Buying social media is incredibly challenging, but also tremendously rewarding for brands and agencies in today's market. The space is moving fast, and there are a number of elements to consider.
In working with an array of brands and agencies, there's a top 10 tips list I regularly bring to the table when discussing social media application advertising. Advertising within social media is difficult. We've seen the lack of success with advertising in-and-around profile pages -- and rightfully so. Fundamentally, social media is a communications platform, and interrupting the ongoing conversation isn't going to lead to advertising success. However, social media is also an activity where people are interested in community and entertainment, and this is where social media applications come into play for marketers.
So, how do you play in this opportunity? Let's get right to my Top 10 list.
#10: Make sure you and your team fully understands what social media means. Don't assume you already know everything. For example, widgets aren't applications, apps probably aren't what you think they are, and some properties have gone open (or opened up their social media platform to third-party developers and publishers) with apps and others haven't; all this is important information for you to know. I summarize social media as digital communities in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author; it provides a platform for interaction, communication and sharing amongst users with common interests.
#9: Have a social media day. Invite companies in this space to come in, not to pitch you their deck, but to pitch their social media definition and what role their company plays. Challenge your sales reps and publishers to send you their social media 101 decks, articles and examples of work before you buy anything.
#8: Consider alternative metrics. As impressions become a commodity and page views become endless, the value these metrics provide in executing a social media campaign really play a less and less significant role. Any media planner can log-into comScore and see how big ESPN.com or CNN.com is, but comScore doesn't track everything you need to consider when you buy application inventory or the next big mobile app. Very few industry metrics tell you what the internet user is doing or what they want. Some of the most amazing metrics and data in social media come directly from the publishers and other metric companies that provide incredible insight. While it's specific to the client objective and function of the application, examples include time spent, invites sent, icons installed, views, posts and traffic spikes during partnerships. Again social media isn't like buying banners on massive reach content sites, so each opportunity is unique and, therefore, each buy will be unique.
#7: Arrange an in-person meeting with any new social media company you are considering. When meeting with publishers in the social media space, you need to look at the following:
- Does the senior management team and sales organization have a track record of digital sales experience and expertise in social media?
- Can they provide case studies, best practices and examples of great work?
- Is it super easy to understand?
- Are the metrics and third-party tracking supported?
#6: Don't put every publisher into the same bucket. Buying Yahoo is different than buying into a community of users on the iPhone, MySpace or hi5. If you try to squeeze every offering into an Excel spreadsheet, you are going to do you and your client a disservice. Find out what the unique value proposition is going to be for a given publisher, and recognize the value in how many people share something, how many minutes they spent on a game or how many times they reviewed your book or movie. This is far more interesting than only looking at CTR.
#5: Don't view social media only as buying Facebook or MySpace -- the two largest social networking properties in the world. Consider that you are buying an audience, not a social network. It doesn't make sense if you buy social media just because it's social media. If that planner was buying moms, for example, he or she could buy advertising around Circle of Moms, the largest community of moms on Facebook with a membership of 2.2 million. Yes, it's built on Facebook, and therefore it has all of the social and engagement components you'd want. However, at the end of the day, your interest still lies with the moms and what you can talk to them about, not the platform they are communicating on.
#4: Have a carefully laid out plan when considering buying pre-existing application communities (vs. building your own). If you are considering building a social community and you can't answer these questions don't do it:
- Do I have great content to provide the user base?
- Do I have media support to drive traffic?
- Is there a pre-existing community to partner with that is aligned with my marketing goals?
- Can this campaign live far longer than my banner campaign for flight dates closer to 90-120 days?
- If I get an engaged user base, what will I say to them and will I re-market to them if they give me info?
- Will my traffic and app installs be transparent so I know who my audience is?
#3: Test, test, test. If you have considered buying a sponsorship on a popular iPhone application -- go for it! The clients who get in now will be the first movers and gain the most knowledge, not the ones on the sideline. Don't worry, ad networks will always be there if you need a safety net. Also, while tests are great, test budgets will be very limited to what you can buy.
So, what should make-up a test budget? This is a really easy answer, and a point that every keynote stated at the most recent iMedia Brand Summit: If you get stuck on the sideline watching your competition zoom by, what do you gain? Can you ever discover alternative ad offerings if you don't test? Testing budgets depend on what your goal will be, but I suggest allocating $50-$75,000.
#2: Ask your sales rep for help. If you are having trouble selling a concept, an idea or the belief that these new social media platforms are the way to go, look to your sales rep for guidance -- they are there to support you, but they can't help if you don't give them access to a client or your boss. I know there isn't enough time in the day for this to always happen, but for solid contenders it's worth 45 minutes of your time, or your client's time. Some of the best work I have been a part of has come with client involvement and buy-in.
#1: Be fun, be creative, do what you feel is right, and take some risks. If you see something you think would be great, push it hard. When considering social media opportunities, it could be easy to stop, get nervous about taking a risk and head back to comScore to select the top 10 websites. However, later that night over a drink you'll think to yourself: What if? “It would be great if I could have…”
In 2009, social networking sites will exceed even the loftiest of expectations as it relates to user adoption, traffic, and page views. Don't find yourself wondering "what if?" or "I really wish I could have..." Act now!