Advertising has always been based on giving attention to a brand’s message in exchange for some kind of content, whether that content is found on television, in print, or elsewhere. In the linear world of television this value exchange was easy — at least until the advent of the DVR. Today’s social media environment instantly and seamlessly interconnects 500 million Facebook users with 65 million daily tweets, 126 million bloggers, and 60 million smartphones.
Each day, television, radio, and print advertising are becoming less and less effective, but the vast majority of brand advertising dollars are still overwhelmingly concentrated in media where consumers are spending less than 25 percent of their time. Of the $123 billion spent on brand advertising in the U.S. last year, less than 5 percent of these dollars were spent online, according to a 2009 IEG study.
Online advertising budgets consisting of banners, display, and search are also missing out on the conversation — literally. The social media revolution is about the billions of conversations, tweets, postings, and feeds created daily by users for their extended social network. Yet, less than 3 percent of online media dollars actually target this burgeoning world of consumer-generated content. Banner and display ads offer no incentive for consumers to engage and, not surprisingly, are ignored 99.9 percent of the time — resulting in an escalation of the billions of “impressions” needed to get any consumer engagement. In social media, consumers are in control of the experience and choose to opt in for their experience to be effective.
So why do marketers continue to buy “media 1.0” in hopes of driving consumer engagement? What is the motivating factor that draws a consumer to interact with digital content apart from what he or she is already focusing on?
The secret to driving measurable, valuable engagement online is to allow brands to reach consumers on sites where they are connected, passionate, and truly motivated to enhance their experience. When you insert a brand’s message at the crucial point of value-exchange online, consumers are given the opportunity to earn a tangible reward in exchange for listening to and interacting with your brand’s messaging.
The question that every brand marketer and agency should be asking himself or herself right now is, “Am I offering my consumers anything in exchange for their time spent engaging with my brand?”
The opportunity exists every day to reach Super Bowl-size mass audiences online with interactive, rich, sharable ad engagements in environments where your consumers are highly motivated to earn something in return. Some of the biggest brands in the world, including McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Toyota are tapping into this value-exchange advertising technology to drive everything from movie ticket sales to Facebook fans.
Specifically, what kinds of rewards motivate consumers online?
Things like social gaming points, free music, access to exclusive content, free micro-donations to charity, swag, and virtual goods are a good place to start. Take, for example, the 350 million-plus monthly players of Zynga’s popular social games. As players tend to their virtual farms and towns, they are given the opportunity to purchase virtual goods to enhance their operations. Marketers, including Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and Paramount have all driven brand engagement campaigns in this setting. Using the engagement format to let players earn free game cash in exchange for interacting with their messaging is both highly scalable and highly effective. Microsoft’s Bing brought in over 300,000 new fans to its Facebook page in just one day, thanks to its custom engagement campaign on FarmVille, and hundreds of brands have followed suit.
Or, take the largest non-gaming app on Facebook — Causes. With over 30 million people constantly keeping up with the charities they are passionate about on Causes, advertisers are able to place their ads in a value-exchange setting where users can complete a short, branded engagement, such as watching a video message, in order to earn a micro-donation to a consumer’s favorite charity.
I have had the chance to see firsthand how rewarding consumers can drive real performance and engagement for brands in hundreds of campaigns. To me, one of the most compelling numbers is the time-spent metric — consumers who engage with brands on social properties like Zynga, Gaia, and IMVU spend an average of 63 seconds interacting with brand messaging. Campaigns from brands such as GE, iTunes, and KIA have seen incredibly high averages, with some garnering an average of over 200 seconds time spent per user. We’ve learned that when you find motivated consumers, not only will they engage, but they will also share the experience in their Facebook feeds to their friends and tweet it to the world. These brand evangelists drive a geometric expansion of earned media and vastly increase metrics such as intent to purchase, recall, and brand loyalty.
Our entire lives, we are taught that life is about value-exchanges. As a child I paid attention in school for a gold sticker — now I pay attention online to earn virtual tomatoes or a new city hall. Value-exchange at a massive scale for advertisers in social media is the key to driving value for your brand and for your consumers.