Aug 10, 2011

How to run an effective social advertising campaign

Advertising is becoming more social across all areas, including TV, billboards, banner ads and print, as well as new online formats. There are many examples of high profile social advertising campaigns, utilizing innovative digital technology alongside mechanics such as Facebook Connect to bring this to the next level. But social advertising is open to all advertisers, no matter what your budget. By developing a smart ad campaign, you can integrate your activities with social media to get more bang for your buck and make your one hit of an ad last longer, by creating a community that you can talk to again and again. Below are some top tips for creating a social ad campaign, both offline and online.

Use the right platform

When you say social advertising, most people think of Facebook. While this is an excellent platform for running a social ad campaign, it’s not always the right place to focus your advertising efforts. Advertising on Facebook is becoming more expensive as an increasing amount of brands turn to it to market their product and attract fans to their page. It’s not the only platform for running a social ad campaign however. LinkedIn opened up their site to advertisers last year, through a self-serve ad platform that allows you to target people according to a number of different demographics. If you’re focused on B2B specifically it represents an excellent opportunity to reach people, though the benefit doesn’t end there. Consider structuring your LinkedIn campaign similar to how you would on Facebook. Instead of trying to drive people away from LinkedIn and towards your site, you could see better results by running ads to your LinkedIn group for example, where you can grow members and develop a longer-term relationship with your target customers.

You can also look to emerging social networks and tools for more cost-effective advertising where you could benefit from lower costs and higher visibility among users. There are some great examples of this on platforms like Foursquare, which was slow to attract brands’ attention but has become the focus of many successful ad campaigns in the U.S. particularly. The History Channel ran a promotion on there through a branded channel that featured tips to users when they checked into historical locations:

Through this campaign they achieved over 200,000 followers on their page, and excellent brand association. The beauty of a campaign like this is that you don’t need much in the way of technical or design ability to run it effectively, just a good understanding of social media marketing and new platforms people are experimenting with. You can achieve even more focused results by focusing on niche platforms, such as sponsorship of topic-specific forums or mobile apps, where you might not get the reach that you would through Facebook, but you’re getting in front of the right people consistently.

Mix the media

A social advertising campaign doesn’t necessarily have to start online, but can be implemented across a range of ad formats online and offline. Social advertising works well when it fits in with a complete advertising and marketing strategy, as opposed to standing on its own. So if you really want to build the fans on your Facebook Page you don’t have to restrict this to Facebook ads alone. You’ll achieve better cut through of your social media activities, if you take the ad campaign off of social media and make it fit as part a consistent ad campaign. Here you have an important decision to make. If you try and push people equally to your website as well as your social media profile, you risk mixing the messages and leaving people confused. Decide which is the right platform for the particular product or campaign and focus on this through the ad.

Use video

If you’re really interested in building a social ad campaign, I strongly believe that video should be a central part of this. Consumption of online video is increasing and it represents a fantastic opportunity to bring your ad to life. Make no mistake that static advertising is dead. People want ads that are alive, bringing entertainment and exciting content to our day to day browsing online. The numbers alone speak for themselves. Official results published from a video measurement tool shows that 26.9 million people in the UK streamed video in April either at home or at work. And while these video viewing figures don’t focus on branded video exclusively, it shows how video viewing is becoming one of the most popular activities online.

For brands, this represents an opportunity and a challenge. The issue of course is that you’re not going to be the first brand to run an online video ad – advertisers have been doing this for years now. But the opportunity lies in the fact that brands now must act as entertainers. It’s time to have a bit of fun, laugh at yourself, and find ways to shock your viewers. Good content alone however won’t bring your video to life online. Don’t underestimate how much work you’ll need to put into distribution and seeding, with ad campaigns specific to video, running on Youtube for example.

Make it social for a reason

It’s difficult to see an ad on TV or print now, that doesn’t have a blue ‘f’ or ‘t’ running along the bottom. The advertiser here wants to to alert people to the social media presence of the brand and make use of some extra space to throw in a bit of social. But the impact on the viewer is minimal. What exactly are we meant to do with these logos? With no call to action or even URL given, the benefit of these social logos is negligible. The strongest ads that incorporate social, do this for a reason. It’s either the sole focus of the ad, or the ad promotes a next step of doing something on Facebook, Twitter etc.. in return for a reward such as additional content or an offer. Again, this doesn’t have to be about developing fancy technology or digital formats, but smart use of existing social technologies can go far. This was shown last year when fans were invited to ‘check in’ to special billboards advertising Cheryl Cole’s new album, for the chance to win tickets to the live X Factor show:

This incorporated a real call to action and a very clear reason for interacting through social media. You knew what you were going to get out of it and it also added something extra to the experience of the ad. It wasn’t just walking past the billboard and the message is lost, but the user experience continued on.

Don’t expect it to be free

Although social media advertising is currently very cost-effective due to the ability to target people closely and less competition from other advertisers, many brands expect this to almost work for free. If you really want your social ad campaign to perform and drive results, you need to invest money as well as time. Your social ad budget can work incredibly well for you, if you are willing to put the budget up in the first place that gives it a chance to succeed. Far too often brands dip their toe in with social media, find they don’t get the reach that they would through an ad in the newspaper and decide to leave it alone. To really develop a strong social ad campaign, make sure you’re putting it high up enough in the ad plan to allow it to achieve the results you want it to. By investing significantly in social advertising, you can also build up data that will allow you to optimize your current campaign and improve subsequent ones. With a very small test budget you can’t accurately see how the ad can really perform and the real results you can achieve.

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