Initially considered an experimental field for search marketers to play with and a way for Facebook to make some kind of revenue off their 8 million free users, social PPC is quickly blossoming into its own advertising vertical.
With Facebook's ever-expanding advertising options, the creation of the Facebook Ad Exchange (FBX), Twitter's promoted tweets and profiles, and the recent announcements of Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest options coming soon, can the Social PPC Marketer or Strategist job title really be that far behind?
What is Social PPC?
Technically speaking, social PPC is ads placed on a social platform for CPC or CPM basis, where clicks/visits are counted individually with a price assigned on a per-click basis. Click through rate, conversion rate and impression count are likely used as metrics for visibility and engagement.
What is not social PPC is an insertion order or flat fee taking place, even if on a social media platform. While you might be able to derive a "CPC" from the cost of the buy versus the number of clicks or impressions garnered, it needs to be an aggregated cost of clicks to be PPC--either billed after a threshold of clicks or budget is met, or debited from a deposited amount.
Paid social is another term I've heard tossed around lately, but that really has more to do with paying someone to do a social update on their profile in favor of a brand or product, or to interact with communities on behalf of a product or brand, while receiving compensation.
While social PPC didn't technically start on Facebook, the social Goliath was one of the first mega-social platforms to make it widely available. They did this primarily through self-service functionality, bringing the capability to more advertisers and conversely increasing their share in digital marketing dollars. They're also, by proxy, leading the charge to acceptance of social PPC as a separate, yet important, marketing channel.
Selling Social PPC
Whether you're agency or in-house, someone needs convincing somewhere to secure the funds to do this. So first of all, why would you do this?
Well, "everyone is doing it" isn't exactly the strongest argument, but the fact that your competition is already there sure is.
Next, think of social PPC and position it more like display advertising than search. Nothing right now is more powerful than search revenue. It's a pretty "duh?" operation; people type in the thing they want, we show them ads for that thing. You're not trying to convince them that they should be looking at bicycles while they're reading an article about Syria (at least, you shouldn't be).
Social PPC has the ability to convert and sell like search PPC, but the conversion rates just aren't going to be as robust. The numbers you are going to see will be closer (but on average, better!) than display or content networks.
Social PPC also has the ability to engage the user on more than one front. A social engagement could be a sale or lead conversion, but it could also be a Like, Follow, re-Tweet, Check-In, Re-Pin, etc. It could be someone sharing on their own personal profile to all of their friends what they have discovered. It could be a comment left on your company page; there is a myriad of touchstones.
Consider social PPC a little bit branding, too. It's not that every click that doesn't convert into a sale or sign up is lost; there are a few more people out there now who know what it is you do and have experienced something to do with it.
Who Runs the Ship?
As I stated earlier, can a Social PPC Strategist job really be that far behind?
Right now, because of the CPC/budget and other related paid search items, a PPC marketer or paid search strategist would handle social PPC, hands down. However, it just doesn't fit as neatly into the PPC box as we'd like it to.
We could actually go about our day doing social PPC in vacuum, but we all know that's not the greatest idea--especially if your agency or company has a social media team. In fact, I've found my job much easier when enlisting the help of the social media team on the client side, as well. They speak the language of the customer, know what kinds of posts or interactions can elicit a positive result and are aware of time of day and day of the week responses. If you're doing Facebook advertising and going after promoted posts, you want something that they've crafted.
The best solution for now is a PPC team that talks to the Social Media team. If you don't have a social media team, you might want to rethink which social platforms you're advertising on and the presence that you hold on them. If an ad or promotion goes up that causes a negative response, who is going to handle it?
Where Can I Be Social?
There are a myriad of social platforms that accept advertising in some form or another. Here's a quick list of a few with the basic options within.
Facebook. Take your pick. An ad in the right hand rail, in the newsfeed, sponsor a page, sponsor (or "boost") a post; the options are plentiful and change often. Your best bet is to start with what it is you want your Facebook ad to do (get more Likes, drive traffic to a FB page or website, generate sales/leads, get people into a drip campaign, etc.) and how they're going to do it (on FB, webpage, lander etc.), then choose the types of ads to reach that desired audience.
FBX (Facebook Ad Exchange). Ads run on Facebook to users through remarketing, where the user has visited a site using FBX, which can only be used through a third party like Adroll or X. Through their online platforms, you can tag site visitors and then remarket to them (or exclude them), based on site behaviors you determine, while they are on the Facebook UI.
Twitter. Promoted tweets, promoted profiles and lead generation cards are the current options available.
LinkedIn. Sponsor a status update or job listing, or run text ads with an image targeted by a myriad of possibilities, from geography and age to place of employment, level of education etc. Add in the "LinkedIn Partner" network and you could see your text ads on Slideshare or other partners. One caveat: unfortunately, the partner network can't be targeted separately or refined to specific partners.
FourSquare. Foursquare rolled their self-serve PPC ads out to all US advertisers this month. You only pay if someone clicks your listing and bidding/targeting is based on both a consumer's proximity to your place of business and their search and usage history.
Reddit. Reddit requires a little savvy to navigate and a thick skin to deal with the clientele on the platform. The self-service user platform allows for a minimum $30 per day campaign for as many days as you'd like. Your campaign runs for the number of days and then stops; it is not editable once it launches, as there is a two day waiting period/approval process after you submit an ad before it will show up. Clicks accrue and are debited from your chosen daily budget. You can upload a small thumbnail, text and link URL that either stays on Reddit or doesn't. Target the Reddit home page or sub-Reddits, but be prepared for Redditors to comment on your ads with less than nice things to say.
Coming Attractions. There's been word that Instagram will make a social ad play, but we've seen nothing in the wild yet. Pinterest has sponsored pins are in a limited beta right now.
Measuring Social PPC
Sure, you've got your ROAS numbers, but they're pretty pathetic in comparison to search. So what else should you be looking at to determine the value of social PPC?
Don't forget the offline angles. We can't track phone conversions (okay we can, but let's face it, some of us are doing it better than others) or walk-in customers, but are they less valuable?
You really can't, in this day and age, assign a single value from one click, can you?
Check out these slides from Portent's Director of Social Media, Sara Lingafelter, taken from a presentation she did on proving ROI for social media. Pay particular attention to slides 28 through 40; what is the value of a customer from social? Is it what you think it is?
As we begin planning for next year's budgets (some of you probably already have those locked down!), whatever your 2014 marketing budget brings, take a good, hard look at social PPC. You might want to set some money aside. It's going to be a strategy to watch.
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Elizabeth Marsten is the co-author of All In One Web Marketing Reference for Dummies (Wiley Publishing) with Ian Lurie, Marty Dickenson, Michael Becker and John Arnold.
Well versed in Google, Bing Ads (MSN) paid search platforms, she has additional paid search platform experience in Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, adMarketplace and adRoll.
Elizabeth was promoted to Search Marketing Director at Portent in 2009. She currently manages PPC and oversees SEO, link building, copywriting and social media teams with their respective directors. See her SlideShare presentations from speaking at SMX Advanced, East and West, Miva Merchant, PPC Hero Con and Wappow.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT