Tips for evaluating social networks and online video. Last of a two-part series.
You can't avoid the buzz about social networks, online video, virtual worlds, and podcasts.
Last time, I examined virtual worlds and podcasting. Today, I'll outline questions you should ask before allocating resources to advertising on social networks and online video.
Social networks are probably the most-hyped thing online since push media. And it's not just hype that these sites have attracted: consider Microsoft's $240 million investment in Facebook for a 1.6 percent equity stake.
Like social networking, online video has taken off this year. Millions of dollars are being spent by advertisers eager to get a piece of the action, though the effectiveness of this medium is still up for debate.
"Social media" is loosely defined as sites where people can post profiles, post messages to each other, and generally hang out. Why are these sites such a big deal? Traffic. Facebook and MySpace serve up more eyeballs than almost any other site. Shouldn't all those eyeballs mean big advertising opportunities?
Not exactly. While lots of people use Facebook, they apparently don't like to click on ads. According to one report about ad response rates, Facebook is "consistently the worst performing site" for click-throughs.
Of course, most ad hipsters favor Facebook widgets, little branded chunks of code that do nifty stuff like allow people to share movies or news on Facebook pages. Advertisers have rushed to this new platform, and branded widgets are popping up faster than the zits on a freshman's face.
Should you jump on the bandwagon? If you want to test the waters, ask yourself these questions:
Advertisers are spending millions to get a piece of the video action. However, this medium's effectiveness is still up for debate. Most video ads take the form of pre- or post-roll ads (:15 spots that run before or after the video content), though there are hybrid forms, such as clickable links inside the video, branded wrappers around the video, and custom channels on sites like YouTube.
If you're an old-school ad type, you may be tempted to jump into online video because it looks like the kind of advertising you're used to on TV. Remember, there are crucial differences.
First, online video is short; the average length of an online video clip is 2.7 minutes. Because the content is so short, your :15 spot looks intrusive and obnoxious. Also, online video is extremely interrupt-driven: because content's so short, heavy users tend to click around a lot while watching content. Typically, online video is low-quality and low-resolution. Your expensive spot shot in HD isn't going to look as pretty when squeezed into a 256 x 256 pixel box. Finally, consumers find pre-roll ads pretty annoying.
Does this mean advertising in online video is bad? Not necessarily. But before you jump into it, ask:
All this new technology offers many new opportunities. But just because something's new doesn't make it good. Don't get hornswoggled by hype. Keep your wits about you, trust your gut, rely on common sense, and demand accountability from your media. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
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