Monday, January 25, 2010

Fantasy ad buying

My husband loves playing fantasy sports. He bids for players, monitors their stats, makes changes to his rosters, and follows their games, even if they don't play for his regular favorite teams.

This past year, I've had the chance to experiment with online advertising. Not traditional banner advertising (though we've done those, too), but targeted text advertising through Google Adwords and Facebook. Like fantasy sports, this kind of advertising allows you to also bid for keyword placement, monitor stats, and make changes throughout your campaign.

While I'm far from an expert in these channels, here are a few of my takeaways from the experience:
  • Check out your competition. And by competition, I mean the other organizations who are advertising for your keywords. Are they groups you want to be associated with from a branding standpoint? For example, a Google search on "law schools" yields paid advertising from unaccredited online institutions, which an ABA-accredited school wouldn't want to be mistaken for. However a search for "online masters library science" yields a combination of universities from the for-profit, public and private-nonprofit sectors. Related conclusion: Niche degree programs seem to have a better balance of programs with decent reputations.
  • Remember why users are in that channel. Why do people use Facebook? To connect with others. Why do people use Google? To find information. If you're trying to build your social networking communities, then Facebook may be a natural fit. If you're hoping to drive people to your Web site to learn about your programs, Google would be a more logical choice. Last year's study by Noel-Levitz on prospective student use of social media indicated that students generally don't use Facebook to research schools, so save yourself some trouble and find a more appropriate advertising medium.
  • Prepare to be vigilant. Unlike traditional advertising, Facebook and Google ads are prioritized based on a pay-per-click bid amount. Your bid rate is compared with what other advertisers are willing to pay and has a direct correlation to the number of impressions your ad will get. This amount can fluctuate daily, but there are other reasons to pay close attention to your campaign's analytics. In Facebook, you can run similar messages and compare the click-through rates on them. These results can help not only to inform your decisions on which ads to run in Facebook, but also to let you know what messages resonate more with your target audiences. In combination with my other research, these details have helped me develop more relevant messages for our other marketing efforts.
When done strategically, online advertising can be an exciting addition for your marketing mix. Few other media can provide such tangible details about the effectiveness of your work. Plus, because the ads are paid on a pay-per-click basis, the online providers provide ample resources to help you improve your campaigns.

Who knew that ad buying could be so much fun?

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