Social and Display Ads – Traction Channel #5

Social and display ads are one of the larger traction channels.  Billion-dollar brands like Rolex, American Apparel, and other household names pay millions each year for ads that push their brand to the forefront of consumers’ minds.  In total, companies spend $15 billion a year on this traction channel. (This is mainly a summary of the info from Traction by Weinberg and Mares.) The most familiar examples of non-SEM (Search Engine Marketing) ads are:

  • Banner ads (also known as display advertising) that you see on websites all over the Internet.  Large display advertising campaigns are often used for branding and awareness, much like offline ads. Yet display advertising can also elicit a direct response, such as signing up for an email, newsletter or buying a product.
  • Social ads (like those near your Facebook timeline or promoted tweets in your Twitter feed) have exploded in popularity as more people spend time on social sites.  Social ads are best when approached indirectly, where you build an audience, engage with that audience over time, and eventually convert them into customers.
Most display advertising is run by ad networks that aggregate advertising inventory across thousands of sites (blogs, community sites, etc.) and sell that space to advertisers. For advertisers, they can buy ads on multiple sites through a single service. At the same time, sites can monetize their content by working with just one platform. Large Ad Networks  The largest display ad networks are Google’s Display Network (also known as the content network), (owned by AOL), TribalFusion, ValueClick, and Adblade. Each of these networks has access to sites that aggregate and receive hundreds of millions of unique monthly visitors. They have targeting capabilities that allow you to reach specific types of demographics, and offer a variety of ad formats like text, image, interactive, and video. Google’s display network alone has over 4 billion daily page views, 700 million monthly visitors, and reaches more than 80% of the total online audience. How to use Display Ads as a Traction Channel  In Traction‘s interview with Mike Colella, founder of Adbeat, an ad intelligence company, Mike says, “to test your ads with different site demographics, different markets, and different product positioning.  Test ads in groups of 5 and look for places where conversions are below 10%. If that’s the case, there’s likely a mismatch between the ads and the sales page, so either heavily tweak or stop running them altogether.” He also uses survey tools to ask users on his landing pages why they opted into an offer, and uses that information to further improve his landing pages.
  • Niche Ad Networks  Niche ad networks focus on smaller sites that fit certain audience demographics, like dog lovers or Apple fanatics. One such network is The Deck, which targets the niche audience of Web creatives and enforces a rule of only one ad per page. As an advertiser, you know exactly the audience you’re reaching.  Another network, BuySell Ads, offers advertisers a self-service platform for buying ads directly from publishers.  With their flexibility and low starting cost, BuySell Ads is an easy way to start testing this traction channel.
  • Direct Ads  The last approach to display advertising is one of the simplest: go directly to site owners and ask to place an ad on their site for a fixed price. This works well when you want to reach the audience of a small site that isn’t even running ads.  Traction talked to Noah Kagan at Mint. He approached bloggers whose readers likely would enjoy Mint and offered to pay $500 to put a banner ad on their site. It was one of the strongest traffic sources in the early days, and led to thousands of signups before and after their launch.
  • Getting Started  Understand the types of ads that work in your industry. Tools like MixRank and Adbeat show you the ads your competitors are running and where they place them. Alexa and Quantcast can help you determine who visits the sites that feature your competitors’ ads. Then you can determine whether a site’s audience is the right fit for you.
Social Ads  Traction book clarifies the difference between search and social ads in terms of demand harvesting and demand generation.
  • Demand harvesting – individuals are looking for a product (demand), and companies pay to get their attention (harvesting).
  • Social ads, by contrast, work especially well for demand generation, for example, generating interest from new potential customers.  The goal of social ads is often awareness-oriented, not conversion-oriented. A purchase takes place further down the line.
  •  Getting Started – One way startups can do this is by creating compelling content. Instead of directing users to a landing page, have your ad explain why you have developed a particular product, explain your broader mission, or have some purpose other than completing a sale.  You should only employ social advertising dollars when you’ve understood that a fire is starting around your message and you want to put more oil on it.
  • With social platforms, the burden of success is on the advertiser as opposed to the platform.”  Creating engaging social experiences is another way to succeed on social sites. Warby Parker has done this well. They sells eyeglasses by mail , let you try them on, and then send them back for free.  When you receive your glasses, they encourage you to post pictures of yourself to social sites for feedback from others. It is a fun, useful and engaging process. Social advertising often goes hand-in-hand with content marketing.  If you’ve invested time and energy creating a great piece of content, spending a little bit of money to ensure that content gets wide distribution makes sense.
Major Social Sites to consider
  •  LinkedIn – LinkedIn’s social network is made up of over 250 million business professionals.
  •  Twitter – Twitter also has roughly 250 million users. Twitter’s ads come in the form of sponsored tweets that appear in users’ feeds.
  • Facebook – Facebook has over one billion active users on their social network.
  •  StumbleUpon – With over 25 million “stumblers,” StumbleUpon has a large potential userbase looking for new and engaging content.
  •  Foursquare – With over 45 million users, Foursquare is the largest location-based social network.
  • Tumblr – Tumblr is all about helping its 100 + million users discover high-quality content.
  • reddit – With over two billion monthly page views and a thriving community , reddit is one of the most popular content sites in the world.
  • YouTube – With more than one billion monthly unique visitors watching more than four billion hours of video, YouTube is by far the world’s largest video site.
Although social ads and display advertising are two different beasts, they follow similar principles. Namely, you want to understand your audience, experiment with your message, and reach people in a memorable way. This article is basically a summary from Traction by Weinberg & Mares.  Below are several other articles that will give added perspective. Resources ]]>