With the incredible ascent of social media and its influence on marketing, many brands continue to search for answers as to how best tap resources like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr to their advantage. ShareThis provides solutions by enabling publishers and brands to add seemingly simple buttons to their websites that consumers can use to express their interest in a specific content and topics of interest. The data mined from those shares, likes, click-backs, searches, retweets and pins help brands build custom consumer audience segments who are most likely to buy their products and recommend them to others.
ADOTAS recently sat down with ShareThis SVP of Marketing Jennifer Hyman (pictured) at the company’s New York office to discuss the current state of social advertising, the most effective ways to measure the success of a campaign, and the factors that are discouraging brands from spending more of their advertising dollars online.
ADOTAS: How can advertisers best take advantage of social?
JENNIFER HYMAN: Social is a way for them to listen to their consumers, hear what they have to say, and see their interests expressed online. Through ShareThis, that’s expressed through the sharing of content, so we’re able to help advertisers see what content consumers are sharing about their brand and what they’re sharing about their industry in general. It’s a great signal for advertisers to see what their customers are actually doing in relation to their brand overall.
How does social advertising fit into the mix of other social marketing activities – Facebook brand pages, contests/sweepstakes with a social component, etc.?
Social advertising, as done by ShareThis, allows advertisers to reach consumers that are talking about their products and talking about areas that are of interest to them. It enables them to connect with consumers that are sharing content. We can help advertisers like Best Buy reach consumers who are sharing content around their game titles. We can help NBC reach consumers who are sharing content around their TV shows. So we’re complementary to all the other social efforts that they may undertake.
New social platforms emerge constantly. What can brands do to keep up?
Well, for one, they can use ShareThis – that’s an easy one for me! One of the things we do is help publishers, especially, understand what social platforms are emerging and recommend the ones to put on their sites. We have a Pinterest Pin that publishers can add. We have a Tumblr button. So we help publishers and advertisers with the technicalities of keeping up. But I think in the broader sense, marketers need to understand the trends that are happening on the interactive web generally, so as things become popular and buzz builds, they should become aware of it. But I think if something becomes popular, you find out about it very quickly. With Pinterest, e-commerce and consumer brands all knew about it very quickly, because that’s what their users were doing.
Is there any scale in social advertising? Or do advertisers just have to live with the splintering of interest we see through all the different social channels?
I think there is scale, period. Facebook by itself is scale; they have 900 million users throughout the world, so that platform is of scale. That said, ShareThis helps advertisers see and understand the sharing across 120 social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – enabling them to reach people based on the multiple sharing interests they have. So I may be someone who shares restaurants and travel on Facebook, I may share Internet advertising on LinkedIn, and I may tweet about the San Francisco Giants because that’s my baseball team, and we’re able to see all those aspects of my personality as I share across the Internet. This insight allows us to build custom audience segments resulting in more effective and engaging advertising programs.
How does social advertising stack up to things like search, retargeting and other non-social forms of online advertising?
Our general belief is that social advertising is a little higher up the funnel. It’s good for brand awareness. It’s good to see what consumers are getting into. Search and retargeting tends to be fairly down-funnel. We can do that, too. We don’t quite do it as at scale as we can do with the higher-funnel branding type of activities, but I think in general they’re very complementary to each other.
If I’m trying to launch a new product or brand, what’s more important to me: the audience or the content?
I think both are important. On the audience side, you have to understand where to reach the people who you think are going to be interested in the product. Creating branded content is almost becoming a cliché at this point – owned, earned and paid – but I think that most brands believe they have to have some sort of owned media strategy; they have to put up sites themselves and they have to reach consumers either through content they generate or content that is generated through partners of theirs.
How does your understanding of influence online differ from that of a Klout or even a Twitter?
We measure influence across all the sharing channels, and we’re do it more in relation to what you’ve shared and what your interests are showing in the market. Klout is very different; it’s really just sort of a ranking of your popularity and influence across Facebook and Twitter. I think what they’re doing is interesting, but I’m not sure it’s a scalable advertising model. They will have, “Here are the top 50 people who are interested in the new HP product”; they’re influencers, and they want to bring them to market. But we can give HP tens of millions of people who’ve shared content and that are interested.
There’s so much data out there. What are the right ways and what are the wrong ways of incorporating data-driven insights into campaigns?
We like to use sharing and interest data as part of our model, obviously, so we think that is very valuable. The wrong way is to just let the data dictate everything you want to do for a campaign; I don’t think that’s very effective. Using targeted data, I think, is the most effective.
Why haven’t the majority of brand dollars come online yet?
It’s a slow process. The transition over the last 15 years is slow, but steady. Online finally overtook newspaper this year. It will continue to grow. I think that brands are still trying to figure out the best ways to use online and interactive. It’s a lot more complicated than saying, “Let’s buy a TV ad on the Super Bowl,” or “Let’s buy an ad on ‘Glee’” or other TV shows. It’s an inexorable process. It keeps getting larger and larger.
What’s the best way to measure the effectiveness of an online campaign, social or otherwise?
It really depends on what the goals are for the campaign. Companies that are trying to do branding are trying to move away from the click as the way to define the success of a campaign. I think the CTR is just used because it’s something that every media planner in the country can understand. But really it’s engagement; it’s interaction with the units that needs to be the measurement going forward. The problem is there are 15 different companies that have their idea of what that measurement should be, because it serves their interests, while the click is still just a click. On more direct response campaigns, you generally measure them based on whatever metrics are important to you. We tend to do pretty well in any goals that the advertisers set, but they do very well all over the place.