Consumer Groups Express Concerns Over Ads By Social Influencers

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Consumer groups have begun to investigate the integrity of some so-called social influencers?

Sometimes, Instagram users with a relatively modest following of just a few dozen followers can get the opportunity to promote products from various companies, just like the Kardashians and other big stars. These users are called “micro-influencers” in the industry and receive a variety of incentives for their promotional activities, such as discounts on future purchases from a brand or free products. While having social media users act as promoters for a brand is a standard practice, it can be a problem if those users don’t disclose the fact that a post is an advertisement and that they’ve received incentives for making it.

This has caused criticism from consumer watchdogs and various advocacy groups, such as Public Citizen. The group has recently contacted US regulators, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in order to bring attention to the growing number of Instagram posts that are obviously made for the sole purpose of promoting a product.

Companies that act as middle-men between social media influencers and brands have been specifically mentioned in letters sent by Public Citizen to US regulators. The concern is that these digital advertising industry firms don’t ensure that their marketers comply with all FTC disclosure rules, which require users making promotional posts on behalf of a brand to include a disclosure that clearly states that they have received payment or some other type of benefit for making the post. Any form of compensation, even if it doesn’t involve cash payments, such as free products or services, has to be disclosed.

A few firms that work with micro-influencers have caught the attention of consumer advocacy groups as a result of disclosure practices that may not meet FTC regulations. Examples include only requiring that users include a “thank you” line in their post in exchange for receiving free products, using hashtags like #ad, #sp, #sponsored or #promo, or putting the word “sponsored” in small type at the bottom of a review or unboxing video for the first few seconds. According to previous statements made by the FTC’s Ad Practices Division, such disclosures are often not enough, as they’re too vague, easily missed by users and don’t make it clear that the post is a promotion.

As TV ads are losing their marketing power, brands are increasingly moving to social media in order to capture the attention of consumers, especially young adults. Recent reports show that brands are now spending over $255 million per month on Instagram influencer marketing alone. Many businesses are using social media influencers, as social media users are more likely to see their content as authentic and trustworthy when compared to marketing messages posted by the brands themselves.

3 Ways to Encourage Millennials to Shop with You

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How to tailor your marketing strategy to target millennial consumers.

Digital advertising seemed easier when your focus was on advertising in print media. Those days are long gone as retailers are focusing on millennials that were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Most do not remember the world without internet in their homes. Therefore, retailers need to change their digital advertising techniques.

Recommendations From Friends Carry More Weight

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and many other social media outlets make it very easy for millennials to see what their friends are thinking about any topic. Since people naturally trust what their friends are thinking more than what a retailer is telling them, retailers must create methods to encourage people to say great things about their companies.

The first step that retailers need to do is listen to their customers. One possible suggestion is to participate in secret shopping programs to see what type of experience a customer is truly receiving. Use Social Mention and other programs to see what your customers are saying about your business online is vital.

Once a company can be sure that customers are receiving outstanding service, then find ways to share that message. Create a page where customers can leave reviews. If your business is part of a review site, then allow Google to post those reviews right on the search engine result page. Create customer testimonial YouTube videos to allow others to see the results from real customers.

Nearly 44 percent of customers say that they are willing to promote products to their friends in exchange for a small gift which is far cheaper than hiring a celebrity to promote your product especially when you consider that 84 percent of millennials say that they trust these recommendations more than what others say.

Use Smartphone Advertising

The average millennial checks their smartphones more than 43 times a day. You must be competing in mobile advertising if you want to beat out your competitors.

Start with thinking mobile first when designing new websites as this forces you to think about what content and images are really the most important. Using this approach allows the designer to focus up rather than eliminate important elements. Choose typefaces, colors, and interface elements like buttons, menus, and input controls to make it easy for mobile users to navigate your site. Make sure that your site is responsive.

Use Cause Advertising

61 percent of millennials say that they are very concerned about leaving the world a better place than it is now. Therefore, cause advertising is very effective. When your company does something good to help the world, let others know through your advertising.

Successful retailers will change with the times by adapting these three methods. Make sure to always have a way for your customers to share with their friends, have a mobile site and do cause advertising.

Mobile Advertising Strategies to Transform Your Business

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If you’re not focused on mobile marketing your business could be missing out.

Digital marketing has seen major transformation over the recent years. Marketing and advertising tactics such as pay-per-click are today vastly different from what they were at inception. Tactics that appeared to have the magic touch only several years ago might easily fall flat today.

