Friday, 3 July 2009

Why pay to advertise online?

It's a question many people are asking, and for good reason. Let's consider the arguments...
  • Online advertising is easily switched off
  • Online advertising is expensive
  • It's difficult to get accurate demographic information (i.e. targeting is difficult)
  • An advertising provider can easily send fake clicks/visitors to your site
  • Web users resent advertising
  • There are interesting new alternatives that aren't met with the same resistance

This last point is especially interesting to those of us who think deeply about using the Internet for marketing purposes. The rise of social media has changed the conversation. We might once have wondered How can I advertise on Twitter? Now we're thinking How can I use Twitter to attract people to my site?

In essence, there is a school of thought that views advertising as a hangover from the pre-digital dark ages. A newspaper or television station isn't geared up to accept public content. These traditional forms of media will actively resist content supplied by businesses.

Social media is different, and can be used by companies in any number of ways. Advertising doesn't even enter the conversation. Why bother renting 700 x 200 pixels, when you have an entire web site under your control? All you need is a click, and there are plenty of ways to get them. It can be as simple as having a tool like TweetLater monitor all Tweets for your company, product or brand names, and email you you show up. This can help stave off PR disasters, allow you to join in productive conversations, and provide invaluable market research.

I tend to find myself in the camp that sees advertising as a thing of the past. I don't think it can survive, and if I were running Google right now, I'd be looking for an alternative income stream.