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Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, and Social Media - What Online Advertisers Need to Know

  |  April 5, 2011   |  Comments

Don't get too distracted by social media from proven tactics or develop unrealistic perceptions. Instead focus on online tactics that will help you reach your goals.

Did I get your attention? Of course I did…and that's my point. Today, social media topics attract advertisers' attention like bright shiny objects to a fault. By my own observations, because they do capture so much attention, almost any headline containing the words Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, or social media gets clicked, shared, forwarded, and tweeted five times more than other digital advertising or marketing-related headlines, oftentimes without the article even ever being read. In fact, I confess to writing this headline as an experiment, just to prove my point.


Is this all so bad? Isn't social media a way for brands to connect individually with their consumers in ways they never have before? Heck, didn't I write a book on the subject?!

Are You Focused On Your Goals?

My concern lies in the ability for advertisers to focus on the kinds of online tactics that will help them reach their goals. When advertisers (and key decision-makers, quite frankly) get too distracted from proven tactics or develop unrealistic or untenable perceptions, it does them no lasting good. For example, last week at the Search Engine Strategies New York Conference, I spoke about expanding beyond pay-per-click search advertising and into display advertising. The room was about half full. The timeslot before this session, I spoke on another panel about Twitter, and the room was almost completely full. Yet, while many companies have successfully leveraged search and display to generate direct and measurable revenue, those doing so through Twitter are fewer and farther between.

Furthermore, I found it interesting that of those audience members in my "Leap from Search to Display" session, by a show of hands, only about half had even ventured outside of Google AdWords and into the Google Display Network, let alone into other forms of online media buying. I had to ask myself how many of these people, however, were also busying themselves setting up and populating Facebook pages or Twitter accounts before they ever even leveraged their search advertising successes? And when I asked the audience how many knew of ways to serve online ads besides through the direct serving of traditional banners and buttons, scarcely a half-dozen hands went up (by my count, there are at least 13 other types of ads or ways for these ads to be served).

While I'll be the last person to dispute that social media and its respective platforms have merit, I find myself constantly reminding marketers that social media is just another tool in the toolkit. You should take out this tool if it's the best tool to help you build or fix something, but if a wrench can do a better/faster/less expensive job, why use a hammer? And if you're going to venture into the sun-shiny terrain of social media marketing, don't go in with blinders on.

Reality Check

I'm a two-sides-to-every-story kind of girl, so I don't want to paint a completely bleak picture. I formulate my opinions and recommendations by doing a lot of reading, listening, and observation (my parents are happy I'm putting my anthropology-sociology-social psychology college degree to good use). For example:

  • I recently overheard an advertiser saying that Facebook Ads worked better than PPC for them to reach their more affluent audience. This made sense to me, and Merry Morud wrote a great article on this for ClickZ's sister site, Search Engine Watch.
  • A Harris Interactive-RightNow post-holiday 2010 report found social media could create brand advocates – two-thirds of the 85 percent of customers who posted a negative review of a shopping experience and were then contacted by the retailer wound up taking a positive action through social media that directly negated their original negative posting.

  • B2B advertisers, according to new research from Forrester, might not believe in online display advertising's effectiveness, but I say they might find great success in LinkedIn Ads. (Forrester's research also points out that B2B advertisers cannot merely port over their true blue print media practices and expect them to work.)
  • While manufacturing companies sometimes flounder to figure out how to leverage Facebook and Twitter, they forget that video demonstrations of their products are a YouTube must-do.
  • Though many local businesses have found success with Groupon and their imitators, others claim to lose money (Rice University Graduate School of Management study) or customer loyalty (New York Times Blog). Know what to expect before you dive in.

So you can see that social media definitely has its place in the overall marketing strategy. I just encourage advertisers not to fall prey to all the hype and dig a little deeper to understand the facts and what's appropriate for their particular business, industry, and short- and long-term goals.

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Hollis Thomases

A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."

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