Currently, everything is heading the mobile route, ranging from watching videos to consuming content and opening emails. Everything that your business does today should be done with the ever growing mobile audience in mind.

Create Great Content

The average viewer of today has been swamped with so many ads on their devices to the point where many simply scroll past the ads without even noticing what they contain. This means that as an entrepreneur, you need to become more creative in the kind of content you create. Become innovative so that your viewers can watch an ad without them caring it’s actually an ad or even realizing it.

Display Advertising

Target your potentials contextually utilizing third party data providers. You can even do the targeting based on specific and unique demographics to generate service or product awareness. You can, for example, use Google Display Network’s topic targeting for identifying users that browse sites dealing with mobile devices.

Target through Social Networks

Catch your social networks online audience in a way that is much more targeted — these days, they are using these social apps heavily and all day long. Run well-designed ad campaigns on widely used networks like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Use each of the network based on its unique strengths. For instance, Twitter can be used to keep you in the news feed of a trending topic or active in a particular conversation.

Maximize On Video Streaming

YouTube is currently the second largest search engine. This can be credited to the growing video content consumption for everything ranging from pre-purchase research, entertainment to tutorials, and more.

With the growing popularity of Instagram and Snapchat video, you can develop powerful advertising 15-second clips that can be regularly manipulated, edited and re-produced in lots of creative ways to boost brand authority and awareness.

Utilize Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing, a huge multi-billion industry often gets overlooked by businesses in terms of monetizing mobile. However, the truth is, huge affiliate networks such as Commission Junction and eBay Enterprises are offering access to advertisers in their thousands that pay based on your performance to send orders and leads to them. The best part regarding affiliate marketing is that you are paid for actual performance.

Conclusion

Of course, there are lots of mobile digital marketing strategies that can be employed with great success. You shouldn’t limit your overall strategy to only the above strategies. Organic social media, email marketing, blogging, and SEO are strategies that must continue being part of your larger mobile marketing pie. But incorporating the above critical strategies will help in engaging and reaching a larger audience.

A Brief History of the Scourge of the Internet: The Pop Up

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The pop up ad’s creator has mixed feelings about his invention.

The hated pop-up ad has a fascinating origin story. The original creator was Ethan Zuckerman, who has since apologized profusely for unleashing such an intrusive form of advertising into the world. His explanation of how he came to write the code for such a universally reviled feature of the Internet reveals a lot about our modern culture and the sacrifices we make for free web content.

Mr. Zuckerman worked for Tripod.com, an early web hosting service similar to GeoCities, Squarespace or Wix. Like most early Internet start-ups, Tripod was created without a solid plan for monetizing. Its founders simply wanted to make a cool product that they would use themselves. Eventually, they realized they needed to bring money in if they wanted to keep their product available, and they sent Zuckerman and his team to convince major corporations to buy advertising spots directly on Tripod’s websites.

Because this took place in the early 1990s, the Internet was seen as a much different place. Zuckerman’s team created a program to place advertisements on random user pages and headed out to pitch a few major clients without thinking about what type of content might pop up during their presentation. Unfortunately, not all of Tripod’s users were creating business-friendly personal pages, and Zuckerman ended up displaying the potential client’s branded advertisement on a page with distinctly NSFW content.

After that embarrassing incident, the team scrambled to create an alternative. It wasn’t feasible or in line with Tripod’s culture to start censoring user pages, but they couldn’t sell clients on placing ads on sites with adult content. As a solution, they created the first pop-up ad as a way to get users looking at company messaging without companies being associated with inappropriate user content, and Tripod made big bucks from its major accounts.

Today, Zuckerman worries that his creation sent Internet culture in a negative direction. In a recent essay published in the Atlantic, he expressed his opinion that by chasing advertiser dollars rather than user fees, Tripod set a precedent for content that appears free to users. He argues that, as the death of the pop-up ad shows, we want an uninterrupted web experience. Because the Internet isn’t free to run, users simply accept behind-the-scenes monitoring and data capture from Facebook, AdWords and other advertising behemoths.

What do you think? Should we accept a free, ad-supported Internet or push for more subscription models? Would you rather return to pop-up ads or stick with targeted banner ads and integrated content? Contact me to let me know your thoughts on web-based advertising.

Personalized Social Media Targeting

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Reaching an audience on social media is only the first step.

