Social Ads More Effective Than Search Ads For Product Discovery

A May 2013 research study conducted by Forrester Research and commissioned by Google Wildfire indicates that social ads are potentially more effective for brands looking to reach new customers. You can request a copy of the study by clicking here.

Survey respondents were asked “Which of the following ways do you typically discover or find out about new products, brands, or services?”

Thirty-four percent said “Internet searches via search engines”, while a whopping 41% (a higher rate than all other responses) said “Seeing ads on social networks.”

This study suggests that social ads can in some cases be more effective than search ads for brands looking to increase market share by attracting new customers.

The study also suggests an ad campaign on social networks, like Facebook, can be a more effective tactic for improving product awareness than other popular tactics such as wall posts, email ads, and display ads.

Have you read this study? What do you find to be interesting about the research? Does it surprise you that social ads seem to outperform search ads (SEM).

A Discovery-Based Approach to Maximizing Social Media ROI

Companies large and small are often criticized for acting like inexperienced children or sophomoric students in their approach to social media.  But I’d argue that in some cases, the former, child-like approach, may not actually be as foolish – or childish – as it sounds. In fact I’d argue it can be a pure stroke of genius when navigating the relatively uncharted world of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

Allow me to explain.

As a child, pretty much the entire world is uncharted territory. And I’m sure I was not alone in being constantly reminded by my parents – the authorities – to brush my teeth and to avoid eating too many sweets.

But being a child, I never really learned and understood this lesson until I did the opposite of what they told me to do.  Then and only then did I evaluate, internalize and then take corrective action based on the results – a painful visit to the dentist’s office.

I think a similar discovery-based approach, painful as it can be, makes perfect sense when trying to assess the value of your company’s social media efforts. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, so again, please allow me to explain.

Let’s say you’re not sure whether your inbound marketing is paying off.

A discovery-based approach would enable you to stop doing it in order to better evaluate the value of doing it.

By analyzing the effects of not doing it, you can assess, for example, whether your business results were negatively impacted? And if so, which ones?

Or, take Facebook. Is your investment in Facebook advertising a waste of money or are you generating positive business results from those ads?

Perhaps the single most effective way to shed more light on that question is to stop advertising and see what happens.

This discovery – based planning approach is of course nothing new to the world of business. Harvard Business Review magazine featured an article about it in its July 1995 issue which I recommend you read if this topic is of interest to you.

All of this leads me to a conversation I initiated earlier today on Blog Talk Radio with Otto Pilot Media’s Alexandra Gibson on whether GM made a mistake in dropping all of its Facebook advertising earlier this year.

I asked Alexandra to comment on this because I had read her intelligently conceived and expressed opinion in an Op-Ed she posted to Otto Pilot Media’s blog. I recommend you read the full article here.

And you can listen to the Blog Talk Radio interview here or by clicking on the play button below (if you have Flash enabled):

Listen to internet radio with Hugh Macken Live on Blog Talk Radio

I agree with Alexandra’s contention that (quoting from her Op-Ed) “GM needed to develop a way to convert ad viewers to leads, to pull them in to the GM community through great and fun content, and to measure how many converted even in that first step.”

But I also can’t help but wonder:

Might GM have pulled the ads as part of a discovery-based strategy that would incorporate intelligence gained by not doing what the “authorities” at Facebook told them to do?

Might GM be evaluating the ROI of not advertising on Facebook right now?

No pain…no gain?

A Critical Email Marketing Share Link You May Be Missing

I received an email this morning from Persuasive Concepts and noticed something I don’t typically see in email marketing newsletters. As you can see in the image below, Persuasive Concepts added a “Subscribe Here” button to the bottom of the email. At first glance, you might wonder why you’d have a “Subscribe Here” button on an email that has been sent to someone who is already subscribed to your e-newsletter. But if you think about it, it does make sense because it is entirely possible that the person who originally received this email forwards it to a friend either using the “Forward this email to a friend” link or simply by clicking “Forward” using their email client app. So for example, if I forwarded this email to my friend James, he would not be added to my email marketing list. Nor should he be if you want your business to be CAN-SPAM compliant. But what if James sees the email you sent him and wants to subscribe as well? Is there a link like the one highlighted in red below that he can click on if he chooses to subscribe?

