Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Social Media & Display Advertising

Today's guest blog post was written by Matt Rhys-Davies, a UK-based digital consultant and can also be found cross-posted on his own website.

It’s absolutely doubtless that social media is a major player in the web scene, most companies / people / consultants use it as a tool to brand build rather than as a fertile ground where one can purchase advertising, but what sort of results can you expect if you do happen to go and throw some budget at display?

The power and the reach that social media has, makes it one of the most valuable sources in one’s digital arsenal. Whilst still being a new medium, how it’s being used by key brands and one-man bands has already gone through a rapid process of maturing. No longer do people throw out post after post of direct linking to their site; spamming people with products and giving them the hard sell. Now it’s all about interaction, community and giving your brand a personality for users to get to know, like and hopefully to love.

Bearing in mind that the medium of social is all about encouraging people to get involved with what you do as a brand and what you stand for, does it make sense to essentially broadcast adverts at your target users, reverting to a one to many (broadcast) communication in the ideal place to engage in one-to-one communication?

My contention is that it does not.

Whilst you, as an advertiser, are equipped with the power to segment and target to a level of granularity that would have been unfathomable a few years ago, you are still simply putting product under their eyeballs. I previously ran a small campaign for a client across Facebook in my capacity as a digital consultant to trial the traffic and conversion that the campaign yielded, below is a brief run through of the level I was able to drill down to.

When setting up the campaign I was able to ensure that only the following saw my clients' adverts: women, with a degree, aged 25-45, earning over £40,000 and based in London. Then the icing on the cake was that I was able to seek out similar brands to my clients' on Facebook, and ensure I only targeted adverts to those users who fit the above criteria AND liked brand X. Incredible.

The above segment was a way to instantaneously hit our target market with offers, deals and the products on sale without going through the rigorous research process of where they reside, negotiating CPM / CPC rates and defining metrics to measure. So this should perform exceptionally well, right? Unfortunately not. I'm hesitant to divulge spend, but from over 2500 clicks we saw 0 conversions. From a site that traditionally converts at about 1.2% across all channels (affiliate, organic, PPC etc) this clearly fell well below expectations.

In conclusion, drawing from my experience of running both high and low spend campaigns across Facebook with various end goals (e-commerce conversion, affiliate leads, data capture), I have not found direct spend on the site to produce converting traffic. If a client were to ask my advice on dedicating budget towards social media – depending on their desired outcome – I would suggest either using the monies to hire someone to manage their social media presence, or to deploy applications designed to benefit the community the brand has built up, such as WildFire to run competitions and collect data.

Incidentally, my parting gift is that: I have personally found data collected from the Facebook community's of brands to be remarkably high converting when placed into a sophisticated e-marketing system.

A ~40% click through rate can often make e-marketers drool.

Matt Rhys-Davies is a digital consultant located in London, UK. He has a working knowledge of application development, project management, site analysis and marketing, accompanied by hands on technical and creative skills. He can be contacted here.