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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at joelkellyATgmail.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

How to offer sponsorships and co-branding - Part 2

This will make more sense if you're read the first part of this series about offering sponsorships and co-branding on your website.

So I'm going to do my best to address the second issue: Isn't this all just a lot more work for advertisers?

@moreglen and I were having this discussion about sponsorships and whatnot, and he threw out that devil's advocate question.

I mean, instead of just doing some high-reach display ad campaign we've actually got to work. We need to find communities, we need to think up interesting ways to make ourselves valuable, we need to show ourselves interested and invested in these people.

It's exhausting just to consider!

So it's easy to come up with problems, but as I said before about advertising in a down economy, the advertisers and communicators that keep succeeding are the ones that think about these things and do their damnest to come up with cool, new ways to overcome any potential obstacle.

So, of course the first answer to that is, Yes, it's more work, too bad. But a little more work to make a product that's more effective, more interesting, and more helpful for everyone.

The second answer is, Well, isn't there a way to automate much of this?

Think about this possibility: Your marketing department or agency outlines just what type of sponsorships you're able to accommodate. The types of communities you're looking to sponsor, what you can offer, and what the prerequisites are on the part of the publisher/site owner.

Then you set up a site for publishers and site owners. They go, check the list of requirements, and see if their site fits the bill.

If so, they select what types of services/sponsorships/co-brandings would be appropriate for their site, from a list provided on the site.

They submit whatever other terms they have, and a message gets sent to the advertiser/marketer. And then someone is assigned to manage the account from there. That person is also responsible for what we'll talk about in the next post: How can you make sure you're providing an interesting, helpful service to the actual members of the community or site audience?

But all the leg work, the looking for sites, the selecting opportunities, all the more tedious stuff, is placed on the site owner, the publisher.

By doing this you've eliminated a lot of work, and you've shown yourself interested in having more relationships with communities. I mean, you've set up a whole system simply for this purpose.

Right now it's almost always the other way around: Websites put their terms for advertisers, what they require, what they'll accept. But for sponsorships and co-branding's the relationship is necessarily different.

It's closer, it's more delicate.

The site owner and the advertiser need to work together, need to make sure they're a great fit for each other. That should be up to the site owner to assess, as they should know their audience better than anyone else. If not, don't expect advertisers to come in and throw money at you. There's a large burden on you to make sure you're demonstrating a huge interest in your community, and have their best interests in mind.

So that's just one thought about this issue. Got any more? Post a comment, please.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to offer sponsorships and co-branding - Part 1

So after I wrote my post about advertising in a down economy I had a conversation with @moreglen, who writes the Halifax Web Development blog.

We tried to work out just how websites with strong communities can be successful by offering sponsorships and co-branding opportunities without a) annoying their user-base, and b) providing enough ROI for their sponsors.

Sponsorships and co-branding can mean a few things, like "presenting sponsor" banners throughout the site, permanent ad space, logo placement throughout, wallpapers/skins, and more opportunities that aren't just regular banner ads placed among other advertiser's banners. With a sponsorship or co-branding, you own a space, you're attaching your brand to the website and vice-versa.

We outlined a few potential issues that would need to be addressed:

  1. If you're an advertiser relying more on sponsorships over huge, high-reach display ad campaigns, you're going to lose reach overall, and you'll end up spending more money on fewer eyeballs.
  2. You'll potentially be increasing the amount of work you'll have to do to manage your sponsorship campaigns.
  3. If you run a community website with a passionate user-base, they'll see the appearance of a sponsor as an intrusion, and worry about whether they'll be affecting the day-to-day operation of the site and its editorial content.
So let's take these one by one over the next couple days and work out some potential solutions.

This series will be written from the viewpoint of an advertiser, because I am one. But if you're a publisher or run a community, this should help you assess where your site might present opportunities to people like me. See the issues we're trying to work out and prepare to partner with us to provide increased value for our customer's and your audience.

Okay, what can we do about that first problem?

Well, my immediate thought is that, yes, you'll likely decrease reach. But if you're owning a co-branding opportunity or permanent sponsorship position on a website, you're hugely increasing your frequency and engagement. So yes, reach overall goes down, but attachment goes up.

So instead of engaging a large audience only slightly, you're engaging a smaller audience heavily.

As well, if you're going after community websites, you're getting an already engaged and passionate group of people. These impressions are worth more than others.

Added to that, if you handle your sponsorship cleverly (offering contesting, prizes, increased value to the user-base) they'll talk about you and what you've done. If you screw it up they'll talk about that, too. So be smart, be nice, and see the site's users as people, not eyeballs you're trying to throw your message in front of.

My second thought is that this complaint sounds a little lazy. If you find enough great websites and communities, you should be able to hit a huge number of people. It's just going to take some more work on your behalf.

But isn't this going to cost more, too? Well, sponsorships and co-branding opportunities can cost you a decent amount right now, sure. But that's because websites haven't quite figured out how to handle them yet. This will change.

This naturally leads into the next question, though: Isn't this all just more work?

Check back on Monday for a few answers to that question.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Online advertising in a down economy

In a down economy I'm expecting to see lots of web publishers consolidate and more to just fail and fold outright.

Not a terribly bold statement, I know.

And we'll see our clients demand more bang for their buck. But if there are fewer publishers, that means prices aren't going to drop. They'll likely hold steady or even increase.

So we're screwed, right?

Well, lots of online advertisers will be. The ones that rely on simple, high-reach, high-intrusion, Big Box/Leaderboard/Skyscraper campaigns. The ones that don't get it.

Spending will shift even more quickly to search and Cost-Per-Click (basically all performance-based tactics) in continued attempts to maximize the efficiency of budgets.

Some of us, though, are going to think a little harder. Not just provide our clients with more of the same, but try more and more different, new things. Things that no one's thought of yet. Things that publishers don't quite know how to value and assign outrageous prices to yet. Opportunities that we'll invent.

We'll be working with our publishing partners to create more effective, more innovative, and at the same time less intrusive and annoying advertisements and sponsorships. That's a tall order, I know. But it's exciting.

Ask your current or potential advertising firm what they think about the future of online advertising. If they're excited about the new opportunities they'll be ever more compelled to invent, then they're one to stick with.

The new game will be coming up with entirely different tactics instead of waiting for someone else to, and then buying something pre-packaged. That's an old game that can't work when there's less money to go around.

Are you excited?

Halifax Web Development

Check out my friend's blog tentatively titled Halifax Web Development. Don't let the, um, very straight-forward name fool you: He's got some great ideas over there, and some cool advice.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Social media IS NOT its networks

So stop saying it, please.

Your social media strategy is not to start using Flickr and Facebook to spread your message, okay?

First, a tactic is not a strategy.

Social media strategy is about figuring out, first of all, why people should care. It's what Mark Earls calls the "What For?" of a business:

"Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the "What For?" of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not "mission, vision, values" territory - it's about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it's personal. But it's the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life." - gapingvoid.com
So that's how a strategy begins. Now, if you can understand that, and still think that executing a strategy just has to be about using social or peer networks, you've still got a problem.

In the phrase Social Media, "social" is the keyword.

The media is interchangeable.

Social media can take place on the good old sneakernet.

The reason that social networks are used in social media is because they enable people to connect to so many people so quickly. But it's their usefulness that makes them so widely used for social media campaigns, not because the terminology or strategy necessarily demands it.

So please, stop writing what you think is your "social media strategy" by starting off with a list of websites you need to post your content on, as if the media will create the society. It won't.

Communities create networks, not the other way around.