ADOTAS — As we all learned from the film, “The Social Network,” monetization can be tricky business. As Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker famously said, “Ads aren’t cool.” Yet as social networks grow and demand more financial investment, pressure mounts to cash in. Recently, Pinterest has faced questions about monetization due to its tremendous growth, with a 1,000% increase in user base in 2012.
Similarly I’m on strategy calls with clients everyday who need to drive more revenue with stronger CTAs, but not at the expense of user experience. It is a tough balance but if approached the right way marketing CTAs can actually benefit onsite experience. Here are some keys for Pinterest to expand its monetization while remaining cool:
Consumer Value Added
Social networks are experiencing rapid growth because they allow users to create content in their own worlds. Instead of restricting consumers’ choices, why not give them the opportunity to create? Companies that market through social networks should aim to give consumers customization of products, and the freedom to share their unique creations with friends. Even if they do not purchase, they have interacted with the brand and shared their ideas with their community. Pinterest already has an imaginative and engaging user base.
Recently we’ve seen a lot of buzz around gamification and loyalty programs. Users can earn point for engaging with brands: likes, shares, refer a friend, sign up for email lists, etc. These points can be redeemable for discounts, free shipping, or giveaway contests. This element of gaming reduces disruption in user experience from advertisements and makes shopping more fun. Pinterest’s user base skews heavily female, and female online gaming has increased significantly in recent years.
Sidebar ads should be prominent but not intrusive. We have all experienced accidental clicks due to expanding ads. This is an ineffective tool because it frustrates both users and advertisers. Users make negative judgments about the social network and the advertiser, and advertisers are charged for clicks that did not engage users.
When it comes to advertisements, less is more. Instead of a ubiquity of banner ads, social networks should aim for fewer, targeted ads that are more likely to engage. Facebook’s 2012 IPO led to pressure for Facebook to ramp up monetization and advertisements, which upset many users.
Social networks have the potential to generate tremendous revenue. It is imperative that Pinterest’s continued monetization strategies are carefully constructed while preserving user experience. Effective marketing campaigns do not offend users; they engage, they inspire, and they encourage users to invest more time with social networks, driving profit for years to come.