By Dorothy York, President and CEO of North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
The traditional media experience for readers and advertisers has been improved with the enhancements made by adding the digital facets, including, not only banners, sponsored content and newsletters, but also social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some publications have more of an audience in the promotion of their sites with social media, than some of the most popular columnists have for their best articles.
Social media can seem mysterious to those that are new to it. There are a lot of myths related to advertising on social media and advertisers are becoming increasingly aware of the fraudulent activity that they need to account for, when balancing their ad buys with traditional media. The seeds of doubt have been planted in the minds of ad buyers, with some market moving effects.
Social media has become a useful resource for the media, viewers and advertisers. Nearly all businesses should be using social media to some degree. The benefits of advertising on social media include:
1- Better Customer Service
Leaving customer questions unanswered can make a business look unprofessional and like the staff just doesn’t care, so it’s crucial that businesses are visible on social networks their customers are using, to avoid customer frustration. Social media can create a great opportunity to reply to people in a timely way and look professional.
They should regularly monitor all their channels, which may be at least four or five, for brand mentions and customer questions. If you don’t, you will alienate your customers. Real-time communication helps to make happy customers, which in turn creates brand evangelists who drive positive brand sentiment.
2. Brand Building
Social media makes it easier to improve brand awareness and build a brand identity. Businesses can establish their brand’s personality and give their business a human voice that people can relate to. Connecting on an emotional level or showing some personality are both effective ways of helping a brand stand out from competitors.
3. Reputation Management
Nearly all businesses have had some complaints. When comments and complaints are dealt with swiftly and sensitively, this instant feedback:
- Demonstrates high levels of customer service
- Can effectively diffuse negativity
- Can resolve issues that customers may have
Negative sentiment can often be turned into positive in a public way. The customer is now happy and won’t go on to post bad reviews and warn friends not to use the company. Instead, the customer is more likely to tell friends that the company provides great customer service.
4. Trust Building
With so many alternatives to choose from, customers are often overwhelmed and want an easy way to authenticate a business that they are dealing with for the first time. People like to be able to search online and see that a business has a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Seeing that you are active on social media helps to fill potential customers with trust. It signals that you care about your customers, and should anything go wrong, that it will be easy to contact you.
5. Customer Insights
Customer insights can drive the development of social media campaigns and shape strategic decisions, helping to make website content and product or service offerings more attractive and relevant to customers. Social media makes it quick and easy for businesses to obtain feedback from customers, which will give them a clearer idea of brand sentiment and help identify common pain points to address.
6. Content Promotion
This could be the most useful aspect of social media. Increase awareness of each new blog article or news post that is published by shouting about those on social media. Social media, when used in conjunction with high quality content creating, is a highly effective way to attract new customers and build authority in an advertiser’s area of expertise.
7. Customer Engagement
Social media is a way to keep a business or brand in the mind of customers. This means business owners can actively influence purchasing decisions and help foster customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.
8. Website Traffic
Most importantly, being active on social media is a must because it can increase the amount of traffic that an advertiser’s website receives. Successful social media activities will improve the amount of traffic referrals your website receives.
Social media as an SEO ranking signal is increasing in importance. Being talked about and mentioned on social media is a positive signal that shows an advertiser’s business is popular and has content worth sharing and talking about. This in turn drives Google to regard an advertiser’s website as being more authoritative, which is one of the many signals that helps your website rank better in organic SEO.
The truth about social media is that most businesses use it because it is cheap, it shows fancy activity reports, and they are being told at every conference they go to that they need to be doing it. They are not being told the whole truth. Some advertisers are feeling overwhelmed with all the social and digital media options available to them, often by dozens of sales reps that are selling related services.
Facts Rarely Shared About Digital and Social Media
1. Up to 62% of all web traffic comes from bots (non-human software applications that are running tasks, some are good and some are bad), per Imperva, December 2013. Try to search online, “what percentage of web traffic is fake?” Results may vary, but it’s always a high number.
2. 25% of Facebook users admit to lying on their profiles, per CNN, 2012. Many more could be lying but not admitting it. Most commonly they lie about marital status or age. This is would indicate that if you are targeting people by their profiles, and those aren’t accurate, you may not be reaching the right people.
3. 47% of global Internet users are blocking digital ads, per Digital Information World, 2019. This would indicate that whatever you think your digital audience is, you should cut it in half. Using ad blockers can: 1- decrease data usage up to 25% (parents frequently tell kids to use less data), 2- increase browsing speed up to 30% and 3- reduce battery drain up to 50%. The main reasons people use digital ad blocking software are that 1- there are too many ads, 2- those are annoying them, 3-they are concerned about viruses, 4- too much screen space that ads are hogging, 5- taking too long to load and bogging down the system, 6- they hate video ads, 7- they are concerned about privacy, 8- data usage, 9- battery drain, 10- concern about personalized ads that continue to pop up long after people search for something. People in advertising like to see ads, to see what people are doing, but those outside the ad business behave differently.
4. 2.6% of Facebook organic posts are actually viewed, per Adweek, 2015. The gravy train is over. If you want to reach people on Facebook, you are going to have to pay for it. Many don’t know that and think each of their posts reaches all their followers.
5. 48 million Twitter users are fake, designed to simulate real people, per New York Times investigation, January 2018. Twitter has made efforts to delete some of their fake accounts.
