Conquent: Without Limits
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Michael Bissell's Blog

Social Media is NOT Advertising

2010-04-11 09:41:47
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I was reading an article on Mashable the other day (What Social Media Ad Types Work Best?) where they went through seven kinds of online advertising:

  • banner ads -- Plain old display ad on a web page

  • newsletter subscription ads -- Display ad in a newsletter sent to you

  • corporate profiles with fans and logos -- Primarily Facebook fan pages

  • corporate profiles without fans or logos -- Less interactive Facebook fan page

  • get widgets -- something you can download an post on your site

  • give widgets and sponsored content -- something you can send to a friend

They basically discovered that relevance trumps all. That is, if you want to sell soup, put a basic banner ad on a cooking website.

It is true that if you let people interact, that is give your "food fight" widget to a friend, thus putting your brand out there, you'll get more eyeballs seeing your soup brand. But you won't necessarily sell more soup, at least not directly.

What I came away with from this study is that social media is so much noise -- you can't control the noise, although you can inject your own noise into the cacophony of millions of updates and snapshots and illicit conversations.

Social media advertising isn't much different than driving a truck through the city with your company name on the side. It keeps your brand in front of people, reinforcing the campaign, but it has to be part of a broader campaign. Thousands of people might see your logo trundling by on the side of a truck, but if that's all you have, your logo disappears from their minds before they even realize they saw it.

Now, don't get me wrong -- social marketing is way more than advertising, which is all this study looked at. You can't buy good, social awareness. You have to institutionalize it, and you have to use every communication tool at your disposal to truly interact with people and reinforce why your company is better than the alternative.

And that has nothing to do with social media, but just good, old fashioned, business planning.

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Ian Schafer: Re: Social Media is NOT Advertising
2010-04-11 09:48:53

I partially disagree. I think advertising has its rightful place within social media, the value exchange just needs to be made. Clicks need to give way to engagement, purchased, binary impressions to building lasting impressions.

We had some firsthand experience with this working very well in our Bing/Farmville integration (, and these new fans are sticking around and becoming contributing members of a Bing fan community, and with whom we continue to interact.

What I do agree with is that advertising needs to be a bigger part of something. That "something" should be a marketing/CRM continuum that builds value over time.

Michael Bissell: Re: Social Media is NOT Advertising
2010-04-11 09:56:54

Ian: Your Bing/Farmville example is great, and perhaps my "truck trundling through town" metaphor is a little harsh, but I think the All Facebook blog underscores that while it was a successful branding campaign, it remains to be seen if Bing actually leverages the half million fans it has to it's advantage.

Of course, Bing has the advantage that their business model IS eyeballs. No credit cards, no going to the store to pick up a can of soup. Which means Social Media Advertising can be the first and final step for them.

aliza sherman: Re: Social Media is NOT Advertising
2010-04-12 13:57:47

OK, I skimmed but my quick thoughts

Social media advertising is actually only covered at moment by Facebook Social Ads. And it is advertising with some pretty freaky cool features that give it some social features and functionality as well.

So there is advertising the traditional internet way, then there is advertising the Social way with Social ads.

Then there is Social communications, Social marketing, Social blah blahddy bah.

Of course, just putting Social in front of it doesn't make it so.

However, Social Ads are more like the icecream truck with the community piece included - NOT driving a truck through the city with your company name on the side. It is a segway to conversation reaching people who have actual social connections. etc. etc.

Ian Schafer: Re: Social Media is NOT Advertising
2010-04-12 16:21:59

The beauty of the FarmVille/Bing effort was that we knew precisely what a visit from Facebook to Bing was worth. By a) paying per-engagement (knowing what those engagements were worth), b) understanding how much more valuable visits to Bing from Facebook are to Bing, and c) keeping the fans by showing them how Bing can help them make better decisions -- even if those decisions impact their actions in FarmVille, we succeed in driving informed trials of something they never would have tried otherwise. And hopefully winning some people over with some non-FarmVille classy interactions and opportunities to boot.

Kristen: Re: Social Media is NOT Advertising
2010-04-15 15:53:42

I agree 100% that social media is not a stand alone tool. It needs to be used in conjunction with other pieces in a campaign. But there is one thing about it that makes it highly attractive: the audience it hits. I make a study of GenY and how to reach them and marketing is a major portion of my industry function (I'm a cruiter, and GenY is quickly becoming our talent pool of choice.)

It would be interesting to see the demographics breakdown of the study.

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