Posts Tagged advertising

Is it ok for companies to pay to be featured users in Social Media sites?

TwitterI don’t know how I let this distract me from my work I am doing in my hotel room [oh wait, is that an Eagle flying over the BC Place Arena out my window? shoot, where was I? oh yes, Twitter] – So I stopped in on Twitter and happend to see this tweet from Robert Scoble and mistakenly clicked the link, only to get my panties all in a bunch at the level of pettiness and noise in the comments on his post about the importance or unimportance of having more followers on Twitter and on this one about whether or not TechCrunch paid to be featued on Twitter’s list of suggested user’s to follow. [if you can spare a few hours and resist the temptation to scratch your eyes out, there are some really good points in both of the threads if you can get past the baseless and off-topic ones]

As Robert admitted in the comments, he did a bad job of framing the question on TechCrunch and Twitter, partly driven by a desire to get you involved in answering it (ie getting more ppl like me excited and upset which is what people with journalism degrees sometimes do, obviously with some effectiveness).  As such, I want to try to reframe the issue with some clearer questions and thoughts. NOTE: I did not read all the comments because I don’t think I cold avoid the impulse to scratch my eyes out or go deaf because of all the noise in that thread (personal aside: wow, do we need Insytes more then ever today).

Before going further, I want to point out that we should not unfairly target our good friends Ev/Biz and their hard working team which needs a real business model to ensure their service is sustainable.  The reason for me dropping what I am working on for Social Media Club Portland tomorrow night and Social Media Club Seattle Tuesday night (both sold out unfortunately) is that this is really important question that should receive some critical examination.  The issue is important to consider for all organizations online, most especially social networks, blogs and web services – but also for media companies, associations and other non-profits who work with advertisers, sponsors, donors and/or patrons.

This is clearly a discussion on disclosure first and foremost, but as a result, I hope other important lessons can be learned too…

Q1: Is Twitter adopting a pay to play model for being featured anywhere on its site? Are other sites doing this without making it clear? If so who?

A1: I don’t know, do you?  Besides answering here in the comments, maybe we need a wiki page to list those who do things like this but dont disclose it properly?

Q2: Does this sort of advertising (and the sort that has GaryVee using adsense to promote his twitter account) have a positive or negative impact on other users? on the Web 2.0 / Social Media era? on the broader society?  Does it matter at all? Q2b: Does this conversion of dollars into the power to get attention take away from our open/transparent/meritocratic ideals? In which situations is this ok?

A2: I think it is ok accompanied by simple disclosures and transparency as that will reveal true intentions and we, as informed citizens, can make our own judgments on the value of that reccomendation. In the case of Garyvee, it just seems odd, but there is nothing wrong with that.  Strategically he is the BRAND of his company (do you know what his company is?) so advertising his Twitter account does help his company/.  Personally, I believe that strategically he would be better off putting WineLibrary.TV in the ads for increasing the overall awareness of his great wine buying advice site, despite the likely decreased click through rate from a non-personal, company branded ad. Of course, the mere fact of breaking ground in this way has led to plenty of other new followers for him as a result of people like me writing about it… but that’s Gary, always passionately leading the way for others to follow…

Disclosure: Just last week I contacted the folks behind TwitterCounter to see if we (aka me for @SocialMediaClub) could buy a ‘follow us’ ad on their top 100 page – as the noise gets louder, we need better ways for getting noticed. @SocialMediaClub was in the top 100 on TwitterCounter for several months until recently being kicked off the list by the volume of hollywood celebtrities joining conversation (which is a more interesting issue in itself to talk about a bit later).

Q3: Will the user community (especially new registrants) be better off if Twitter is open about how they are doing it?

A3: This is the only one I will answer in detail because I am sure that everyone will be better off.  This is similar to the need to put the word advertorial on top of paid placement in print. People know a banner ad when they see it, but a ‘friendly recommendation’ that is soley based on the ability of people to pay that doesn’t inform the consumer is harmful to the  spirit of transparency we are trying to manifest in the world. It may even potentially be an issue for the FTC, so let’s do our best to solve this before someone else does.

This hits on two of Social Media Club’s missions, both Media Literacy and Ethics.  It’s hard enough for most people to know when they are being advertised too already, so this, if true, is a real problem for me personally and professionally.

Q4: Should celebrities and companies be on separate lists – should we have user ‘types’ to differenentiate and allow people to see different accounts? Shouldn’t companies (including perhaps our non-profit Social Media Club) with over 10,000 followers pay a reasonable fee for the service? It certainly would still be cheaper then a newswire for a press release]

A4: Well, let’s be honest, this is my suggestion not a question, so my answer to these questions is yes.

What do you think?

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Using Display Ads to Drive Search Marketing: Virtuous or Greedy?

This morning at the Search Insider Summit I heard a phrase a few times that struck me as odd – the first 2 times, I missed it, the 3rd time I caught it and the 4th time I GOT IT. And what I got worries me. In fact, talking about this briefly with Bill Flitter and Lee Odden, some of my concerns were alleviated, but my broader concern for this approach, and specifically the intention behind it, remains.

Specifically the issue is that I am afraid some Search Marketers are using this technique of integrating search into display ads and broader marketing activities (such as on product packaging) merely to seize a greater portion of the overall advertising spending. Certainly, I am not arguing with the effectiveness of search marketing over traditional advertising, but I am pointing out that an emphasis on using one form of marketing/advertising to drive people through another point of advertising rather than direct to the marketer has all sorts of upside for those taking the dollars and potentially circumspect value for those spending the dollars.

Let me illustrate through one case study which was mentioned regarding Hellman’s mayonaise and the “Real Foods” campaign. I think it was an excellent campaign executed with good intentions in conjunction with Yahoo. They have connected it with some smart social media content, using a blog and community site around the concept of “In Search of Real Foods” and connecting it with a contest to award travel to some cool restaurants around the country. Really, really great integrated campaign – an exemplary case study displaying the sort of holistic strategy that I would recommend to my clients.

Yahoo! is clearly providing real value here, but the side effects are interesting to note. Look at the search results on Yahoo! and on Google and on MSN Live for “Real Food”. Of course, the increase in awareness on the idea of searching for the term ‘real food’ is increasing the overall search volume around this term – meaning sites like AOL, Amazon, Target and even an “Amazing New Health Drink” are buying the term – naturally, the Hellman’s competitor Kraft Foods is also buying this term. So the use of this strategy, while implemented well on Yahoo! is requiring Hellman’s to spend a lot more money across all of the search engines to maintain a number one result. Of course, this is already happening to a degree in regards to the brand and product names, but this angle has me questioning the broader impact this strategy across the entire marketing communications mix.

Perhaps what this approach is really doing is merely ensuring the value of the display ads is being driven through a measurable funnel, and the cost of being able to make the conversion of interest to intention to transaction is a worthwhile allocation (or reallocation) of dollars. Perhaps this is just the natural consequence of “owning a part of the language” for mind share. There are clear parallels here to the rise in importance of tagging relative to search, but perhaps we have just not seen tag based marketing mature to the point of encountering this issue widely yet.

It clearly costs more money to use display ads to drive more people through search marketing. The question to be determined is whether the intentions behind advocating for this strategic approach is driven by the virtuous idea of increasing effectiveness and the efficient use of dollars, or is it just a greedy land grab trying to increase the overall dollars captured by search marketing? Perhaps it is both…

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