Living in the digital age has major positives compared to the previous decades of the 80s and 90s. Though this style of marketing has been around for quite sometime, the past 15 years has experienced an explosion as most companies tend to do much of their business online. Marketing with the use of digital technology such as display advertising, computers, cell phones, and other forms of digital media has made it possible to reach the most amount of consumers in half the time. This is a great way to get your name out to the public, but in marketing you most know who your target audience is. Understanding what’s new, what’s next, and what’s hot gives companies a better understanding of the market and what trends are popular. Here are some of the hottest trends currently in 2016 which can help your business stay out of “the red.”

Affordable Social Media Marketing

For any company or business, selling your products and services is the end goal. Whether you know who specific target audience or not, reaching the masses gives you a huge advantage over the field and social media works perfectly for achieving this. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, YouTube, or any other media site can give your brand total exposure. Just think, your company has it’s own social media account with it’s own customer base. You can now directly reach all of your customers/clients by just posting updates, deals, specials, and important information. The benefit of this action is that it saves time and money since most media sites are free of charge for use. Not only do you reach your target audience directly, any of your customers friends or followers are being exposed to your products/services. Everything is connected on social media. With this new exposure, your brand can and will pick up new subscribers without you ever having to spend a dollar on extra advertising. It’s genius! Social Media has changed the game drastically from an advertising stand point and growth will continue well into the future.

Personalization

So if the above seems like a no-brainer, that’s because it is!  The key to effective social media marketing in 2016 is personalization.  This aspect of SMM is what any marketer worth her salt should master to stay out in front of the industry.

So where to start?  Now that you have your customer base set up, you can begin to market specifically to those individuals. This is called personalization as you now know exactly what products to sell each person. Personalization is a tailored style of marketing. Most forms of advertisements can oversaturate a customer, especially if the products/services aren’t what the customer wants. Personalization offers the customer what he/she wants from the past experiences of what the customer has already purchased. Your business can automatically send personal emails to each customer based on their previous interactions with the business. This action builds a strong relationship as well and makes the customer appreciate your brand even more.

While this is a strong SMM outreach approach, you’ll want to make sure you’re balancing your aggressive strategy with organic social content that your brand’s followers find useful.  Overdoing it is a great way to alienate your loyal customers which could land your business in a worse place than where it started.  Research things like the types of social content that your target customers consume, which social network they interact with the most, and marketing email open rates in your sector.  This will help you create a tailored strategy that doesn’t bombard your organic followers with content that could be perceived as constant advertising.

Instagram Stories and Digital Advertising

Instagram LogoAt the beginning of August, the popular video-sharing platform Instagram rolled out a new feature that is almost identical to an app that already exists. Instagram Stories closely mimics Snapchat’s product model, although Instagram’s videos disappear after 24 hours instead of Snapchat’s customary set number of seconds. In its blog release, Instagram stated that the purpose of Stories was to let people create a montage of every part of their day, complete with stickers and ways to draw on pictures. That is, in a nutshell, Snapchat.

This release has come at a time in which Snapchat has been a growing force in the world of digital advertising. Brands have taken to Snapchat to give their customers an inside look at their company, and to get videos out to over 100 million users. Snapchat users have been able to connect with their favorite brands, who update them on company information, show them fun goings on within the business, and even utilize the platform to raise money. Perhaps Instagram felt Snapchat was becoming a threat, as there have been reports of the recent decline in Instagram usage, and decided to see how temporary videos would affect their platform of over 300 million users.

Instagram has stated that it implemented this new feature to make it possible for brands to be more accessible. Currently, businesses and other Instagram users can spend hours retouching photographs to get them just right for posting. Instagram stories gives them the opportunity to put up in-the-moment videos, meaning more content goes out regularly. Brands have already started utilizing Instagram Stories to spread word of new releases and events, and experts say the usage of Stories will only grow.  

Of course, whether or not Instagram Stories will succeed over Snapchat has yet to be seen. Stories does not have as many features as Snapchat, which is not surprising considering the amount of time Snapchat has been around. Additionally, there is an entire generation that has grown up using Snapchat and may not be willing to switch to a completely different platform. This, according to Instagram, is their biggest barrier to success.

Instagram does have digital advertising feature that Snapchat lacks, however, and this may be how they win out in the digital advertising realm. The fact that Snapchat does not have analytics alone is enough to drive companies to use Instagram Stories. All in all, it will take time to determine which platform becomes preferred. I am interested to see where this story will lead.