Personally, I think a “Subcribe” link is something that should be on every email marketing template. What surprises me is how few email marketing platforms offer this link by default.

What do you think? Are there potential downsides to adding such a link or do you agree with me that it really is a no brainer if you want one more effective, CAN-SPAM compliant way to grow your email marketing database? I’d love to hear from email marketing platforms as to whether they think adding this link makes good sense and whether their platform allows for this functionality to be easily added to their templates.

Does CampaignMonitor offer this functionality by default? ConstantContact? MailChimpVertical Response? Infusionsoft? Icontact? Others? Should they? What sort of results have email marketers gotten from using this approach to grow their list? Do these providers provide a way to track how many of my new subscribers are coming from the “Was this email forwarded to you by a friend…Subscribe Here” link? Can I track which of my initial subscribers generated the new subscribers through this link? Perhaps even see the connection between the two subscribers in my email analytics?

Forward To Friend

GM Brands To Drop Facebook Ads by Mid-2012, says GM spokesman

General Motors Manager of Cross Brand Communications and Media Relations Tom Henderson, confirmed in a phone interview with VMR Communications earlier today that by mid-year GM and all brands including Chevy, Cadillac and others will cease advertising on Facebook.   Mr Henderson hastened to add that GM and the brands are as committed as ever to their organic outreach on Facebook.

“This does not mean we are abandoning our fans. We are very committed to continuing to engage our community on Facebook.”

When asked if Facebook’s IPO had anything to do with the timing of the ad pull-back announcement, Henderson replied, “Absolutely not. We are constantly evaluating and our marketing mix.”

Henderson explained that recent marketing mix evaluations have resulted in GM’s plans to   discontinue advertising on Facebook as of mid-2012. He noted that GM’s ad spend on digital platforms has increased steadily in recent years, now accounting for 25 to 30 percent of the company’s total ad budget.

Facebook Advertising: Better Interest Targeting Needed

4/26/2012 Update: A Facebook representative has informed V M R that the Facebook Ad change proposed below is “in the works.” The source could not confirm a specific timeline for when the refinement feature described below would be added. 

Facebook needs to add one more option to its interest targeting capabilities to improve low click through rates versus google and other online advertising options. This one addition would, I believe, also result in enhanced Social Reach and better Ad overall ad conversion as well.

Currently advertisers can target ads for users with Interest x OR Interest y but not Interest x AND interest y. So for example, I can target Facebook users who are interested in with SEO or Social Media but I cannot target users interested in both SEO and Social Media. Or, if I am a book publisher selling a book about Pope Francis, I can target Facebook users who are interested in the Pope Francis or books, but not Pope Francis AND books.

Facebook advertising targeting

The former, which I’ll refer to as disjunctive (OR) refinement, certainly can be useful for ad campaigns that want to target those interested in either interest category. But a conjunctive (AND) refinement option for agencies like mine that want to leverage the true power of Facebook’s social graph is necessary for refined interest targeting.

Why? Because better refinement can yield much better bottom line results for both Facebook and Facebook advertisers.

And that’s a conjunction worth its weight in Facebook Ad credits.

Do you agree? Disagree? What other options do you think would help to improve Facebook ads?

Related Links:

Inbound and Outbound Marketing: Foes or Friends?

Mixbound MarketingInbound marketing alone can be a recipe for failure.  That’s the view of Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at marketing automation IT provider Marketo who defines inbound marketing in a recently published Marketo inbound marketing whitepaper as

“The process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.”

