Every time you try to research the effectiveness of social media advertising, you constantly obtain very vague and ambiguous. Does social media advertising really work? Is there a measurable return on investment? I think the answer to both of these questions is obvious. Yes, social media advertising works, and No, you cannot measure the return on investment. Digital zombies will have you think otherwise, but the there is no real measurable return. Consider the IPO of Facebook recently; many investors simply could not put their arms around a valuation of a company selling something intangible with no real data to support their marketing strategy.
Before we explore the context of this piece and get into deep, brain wrenching thoughts on how to effectively balance and structure your strategic marketing platform, first we must consider some data points.
Based on a non scientific study recently conducted, we ran some numbers on social media advertising platforms. The first was a Google AdWords campaign that received slightly over 28,000 impressions and got 128 clicks, that is a click-through rate of about .45%. The second was a Facebook campaign that received over 505,000 impressions with less than 45 clicks; this is a click-through rate of less than .01%. Finally, there was a similar campaign on Linked-In that had slightly under 30,000 impressions with a click-through rate of 15, once again a rate of less than .01%. At this point you can clearly see why the Facebook IPO was somewhat of a under-value proposition. In essence, not really, because you need to carefully weigh your total marketing campaign between many forms of media to effectively deliver your message and get measurable results, read on:
Let’s now look at the total dollars spent on marketing across all mediums in the U.S.:
Television: $66.4 billion in 2013 to $75.4 billion in 2012
Digital Media: $32 billion in 2013 to $61.4 billion in 2017
Television remains the top advertising medium in the country with an annual spend of over $66 billion in 2013 and is expected to capture the dominant position well into the future. With almost 2/3 of all marketing budgets being spent on TV and digital media, the real question is to extrapolate is the return on investment of one versus the other. I would speculate to say, despite vast opposition from the geek community, that TV is enormously more effective that social media. But don’t stop here, you need to be the final judge based on some of the data we will present.
Social Media vs. traditional marketing platforms: Social media is inexpensive, it is interactive, somewhat measurable, and in most cases very time consuming to accurately implement an effective campaign. Comparatively, traditional marketing is costly; it is non-reciprocal, somewhat measurable, and very tangible. Most proponents will tell you that an inverse relationship exists between effective growth and decline of each medium. On one hand, the pro-social media authorities will tell they are on the increase and traditional forms are declining, with the opposite being proclaimed from the traditionals. The fact of the matter is that both of them are growing and an effective marketing campaign will need to utilize both mediums.
The cost of social media marketing makes it extremely attractive, roughly $5.00 per thousand impression vs. $10.00/M for TV, $30.00/M for print and $55.00/M for direct mail. However, when it comes to engagement levels, Television is at the top with over 50% compared to Facebook at 12% and Twitter at 2%. Additionally, consumers place a higher level of trust with TV marketing because higher costs have a direct association to a more reliable message.
With traditional advertising we often measure a wide demographic reach as compared to social media where we can measure a more finite message to speak to an individual’s concerns or more customized message. Social media creates a broader overall customer experience that allows you to monitor and participate what people are saying about your brand or company. Unfortunately, designing a campaign to address these finite concerns is very difficult, primarily because the likes of Facebook and others do not share demographic profiles to allow companies to effectively target a specific demographic. Mark Zuckerberg recently purchased all the homes surrounding his Palo Alto residence because he was concerned with privacy, his company has collected more information on you that you care to know, if they ever release this data, look out, the barrage of targeted ads will be overwhelming.
What should the future of your marketing platform look like? It should contain a carefully balanced mix between traditional mediums and digital mediums depending on y0ur brand and company marketing objectives. As the chart above clearly illustrates, all forms of medium are alive and growing, with the possible exceptions of newspapers. Nonetheless, all need to be considered. Most people are tired of sharing information and are making their social profiles much more private almost to the point of being annoyed. Social media is not immune to users feeling like they have been mistreated, and if they want to proliferate, they must create useful interactions with their users.
We have become an empathetic society, Obama, his staff, and his economic policy has clearly demonstrated this cultural shift. Marketers need to focus on a strategy of “shared responsibility” and supercharge their movement to this platform. Shared responsibility? Yes, we have embraced a cultural change, a least temporarily, to have our life decisions run by 3rd party entities. It reminds me of being on the Titanic when the front of the ship was underwater and people and the back were saying, “I am just glad I am on the back of the boat” This may be an extreme example, but many consumers will be looking for targeted advertising campaigns to lead them rather than suggest.
The millenials (18-34 year old) continue to demonstrate unprecedented interest in working together to support this empathetic society. They believe a fractious government unable to make meaningful change for the better is the way to the future. Marketers need to recognize that this is the number one force in America and beyond. This philosophy dictates that you deliver value and relevance that can be measured on the same scale that the millenials think, your marketing strategy needs to embrace these behavioral changes while increasing sales. See my publication entitled “The Gen Y Influence” and “Marketing Strategy for the Gen Y Influence”.
I believe this will be the year of the global “drop” in terms of more localized marketing platforms. Consumers will be further influenced by localized marketing campaigns that hit the heart of their sphere where they live, where they shop, and what they buy. As stated earlier, people are getting tired of being ruled by Google algorithms and will be looking to make decisions that are free of some digital result. Look to employ five local marketing officers than one global marketing officer, it will provide dramatic results. Consumers will be looking for coherence, impact, pleasure and simplification from the brands they will be supporting.
Anticipate a movement in the future towards a disconnection from the online community to a more traditional approach. Consumers are looking for more touch, more connection, and more fun from marketing strategies. So ask yourself this question, “Ask not what your customers will do for you, but what can you do for your customers”.
Conclusion: How you interpret this report is entirely up to you and should be structured towards your brand and company strategy. In essence, it is critical that you understand your customer and your marketing campaign. At the end of the day, no one can effectively place a value on digital media; no one has been able to determine if the return on investment is worthy. However, the one take-away is this: digital media has an enormous impact and cannot be overlooked, it is inexpensive to implement but difficult to target. Digital media needs to be combined with traditional forms of marketing to create the most effective strategy.