Online media has struggled to meet both criteria that make the brand opportunity in TV so compelling: scale and psychology. The internet has undoubtedly given marketers scale, as millions of users flock to search engines on a daily basis.
Until recently, the psychology that makes TV a friendly medium for brands has not existed for the online sector. The introduction of social media extensions, however, has enabled a distribution platform for discovering rich, engaging promotional microsites that can capture the hearts of internet users.
The TV advantage
In brand marketers' drive to reach maximum satisfaction with their target audience, they constantly seek opportunities to align with people who are in the mindset to engage with a story. These stories are created in the form of 30-second video clips on TV. Their reach: more than 115 million U.S. households.
TV advertising gives marketers the opportunity to meet the equation for brand satisfaction: experience minus expectation. TV viewers have an expectation based in their objective; they want to view content that either informs or entertains.
Advertisers are able to deliver a quick, comprehensive story within 30 seconds to share with their target audience, and the audience listens in. A good promotional experience (i.e., the Volkswagen Star Wars kid) can properly capture a potential customer who is in the mindset of wanting to hear a good story.
Until the introduction of mass adoption of social media, the internet could only present the scale side of the brand coin, but the mass proliferation of social media has begun to spin the gears of innovation in the world of brand advertising.
Social media: More social than media
Marketers are excited about social media's scale. Unfortunately, however, most social strategies have involved posting out content to "fans." This is a brand loyalty strategy, not an awareness one. Brands should be most excited about social media's potential for brand discovery.
Brands have always been focused on discovery, and that is where the true power of social lives. To receive a mention in someone's status update, marketers must consider the four user motivations behind an update:
- Shape how others perceive you
- Maintain and grow relationships
- Share content that others might find valuable
- Source information
Simply put, people post to social networks to connect with the people in their network. Note one element missing from that sentence: brand. Consumers don't think about brands as a connection in social media; brands are a means to an end. Brands need to focus on these motivations in their discovery efforts.
Online media's future powered by discovery
Until the advent of social media, content discovery was limited to direct type and search navigation paths. Consumers had to know exactly what they were looking for or hope that someone would discover it somehow and email it to them.
Marketers have mastered the world of direct marketing online through SEM and SEO efforts. Brands, so far, have missed the gap. The overall advertising market has a ratio of 2:1 in terms of brand dollars per direct marketing dollar, according to data from comScore. Online that ratio is considerably more inverse: 25 brand cents are spent for each dollar in direct marketing.
According to data from StumbleUpon and Global Statcounter, the social media traffic referral industry in the United States brings more than 2 billion monthly referrals. U.S. internet users are spending 7-plus hours on Facebook monthly, and over seven hours on StumbleUpon. One-year-old service Flipboard sees 600 million "flips" per month by its iPad readers, introducing new content at mass scale on a device that didn't exist two years ago.
Marketers are capturing consumers who are in the mindset of wanting to discover the types of content that will intrigue them. This mirrors the psychology of TV viewing that makes it such an effective platform for brands.
We are quick to forget that the concept of social extensions such as the "like," tweet, and Stumble buttons are all less than 18 months old. Brands have entered into a new frontier of conveying their message.
This technology has paved the road for the creation of social-enabled microsites, which can generate a brand experience that far surpasses that of television.
A website or microsite can become a brand's best friend when executed properly. A full URL enables your brand to deliver a surprising, informative, and delightful experience to a user who may not have thought to engage with your brand without third-party design constraints. When executed properly, a site does not hold the same limitation as a capped 30-second TV spot; it holds the potential for unlimited brand engagement.
Take the example of the Magnum ice cream "Pleasure Hunt." The experience focuses you around an elegantly dressed woman. The pleasure hunt is established by the user playing a fun, interactive game, running across the internet seeking various pleasures such as luxury travel, tablet computers, etc. Your ultimate discovery is the delicious Magnum ice cream bar.
With 2 billion referrals available to sites off of social media domains in the U.S. alone, marketers finally have the distribution technology that makes rich, engaging microsites a viable destination. The next challenge: driving creative directors to bring their visions beyond the world of storytelling and into the world of interactivity.
Jack Krawczyk is senior product marketing manager of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery.
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