the buyer journey (which they are currently in the process of doing) we can expect to see marketing automation become the central pillar for many marketing professionals’ strategies.

Simpler Data

As exciting as the concept of ‘big data’ has been for a lot of marketers, the subject has been largely too complex for most to breach. In the chart above, you can see that ‘big data’ is of growing importance, and a large part of that is the simplification of its applications and the lowering of barriers to entry into the field.

If you’ve read some of the articles I’ve written about data, then you probably already know my feelings on the subject; I have long asserted that in order to get any use out of data, we need to think about it in context and look at it on the micro level. Now, we are finally seeing a rise in that way of thinking and the release of tools that allow for the simplification of data use. That trend is growing, and data will be a much easier beast to tackle in the coming year.

All Mobile, All Day

At this point, talking about the importance and growth of mobile is about as redundant as it is necessary. Though we all know how crucial mobile is (see the chart below) there are still new facts and justifications released every day that further strengthen that point.

KPCB Importance of Mobile Marketing Trends

We’re spending more time on our mobile devices, mobile advertising is generating exceptional results and this year, for the first time, mobile web traffic is expected to surpass desktop traffic. All that (and a whole lot more) is reason enough to keep emphasizing how crucial mobile is and will continue to be.

Departmental Integration

The silo approach is dead. I’m not entirely sure why organizations still approach business in this way, but thanks to the advent and permeation of communications and media at every level of the business, it is no longer an option to look at your departments as operating in a vacuum. Everybody needs to be involved in everybody else’s business.

That is not to say that there still should not be carefully outlined objectives and tasks, but in order to find success, departments – from marketing to customer service to your executive team – need to work together. The reason for this is twofold: first, communication and action is happening too quickly to operate in a silo format. Simply put, buck passing is not an option when the whole world can hear about something in a matter of hours. Second, your organization is no longer just the big corporate facade, but rather the people inside it – all the people. Communication is not a department, but a part of your culture, and culture affects everyone and everything.

We’re seeing this happen at both large and small companies, quickly and slowly. The important thing, however, is that we are seeing this happen, and we can expect to continue to see this trend expand in the coming year.

Enter the Chief Marketing Technologist

Last time I counted the number of marketing technologies that existed on the market today, I lost count. At this point, there are well over two thousand. That, by the way, is not a type (which is why I typed it out). There are well over 2,000 pieces of marketing technology and MarTec clouds and add-ons and all sorts of tools that exist on the market. To know what to use and how best to use it, you’re going to need someone who lives and breathes this stuff.
Marketing technology landscape marketing trends

The Chief Marketing Technologist is a relatively new position (no more than a few years old at this point) but one that is quickly growing in value and importance. Tools are designed to not only make life easier, but help you build your business. Knowing which tools are right to help you achieve your objectives in the shortest timeframe possible while maximizing profits is crucial to the success of your company.

When you consider the fact that there are as many tools as there are listed above (plus hundreds more that are not listed at this point) and how important these tools are, it is no wonder we are seeing the rapid rise in the implementation of this position.

Conclusion

As with every year, there is plenty to get excited about and be thankful for in the world of marketing this year. We have seen a lot of changes, but those changes mean that the market is evolving. Processes are simplifying, the market is growing and capabilities are expanding. It should be an exciting year in our field, and there is no doubt that at this rate, we can expect to see some great advances next year as well.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

A Brief (Exciting) History of Social Advertising [Infographic]

A Brief (Exciting) History of Social Advertising [Infographic]

Social advertising has exploded in popularity since it launched just over ten years ago.

Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows that I am a huge advocate for social advertising. I have been working with every social network’s ad platform (both in and out of beta) since I started working with t2, and am proud to say that my insistence on focusing on the area is a big part of why it is one of our tentpole services today.

With that in mind, I found this great infographic that goes through the brief but (so far) very exciting and explosive history of social advertising, so I thought I’d share it.

history of social advertising

 

Instagram Ads and the Future of Social

Instagram Ads and the Future of Social

As Instagram ads are rolled out to the general public, it is interesting to think on the future of social and digital advertising.

Instagram is about to explode. OK – it has already exploded by most definitions, but it is about to explode as an advertising platform. The Instagram advertising API has been switched on, and marketers simply can’t wait to dig into it. In fact, there is so much anticipation that analysts are predicting that by 2020 ad revenues could be close to $4 billion!

Instagram ads projected revenue

That’s 3,500% growth in five years!

