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Using Social Media to "Advertise"

Today's blog was written by Sally-Anne Kaminski, Manager of Global Social Media Strategy at Zebra Technologies Corporation

Forrester recently released a new report entitled "The End of Advertising as We Know It," suggesting that brands will pull nearly $3B from display advertising this year. The report cites poor targeting and low click-through rate, among other items, as some of the main causes for the budget shift.

Whether us marketers want to admit it or not, ads can be really annoying. They're disruptive. They take our focus away from what we came to do online. Those obscenely large homepage takeover ads are, quite frankly, irritating. And if you're not careful, poorly executed ads can lead to brand resentment and negative sentiment, which is the opposite of what we want to achieve.

If the focus is shifting away from display, it's likely some of those funds may shift to social media. As a digital native (I was a member of The Facebook back in 2004!), I'm passionate about making sure social media content isn't overly promotional. When done the right way, social can be an effective way to "advertise". (Note I said "done the right way" and notice the quotes around the word advertise.) 

If your social content strategy doesn't align with your audience, you could experience some of the same issues that brands are seeing with display.

  • Remember the medium. If I'm looking for a recipe online, I'm likely not interested in an ad for some random music festival blocking the ingredient list. Scrolling through my Facebook news feed from my iPhone, I'm not searching for a 30-minute webinar on why I should switch cell phone providers or an interactive tool to help find the right checking account for my financial needs. Social media started out as a way to... you know, be social with others, and marketers sometimes seem to forget that.
  • Don't be a billboard. Or bulletin board. Or any kind of board, bored, etc. Even though social best practices indicate that shorter posts get more engagement, you're not tied to a headline or "7 words or less" like you might be on a display ad. Use those 140 characters to your advantage. Don't just push out content without engaging in conversation with your followers, though, or else you look like a bulletin board full of flyers about sales or events. That approach can make your followers quite bored. (See what I did there? Ha.)
  • Relevancy is king. "Wow, that BOGO banner ad randomly popped up on my screen at the most opportune time possible!," said no one ever. (Ever.) Don't take a "spray-and-pray" approach to publishing social content by repeatedly pushing the same messaging out to multiple networks and hoping it gets engagement somewhere. Study your demographic data by social network to align your messaging with your audience, review what posts led to negative feedback, and use that knowledge to give your followers what they really want. A tweet or Facebook Offer with a printable 25% off coupon just days before a major holiday is absolutely relevant if it appears in someone's feed at the right time.

What do you think? Do you see display funds shifting to social or other mediums this year? How big of a role does social play in your marketing and advertising mix?

Sally-Anne Kaminski is Manager, Global Social Media Strategy at Zebra Technologies. Thoughts represented in this post are those of the author only and not those of her employer.

 

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