I tend to agree with both Jon’s definition of inbound marketing and his contention that inbound marketing alone is not enough. But I think it’s important to note that if you asked inbound marketing evangelists like Hubspot CTO Dharmesh Shah, I think they’d agree as well that a mix of outbound and inbound approaches makes perfect sense. Indeed, Shah has explicitly stated as much on quora over the last few years. For example:

“We’ve been trying out some of twitter’s new promotional features…” – March 20, 2011

“HubSpot uses a combination of inbound marketing and outbound marketing.” – June 22, 2010

Hubspot’s CMO Mike Volpe also points out – on quora – that the cost per lead is 60% lower using an inbound-marketing focused approach.

Where Marketo and Hubspot may disagree, therefore, not so much on whether outbound marketing approaches are necessary but rather the degree to which businesses should focus their efforts on inbound approaches as opposed to outbound approaches.

And that is a perfectly legitimate debate worth having.

Equally important for marketers to discuss is how best to integrate the two approaches strategically rather than implementing them as stand-alone approaches that are executed as completely separate marketing initiatives.

With this discussion in mind, I’d like to propose a new term to describe marketing strategy that involves a synergistic combination of outbound and inbound approaches: Mixbound Marketing.

A good example of a social media- oriented mixbound strategy that combines both traditional outbound approaches and inbound approaches would be using Facebook Sponsored Stories (outbound with a social layer) to amplify the reach of a Facebook Page that focuses mainly on growing its fan base and engagement rate with an organic approach that is rooted in posting remarkable content to the Facebook Wall (inbound).

Another example would be Organic SEO combined with Paid SEO/SEM.

And lest I leave out perhaps the best example: I learned about Marketo’s inbound marketing whitepaper (inbound/content marketing) thanks to a Facebook Ad (outbound marketing).

Outbound and inbound marketing approaches should complement rather than compete with one another. And I don’t know if I’m the first to use the term but I refer to the synergistic, *strategic* merging of the two approaches as “mixbound marketing.”

Further information on inbound marketing and outbound marketing and the benefits of each:


The CMO Guide to Inbound Marketing Infographic by Marketo

How Social Media Pros Can Optimize…Their Time

Liz Pearce, COO of LiquidPlanner

Liz Pearce, COO of

Advice abounds relating to how to optimize your website, your linkedin profile, your Facebook news feed and virtually every other aspect of your social media marketing. But what about your time? Overlooking this issue, can be costly in terms of  lost productivity. With that in mind, I hope you’ll consider joining my live conversation with veteran project manager Liz Pearce this afternoon at 10 am Pacific / 1pm Eastern / 6 pm GMT on Blog Talk Radio.

Liz is the COO of LiquidPlanner, a priority-based, predictive project management solution for professionals working within enterprises and within agency project teams. The focus of our conversation will be how to use time tracking and analysis to boost your team’s performance in the age of disruptive social media. Liz won’t just be talking theory. She’ll be speaking from her experience as well, having managed over 100 projects at a time at Google. She’s also held product and project management positions at Sony and Amazon.

You can listen live online here.

On a related note, I’m delighted that this interview is sponsored by Ragan Communications, one of the world’s leading resources for communications and marketing professionals. Ragan will be presenting a conference at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, from May 8 – 9. The conference is entitled, “Advanced Social Media Strategies for PR, Marketing and Corporate Communications.” Of course, one of the topics, among many that will be addressed at the conference, will be using social media to enhance the productivity of marketing, product development, PR and executive teams.

Indeed, the opening keynote will be presented by Carlos Dominguez (@carlosdominguez) who is the Senior Vice-President for the Office of the Chairman and CEO at Cisco. Dominguez will be discussing the skill sets required for today’s professionals to adapt to changing markets, one of which is their ability to manage their time effectively in the age of disruptive media. He’ll also be addressing:

  • Key characteristics of successful companies
  • How to weave social media into the fabric of your organization
  • How social tools can help you innovate
  • The importance of collaboration for thriving in this new world

Attendees of the conference look to be in for a real treat given the impressive roster of presentations from professionals working inside the executive trenches of leading enterprises like IBM, Cisco, SAP and Adobe. They will be sharing their insights based on experience. That experience – sharing will be complemented by analyst insights from renowned IT research firms Forrester Research and Altimeter Group.

