Blog Post Promotion: Paid Ads – Our Quick and Dirty Case Study

In spring, Jim Tobin wrote an interesting post about social media campaigns outperforming banner ads. With a nod to the irony of it all, I wanted to apply my experience in media buying to test the effectiveness of promoting that blog post across three different social media ad buying opportunities as well as Google’s more traditional PPC ad model. Keeping with the theme of the first post (volume of traffic and quality of traffic), I was curious which social network would send me the most traffic for my limited budget and which would send me the best. Since this was a “just for fun” experiment, I limited the buy to only $100 per social network, or $400 total. A small buy, to be sure, so take that into account as you read this, but what I learned was interesting nevertheless…

So, ads similar in nature were developed for Google, Facebook, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn.  To the degree possible, the target audience was consistent (i.e., social media, advertising audiences).  The campaign ran for about 2 weeks.  Here is how it played out:

  • Facebook didn’t get the most clicks but folks lingered quite a bit longer compared to the other channels – at 14 seconds it was almost 5x that of Google’s 3 seconds (the second highest).  Although a quarter of a minute isn’t long, it’s half the time a TV ad gets you and it this case, the content is asked for by the user whereas with a commercial it is not.  I am not thrilled at the cost per visit – but it turns out that the CPM is under $1, which is less expensive than one of the least expensive, traditional mediums – outdoor.
  • StumbleUpon did a great job of sending traffic.  If this were the primary objective, I would surely put my eggs in the StumbleUpon basket.
  • Google’s PPC model has evolved so much over the years.  They have a good list of optimization tools, but it requires constant attention.  I expect to put some time in but at 8 minutes per visit is over the top.
  • Alas, LinkedIn.  What a great channel.  What a seemingly broken auction system.  I was willing to spend the $100 but despite following all the instruction as to why impressions weren’t appearing and sending two emails, there was no movement.

According to eMarketer, worldwide ad spending on social networks in the US will reach almost $3.1 billion this year – up 55% from 2010.  It is expected to grow another 28% in 2012.  Yet, research information from The Pivot Conference and Brian Solis shows that many networks have a bit of work to do satisfying marketers.  Of the select social networks measured, Facebook rated the highest with 31% of marketers rating their offerings as excellent.  YouTube followed but with only 16%.  Twitter, LinkedIn, foursquare and myspace had even less encouraging results.  Ultimately, this means that if social media outlets want to capitalize on growing social media ad dollars, they need to spend resources equipping advertisers with better tools.  Otherwise, dollars will go elsewhere.

So, looping back to Jim’s original blog on social media campaigns outperforming banner ads, I thought it would be interesting to compare the ad buy traffic to overall traffic.  Was our ad traffic more or less valuable?  First, let’s define what is valuable to a service organization such as ours.  A visit is important but what would be even better is if that visitor wants to hang out with us for a while.  Maybe Jim really got that visitor thinking about quality web traffic so they went on to read about what he had to say about the Top 50 Branded Facebook Pages.  Even better would be if they decided we really know our stuff, so they decide to contact us – oh snap, conversion!

Here are the stats again including visitors during the same period that did not get to the site via paid means:

I realize that there is some labor involved as blogging does require manpower, but seriously folks – over 2x the pages per visit compared to the paid traffic and about 12x the average time on site – that is a significant variance.  Additionally, the non-paid visitors led to 34 conversions.   That makes for a happy new business team.

So, though I am a firm believer that ad units do have a place in the marketing mix based on goals and objectives, I am on board with the notion that social media tactics lead to higher quality traffic.  It’s to be expected because at the root, it is a much different type of impression.  It’s more organic in nature and the more organic in nature the impression, the more valuable that impression is for marketers.

In case you were curious, here is how our ad creative looked:

Google Adwords Ads

Facebook Ads

Linkedin Ads

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