User-generated content is a powerful marketing tool; it reinforces the tendency consumers have to trust each other over messages that come directly from marketers. That’s one reason so many campaigns these days integrate a social element: to tap into the authenticity of individuals sharing opinions and knowledge.
One problem with that, however, is that once those comments and content are shared to social page walls or retweeted individually, they exist in a kind of a vacuum. If the brand wants to overlay product content or other marketing messages, they have to drive the customer to click away from their Facebook or Twitter experience to go to a separate site. That’s interruptive, and it’s not something most people who log onto a social network are there to do. It’s also not easy to measure the impact of a campaign.
SocialMoms.com, a Web hub for more than 15,000 influential parent bloggers, ran a campaign for Mrs. Meyers Clean Day cleaning products that got around the problem of inefficient syndication of user content. The Web property was approached by Mrs. Meyer’s agency Haworth Marketing + Media for a campaign that would generate comments from select bloggers on their tips for a greener, cleaner home and spread those out to targeted blogs and Web sites appealing to affluent women 28 to 44.
Finding 50 bloggers to post on the topic was no problem; that’s what SocialMoms (then called TwitterMoms) exists to do. But when it came to getting that content out, SocialMoms turned to ad platform Flite (formerly Widgetbox) for something different: a setup that would collect those sponsored posts in one central Web site and feed them to several rich media ad units placed within blogs in the TwitterMoms community and other influential Web sites.
The ads came in both 850 x 250 banner and 300 x 600 tower sizes and featured both Mrs. Meyers branding and the headline “Quick Tips for a Greener, Cleaner Home”. There was also a 160 x 600 ad sized for blogrolls, those right-margin lists of other blogs a blogger recommends, that was picked up by other bloggers in the TwitterMoms network.
With the Social Impact ads, viewers were able to roll their cursor over the ad and expand it to view short content from five or six bloggers, along with sharing buttons for Facebook and Twitter and “Learn More” links to the Mrs. Meyers Web site and Facebook page. The blogroll ad carried the user content but contained fewer interactive features because of the smaller size.
It was a more immersive experience that led users to click on the ad more often and to spend more time with the message. According to the metrics Flite provided to SocialMoms, the campaign, which ran for 30 days last September, the average effective clickthrough rate for the Mrs. Meyers Social Impact Ad was 3.54%– more than 23 times better than the industry benchmark of 0.15% for a display ad. The banner size actually achieved an effective clickthrough rate of 4.9%. As SocialMoms points out, a standard display unit would have to serve up 33 times the number of views to get that many clickthroughs.
The Mrs. Meyers Social Impact ads were also standouts in terms of engagement and time spent. By measuring the “sustained hovers” that opened out the ad units, Flite determined that the average combined engagement rate for the campaign was 20.27%, beating the 6% benchmark for display ads. And time spent on the units was a combined average of 29 seconds—again, about 2.6 times the industry benchmark of 11 seconds.
The blog posts from participating TwitterMoms were aggregated, which then circulated a stream of comments into the discussion portion of the ads.
“From an advertiser perspective, especially in the CPG space where you want to make sure that you’re top of mind when somebody’s at the grocery shelf, it’s great that we create these immersive experiences and put them in front of women right where they are without have to leave the site and go to MrsMeyers.com,” says Jim Calhoun, creative director at SocialMoms. Formerly CEO of social marketing firm PopularMedia, Calhoun is also not incidentally husband of SocialMoms founder and CEO Megan Calhoun. “We can mash up all these authentic voices into a banner, set that to randomize the tips, rotate them and have a ticker action. Viewers can switch between tabs, and there’s also video capability in there. It’s a really rich experience in a relatively small area.”
As designed by Flite, the Social Impact ads can also incorporate photos, video and polls and can pull content from a brand’s Facebook, Twitter or YouTube social media.
Flite originally developed its Social Impact ads at the request of social network LinkedIn. Then engaged largely in building widgets–self-contained applications that would work inside social pages–the company was asked to design an ad unit that LinkedIn could sell directly to advertisers, monetizing its property independently of ad networks. Having worked since then with other content publishers, including IDG, Digg, MTV, Yelp, Federated Media and Yahoo, the company took the big step last March of rebranding itself Flite to move away from widgets and concentrate on the ad side of its business.
“The display ad industry hasn’t been innovated upon in the last 17 years,” says Kelly Haxton, marketing director for Flite. “There’s been Flash animation, and expandables, but generally it’s been just static imagery. And with the explosion of the Internet and all these applications like Facebook, Twitter and Google that people are using every day, why haven’t those been leveraged into ads? We’re essentially creating a micro Web site within an ad unit, or a site-in-site concept, like a boutique within a department store.”
From SocialMoms’ perspective, using the Flite Social Impact ads lets them compete for the attention of CPG brands that are used to dealing with much larger, much better known Web media properties.
“Working with Flite allows us to play way above the rim,” says [[??]]. “We’re a small team and leverage our partners heavily, and Flite is the delivery agent that allows us to measure and show impact, and our brand clients love that. It allows a little publisher like us to play with the big guys. We’re in a lot of big CPG deals that we really shouldn’t be looking at, except that Flite lets us show those clients how much consumer attention we can deliver.”