Engage Don’t Disrupt
In a world cluttered with information overload the best performing ads have quickly become those that enrich the user experience with relevant and useful information rather than interrupt or disrupt the consumer experience. As a result, the industry is re-evaluating the effectiveness of traditional online advertising and looking to new approaches that influence the consumer rather than just reaching them. This evolution in online advertising is compounded as more consumers engage socially with content, leaving brands and marketers looking for new ways to influence brand perception.
Authentic, Influential Content Resonates
The fastest growing companies in today’s advertising landscape—Facebook and Twitter—have all implemented monetization strategies that enable marketers to enhance the user experience. Google did it first with their AdWords program –an ad platform that allows marketers to place paid search terms alongside organic search terms. Facebook is starting to do this with their Sponsored Stories, which help brands promote how friends engage with and “like” brands or products. Twitter approaches it with promoted products, which include promoted tweets, accounts, and trends. These strategies work because the message doesn’t get in the way of the consumer experience, but rather helps people make decisions.
Expert Opinions Matter
So how can brands, especially in the “considered purchase” category, like technological purchases, execute a strategy that takes advantage of these shifts in consumer behavior? Traditional display banner ads demonstrate that as more consumers are going online to research and learn more about brands through third party sources they are paying less and less attention to what brands are saying about themselves – as proven by the declining click-through rates on online ads. This is especially true for considered purchases such as technology. Rather than engaging with advertisements from companies, consumers turn to expert bloggers and other influencers to get the information by which they formulate their opinions. Knowing who brand influencers are and how to leverage them is critical to changing brand perception and gaining market share. Ultimately, independent editorial content and what influencers are saying about a specific brand is driving considered purchases and decision making over ad messages. Marketers and advertisers who spend more time understanding what third party influential experts and enthusiasts are saying about them are finding that there is an opportunity to leverage these influencers. It is no secret that word-of-mouth is often the most powerful marketing vehicle. It is time marketers started thinking about paid media as a way to promote what the experts are saying about them rather than simply telling audiences how great their own products are.
Win-Win for Consumers
Marketers can turbocharge conversations about them by engaging with their influencers in authentic ways. Whether that is through exclusive events, focus groups, or other methods marketers can help spark conversations about them by providing value to their influencers. Brands can also direct some of their marketing efforts and budgets toward new forms of advertising that promote influential third party content associated with their brands. By helping target audiences engage with influential third party content, marketers will spend less time on the nuance of their advertising message and more time leveraging authentic and expert content about their brand. Harnessing the power of expert influencers is about adding value to the user experience by leveraging the expertise of independent tech influencers in order to help people find relevant information. This approach to advertising is far more valuable than bombarding consumers with the conventional banner ad. And early results show that this method of advertising is far more effective in building brand lift and favorability. Unlike traditional display ads, there is a mechanism for people to interact and virally share content about a brand, which means more people are ultimately impacted.
Social media has changed the way that consumers interact with brands and with one another. Engaging with brand influencers and leveraging content that these influencers have written about them enables brands to have a far greater impact in influencing brand perception than just simply broadcasting their own message in front of people. If brands want to inform consumers about their products and increase purchase consideration, they will look to adapt to a new model of marketing in a way that benefits consumers trying to make decisions.
Originally published 23 February 2012 on Social Media Today