Harnessing the power of social advertising

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Forward by Jonathon Beeston, global marketing director, Efficient Frontier

Performance-based marketing – search, advertising, direct marketing, and now social marketing – used to work within reasonably clear boundaries. Good marketers would link them by creating unified messages, sharing insight from each discipline, and even getting all the various agencies round the table to slug it out for budget based on whose campaign was generating the best leads.

But now those boundaries are blurring. We see advertisements on our social channels, social influence impacts the performance of direct marketing, we search for information within our social networks as well as on Google. We are even prepared to help brands market themselves to our networks of friends, as long as we get something back from it. (For a great example of this, see the Expedia case study below.)

The result is that brands have to become far more responsive in the way they manage budgets. People talk about ’viral campaigns’ but the truth is, no one knows what’s going to be a hit until it is. What brands can (and must) do is create relevant and targeted social campaigns and then respond to the reaction of their audiences quickly in order to capitalise on the campaigns that are working well and ditch the ones that aren’t.

While human engagement is, of course, an incredibly important part of social marketing, it is only by using technology that it is possible to segment and target audiences effectively on social channels (which offer the most sophisticated user data for audience targeting of any other channel), and use the insight from campaigns to inform spend as the campaign develops, not after it is all over. This is following the same pattern as search in many ways: as technology is used to optimise performance, target specific audiences and bid the appropriate value in search campaigns, so it is now possible to do the same with social campaigns. And have no doubt, Facebook is a serious advertising channel these days, particularly when integrated with other performance marketing channels such as search.

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It is for this reason that Efficient Frontier acquired the social media management platform Context Optional earlier this year, to combine with our own Facebook ad management platform. This has created a unified advertising and page management product that helps advertisers both acquire and engage audiences, by automating campaign management on Facebook and other social channels (such as Twitter and YouTube). Brands have long understood the power of word-of-mouth marketing, but technology used on social media (and Facebook specifically at the moment) has the potential to amplify a brand’s message through the social influence of each of that brand’s fans, through their network of trusted contacts, on a scale we could hardly imagine a few years ago.

Acquiring the right audiences efficiently, building critical mass through social marketing and using social influence, and targeting those audiences with highly relevant, specific and engaging messages, combine to create one of the most potentially viral, cost-efficient and effective marketing channels we’ve ever seen.

Case Study: Expedia

Expedia soars to success on Facebook with Efficient Frontier and Context Optional

In six weeks, Expedia accelerated its presence on Facebook by energising brand enthusiasts, attracting new brand advocates, and creating new value for partners. With a fun and innovative Facebook campaign called The FriendTrips Game, Expedia reached 1 million fans (a 750% increase) and achieved 15 to 30 times more mentions of Expedia on its wall.

This was the result of an integrated approach to acquiring and engaging fans on Facebook. Partnering with Efficient Frontier and Context Optional, the teams created, built and optimised an innovative social application and marketing campaign. FriendTrips was an interactive Facebook sweepstake to win holiday packages. Users entered by piloting a virtual plane bound for a specific destination, and inviting five friends to join them. Invitees were encouraged to create
planes of their own.

FriendTrips was inherently social, requiring friends to fill planes with friends in order to enter contests. An important source of traffic to the application was friends clicking on friends’ invitations in the Newsfeed. To maintain momentum, Expedia gave away daily prizes based on votes on user submissions of photos and stories.

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This was supported by a unified multi-channel marketing campaign that integrated print advertising; celebrity endorsement; email marketing; Expedia.com and supplier partner sites; and Facebook advertising using Sponsored Stories, standard marketplace and premium ads. Facebook marketplace and sponsored story advertising drove the majority of users. During the campaign, Expedia’s cost-per-fan was reduced by over 400%. As the number of fans rose, the efficiency of acquiring a new fan improved. The power of social influence is clear in the relationship between total fans and cost per-fan.

Social clicks (clicks that originate from an ad and include the social endorsement of a connection) were critical in achieving scale and efficiency. More than half of Expedia’s ad clicks in Facebook were social. The Facebook ad campaign’s optimisation spanned targeted audience segments, the creative and the bidding. Audience segments were refined using insights from FriendTrips data. Engaged segments were added and split for more granular targeting, while segments with low engagement were removed. Creative assets were built and tested to capitalise on events such as the Royal Wedding (using associated images and copy such as ’Travel Like a Royal’); and strong-performing segments were targeted with interest-specific creative. Bids were automatically set by the Efficient Frontier platform to reflect the value of the segment.

Sponsored Stories became a growing campaign component as the number of fans rose, and drove a significant portion of all ’likes’. Sponsored Ads drove a more efficient cost-perlike, compared to standard marketplace ads. Getting to critical mass on Facebook requires an integrated Facebook marketing experience which optimises the performance of Facebook paid media and delivers a compelling social and viral experience for users. With critical mass, marketers can capitalise on social to drive brand awareness, loyalty and advocacy. Expedia can now deliver compelling offers and relevant content to its new community of over 1 million fans on Facebook, extending the investment made in Facebook marketing.

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