Tagged: Ads

Will Social Media Kill the Marketing Industry? Spoiler Alert: No

ArmedTwitterI recently read an article on PolicyMic titled “Can Social Media Totally Kill the Marketing Industry?” and it got me thinking about the future of advertising. Apparently, PolicyMic is a “democratic online news platform,” which I have rather pessimistically interpreted to mean PolicyMic is a site where articles are written by people who want to share their opinions, as opposed to by people who actually have authority on the subject matter. This particular post was written by Cole Johnson, who raises an interesting question, but doesn’t really go on to answer it. He seems to imply that social media will undermine traditional marketing efforts and institutions, but never makes an argument as to why. In fact, Cole’s article actually ends up focusing more on the role technology plays in our world and how its use is influenced by age and other factors, but I’d like to discuss the question raised in the title.

Cole seems to suggest that because social media has been used by many companies – both large and small – to effectively market products and services, we’re on the road to the eradication of today’s marketing industry. And while I agree that we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the advertising industry over the last 5 years, I’m quite sure that the industry itself isn’t going anywhere. While the method of delivering advertisements and product information to consumers has changed considerably, there will always be a need for very creative and well-trained individuals who can create the images and copy to convey that information. Unfortunately, many companies have found out the hard way that putting a random employee in charge of the company Twitter account because they’re “good with computers” can be a pretty terrible idea. It’s not enough to sign up for a bunch of social accounts and start Tweeting about your products and services. There’s an art to crafting compelling messages and balancing self-promotion with providing value to your followers through the content you publish. This is the art of marketing.

In my opinion, social media has actually made the role of the marketer even more important. It’s like auto racing. The car is a piece of technology that the vast majority of Americans feel comfortable operating. Cars are part of our culture and driving one is something we often take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long. So how come we’re not all trying our hand at the NASCAR circuit? We can all drive a car, right? If feeling comfortable with something and knowing how to operate it was the only requirement, then I should be the next Jeff Gordon. Much to my dismay, this will never be the case because a basic understanding and level of comfort with a piece of technology does not mean you are going to be good at using it. The use of social media at the highest level follows suit. Just because some employee signed up for Facebook in 2007, it doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to operate a Fortune 500 company’s Facebook Page. Just like with NASCAR, the creme of digital marketing rises to the top and they are the ones steering multi-million dollar social campaigns.

The stakes are so much higher now that social media has changed the game. If you released an offensive TV commercial in the 80s, you could pull the plug as soon as the calls started coming in and that would pretty much be the end of it. There might be some word-of-mouth damage done, but it would be relatively containable. These days, one errant Facebook post or rash Tweet in the heat of the moment can spell disaster for a brand’s reputation. Screenshots will be taken and the damage will spread like wildfire. Brands have spent months cleaning up 140 character messes made in a matter of seconds. The burden of creating a measurable ROI and not screwing things up in the process falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing team or agency. And just because social media is at the fingertips of anyone who wants it, that doesn’t mean just anyone can use it to effectively sell goods or market a brand.

So is social media going to kill the marketing industry? In my mind, the definitive answer is “no.” If anything, social media is actually creating more opportunities for boutique firms like ours. As long as there are products and services to be sold, there will be a profession for people who excel at marketing these goods. The medium used to relate the information will definitely change over time, as we’ve seen with the introduction of social media, but the marketing industry is here to stay.

How has social media affected the way you market your business or are marketed to? Let me know in the comments!

One Small Click for Man, One Giant Leap for…LinkedIn

Well, it took over 9,000 impressions, but SUM has finally received its first click on a LinkedIn ad! If you’re just joining us, I’m referring to the month-long saga that I wrote about here. Needless to say, we’re relieved that something has finally come from all of our efforts. 

So what made the difference? Well, we think it’s a couple of things. We were actually encouraged by one of our readers, Ellyce, to contact an account rep at LinkedIn to make sure there wasn’t anything technically wrong with our campaign. Thinking this to be an excellent suggestion, I reached out to the LinkedIn Customer Experience Team and led them through the experience we had been having with their ad service. I received a very prompt reply from an account representative named Julien, who was extremely friendly and helpful.

