May 262015
social media advertising


Last October I wrote about differing views on how social media advertising should be conducted. My take on the debate between leading social media practitioners Maddie Grant and Jay Baer drew a lot of views and a number of excellent comments on LinkedIn.

To some degree Maddie and Jay were talking about B2C brand advertising, but the discussion is relevant for my B2B and B2G customers as well. Today when I design and launch client publications, paid promotion is always part of the strategy.

All the major social media platforms — LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — are public entities looking to please their shareholders. They have been steadily whittling away the benefits of organic (aka free) promotion. Increasingly a company has to pay to give their message a chance to reach the targeted audience. I’ve done enough of these campaigns now to share some findings on effectiveness and affordability.

I’ll start with something not especially social but effective. When driving traffic to a new site, the most affordable option is Outbrain. Outbrain calls itself a content discovery platform — it places millions of those “if you liked this story, you might like this one too” listings at the bottom of web stories. You can purchase those links, and pay a set CPC with a daily maximum much like buying Google AdWords. Outbrain’s algorithm promises to put your links below relevant content, and once your campaign “optimizes” the traffic will flow until you choose to turn it off.

The biggest advantage for clients is low cost — I’ve gotten CPC down to 40 cents for well-optimized client campaigns. The con is lack of targeting; there isn’t much beyond state-level, so you don’t really know who these people are unless you can get them to self-advertise through an action on your site. Another thing to keep in mind is horizontal story appeal — since Outbrain serves links to the Internet masses, highly specialized, nichey content doesn’t optimize well and often won’t deliver traffic.

For me a final con is a high monthly minimum required to receive customer support from OutBrain with campaigns. Most of my clients can’t commit to $5,000 a month in promotions, so I need set up and manage campaigns for them in the self-service portal. At least Outbrain offers that option — leading competitor Taboola doesn’t, although they’ve told me they plan to launch one soon. It would be good to have another provider to test against for clients.

The social media platforms offer a wide variety of targeting options, but of course the price then goes up. It’s early in the game for my clients on Facebook, but it seems to do a good job of targeting messages to users willing to click. A recent campaign pulled almost a 3 percent CTR, while keeping the CPC cost at $1.60. Obviously I can’t share much from client back-end analytics, but the audience delivered seems to be the right kind for the client publication.

Twitter also delivers numerous targeting options, and amazingly helpful customer service is an added plus for smaller agencies.  Twitter offers promotional campaigns for different objectives — get more followers, produce engagements, clicks and conversions. Campaigns designed to produce clicks and visits are the kind I’ve run for clients.

Twitter can deliver the right audience but at a higher CPC than Facebook, in the $2.75 to $3.00 range. Twitter promotes the fact that advertisers only pay for clicks and not for any other type of “engagement” like a reply, favorite, retweet or follow. And I have seen my clients get a decent amount of engagement activity other than clicks. For example, a recent campaign had 177 clicks but 465 total engagements. I’d suggest making sure you create multiple pieces of creative with imagery so you can test which produces the best results.

By far the most expensive campaigns I’ve done have been on LinkedIn. The targeting can get very granular, so you can really target the message. Promoted offers on LI are made from the client company page, so access to that page is required.

LI can be effective but you pay a price for the granularity. I’ve done campaigns on LI where the CPCs were in the $8-9 area. So I don’t typically look at LI as an option at launch. It’s more appropriate for a very specific offer, where the path/action you want the prospect to take once arriving at your site is very defined.

So there’s a quick primer on some observations from social media advertising. Obviously your mileage may vary, and I’d love to hear from others on what they’ve found effective. If your content is good and you know your target demo, social media advertising should be able to deliver results at a reasonable price point.



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