Is Native Advertising the New Online Banner?

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By Sue Brady

BIA/Kelsey Social Local Media Forecast, March 2013

BIA/Kelsey Social Local Media Forecast, March 2013

The idea of native advertising is to deliver content to the viewer in the context in which they are already viewing something. Advertisers like this technique because consumers view their message while they are actively looking at a page, feed, or article. The advertiser wants to make the native advertising seamless so that the consumer sees the ad as a part of what they are viewing, but not in a deceptive way. The key really is relevancy.  With the continued decline in banner click-thru rates, native advertising is proving to be a solid alternative.

It’s not a new concept in the offline world where newspapers and magazines have run native ads for years. But it’s all the rage in the online world. Native advertising on social sites is expected to grow to $4.6 billion by 2017, according to the BIA/Kelsey Social Local Media Forecast, March 2013. And it’s because advertisers are seeing results. According to an IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough study using eye tracking and surveys, native ads showed an 18% lift over banners for purchase intent and consumers looked at native ads 52% more frequently than they looked at banner ads.

Mobile especially seems to be turning to native advertising. The mobile ad network Airpush, rated as the best mobile ad network in 2012, recently acquired Hubbl, a leader in mobile native advertising. The tiny ads delivered to mobile devices just aren’t impactful for advertisers, but a highly integrated native ad could be hugely effective.

Online native advertising is so new that there really are no standard rates yet. According to Digiday here’s how prices look for a few well-known publishers:

Buzzfeed: $100,000 buys 4 – 5 posts written by Buzzfeed writers
Forbes: $50,000 – $75,000 per month buys you an unlimited amount of content (3 month commitment required)
Gawker: $12,000 per individual post
Business Insider: $5,000 per post
Huffington Post: $40,000 per posted article

Social networks are also getting into the act with promoted and sponsored opportunities that are native-ish. They generally are offering cost per click or CPM arrangements. Tweets are marked as ‘promoted’ or a LinkedIn post will be marked as sponsored. Facebook has a wide variety of options for sponsored advertising that has a native feel. For instance, you can create a sponsored story when someone shares something you’ve posted, and that story will appear on the walls of that person’s followers. You can do the same when someone ‘likes’ a particular page or posts something to a wall. This explains all of their sponsored options. Pinterest has said they will start testing sponsored pins soon. This is clearly the new advertising darling.

LinkedIn Promoted Ad

LinkedIn Promoted Ad 

Facebook Promoted Ad
Facebook Promoted Ad

Twitter Promoted Tweet

Twitter Promoted Tweet

The most common metric used to evaluate native advertising is engagement, and advertisers appear to be satisfied with what they are seeing.

Have you gone native yet?

Top 5 Lists of Useful and FREE Digital Marketing tools

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By Sue Brady

Every day I read at least 5 blog posts written by others. I ‘retweet’ a lot of these and also ‘favorite’ them for future reference. Here are 5 posts that I have found to be extremely helpful:

  1. Free competitor analysis tools to help you evaluate your website against your competitors from a search perspective, including link building, traffic analysis, and keywords.
  2. Free Blogging platforms to help you get started as a blogger.
  3. Free Reputation Management tools. It’s important to know what’s being said about your company and these tools can help you monitor that. You’ll be able to set up rules to search complaints or to monitor where others might be using your name.
  4. Free images for your blog. Sometimes you need an image to enhance your blog’s appearance. Here are some sources of free imagery that you can use.
  5. Free content templates. These templates will help you to organize, improve, and get the most out of your content.

What are your favorite free tools?

Part 2: How do you Start your Social Media Program? Here are 7 easy steps.

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chobaniBy Sue Brady

I received a number of requests asking for more information on my previously published post called So You’re Jumping into Social Media – 7 Tips to Get You Started, so here goes:

Step 1 was establishing goals for your social media campaign. This is important because your goals will largely drive the type of content you post, the types of behavior you want to drive and the places where you choose to have a presence. For instance, if your ultimate goal is to increase website sales, you might have the goal of driving more visitors to your site, or you may have the goal of increasing the number of positive comments about your product on Facebook or LinkedIn. On the other hand, if your ultimate goal is to drive awareness of your company, you may have goals around posting content that will be shared by others (especially influencers). Along with establishing goals, make sure you know how you will measure those goals. Google Analytics can help you understand web traffic and visitor behavior for instance.

Step 2 was figuring out where your audience is. This assumes that you already know who your audience is (in a general sense, as in their demographics and hopefully their interests). If you’re a small business, perhaps there is a site that others in your industry frequently visit for product reviews. If there’s a blog on that site, you might inquire about writing a guest post for them. Or perhaps your audience uses Facebook as a primary tool for connecting to each other. You’ll need to have a strong presence there as well, using helpful links to your own blog posts or useful product reviews.

Step 3 was to understand what success will look like for you. This is closely related to goals and means that you need to fully understand what it is you are after. Does success mean getting potential customers to engage with you one on one in social media, or does success mean making the phones ring. Either way, that success needs to support your goals.

Step 4 was establishing an editorial calendar.  Not only does this help you organize, but it also will force you to remember that specific keywords are important in order for your posts to gain traction with the search engines. There are many templates that you can find on the Internet. Here are seven templates posted by Cedar Sage Marketing. What’s important is that the calendar has what you need. My calendar is very simple. I keep an Excel spreadsheet that has dates down the left hand side and the following categories across the top: Author, Title, Status (ie, written, published), 3-5 Keywords or Tags, Category, and Notes.

