The newest, most trendy thing to discuss in technical and social media news is whether or not social networking sites are going to live up to the hype for ad revenue. With popular social media sites either being bought for millions or totally forgotten to go down in flames, it seems hard to predict which will succeed or how they will succeed.
Revver.com which was once in the top 20 of best social media sites is now looking to prostitute itself out to the highest bidder. The company doesn’t seem able to bring in the revenue to keeps itself afloat and no new ideas are forthcoming. The once popular site may be no more by the end of the year. The question is, why isn’t someone picking it up? With a built in user and content provider loyalty to the site, why won’t someone pick it up for small amount of half a million dollars when sites like MySpace and Bebo are reportedly worth several millions or more.
Businesses came in, guns blazing, or is that, ads playing? Some tried to join in the social media community, just to be flamed, and some came in thinking they would force feed ads. Facebook has struggled with their endeavors to get buy-in from the community for its revenue building ideas. And the idea that social media participants are immune to ads is not new as evidenced by this article in BusinessWeek (http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2008/tc2008024_252834.htm).
Businesses are missing the point of a social network online environment. They only see a revenue opportunity. You can’t walk into a close-knit community of friends and interrupt their play with your ad. Everyone seems to understand that online ads and television ads don’t work the same way, yet they continue to try the same ploys, with disappointing consequences. People do not want to be interrupted while they socialize. They don’t want to be force fed ads.
There are a few ideas on how to re-approach social media advertising.
1. Build an interactive ad that allows viewers to manipulate the ad themselves, thus making it more like a game and more engaging. If this is done with an artistic and clever ad people could mash-up the ad and share it, or submit to for a contest. Mash-up are acceptable in social media, ads could be “mashable” and fit in better to the community structure.
2. Create new and engaging features and have a pay-for-service level.
3. Create a community hall where people can come and talk about what they want to see done in their community. Then, give that new feature or “fix” a price and create a community goal to meet that price.
4. Have a store where people can create their own t-shirts, posters, etc. from elements of their own page or from the community. Every community has a store. It could prove to be fun as well as revenue generating.
5. Use the more popular blogs on news and magazine sites. Find out where ads are getting good click through and instead of placing an ad next to a blog, place a blog next to an ad. Every keeps putting ads next to material, but if you have access to the material, you could send the material to the ad. For example, if you have a page where you have a lot of car ads you can create a spot near the ad where RSS feeds can go that has the headlines of popular blogs on MySpace (or wherever) where the blogs are talking about cars. Send the content to the appropriate ad. These sites have some great blogs. Some great videos. Some great content. Yet, they don’t utilize it to its fullest potential.
Google could do this with great success. Have an ad in one area, put content near it, when they go to the content have that same ad there too.
Thinking outside the box is what will solve this problem. Continuing to try and force feed a social community is only going to irritate that community. Is that the feeling companies want tied to their brand? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “No”.
As long as businesses treat social media communities as a business advertising vehicle they will continue to see poor performance.