Social Media Marketing

Recently I logged onto Facebook and this was their self-promotional banner ad that was waiting for me to read:

“Reach over 350 million active users on Facebook. Learn how to connect your business to real customers through Facebook Ads.”

This is what was waiting for me when I clicked through on the ad:

Connect with Real People

  • Reach over 350,000,000 active Facebook users.
  • Attach social actions to your ads to increase relevance.
  • Create demand for your product with relevant ads.

Create Your Facebook Ad

  • Quickly create image and text-based ads.
  • Advertise your own web page or something on Facebook like a Page or an Event.
  • Choose to pay per click (CPC) or impression (CPM).

Optimize Your Ads

  • Track your progress with real-time reporting.
  • Gain insight about who’s clicking on your ad.
  • Make modifications to maximize your results.

Think about 350 million users. That’s a bigger audience than typically watches the Super Bowl. The 2008 game in which the NY Giants won brought in 148.3 million viewers worldwide was well under half of Facebook’s number.

Then, I logged onto Twitter and noticed no ads at all …no banner ads, links or even self-promotional ads.

This exercise made me think hard about marketing, the mass media model and the segmentation strategies long employed by direct marketers.

Some questions to consider:

  • Why is Facebook touting 350,000,000 users instead of their micro-targeting capabilities in their ads?
  • Why is their age cutoff 45+? (That’s the oldest age demo that was presented as an option.)
  • Have you seen or responded to Facebook ads – theirs or a paid placement?
  • How is Twitter going to support its model long term without ads?
  • How do you target and effectively segment Twitter?

Perhaps these large social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn—are becoming the new mass media advertising channels, replacing TV and traditional mass media outlets?

A few other recent developments might make the case: Facebook and Twitter are being banned by many companies because they decrease productivity and too many employees are spending too much of their work day on them. Average use of social media has increased 82% year-over-year according to a recent Nielsen study.

MySpace recently hired a former Madison Avenue executive to help boost faltering ad sales, offering her a reported one year deal in the seven-figure range. That’s a lot of advertising revenue.

It’s true that social media outlets are more measurable, targetable and trackable than traditional media; however, it seems as if, at least the bigger players, are going for mass appeal rather than micro appeal.

Facebook started as an outlet for college students, MySpace for artistic types (musicians and painters…) and Twitter as a fast way to keep friends and interested parties up-to-date on your daily activity. All have evolved to be much more mass-appeal social media outlets. Even the business site LinkedIn has migrated to a more ubiquitous, less business-specific resource, especially with the cross-shared capabilities of Twitter.

The big social network sites have outgrown their roots and are trying to appeal to the mass general public. Based on sign-ups it appears that they are attracting many, many people, but …are prospects responding to the advertising that’s being placed?

I noticed a Chevy Malibu ad on LinkedIn the other day. I also clicked an ad for a local health plan that is NOT available in my area, a case of poorly targeting of ads when the exact opposite should be occurring.

Here are some statistics:

· 19% of everyone on the Internet uses Twitter to update status, median age of Twitter user is 31
· 35% of all adults online have social media profiles
· 83% of all adults 30-49 use Internet, 77% 50-64
· Median age of Facebook user is 33, up from 26 in 2008; 50% of users check-in daily
· 81% of CMOs plan to a lot at least 10% of marketing budget to Social Media
· 64% of CMOs plan to increase spending in social media this year

Then consider:

· The average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6% during the six months ending in Sept. 2009, according to published reports.

· The number of households subscribing to magazines dropped two percentage points while subscriptions for home video and smartphone services increased
· DVR households have tripled in the last three years

While measurement among most social media applications is still the exception rather than the rule, marketers continue to site the few very successful case studies that exist. These typically also have mass appeal and follow more of a mass media that segmentable model a la true direct marketing.

Yes, Dell has had success with Twitter, but note that its success, and most others who have made Twitter work, wrapped their marketing around the core of great direct marketing: “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

One recent study claims that 10 minutes spent on Facebook can expose the user to as many as 90 different media messages. That’s a sure fire recipe for advertising ineffectiveness at best and user abandonment/immunity at least.

Can and should social media be more niche specific? Yes and no. You can’t blame the sites for trying to drive as much revenue as possible with the least amount of effort; hence the mass media mindset seems to be prevailing in a world that is infinitely customizable. Yet, long term, this will make advertising on these portals more meaningless.

So, What Does This All Mean?

It means that the media landscape is shifting and will continue to shift at unprecedented speed. It also implies that mass marketing is not limited to traditional channels and more measurement MUST accompany all media spends, regardless of media used.

A shift to e-channels does not automatically make for good measurable marketing. As the amount of media options continues to evolve and likely expand, it will be more critical than ever for all marketers to continue to test campaign and messaging strategies before expanding their campaigns and losing big dollars. That, by the way, should also include the mediums that are not currently in favor. The optimal media mix in the future will include the right combination of traditional media with the proper use of emerging media. It will also include the use of PR, E-PR, banner ads, email and SEO/SEM.

Marketing today, more than ever, is about relevance – that of the customer, prospect, visitor or user. The more we stray away from relevance, the less likely advertisers are to see an ROMI that is justifiable. Abuse and overuse of poorly targeted media will make all marketers jobs that much more difficult. Remember, even if the majority of ad placements are highly targeted, what matters is the user’s perception and actions. Too much generic, mass advertising will dilute responses.

Have a marketing plan and break it down by segments, complete with a mass media option, if it pertains to your product/service. Next, figure out the best way to use your spend and allocate to the best media for each segment. Make sure you incorporate testing and more testing in all that you do and have established goals that your marketing must meet – by medium used. A magic marketing elixir does not exist. However, a process does: testing.

Just ask Dell, Amazon or Zappos.

Planning and testing are the keys to your success. Shortcut them at your peril.