Instagram Will Add New Tools For Businesses, Including Analytics

InstagramDigital advertising has found a home on a number of platforms, and it looks like the next platform on this list will be Instagram. Many of us think of Instagram as a merely social platform, but this is about to change. Instagram will now add an option for business profiles, which will include some of the key analytics that help businesses know the reach of their social media posts.

Instagram has never before given users the opportunity to find out exactly how many people have seen their posts. Up until now, users know how many people follow their Instagram account, but they don’t know who is checking their feeds after the photo or video is posted. They also don’t know how many other people come across it through a profile page or the Explore tab. However, brands will soon have a lot more information at their fingertips.

Instagram’s new tools for businesses will include business-specific profiles. Brands that use these profiles will be able to track how many times their posts have appeared on people’s screens. Instagram will be reporting impressions rather than views. Brands will be able to view how many times their organic photos and videos appeared on someone’s screen. They will not know, however, whether users actually paid attention to the post or just scrolled past it.

Brands will have the opportunity to see the total number of impressions of their cumulative posts, as well as breakdown for the photos and videos with the most impressions. The breakdowns include the number of impressions and engagements a single post has received.

Instagram’s changes will not only benefit businesses by way of impressions. Businesses will also be able to get a better look at their audience. The insights tool will break down the follower base of a brand according to age, gender, and location. The insights will also provide hourly and daily looks at how many new followers a brand has gained.

In order to get these data analytics on your Instagram account you will need to convert your Instagram account to the service’s business-specific profile. These business profiles have been talked about since March, and a number of businesses are excited to see this plan come to fruition. In the next few months, Instagram will be rolling out business profiles as a free option for businesses in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. But the end of the year, this phenomenon will expand globally.

These business profiles are essentially Instagram’s version of Facebook’s Pages. This is not surprising since Facebook is Instagram’s parent company.  The conversion to business profiles will be free, and it will add a contact button to the account’s profile page. This contact button can be used to call, text, or email a business or get directions to its location.

Beyond the insights tool and the contact button, business profiles have an additional perk: advertising opportunities. Once a brand converts to the business profile, the brand will be able to turn an organic post into an ad without leaving Instagram’s app. All a business will need to do is choose a post and add some sort of call-to-action button. Then, they’ll need to specify the target audience, or let Instragram do the work of choosing a target audience. According to Instagram, businesses will be able to promote a post as an ad for however long they want.

Instagram is no longer just a platform for individuals who want to take fun photographs. Businesses are now using Instagram, and Instagram is catching on. The new business profile feature will drastically change the way that businesses utilize Instagram.

Twitter Grows Advertising Opportunities

Many brands were quick to embrace social media; they understand the value of connecting directly with their customers. Twitter has adapted accordingly to the needs of advertisers, and now, its making improvements to the ad campaign feature.

twitter-1183719_1280The social media platform has updated the ad editor to make it easier for brands to effectively target, and monitor their advertising efforts. This new update includes an Ad Groups function, which will allow marketers to reach smaller sections within a larger group, by using detailed and targeted criteria, along with target-specific creative. The product was only available through Twitter’s API, but it was fully launched earlier this week. The company’s product marketing manager, Andrea Hoffman wrote a blog post to announce the new features. She explained that Twitter will provide more control for campaigns while gathering metrics based on audience and schedule.

With Ad Groups, Twitter created new opportunities for marketers within the Twitter community. Advertisers can now create subcampaigns within larger campaigns; these subcampaigns can be used to distribute targeted creative to the appropriate audience. As Hoffman explains in her blog post, “Similar to how other ad platforms are structured, Ad Groups introduce a new level in our campaign hierarchy. One campaign can have many ad groups, and an ad group can have many targeting criteria and creatives. This level of granular control helps advertisers improve how they measure results, set promotion schedules, test different audiences, and identify which Tweets work best.” In addition to these new features, the new campaigns can include set campaign objectives like engagements, video views, and followers. Your key performance metrics will be available directly through Twitter’s user interface.

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Twitter isn’t the only platform looking to grow advertising functions. Facebook has recently launched Delivery Insights, a new platform for advertisers to gather information about campaign performance. Let’s see how other social media platforms adapt their products, especially as they compete with one another for advertising revenue.