Among the speakers:

  • Kim Celestre (@KCelestre) is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research
  • Ted Sapountzis (@sapountzis) is the VP of Social Media Audience Marketing for SAP AG.
  • Maria Poveromo (@mariapoveromo) is the Director of Social Media for Adobe Systems.
  • Brian Solis (@BrianSolis) is the author of Engage! The complete guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web. Brian is one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media.

Internal Collaboration is the Way to Win with Social Media Says GM Executive

Mary Henige GM Social Media Director

Mary Henige, General Motors Director of Social Media & Digital Communications

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’ve been critical of many companies for not quite “getting” social media, in some cases not even by a long shot. But I can tell you after engaging in private discussions earlier this week with General Motors Director of Social Media Mary Henige  as well as a public discussion I co-hosted yesterday on Blog Talk Radio with communications strategist and author Deirdre Breakenridge, GM most definitely “gets” social media far better than most.

Our thirty-minute, wide-ranging conversation yesterday on Blog Talk Radio was co-sponsored by and Ragan Communications. Henige, a 25 – year corporate communications veteran at GM and award-winning corporate communications professional, outlined the company’s approach to social media as it relates to both internal and external stakeholders. In doing so she stressed the importance of an empowering corporate culture that has provided the foundation for strong levels of internal communication. It’s that internal communication and collaboration that have been key to GM’s recent social media successes according to Henige.

“It’s not magic,” said Henige. “What we do in social media is a lot of hard work, it’s engagement, it’s building relationships and that’s something that people in corporate communications and media relations are particularly skilled at doing.”

What struck me as most interesting was the willingness and ability of Henige and her counterparts in marketing to take a collaborative approach to social media rather than one based on a turf-war mentality.

What’s even more interesting to me is the nature of that collaborative relationship. Indeed, one of the most important roles of the social media team led by Henige in relation to social media appears to be that of a trusted internal social media consulting center of excellence.  According to Henige, “Because we serve as a resource to our internal…colleagues, our expertise is sought after all the time.”

Citing GM’s sponsorship of the South by Southest Conference as an example, Henige stressed that the collaboration between GM corporate communications and various departments within the divisional brands like Chevrolet have been key to GM’s success.

“Increased collaboration is the way that you win…[Responsibility for social media – related initiatives] should be shared. If you really want to do [social media-related initiatives] well, you need to leverage the expertise of each team…We’ve made great progress this last year.”

Interestingly the collaboration has extended beyond the marketing and PR silos to also include increased teamwork between corporate communication and customer assistance.  And the results there have been equally impressive.

As an example, Henige pointed out that her team was “able to help customer service reduce their lead time from about 24 hours based on when they were online down to about 90 minutes just because we were able to filter out so much of what they were seeing.”

We asked Henige to outline some of GM’s goals for social media and she explained that while the brands that fall under the GM umbrella were primarily concerned with goals related to lead generation, customer loyalty and ultimately sales, GM corporate’s first priority for the use of social media was enhancing the corporate reputation and regaining customers’ trust in the aftermath of GM’s bankruptcy.

She stressed that listening was a key component in these efforts.

“Listening is very important…We’re there and we’re still listening. And that has [also] given us a great way to collaborate among GM employees globally.”

Selim Bingol
Selim Bingol, GM’s VP of Global Communications

GM uses SocialCast as its internal enterprise collaboration application of choice and the user adoption rate has been solid with some 27,000 employees joining the internal community hosted by the web application in a single year, according to Henige. She says GM has also begun using the Town Hall feature set that Socialcast offers which has allowed managers within GM to hold Town Hall meetings online with GM employees to further enhance internal communication.