He began by offering up an apology for the experience we were having thus far (even though he knew LinkedIn hadn’t really done anything wrong) and continued by confirming that there wasn’t anything wrong with the campaign on the technical side. Obviously this was both relieving and disheartening.

He then offered up several suggestions for how we could improve our campaign. A lot of the ideas were slightly more detailed explanations of the LinkedIn advertising best practices that we had already found on their website, but he also provided some information that, in my opinion, proved to be the difference in the campaign, moving forward.

He let me know that, while our $2.13 bid per click was within LinkedIn’s suggested price range for the group we were targeting, it was at the lowest end of the spectrum and was affecting how many impressions we were receiving. He said that by increasing our bid by just a little, we would win more impressions on users’ profiles and should, therefore, receive more clicks. This suggestion seemed to once again confirm that online advertising is about playing the numbers and that more impressions will usually lead to more clicks.

So I took his advice and moved my bid up to $3.00 per click. Our impressions almost tripled within less than a week and we received our first click as a result. And the ad that did it? Believe it or not, it was the cat!

Cat Ad

Just goes to show that sometimes an out-of-the-box approach is required to grab attention on the internet.

And while a 0.019% Click Through Rate is still pretty atrocious, we are encouraged and content. After all, this is an experiment that we’re conducting for free with a $50 LinkedIn advertising credit, so the knowledge that we’re gaining more than makes up for a pitiful CTR.

Many thanks to Ellyce for suggesting we contact someone at LinkedIn and also to Julien for responding quickly and courteously, and for shedding a little light on the ins and outs of LinkedIn advertising.

Have any LinkedIn stories of your own? What do you like/dislike about this social giant? As always, let me know in the comments section!

LinkedIn Ads: Are They Worth Paying For?

SUM was recently offered a $50 advertising credit for LinkedIn and, eager to increase our presence on the most popular business networking site on the planet, we decided to give it a shot. We have managed multiple ad campaigns using both Google Adwords and Facebook, but we had yet to try LinkedIn and were very interested in how their performance would stack up. 

The Good

Seemingly, LinkedIn has a lot going for it in the way of advertising; especially if you are selling less traditional, business-to-business products or services. The advertising platform gives you complete control over which users and companies see your ads. You can show different ads to different demographics by adjusting the filters, shown below.

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Each category can be broken down by multiple factors, giving you a huge number of target combinations.

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Also, the pricing is customizable and fairly reasonable. LinkedIn offers both CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPM (Cost Per Impression) ads, meaning you can choose to pay for only the ads that are clicked on or pay for every ad that appears on someone’s profile, in batches of 1,000. While there is always disagreement about which model is best, we have had good experiences with CPC using Google and Facebook, so we opted for that strategy. We are currently paying $2.13/click, definitely within the industry standard.

The Bad

The results of our campaign, I’m afraid, are quite grim. When using the CPC model, the metric of success discussed most often is the CTR or “Click Through Rate.” This rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your ad receives by the number of impressions your ad generated. For example, if your ad was viewed 1,000 times and was clicked on 10 times out of that 1000 views, your CTR would be 10/1000, or 1%. This seems low, but for some Google campaigns where ads are viewed thousands or millions of times per day, a 1% CTR can really add up. 

There is some variation when it comes to the average CTRs of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but generally Google comes in first with a CTR of around 0.4%, Facebook is second with a CTR of 0.051%, and LinkedIn is last with a CTR of 0.025%. The internet average CTR is 0.1%, so Google is really the only player performing consistently better than the average internet ad. Now, there is a lot of variation based on the type of ad, the target market, and many other factors, so these are just high-level averages. 

Here’s the bad news: Currently, our LinkedIn campaign has a CTR of 0.00%. Yep, you read that right – ZERO percent. And of course, the argument could be made that we don’t have a compelling offer or our images aren’t interesting enough, but we did A/B testing with various images and copy to counter this. We also researched LinkedIn advertising best practices before launching our campaign. As the weeks went by and the clicks remained absent, we adjusted our copy and our images in hopes of grabbing someone’s attention, but to no avail. The evolution of our ads is included below. As you can see, towards the end, desperate times called for desperate measures.

