Online advertising continues to expand and social is a huge part of the growth. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported May 26 that “Internet Advertising Revenues Hit $7.3 Billion in Q1 ’11,” setting a new record. Social media is growing more rapidly.
According to eMarketer, the number of social users in the U.S. has topped 64 percent of all Internet users or, 148 million. Most importantly, the amount of time spent on social sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) has exploded. According to Nielsen NetView, social media accounted for 22.5 percent of all Internet time in 2010, and the average hours spent per user grew more than 30 percent from the prior year. U.S.-based social media ad spend is expected to grow, according to eMarketer, by more than 50 percent in 2011. The shift of audience and ad dollars to online, and increasingly social, is more than just the emergence of a new media type. The rise of social media is a watershed moment that will force advertisers to rethink how they get the message out.
The philosopher Bishop George Berkeley might have posed the question this way; “If an advertisement falls in the forest and there is no one there to see or hear it, did it make an impact?” While Berkeley’s view “to be is to be perceived” may not hold for people, it holds for advertising. If an advertising message is not seen or heard, it might as well not exist. Moreover, it not only matters if your ad was noticed, but whether other ads were seen or heard as well. That is why marketing professionals for decades have been measuring share of voice (SOV), their percentage of marketing messages relative to the competition.
Social media radically transforms the voices in the marketing discussion. A traditional advertising campaign was more like a lecture. Advertisers would present their case across multiple media in what they hoped were clever and memorable messages. The volume of messages or “tonnage” was determined by the SOV the advertisers felt they needed to have their message rise above the competitive din. As an afterthought, if the message was truly clever, word of mouth might give the tonnage a little boost. As social media captures audience share, successful advertising requires managing a three-way conversation between the advertiser, the advertiser’s target customers, and each target customer’s online network. The target customers and their networks now control a huge chunk of the messages or conversation. Share of voice is now allotted among all three constituents and can no longer simply be bought. In a world where the 150 million (and growing) online social media consumers have the same access as advertisers, capturing meaningful share of voice means influencing the conversation between the advertiser, their customers, and their customers’ social networks.
The good news is that best practices are emerging that will help advertisers ensure meaningful and productive conversations; three best practices are absolute musts – building the tools needed to interact with your customers, engaging your audience, and becoming part of the conversation.
- Building the tools. It’s hard to be part of a conversation if you’re not “in the room.” For starters, be sure you are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also, maintain a corporate blog to drive additional traffic to your social networks. Once these are established, you will want to tie them together with tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Pluggio for coordinated posts. Similarly, you should optimize your overall online presence for mobile platforms. Lastly, be sure to give these sites a social headstart with interactive capabilities such as the “like,” tweet, and share buttons.
- Engaging your audience. Having these content capabilities puts you in the game but does little to create social wins. Using social media as another lectern is a mistake. The social experience has to entice users to participate. Advertisers must avoid being the “obnoxious guy at the party that only talks about himself.” Engage users in polls and ask them questions like what their friends think and which features they want to bake into your next product release. Offer them valuable content that makes them happy they were part of the conversation. This builds stronger customer relationships (i.e., more “likes,” fans, followers, etc.) and encourages them to spread the word across their networks.
- Become part of the conversation. Once you have engaged the user base, expect them to be active. Using social monitoring tools like MediaVantage and Radian6 can help you keep track of positive and negative comments or message threads. More importantly, these tools allow you to influence the conversation. If you are hearing good news, thank the users for their thoughts. This lets them know your organization genuinely values their participation. If you uncover the occasional problem, which is likely, solve it quickly and publicly. This lets the user network know you are serious about their satisfaction. By actively participating in the conversation, your business can build positive interactions and minimize the impact of negative experiences.
In today’s wired world, advertisers, their target customers, and said potential consumers’ user networks factor heavily in the share of voice calculation. Advertisers who want to effectively get their message out will use social media to their advantage to embrace their desired customers and their online network of friends. Getting these three constituents aligned will ensure the advertisers’ messages are seen and heard clearly through the forest of competing content.