From a strategy perspective, the March 2010 appointment of Selim Bingol as GM’s new Vice President of Global Communications appears to have had a positive impact on the significant progress GM has made on the social front.  According to Henige, Bingol, who recently started blogging at a new GM blog called BTW, stressed the importance of benchmarking GM’s social performance which prompted Henige’s team to undertake a gap analysis that helped to identify areas of strength as well as areas in need of improvement.

GM’s social media benchmark approach, its marketing and communications’ employees willingness to collaborate rather than compete internally, and its efforts to ensure that the GM story is communicated clearly, may together help to explain the company’s significantly improved reputation.

 The recently released 2012 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ) study evaluates customer and other stakeholder perceptions of the 60 most visible companies in the country, across 20 attributes that are grouped into six dimensions of reputation:

  • Products & Services
  • Financial Performance
  • Workplace Environment
  • Social Responsibility
  • Vision & Leadership
  • Emotional Appeal

General Motors saw the greatest increase this past year among all 60 companies whose reputations are measured in the report, showing gains in every one of the six aforementioned dimensions of reputation.

Some other points of interest regarding GM’s social media – related initiatives:

  • GM’s FastLane blog began in 2001
  • GM sent out more than 1000 media releases last year
  • GM uses Google+ to distribute some of its news releases because of the ability to segment news releases according to blogger and media interests. Google+ also enables GM to add additional multimedia “color.”

If you’d like to listen to the conversation in its entirety, you can do so by clicking on the “play” button below or by going to the episode showpage on Blog Talk Radio.

Listen to internet radio with Hugh Macken Live on Blog Talk Radio

What comments from GM’s Mary Henige did you find to be of particular interest? Are there are questions you would like us to address next time? Please feel free to comment below. I’ll be listening!


Recommended Resources related to this post:

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General Motors’ Mary Henige To Share GM’s Social Media Success Story

Mary Henige GM Social Media Director

Mary Henige, General Motors Director of Social Media & Digital Communications

On Friday, March 30th at 1pm EDT, well-known social media strategist and author Deirdre Breakenridge will join me for an exclusive thirty-minute live conversation with Mary Henige who currently serves as Director of Social Media and Digital Communications at General Motors.

Henige has been with GM for over 25 years and currently leads GM social media strategy; employee policy and training; Blogs; Community engagement on GM’s corporate brand channels; and crisis monitoring and response.

Her team works in cooperation with other areas to broaden the reach of GM’s “stories” including video development and media outreach.

GM has received both mainstream media and blogger attention at this year’s South by Southwest Conference. We’ll talk with Henige about that success and the resources and tools GM makes use of to develop and execute its social media strategies. And we’ll discuss how and why marketing and PR at GM have managed to work together so effectively – more effectively than many in the marketing/PR agency world might imagine.

The discussion, which will take place on Blog Talk Radio, is sponsored by LiquidPlanner, (affiliate link) a leading enterprise-class online project management application  and Ragan, provider of  world-renowned newsletters, conferences, research reports and guides for leading corporate communicators.

You can listen live on Friday at 1pm EDT / 10 AM PST on Blog Talk Radio.

Inbound Marketing Pioneer, Hubspot Expert On Blog Talk Radio

Inbound marketing pioneer Paul Roetzer was kind enough to join me on Blog Talk Radio last week. Paul is the founder and CEO of PR 20/20 and the author of the recently published book The Marketing Agency Blueprint: The Handbook for Building Hybrid PR, SEO, Content, Advertising, and Web Firm (Wiley)  (Affiliate Link).  Paul also happens to be someone I genuinely admire for his hybrid marketing and PR acumen, his business savvy and his generosity to his profession. He is most defintely worth watching. And listening to. With regard to the latter, if you have a minute or two, listen in to my conversation with Paul from last Friday for the sort of brilliant, practical insights on inbound marketing you will only find from someone who has walked the walk as Paul Roetzer and his firm PR 20/20 most definitely have. Feel free to share your thoughts regarding the interview as well. You know I will be listening…to you!

Listen to internet radio with Hugh Macken Live on Blog Talk Radio