If you still refer to the ‘online medium’ as new media, you may be too old for this industry. The online world – as represented by the advent of the internet – officially turned 25 in March this year. That is possibly the average age of your junior employees.
And yet many so-called media experts remain confused over the options for advertising in the online environment.
This quick reference guide should help alleviate the confusion:
1. SMS might appear ‘old fashioned’ due to its innate simplicity, but it is precisely this simplicity that makes it the most effective, one-to-one communication tool in South Africa. It has opted-in, profiled databases and engagement levels regularly reaching double-digit percentages. With smartphone penetration in South Africa sitting at a relatively low 20%, expect SMS to remain the number one mass reach mobile advertising format for the foreseeable future.
2. As the price of smartphones plummet with cheap Chinese models flooding the market and data charges dropping under consumer pressure, mobile advertising via messaging apps such as WeChat, Snapchat (advertising not available here yet) and 2go will multiply exponentially. While this form of advertising is more engaging than an SMS, it is already cheaper for consumers to use data.
3. Some brands are experiencing massive success by engaging with consumers via unstructured supplementary service data [USSD], thereby initiating two-way conversations between themselves and their customers. This is particularly successful using opted-in profiled databases (everyone in the database has given permission to be contacted and provided information about themselves). USSD is ubiquitous across all mobile phones, from feature phones upwards.
Online banners and video
1.The traditional online banner might seem dull but it still plays a crucial role in online media campaigns. Much like outdoor ads, online banners are strong branding vehicles. They have come a long way since the static banners of a decade past, incorporating rich media and even homepage takeovers.
2. Despite South Africa’s slow bandwidth, online video is also trending on ‘personal’ sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as more traditional news and publishing sites. The engagement levels are huge and, with the right creative, the opportunity for viral sharing is enormous.
Emailers, if done correctly with an opted-in audience and relevant messaging, remain an essential part of the online media mix. The advantage of this format is that it is ‘pushed’ to an audience that actually consumes the content and even looks forward to receiving it, rather than relying on consumers to find it in the enormous online environment.
Social media marketing
Social media is the ultimate word-of-mouth marketing tool. Social media marketing refers to the way in which brands use technology to build relationships, drive repeat business and attract new customers through friends sharing with friends in the online arena.
Getting consumers to connect with you online in the social environment helps spread the word about your products and services. Connecting with your current customers is one of the most powerful ways you can increase business online as well as offline. Whether your company exists completely online, or has a brick-and-mortar presence, getting existing customers to comment on your posts is great leverage for your advertising.
In addition to responsive communication, brands and businesses can begin to build relationships with their customers beyond those that happen during normal transactions. These relationships with your ‘fans’ on pages such as Facebook are what keep customers coming back, increasing both loyalty and retention. If those customers become advocates and increase your word-of-mouth presence, the returns can be astronomical.
Sponsored content marketing or native advertising
In the face of growing advertising fatigue, sponsored content marketing, or native advertising, is one of the fastest-growing trends in the online environment. Consumers are tired of adspeak. They want to learn about brands through content that is engaging, relevant and authentic. The number one aim of native advertising is to make paid advertising feel less intrusive, and thus increase the likelihood that users will engage with it.
Native advertising can take the form of images, videos, articles, even music – anything that might prompt engagement from consumers.
Brave brands are working with online content producers and publishers to create content that is purpose-built around their brand. This really is a brave new world for advertising, and requires an entirely new headspace that is focused on the consumer, and not the brand.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
SEO is essentially what ranks your brand or company in search engines such as Google. The better your company or brand is optimised for search, the higher it will rank and the more likely consumers are to click on the link and engage with the brand.
In addition, when consumers see your brand ranked highly by the likes of Google, it translates into brand credibility.
A good online advertising campaign will utilise a combination of the above formats, depending on the target market and what you are trying to achieve. There is no magic one-campaign-fits-all formula. It’s about knowing your brand, knowing your customer and attempting to know how best to reach them in the most relevant ad engaging way possible. n
Wayne Bischoff is the MD of Habari Media.
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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