We started with simple and informative ads to establish a baseline measurement.

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After a few weeks, we didn’t have any clicks so we went to plan B. A few LinkedIn gurus suggested posing a question in the headline. So we tried that…didn’t work.

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After about a month, it got downright silly.

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So after one month, our ads had generated more than 5,600 ad impressions and not a single person had clicked on one. After letting those numbers sink in and giving it some thought, I have 3 possible conclusions:

  1. We are actually terrible at marketing.
  2. There is something wrong with the functionality of the campaign (i.e. links are broken, measurement isn’t working, etc.)
  3. LinkedIn is horribly underperforming and, fundamentally, not a good advertising platform.

For the sake of our business and our egos, I’m going to dismiss number 1 immediately. Not because we are God’s gift to marketing or anything, but because we have had very positive marketing results with both Google and Facebook ad campaigns in the past. Number 2 is definitely a possibility, but impressions seem to be reported accurately and reliably and we have checked the links again and again and they never fail to open. If it were a technical issue, it would be a bizarre fluke and I would hope their tech or advertisement departments would have caught the mistake by now. Which brings me to number 3 and my estimation of why LinkedIn is failing so miserably. 

The Diagnosis

One of the fundamentals in marketing is evaluating a target’s buying mood. If I sold health insurance policies, I wouldn’t stand outside a grocery store to promote my business. Do the people shopping need health insurance? Sure. But there’s no way that I’m going to convince someone to purchase a policy from me if they’re just dashing into the store for a gallon of milk. They are not in the right buying mood, even if they are my exact target customer.

This is what I think is happening with LinkedIn. People turn to Google for answers and information. If they are actively seeking a solution that your business provides, they type their keywords into the search box, which triggers your ad and…presto! They click on your ad and you’re in business. People are in the mood to be sold to, so they are more likely to click on ads that appear. And while Facebook cannot replicate this model, they are able to rely heavily on testimonial marketing, so their ads are relatively successful. 

Unfortunately for LinkedIn, their website does not fundamentally work with either of these marketing methodologies and I believe this is why they’re falling behind when it comes to CTR. When users are on LinkedIn, they are interested in checking up on colleagues or updating their professional information. Often times they have a purpose or directive when on the site and it rarely involves buying anything. If they are looking for solutions, chances are they’re scoping out potential people to hire, rather than paying attention to the ads that pop up on their page, even if they are relevant to their company’s needs. They are not in the right buying mood.

Prognosis

Luckily for us, we didn’t have to pay for any of this. If we had been paying, I would be getting in touch with an account manager at LinkedIn instead of blogging about it. But because we’re conducting this experiment for free, it has actually yielded a lot of value…just not the kind of value we were looking for when we set out. What this month of testing has done is help confirm our suspicions about online advertising:

  1. Online advertising is a total numbers game. In order to reach any significant number of people, you have to be making hundreds of thousands of impressions a month.
  2. If you are going to pursue an online campaign (which we are not in any way advising against), there are definitely some rules you should follow, but a lot of success involves trial and error. 
  3. The best in the game is still Google, but there’s definitely room for Facebook, depending on the product.
  4. LinkedIn is not a site that gets the buying juices flowing, so we think your time on the site will be better spent posting relevant articles and cultivating long-term relationships with colleagues and industry leaders.

So is LinkedIn worth paying for? Well, it depends. If you use the CPC method, you only pay when you actually receive clicks, so you don’t lose anything if your campaign fails, other than your time.

If you are still keen on trying LinkedIn advertising, start with a few ads and monitor how it goes. We would recommend never paying by impressions because LinkedIn just doesn’t seem to get users in the buying mood, so you’ll probably end up wasting money on impressions that don’t actually leave much of an impression at all. LinkedIn is a great tool for many things but this experience has shown us that directly advertising to customers may not be one of them.

We’ll keep trying different combinations of images and copy and if things turn around, I’ll be sure to let you know. If anyone has had more luck with LinkedIn advertising, we’d love to hear about it! Write about your story in the comments section below and let’s get the dialogue going!