6. Facebook shut down 5.4 billion fake accounts in the first 11 months of 2019, per CNN, November 2019. Nielsen, Arbitron and CVC are the organizations that audit the reach of TV, radio and print. Auditing social media and digital media is truly like being in the Wild West. There is not a single audience source that is respected as much as the others. Some are on the rise now, which will help us sort out the fraud and getting tricked into inflated numbers.
7. $42 billion was lost globally in digital ad fraud in 2019, per eMarketer, June 2019 and was predicted to go to $100 billion in 2023.
8. Only 24% of U. S. Online adults say it’s “cool” to be associated with a company/brand on social media, per Forrester, May 2020. Not many are following brands on social media, because they think that is “uncool”.
9. 68% don’t think brands/companies share interesting content on social media, per Forrester, May 2020. They are bored with what businesses are posting. They don’t want to see it.
10. More than 1,000 companies boycotted Facebook advertising recently, per New York Times, August 2020. It had a minimal impact but, even so, a message was sent.
Educating advertisers about the myths of social media should focus on these top concerns:
1. Fake Accounts: To make sure advertisers know what they are getting, they have been advised to beware of the fraud by the Facebook and Twitter fake accounts.
2. Ad Stacking: This is a practice that involves multiple ads being stacked on top of one another on a website with only the top ad being visible to the viewer. When one ad is visible the impression counts for each served ad, even the hidden ads underneath the stack. This is another specific trick to defraud advertisers. This does not refer to rotating ads. There may be 100 ads stacked on top of each other and only the top ad is visible. If one pays for impressions, even though the physical ad can never be viewed, the advertiser is being charged by some of the digital ad networks for that type of fraud. It’s happening a lot.
3. Pixel Stuffing: This even more alarming process, takes place when a 1x1 pixel, that is invisible by the human eye, is placed on a site unbeknownst to a user, these pixels can end up loading an entirely different website. The site that loads out of view, in a 1x1 iframe, often contains advertising, none of which is ever seen by users, because it can’t be seen. While this method of advertising can be used to simulate false ad impressions, it’s also used in affiliate marketing scams, where the hidden site cookies the visitor. The hidden site get to share the credit for any conversions or purchases of the site the viewer actually visited. You can’t see it, you don’t know it’s there, but if you’re buying part of a digital ad network, you are paying for that impression.
4. Mobile SDK Overlap: The stacking of software development kits is a fraudulent practice that is particularly prevalent in the mobile space. SDKs are sets of tools used to create applications. In a given mobile app, there may be different SDKs from the ad server, various ad networks as well as an ad format vendor, all tied together within the app. These SDK sets are not always designed to work together, which can lead to multiple ad impressions being delivered to the same spot, only one of which is seen. Sometimes this happens by accident but often it is purposeful activity.
5. Ghost Sites: This is the most widely reported type of fraud and it’s happening with online advertising. These are real websites with real content but usually falsely produced or stolen from other legitimate websites. The only purpose of those sites is to defraud advertisers. The site owners will create those sites and make those available to ad networks or exchanges that participate in a real-time bidding environment. They hire bot nets which go to the site and generate ad impressions which then enter the ad environment and are then purchased by advertisers. If you have ever been to a site that didn’t look quite like the site you thought it was going to be, it was probably a ghost site. This is a huge problem that is not going to be fixed anytime soon.
6. Purchased Traffic: The correlation would be if a print publication purchased readers that weren’t really reading, to make it look like there were more readers than actually existed. Monetizing content on the web can be difficult and even name brand publishers buy traffic to boost page views. They have sometimes been taken advantage of by someone promising legitimate web traffic, but is really just producing bot traffic. Given the number of bot traffic traversing the Internet, likely in the billions, some of those are going to land on legitimate sites generating false impressions. Simply by following various links, those were programmed to follow somewhere upstream. Free or ad-supported mobile app publishers face many of the same issues as digital media publishers. Given the low cost of an app media, those can be really difficult to monetize and the margins could be slim. Given that dynamic, app publishers and ad networks need to drive extraordinarily cheap traffic back to their apps and their mobile web experience. This often means buying traffic from resellers, who buy that traffic from other resellers down the chain. The end result is bot traffic. That happens way too much. This happens in social media too. For example, it was reported that 48 million followers that one presidential candidate had, were not real human beings. Also, a past president who is very popular had a similar number following him.
7. Half of all web traffic is not real: Most website visitors are not human, but are bots. Some bots figure out how to refresh your Facebook feed or figure out how to rank your search results. Other bots impersonate humans and carry out devastating attacks. Overall bots are responsible for about 52% of web traffic, according to Imperva, which offers an annual assessment online.
The seeds of doubt have been planted. We continue to research the trends to be sure that we can educate our clients about the risks and rewards of the digital and social media opportunities.
We offer social media advertising as a service to our clients, to amplify their messages, and we want to be sure that they are aware of the big picture, so they can evaluate the allocation of their budgets accordingly. We strive to offer the best metrics available, and give the most accurate data, but there is an intangible element to be considered, which needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The best measurement data is based on goal oriented outcomes. For example, if the goal is to sell a new product, and you want to test out a new method of communicating your message, and your method is the only one used, clearly any sales that result will be attributable to that method. For more than one method used, or for products that are not new, there are other ways to measure, including how many people filled out a form which is specific to one method, or how many people requested a special offer, which is specific to one method. That is useful data that can help us to choose the most cost-effective possible use of our budgets.