Thinking about this brand new (publicly available) ad space and how many Instagram users will soon be digesting ads at the same rate they do on Facebook or Google, one wonders about the future of the socialsphere and what we might see coming out of the industry in just a few short years (or even months!).

Instagram

So, now we will see ads. We’ve already seen some, but these have mostly been tests and betas run by the companies willing to make the significant investments that come with these types of pilots. Now everyone from your local clothing store to international Instagram sensations can begin promoting content.

This has been a long-awaited integration and we have reason to be excited (on the professional front). As with all things free and tech, however, it won’t be long before people are up in arms over the inclusion of paid content. “How dare they?!” we will shout. But will it make any difference? Probably not. People will still open the app ten times per day to pass the time, only now the occasional snarky comment will be left on a brand’s ad.

It’s funny to think that that social network that (I think) has done the best job of seamlessly integrating advertising without an uproar from the public – Twitter – is having the hardest time finding its stride.

And speaking of Twitter…

Twitter Gets a Much-Needed Takeover

Twitter is struggling. Jack Dorsey is a smart kid – there’s no denying that – but he is also the CEO of payment processing startup Square, which is also set to go public. Twitter needs a full-timer at the helm if they ever want to succeed, and the only way to get the network on track might be through a takeover.

Rumblings can be heard that Google will be the most likely to buy the network. After all, Google has decidedly failed when it comes to social (more on that shortly) and Twitter would be a great fit. What’s more, even if Google paid triple the stock price (which they would never do, but humor me for a moment) they would still have double-digit billions in cash leftover. If they paid a slight premium on what Twitter is worth now, they would be able to buy it four times over.

But will Google be the one to take it over? Probably not. (But still maybe. But probably not.)

Larry Page and the Google M&A team are looking to acquire companies that are literally changing the world. Twitter would be a valuable tool when it comes to expanding their mobile and native ad presence (which Facebook is dominating, and Instagram will, too) but Twitter has (probably) affected all the change in the world that it is going to affect. Google tends to go bigger picture.

That said, someone is more than likely going to step in and scoop up the company. Even though it has struggled (despite a smart move to come into the market at an undervalued stock price) there is still a lot of value there.

As For Google

Google has conclusively failed when it comes to building a ‘Facebook Killer’. It built the opposite, in fact. Google built a network that put into perspective just how well executed Facebook really is. So what will become of the ‘social layer’ Google once boasted?

Required Google+ sign in is gone, the building that once housed Google’s tentpole for social is emptying (slowly and sadly) and everything is moving towards alternatives. That said, there are a few things we can still expect to see from Google on the social front.

I wrote an article a little while ago that details what we can expect to see from Google+ and Google’s social efforts. Take a look at it here.

Conclusion

Certainly, there is a lot we can expect to see in the realm of social. It is a constantly evolving space with a ton on the horizon. While these might be the trends of the day, expect so much more to come in the next few months (or even days, who knows?).

Twitter TV Targeting and the Second Screen Experience

Twitter TV Targeting and the Second Screen Experience

The second screen experience has become an increasingly important means of reaching key demos.

Roughly two years ago, Twitter rolled out an incredible new feature that allowed advertisers to communicate with users that were watching a specific TV program, or even a branded commercial. The idea, as Twitter puts it, is to give “networks and brands the opportunity to participate in [Twitter] conversations, and to continue the conversations [advertisers] start on TV with Twitter users discussing relevant programs.” This video does a pretty good job of explaining the goal:

Pretty cool!

Well, while this is a great tool for advertisers, it speaks to a much larger societal trend that is making the lives of marketers (like myself) significantly more difficult every day.

The Second Screen Experience Trend

The second screen experience is nothing new. Ever since smartphones, laptops and tablets became commonplace, the second screen experience has been very much alive, wherever we are watching television.

The problem is that not enough advertisers are taking advantage of it.

On Facebook, there are over 54 million registered Pages, but just the other day I got a ‘Thank You’ message from Mark and Sheryl (Zuckerberg and Sandberg, but you probably guessed that) because I am one of two million advertisers. That’s less than 4% of Pages registered on the network.

On Twitter, the numbers are even lower. In 2014, 92% of social marketers said that they advertised on Facebook, while only 23% said that they leveraged Twitter’s ad platform.

My question relates to the why. Why have advertisers not embraced these platforms for one of their most powerful capabilities: engaging through the second screen experience?

As noted above, Twitter TV targeting – a mechanism that I, as an advertiser, think Twitter has not sufficiently promoted – immerses brands directly into the conversation while it is taking place. One rule I tend to live by and preach to all of our clients at t2 is this: Don’t try and start a new conversation and hope users will come to you; rather, identify the conversations that your audience is already having and join in.

