No other single factor has changed the way we market our products more than the internet. Depending on which source you quote the amount of money spent on online advertising has already surpassed (or will very shortly) the amount allocated to the traditional media (press, radio, tv). No self-respecting marketing professional will therefore disagree with the fact that the internet is an extremely potent medium. But just like with everything else, there are caveats. According to blogtechnica survey, the top 10 reasons why people use the internet are: 1. Information, 2. Social Networking 3. Communication 4. File Transfer 5. News 6. Entertainment 7. Banking 8. Selling 9. Marketing 10. Education
With the notable absence of "buying" in that above list, the first thing to decide is which out of those ten groups is your online campaign going to be targeting? It would be fair to assume people who go online to study, exchange files, download movies, chat with their friends (we’ll cover the phenomena of “social networking” in another article) are not your primary targets. In order to reach the other groups we need to give them what they are looking for and that is: information, news and entertainment - before we can deliver our sales pitch. Which brings me to the first caveat;
Internet is BIG. By the most recent estimates 1.75 billion people have access to the Internet, out of those, just under a billion use the Internet at least once a week – classifying them as “regular users”. There is over 5 million terabytes (5 billion gigabytes) of data stored on more than 80 million internet servers. It’s been estimated that in July 2010 there were about 250 million websites on the Internet. Impressed? You should be. Think about it; when you connect to the internet you potentially have access to all these people. Or do you… Consider this scenario; you’re selling shoes and you place an ad in a nationally circulated fashion print magazine. Your ad has a potential to reach 200,000 of its regular readers and you’re competing with another 50 or so ads. For your ad to work, the potential customer must first choose your magazine from among 20 or more similar titles, look at your ad (yes, some people do flick past the ads), find it more interesting/relevant/impulsive than the other 50 ads and then act upon it. Seems like a lot of variables but the odds of your ad bringing you a good ROI are actually quite good.
Now transpose this scenario online where you’ve placed a banner ad on a popular fashion news site. The traffic to the site might well be into millions but in order for your ad to work, a potential customer must first choose your website from among thousands of others with similar content, locate your ad (unlike print magazines, only the home page gets the big number of views - the deeper within the site your ad is, the less likely it is to be seen), find it more interesting than all the other ads on that site – including the ad that will come straight after yours if you’re unfortunate enough to be on a rotating banner space, and then act on it.
The ratio of your ad getting acted on is inversely proportional to the number of competing elements surrounding it, open a magazine and you will be faced with an editorial on one side and an ad on the other. Now go to a popular website and count the number of items competing for your attention. Print advertising is more expensive (although the margin is getting smaller) because it provides a more focused, direct environment for your ad, which leads me to the next caveat…
Internet is NOT free. As more and more advertisers are moving across to the Internet, the value of online real estate goes up. It’s a simple formula of supply and demand. Can you plug your product for free on forums and within blogs? Sure. Will it be worth your while? Not likely. Most forums nowadays don’t allow advertising plugs unless you are a sponsor. Turn your blog into a weekly specials and new releases list and watch subscribers walk away. Unsolicited emailing (spam), apart from being illegal, is also ineffective (unless you’re selling penis enlargements) and can in fact have a directly opposite effect. And let’s not forget your most precious commodity – time. Yes, there ARE ways to promote your brand online successfully, legally and with minimal external costs – but it will take time, and time is money.
You might well be getting the impression that I’m trying to paint the Internet as a big, scary monster, and perhaps in a way I am, but that doesn’t mean that I don't advocate advertising online, quite the opposite in fact. I believe every business with a desire to expand should have an online presence. The point I'm making is that you have to be smart about it. Much, much smarter than in dealings with the traditional media.
Compared to print, tv and radio, the Internet is still in its relative infancy. The rules, ethics, formulas are still in the process of being formulated. There have been some spectacular online successes, but there have also been many dismal failures.
My advice is to look at the Internet as a platform to build your “online brand identity” on. Start with a good website – this will be the hub and the final destination point for all your online networking. Next, start building a web (pun intended) of satellite sites all linking back to your main hub. These will be YouTube channel, your Facebook account, your relevant forums (you might even start your own), your blog page, twitter. Start a newsletter and build a database of your clients. Next do some research into your industry, find out who the most prolific bloggers are, which forums are considered to be the opinion-leaders and start expanding your brand into those areas not just with ads but with active participation. Consistency is of paramount importance here, the world wide web is a dynamic medium; what you’ve posted yesterday won’t be visible tomorrow, your online brand must be exciting, interesting and most importantly – fresh.
Numbers to make you go “hmmmm…”
- 90 trillion emails were sent in 2010 - 247 billion emails are sent on average every day - 81% of those are spam - There were 1.81 billion internet users in June 2010 - 22 million in the Oceania region - There are 126 million active blogs on the Internet - 84% of social network sites have more women than men - Twitter’s most “followed” entity is Ashton Kutcher with 4.25 million followers - There are 350 million accounts on Facebook - 50% of them log in every day - 2.5 million images are uploaded to Facebook each month - 4.5 billion photos are currently hosted by flickr - YouTube serves an average of 1 billion videos each day - An average American watches 182 YouTube videos each month - Google receives over 100 million queries each day