Researcher at the University of Liverpool, Founder/Director at Farset Labs
‘Social Media’ has been lauded as the be-all and end all of the future of marketing, advertising, society, and general human decency.
There is no doubt that Social Media has taken over our connected lives. And while I don’t doubt this, I often feel that this is taken as a sign that we can abandon the so called ‘old-school’ of marketing and advertising (In this case ‘Old-School’ includes the Web 1.0 practise of advertising on Search and Comparison sites).
There are 100-and-1 different ways that viral ads, social apps, and a-like that take advantage of the six-degrees-of-separation effect and other social constructs to get all of old-media’s advertising impact with none of the overheads (billboards, tv-time, etc.)
Not all industries can appropriately take advantage of Social Media marketing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t create a random viral video with nothing to do with their product or service and tag their name on at the end, although the effectiveness of these is in question.
But if you still think that its the best idea for your business, check out this comparison (data borrowed from mad.co.uk)
As can be seen, search engines (54%) and comparison sites (43%) are given much greater attention than social networking adverts (28%), and email is even worse (22%).
Does this mean businesses should abandon the inroads made into social media advertising? I don’t think so.
Internet advertising as a whole flattened the playing field; I attended an IETNI Lecture on Entrepreneurship by Chris Williams who discussed his one-man-band use of Google Adwords to dramatically increase useful traffic to his site by over 300% through the use of Pay-Per-Click advertising on his very niche market (specalist electronic design) for a cost of about £1 a day.
Just a decade ago, advertising within niche markets was done through trade publications. I certainly havent contacted any vendors that I saw ads from in Trade publications, and I can’t think of anyone I know telling me ‘I found them in ZX Spectrum Users Monthly’; and Chris’s losses from that particular form of marketing venture were, as you could expect, significant.
Now, there are dozens of tools that allow you to pick words that directly relate to your business and exploit those in Adwords (other pay-per-click advertising providers are availiable) campaigns with the minimal risk; you only pay if they make it to your site, then its up to you.
But I guess thats really the crux of the difference between Social Media marketing and Search/Comparison marketing; Search/Comparison marketing gets the preverbial foot-in-the-door, gets your brand out there into the ‘right’ peoples faces. Facebook/Twitter/Bebo/Myspace/Digg et al. provide a higher level of consumer interaction (eg, Burger King’s ill fated but very successful Facebook Campaign)
When deciding where to spend the hard-to-come-by advertising budget, consider what you want; and to make it easier, heres my thoughts…
Don’t/SEO: Search Engine Optimisation can often provide sufficient rates of return on investment so that its fairly unnessary to pay for anything else within the Search and Comparison fields. If you enter three words of your businesses ‘activities’ and your in the top 5, you have little to worry about with regards to Search revenue.
Google Adwords: The first jumping-off point, with the least rish, most control, and widest (or narrowest if you select) reach of any of the other services. While it should never be the sole means of online-advertising, its a good cornerstone to start off with, and provides you with a wealth of analytics that make it easy to optimise
Youtube Adwords: Only open to the US at the minute, but all the advantages of mass market TV advertising, with the specificity of Adwords, and added interactivity. If you’re a very visual business this is definatly a great idea.
Yahoo Overture: AdWord’s less-popular cousin. If you’re appearing in Google’s first-page results, but not in Yahoo’s, consider using this to spread your bets.
Facebook Advertising: This one is definatly a judgement call on the part of businesses. Facebook can be a huge boon to revenue, but requires an angle. Personally, I bundle the ‘vanilla’ facebook advertising in with Yahoo and Google as PPC or PPM. What I think is really going to kick off are
Facebook Pages: Car Salesmen tell me “People buy cars with faces”, so give your business a social ‘face’, that can also act as a nexus for consumer discussion over your product (risky but worth it) aswell as a viral jump off point (“Joe Bloggs is a fan of your Business”), not to mention the ability to have overtly public conversations with consumers.
Twitter:Coming out of left field with no real analogue, Twitter could be Huge for advertisers in terms of interactivity; The saying ‘the customer is always right’ only makes sense if you give the customer a chance to speak and be listened to. Twitter, unlike Facebook, makes the conversation much more personal; when you reply to a customers complaint or praise directly and personally, instead of from a press release, it will raise that consumers view of your business to an almost friendly relationship instead of a faceless economic entity.
Youtube (Viral): We’ve all seen them. Some of them are absolute genius garnering millions of views or just plain insulting garning the scorn of thousands. Use with extreme caution, and don’t make it major factor in your overall branding.
To wind this up; Social Media is Social, keep it that way. Focus on using social networking sites to improve relations with potential / existing consumers, use Search/Comparison to pluck the ‘maybe’s and to push individual products or services. Its less ‘catch and release’ more ‘catch and cultivate’