This is a concept lost on so many marketers and advertisers. When and where are prospects most actively using their smartphone? Well, a study conducted by Telefónica’s O2 UK and Sony Mobile found that 75% of smartphone owners use their phone while in the bathroom. The day Facebook and Twitter offer a means of targeting users with ads while they are in the lavatory is the day everyone will pay to advertise. But another one of the most popular uses for smartphones and social media is during TV programs.

Globally, 61% of smartphone owners claim to engage in some sort of second screen viewing activity. 61%!

Taking Advantage of the Second Screen

I’ve written quite a bit about the Golden Age of social media advertising. We’re slowly moving away from that on Facebook as prices begin to mount, but we are still very much there on Twitter. Advertisers are just not taking advantage of it.

Small investments in social advertising at the right time and with the right bidding strategy (see the video below) can generate HUGE returns! If you can identify when you audience is most active based on a series of interests that you are trying to target as well as an analysis of your free analytics on Facebook and Twitter, you can launch campaigns timed specifically to get your message in front of users when they are openly willing to absorb and engage with them.

Now, what do I mean by appropriate bidding strategies? I’m talking about the incremental bidding systems that I developed with my team that have proven to decrease cost-per-action significantly in any given campaign. Here is how it works:

Limiting your targeting to the times when you know your audience is most active will lead to results. It’s about time smart marketers realized this and started taking advantage of the opportunity.

Why Wanamaker’s Advertising Paradox No Longer Holds Up

Why Wanamaker’s Advertising Paradox No Longer Holds Up

wanamaker's advertising paradox

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker (Attributed, 1838-1922)

But is that still the case? Roughly a century ago, John Wanamaker (to whom many attribute the quote) made this claim. This has been a longstanding reality. Sure, there have been studies, and focus groups, and surveys, and reports, and market analyses and a whole host of other techniques implemented to try and do away with this reality. The problem is that for every one person you talk to, no matter how well they fit one of your intended demographics, or societal paradigms, there are tens of thousands if not millions (depending on your scale) whom you will never hear from. Thus, you will never truly know just how effective every dollar is, and how your operation can be running at optimal efficiency. Well, until now.

A lot of people claim that the Golden Age for advertising was the 60s. After all, they wouldn’t have made a (fantastic) TV show about the worst years of an industry. (I don’t see a made-for-TV movie about the housing bubble burst coming out any time soon.) I have to disagree. Maybe from a drink-all-night-do-nothing-all-day-and-fall-into-a-pile-money perspective the 60s were the bee’s knees for advertisers, but from a business perspective, we’ve just entered the Golden Age of Marketing and Advertising.

Unlimited Data

And when I say unlimited, I don’t mean ‘virtually’ unlimited. I mean it literally. A recent MIT study concluded that the average American office worker produces roughly 1.8 million megabytes of data every year. That’s roughly five gigabytes per day. And that’s personal data. There is also corporate data, amalgamated data, and much more. And all that can be used in order to optimize modern advertising campaigns.

Big data concept in word tag cloud on black background

While working with t2, I and other members of my team have devised the concept of ResponsiveBranding. Essentially, it is the idea of leveraging personal and amalgamated data in order to create branding initiatives that are geared towards the tastes and preferences of your audience. Thus, when a campaign is launched, ad spends are entirely optimized to ensure that it resonates with the exact audience you hoped to capture. This is an entirely new opportunity made possible by this major paradigm shift.

Real-Time Optimization

Let’s say, for the sake of argument that you are not using any of the data that is available to you (though, for the record, I wouldn’t recommend it). You start a digital ad campaign – whether it be an AdWords campaign, banner ad campaign or social ad campaign – and set a budget for yourself. Admittedly, this is a case where, initially, Wanamaker’s paradox would hold up. At the outset you have no idea what will work and what part of your investment will disappear. The difference is that now this is a short-term dilemma.

Modern marketing and advertising capabilities make it possible to optimize your campaign as it is taking place. The responsiveness to your campaign by your audience is indicative of how well it is optimized. As you make changes (before too much of your investment is lost) you can begin to see increased results and get more bang for your buck, so to speak.

New Age of Ad Spend (Sort Of)

The cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model has been in place for a long time; long before the age of digital advertising. But now, your CPA (or even your CPC) means that the budget you assign to a campaign (digital) will only be spent as you reach goals or acquire prospects.