Step 5 was creating a social media policy. I’m not sure I can add to the original post on this one. You need to have an employee policy and it should be clear and support your company’s own mission. It can be brief and should be easy to understand.

Step 6 was monitoring your sites. When you first get started, this isn’t too difficult because you don’t have a lot to keep track of. But as you grow your viewer base, you’ll need to make sure you are keeping track of interactions in case someone wants to get in touch with you for instance, or in case someone has a bad experience. Here’s an example: I recently had an experience with Chobani Yogurt. I love this product and had bought a package of 12 cups. When I brought my package home, I noticed that one of the cups was very light and in fact turned out to be empty. I thought I should let Chobani know about this so I posted to their Facebook page and let them where I’d made the purchase. I heard back from them within an hour or so. Not only were they apologetic, but they asked for my email address so that they could send me a coupon for free product. It was immediate and made a great impression on me….and they now have my email address for future contact!

Step 7 was being prepared for negative comments. I’ve already posted about Handling Trolls here. Not only should you yourself have a plan for dealing with these comments but you should also make sure your management is forewarned. You don’t want an upset CEO calling you because they read something negative and want you to remove the comment immediately. Negative comments are to be expected. The trick is to handle them well and quickly, so that they will have little importance and visibility. And removing the comments is really a last resort option, as you don’t want your readers to doubt the honesty of the site.

Creating Content: 6 Goldmines for Finding Relevant Topics

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By Sue Brady

Content development requires careful thought and planning. And it can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Content can come from anywhere really, but how you create it depends on who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to accomplish.

Once you understand your ‘content goals,’ here’s how to find topics to write about:

  1. Case studies. Case studies are short stories about how a customer successfully used or uses your product. These are often used in B2B marketing. The best source of case studies is your customer service or sales departments. Ask them about the customers they talk to and have them identify a handful that were positively impacted by your company. Call the contact person there and ask if they’d mind being interviewed for a case study you’d like to post on your website. You can explain that it can be good press for their company and that they’ll be able to approve the finished article. You can even offer to share their URL in the story. Set expectations regarding length of time the questionnaire will take and even offer to send it to them in advance of the interview. You can do your interview over the phone or in person. If you are going to have the interview in person, I recommend having someone videotape the conversation for later use on YouTube or on your website (you of course have to ask for permission from the person you’d be filming…and you’ll want to get that consent in writing).  If your product services multiple industries, it’s a good idea to develop at least one case study per industry.
  2. User reviews. Read your reviews. Note if there are benefits or features that are pointed out more often than others. Use those as topics for your next blog post. And pay attention to the comments that others leave after reviews. If you can identify questions that are frequently asked, you can devote a post to just that topic.
  3. Customer Service and Sales Departments. Survey your customer service agents and sales people to find out what questions/complaints/praises they hear most often from customers and prospects.  Use those to develop a list of topics to write about.
  4. Employees at your company. Employees talk to their friends/family/clients/each other. Ask them what questions they hear most often about your products.  Form some blog posts around those. In addition, employees can be great authors. Have each employee in your company write about a topic they feel is relevant to your customers, company or industry.  You can even make an event out of it where for 2 hours one afternoon, everyone focuses on writing about a business-relevant topic of interest to them.
  5. Identify someone who is respected in your industry and see if they’ll agree to an interview. It’s great press for them and identifies your company with a thought leader.
  6. Social media conversations. Read what people are writing about your industry or your products specifically to identify hot topics to write about. You can find relevant topics using hashtags on Twitter, or look for conversations on Facebook or Linkedin that have generated a lot of comments. It’s a great way to enter the conversation.

The Case Against Responsive Design

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By Sue Brady

There have been hundreds of articles written on this subject over the past three years. Essentially, all websites want to do the same thing: show the viewer the information he wants to see in a way that’s easy to read on the device he is using.

Every time I look into this, I come down on the side of using device specific websites, not responsive design. Why? Because I believe that someone who is accessing your website from a mobile phone is in a different place in the buying process than someone who is using a desktop computer. And I think mobile users are looking for a specific level of information. Research has shown that mobile users are increasingly ready to buy, with mobile purchases seeing more than 30% growth year over year (comScore Inc. 2013). Now that doesn’t mean that the purchase will happen on the mobile phone. In fact, there is data that shows the consumer is researching on their phones, and then physically walking into the store to make the purchase (over 70% according to comScore). According to Pew Research, 24% of smart phone users look up product reviews while in the store.

So it’s crazy for a retailer NOT to make his mobile website as easy to use as possible.  Do your research to discover where your mobile users go on your site, and make those pages easily accessible from your mobile home page.  If you know a mobile user is most likely to do product research on your site, make that a top navigation choice. Show a mobile user specific information based on your knowledge about them. Navigating on a small screen is not the same as navigating on a desktop or tablet. Another key stat: mobile app users are four times more engaged than those surfing the web through a browser (comScore Mobile Metrix, March 2012).   Clearly these consumers need to be able to easily find what they want, using navigation that’s easy. Small buttons = bad user experience.

The other disadvantage I’ve read a lot about is that responsive sites take longer to load on mobile devices because of the way they are built. And long load times are bad for the consumer experience and something Google frowns upon. After just four seconds of waiting, you’ll have lost 25% of your visitors (KISSmetrics), and abandons are exponentially higher after that.

Responsive design has it place however. If you don’t have an ecommerce site for instance, it might make sense, and even save you money on your web programming in the long run.  I have seen some great examples of responsive sites that translate well device to device.

The key is to know your audience and understand what their needs are when they come to your site, regardless of the device they used to arrive there.