 

Snapchat To Grow Advertising Possibilities

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In 2013, Snapchat nearly became one of Facebook’s many acquisitions, but CEO Evan Spielgel, who was just 23 at the time, turned down Facebook’s nearly $3 billion offer. Facebook saw the value in the popular messaging app, even though at the time of the aforementioned offer, Snapchat had no sales or business model. Today, Snapchat is up against Facebook in the fight for advertiser’s dollars. Snapchat is looking to create advertising success similar to Facebook’s advertising integration with social media.

The team at Snapchat has several plans to develop ad business and mirror Facebook’s success.  One of these strategies includes enhancing ad targeting based on a user’s history through Snapchat’s Discovery portal. They would also take into consideration the user’s browser and search history outside of the app. Snapchat is eager to entice advertisers, so they will provide solutions for independent verification to assure companies that they receive what they pay for. Snapchat will also have executives working with brands to reinforce the independent verification. Additionally, there will be a content section that will incorporate paid priority content. Snapchat will also allow advertisers to target ads in publishers’ channels. These ads will be relevant to the specific content users are seeking out. This will benefit advertisers and allow them to direct their ads efficiently, based on content interest rather than general channel interest.

In addition to strategy development, Snapchat is also looking for technical solutions. Snapchat is working an advertising application programming interface (API) to allow third-party advertising and marketing tech companies to create computer programs to buy Snapchat ads. This API strategy is used by other social media giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Ad-targeting solutions like this API can drive the prices of Snapchat ads, because advertisers are willing to pay more for effective ads. Facebook gains advertisers because of their ability to track an ad’s performance, so Snapchat will have to build improve their tracking technology if they want to take some of those advertisers.

For Snapchat to make the most of their advertising opportunities, they will need to establish a Snap-ad standard. Snapchat is collaborating with Moat, an analytics firm, to have viewership of ads independently fact-checked. Currently, Snapchat counts a view every time a user sees an ad, even if they tap to skip it in less than second. Without verifying the effectiveness of their ads, Snapchat will be unable to have advertisers confidently purchase the exposure. While things may be working on a test-and-learn basis for advertisers, Snapchat will have to standardize their ad experience if they want to gain the ad business seen on other social platforms. To read more about ads on Snapchat, click here.

 

Advertisers Spend the Most On Millennials

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As Millennials begin to shift the behavior of consumers, advertisers have started to invest the money to reach them. Turn, an advertising technology firm based in Silicon Valley has analyzed advertiser’s spending, and found they are now spending nearly 500% more to reach millennials. This spending breaks down to four times as much spending on display, four times as much on social media, four and a half times as much spending on mobile, and six times as much on video advertising targeted at millennials than all other age groups combined, as reported by Adweek. The industries most actively targeting millennials includes financial services, travel, autos, health, and electronics, amongst others.

According to Adweek, there are 75 million millennials in the U. S. Turn compiled their research based on buying habits and interests of millennials across various backgrounds including: income level, political affiliation, lifestyle interests, entertainment interests and homeownership. From their research, Turn was able to break the large millennial group into four different groups.

  1. The first group, the “Struggling Aspirationals,” emcompasses the majority of millennials, about 57%. The Struggling Aspirational millennial is “green, healthy, and fit,” according to the Turn. He or she seeks bargains and good deals, and is an excellent target for promotions and limited-time offers. Currently, the food industry and the auto industry is spending the most on Struggling Aspirationals.
  2. The second group is designated as the “Successful Homeowners,” and includes 18% of millennials. Those with the highest income among millennials, and individuals most likely to be homeowners, fall within this group. These millennials are the prime audience for “high-impact media,” and video advertising, since they are “ready to spend.” Companies within the financial services industry, as well as the telecom industry are spending the most trying to reach Successful Homeowners.
  3. The third group, the “Active Affluents” includes millennials who are have families, or are new parents. They are typically athletic foodies who enjoy leisure travel. This group is most accessible through mobile campaigns, and is the target for many electronics and financial services companies.
  4. The final and smallest group, the “Comfortable TV Watchers” love TV, no matter the genre. They are currently the target for many auto, food, and travel companies.

 

Millennials have become a valuable target for advertisers, and the research compiled by Turn reflects their importance in the digital advertising realm. The shift in their behavior is a call to advertisers to change their strategies and reach this indispensable group of influencers.

To read more about Turn’s findings, visit their site, here.

To read more on Adweek, click here.