In traditional advertising, you are casting out a net and hoping a few fish with disposable income are dragged in. What’s spent is spent and you simply have to hope your investment is recouped in the form of new customers. With digital, however, you’re simply showing your product to the fish and seeing if any bite. (I figured I’d keep with the fish metaphor.) Only then is any of your budget being spent.

There is a reason why we are seeing the slow disappearance of the CPM model – it is not very attractive nor effective. Numbers are superficially a nice measurement. But if you’re looking to get away from that trap in which Wanamaker found himself – where he didn’t know what half of his ad dollars were wasted – you’ll have to look far beyond the top-level numbers.

Conclusion

Was John Wanamaker wrong? No – not entirely. He had a point, and that point still holds up with traditional forms of advertising. Even with all of the relevant information in your hands, and even after running all of the surveys and studies on the statistically significant, randomly selected populations you can think of, there is still no way to know what will work and what will not.

With new forms of advertising, this simply is not the case. There are several ways to go about optimizing your budgets. Whether it is by leveraging big data or making real-time modifications, you can rest assured that if half of your money is being wasted on advertising, you’ll be sure to know exactly which half it is and how to fix it.

The Demise of Facebook Organic Reach and What to Do Now

The Demise of Facebook Organic Reach and What to Do Now

What do you do now that your Facebook organic reach is about to hit zero?

OK, maybe not totally zero, but virtually zero. Facebook organic reach is on its way out. There has been speculation for some time, but it is now all but plastered on our Facebook Page: organic reach is out. And to replace it, the 96% of brands that are not yet advertisers are going to have to reach into their wallets.

End of Facebook Organic Reach

Why Facebook Organic Reach is Disappearing

As a company, Facebook boasts a price tag of over $150 billion. At the end of 2013, Facebook’s assets sat at roughly $18 billion. That’s quite a discrepancy. This is not unusual, however. Is Facebook’s stock price inflated? Maybe slightly. But that does not take away from the huge potential it has with regards to revenues.

As I noted above, only 4% of brands are currently advertising on the network. With roughly 25 million brands on the network, that leaves an untapped market of 21 million potential customers. Facebook needs to make to start making real money somehow, and this is their best bet. (And a pretty safe one, at that.)

Why Brands Won’t Leave

You might be saying to yourself, “Well, if brands need to pay-to-play, they’ll just leave the network.” Unfortunately for the brand, Facebook has reached that critical mass every company hopes to hit. Sometimes bad for Average Joe and Joanne (i.e. any bank that’s ‘Too Big to Fail’) great for the brand at critical mass (i.e. I return to the ‘Too Big to Fail’ example).

With its current active user base, the fact that WhatsApp has completely devoured the SMS market overseas and the numbers that show the value in using networks like Facebook for business development, brands will not have much of a choice but to buy into the advertising model on Facebook. Luckily, there is so much potential there, so it’s not all bad.

The Good News

Brands need not fear when it comes to advertising on Facebook. By phasing out Facebook organic reach, the network is going to have to entice brands to advertise on the platform. That means a very attractive pricing model.

Contrary to established digital advertising platforms – namely Google’s Search and Display Networks – Facebook is trying to attract new advertisers with a sensationally pricing model. Take the term, ‘social media’ for instance. Using the AdWords Keyword Planner, estimates show that to run an effective campaign that reaches as many of the 60K+ users searching for the term (in the United States) you would need to set a bid at close to $6.00. That’s six dollars per click.

Based on suggested bids per click on Facebook, six dollars can get you over 10 clicks – and that’s on the more expensive end. Here, we’re looking at a ten fold price discrepancy. It won’t be like this for long, but right now, marketers are looking at huge potential when they invest in Facebook advertising.

More good news comes in the ability to narrow your targeting down to the exact audience you’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong: Google has some extremely intelligent software when it comes to behavioural targeting. That said, social networks are filled with people that are explicitly telling you what they are interested in. Here, you know who you’re reaching and the more targeted your ads the more likely it is that the clicks result in some sort of action.

The Prognosis

Historically, these kinds of moves tend to happen much faster in the social world than they do in conventional business. If you look at your clients and tell them that you will be introducing a new pricing model, you’ll likely grandfather it in over time. Take the recent announcement by the government, for example, that they plan on raising minimum wage…over the next three years. In the socialsphere, things tend to happen much faster.

We’ve already seen sharp declines in our pages’ organic reach. It won’t be long before our content reaches a mere handful of fans before its halflife is hit. My recommendation is to make the move to the ad platform sooner rather than later. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs and start setting ad spends for your brands. Now, no longer will every individual be a publisher, but an advertiser as well.