Monday, July 13, 2015

Tread Lightly: Approach These Online Venues with Caution

Instagram announced that after a year of invite-only brand advertisements it will be opening its users' feeds to brand's of all shapes and sizes.

If you've ever seen an Instagram ad, you might've seen comments like this:

(This is the part where I'm supposed to say this isn't funny, except that it's kind of funny.) 

But Instagram isn't worried. And they shouldn't be! People are always resistant to seeing ads in places where they didn't see them before. Yahoo bought Tumblr, Tumblr freaked out and Tumblr is still around. There's no good alternative to Instagram anyway, so people will just begin to deal with the ads and you'll get to take advantage of a new (and probably eventually great) place to advertise.

So what other online venues can you advertise that may be equal parts tricky and rewarding?

Have you ever spent 10 minutes just poking around reddit, and then you look at your clock and it's been 5 hours? 

Reddit can be fun, but as often as it can be fun, it can be insane/intense/any crazed adjective you can think of. Redditors are relentlessly honest and incredibly vocal. The site openly rebelled when an employee was fired. There was so much noise around this that the CEO resigned! Zuckerberg could lay off all of Facebook and replace employees with robots and I don't think any user would care. 

Reddit is a mix of both the best and the worst of the internet, and with that there is something both tempting and scary about it for advertisers:

1) You should want to create an intelligent conversation with a base of people who are that vocal and passionate.
2) You should be afraid of upsetting a group of people that vocal and passionate.

Many brands have seen success with reddit ads. But, as you can see these aren't ads that say: "Buy this great item and get 25% off this other item! [insert gif link] K bye." These ads tie back to some sort of charitable effort, they engage a community to request their help in assisting another community and most importantly, they are forthcoming about who they are and speak the language of redditors. They didn't just copy and paste a promoted Facebook post or tweet into reddit and hope for the best. They also didn't try to sneak a click in there. If there's one thing users hate (any internet user, really) it's being tricked into participating in an ad. Show up, be honest about who you are, and invite people to be part of a conversation by talking to them like people and not clicks.

Reddit's community might be intense but they're also very thoughtful and intelligent with their comments. Bad comments get downvoted and buried, the good ones make their way to the top.

So even if you make a bad ad, you might get some good feedback on it.

Full disclosure: I don't really like BuzzFeed...but I used to. Like, a lot. I had their app on my phone. But BuzzFeed got a little too BuzzFeed-y and I cut them loose, but hey, a lot of people still go to that site. A lot, a lot. And as you'll notice, a lot of those visitors are young, they come from mobile and they come from social. 

So you can write a listicle, why not hop into the BuzzFeed advertising world? 

Well, for starters: it might not fit your brand. Facebook and Twitter are both so pervasive at this point that either one works well for pretty much any brand. BuzzFeed, as popular as it is, is still somewhat of an online advertising niche. There is a very specific language to BuzzFeed posts and listicles, one that you should study well before attempting to go at it on your own. BuzzFeed has its own team that will work with brands to craft posts that are right for them, but at the end of the day, BuzzFeed wants your money and if you're offering it, they likely won't tell you that it's just not the right fit. And you don't want to wait for their commenters to tell you that. 

But a post on their site can still lead to good things

Yeah, I know. This sounds...terrible, but hear me out. 

We've worked a lot with AdWords and seen a lot of positive results through those, and ads in Gmail are a simple extension of that. 

The service has 900 million users and just last year hit 1 billion downloads on Android. Gmail has a huge diverse audience, and as you can see from its growth, the presence of ads hasn't slowed down growth. 

So why do you have to be careful about placing an ad in Gmail with such a huge audience? Same reason as we've been discussing this whole time: the ad should just appeal to people who you think might use Gmail on a regular basis. Again, you'll want to avoid any negative feedback. The thing with AdWords is that Google will get you your clicks on the ad no matter what, you just have to make sure that when people do click that the content is worth their time. 

People search Google all the time for nothing important, if they click on an ad from there, they're not wasting time. But whatever ad you place in their inbox better be good enough to a) justify being in their password protected inbox and b) be worth the time it took to go away from reading a work email or replying to a friend. 


There's nothing that says you even have to consider an ad placed on any of these sites or any others. The main point we're trying to make here is that you don't to let yourself get comfortable in one spot for too long. Internet content is able to exist largely in part thanks to advertising and an ROI on that advertising. Just keep an eye out on what apps, sites, or social networks (e.g. SnapChat) might be offering ads next and you'll always be one step ahead of most people.