Google wants to make sure Google News doesn’t become polluted with native ads/sponsored content/commerce journalism:
If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party), we strongly recommend that you separate non-news content on a different host or directory, block it from being crawled with robots.txt, or create a Google News Sitemap for your news articles only. Otherwise, if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.
It’s good to see Google making sure that the readers are well-served by using News. If companies are able to litter the News feed results with advertiser-driven content it waters down those results and ultimately makes it less useful than it once was. By drawing a clear line in the sand on this and telling publishers to proactively exclude those stories from News through the use of a Robots.txt direction or other means they are making sure it doesn’t become a cesspool of sponsored content.
The majority of those responding to a recent survey by J.D. Power & Associates say they don’t mind brands listening in on the social media conversations being had about those brands.
The study found that most of those between 45 and 54 were aware brands were monitoring what was being said, while many young people 18 to 20, about 40% of respondents, weren’t hip to that fact. More than that most of those who knew this was going on were also completely cool with this happening.
Where it gets interesting is in the number of people who feel such monitoring is invasive. That means, tactically, that any engagement based on what’s being said is going to be seen as unwelcome at best and creepy at worst. The eMarketer story rightly points out that the best advice is often to not respond or engage unless there’s an overt call to do so. If someone wants to get a brand’s attention it looks very different than someone who’s just sharing an idle opinion. But, of course, this goes against the thinking prescribed by those who feel engagement rates of less than 100% are completely unacceptable, despite that never being all that realistic.
On a related note, a SimplyMeasured study found that 30% of companies in the Interbrand 100 have Twitter profiles specifically dedicated for customer service purposes. In such cases, where people have a much different expectation of what sort of listening and interaction is likely, the response rates by the brands are much closer to that 100% mark. But again, that’s a whole different type of program that has it’s own goals.
Adria at SearchEngineWatch speaks truth when she lists what are, in reality, just a fraction of the reasons a blog writer may not be interested in what a PR person is pitching.
It has, thankfully, been quite a while since I had to personally engage in any such activities in my role as an agency person. For a while there I was pretty good at it but somewhere along the road things shifted and those who were starting blogs started expecting more than what was being offered, mostly in the form of compensation for writing anything about the client I was pitching.
This corresponded, I think, with the rise of not just more pay-for-play tactics but also platforms like Twitter and Facebook along with more brands getting in the publishing game themselves. The dynamics changed drastically to put much more of the power in the hands of the blog owners themselves, which is a good thing in the long run but which has made this sort of social media outreach a much more difficult trick to turn successfully.
A new survey predictably shows that people think the opinions they share with or about brands on social media are super-important:
Brand-connected consumers do appear confident that their voices are seen and valued. Roughly 8 in 10 believe that brands see their posts on social network pages and review sites, and a similar proportion believe brands value the information they provide in those locations.
That makes sense. Everyone thinks their opinion is so relevant and that the brand they’re talking to or about should really pay attention to them if the company wants to succeed. That may or may not be true (it largely isn’t, but don’t tell them that) but when coupled with the fact that people do change their buying behavior based on their impression of how a social media interaction ended (or maybe didn’t start) it can have very real implications for brand managers.
No, it’s not always fear and mistrust of a social media-based dialogue with consumers that keeps brands from engaging on Twitter. Sometimes it’s just the lack of available resources. There’s often a genuine desire to engage in a conversation but some logistical realities mean they can’t do that at the scale that either they or their customers want to.
The fear argument is often over-stated in stories like this. Yes, there are numerous examples of brands getting into trouble – avoidable or otherwise – on Twitter. But I don’t think those are often on the top of people’s minds as they avoid Twitter. After all, most of those problems have come about because of something the brand has published on its own, not as part of a customer conversation.
Two things about this story of the Indy 500 grabbing Instagram photos for marketing: 1) It’s disingenuous for an exec to say he’s not monetizing user photos, since use in marketing is by definition using it to further a money-making strategy and 2) I wonder if by virtue of this happening through a third party this is Instagram’s way of saying that the nightmare scenario – that photos of my kids could be used in someone’s marketing – is out of their control.
I’m not the first person to make this analogy, but the hand-wringing around The Atlantic running “sponsored content” from the Church of Scientology simply does not happen if it had been from a major car company. It was labeled clearly and was, yeah, promotional for the church, but that’s what sponsored content – or native ads or advertorials or whatever you want to call them – are.
There’s a good graf in Adweek’s story about the incident:
More than anything else, the incident illustrates that online publishing is still going through great change and uncertainty. While the nature of sponsored journalism will continue to feel foreign and concern traditionalists, last night’s debacle almost certainly educated some new readers about sponsored posts while publishers will ultimately learn a vital lesson: Native advertising, above all else, has to feel at home in its host publication to have any chance at being successful.
Poynter has a good recap of the story, including lots of background material on the ethical questions around sponsored content and more. It’s a must read. And on the broader topic of sponsored topic they also have a good story on some problems Buzzfeed, which has led the march in this direction, ran into when one or more people demonstrated a unique non-understanding of copyright law. Finally, AdWeek again has an interesting infographic-type presentation of how some publications have addressed this issue in their own way. And AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka has an op-ed of sorts on the topic.
An interesting study broke in late November (sue me, I’ve been busy) that continues to show how differently people think of what they’re doing when they interact with a brand on a social network platform compared to what the marketers behind those profiles interpret those actions as meaning.
Essentially, marketers put far more value on proactive actions on social media than consumers do. And younger consumers show the kind of brand affiliation that means they see what brands they like as an important part of who they are and who they’re perceived to be.
Additionally consumers and fans don’t think that Liking a brand’s Facebook page or Following it on Twitter is nearly as cool as marketers think it is. Conversely marketers don’t assign things like promotional code redemption the weight that consumer preference for them would seem to necessitate.
How can you tell when the ad sales team has taken over an operation? When a company starts to de-emphasize direct actions and play up the impact of message reach on sales. Facebook is the latest example:
“Just like in TV, they consume the message, and then when they go to the store, they are more likely to consume your product,” said Brad Smallwood, Facebook’s head of measurement and insights. “It’s proof that the click is not the right thing to optimize to…Reach, just like in TV, is also a crucial driver.”
Now don’t get me wrong – message reach is an important metric for a lot of communications programs. But eventually you’re trying to tie that back to some sort of action that impacts the bottom line. And advertising is (at least it should be) the primary form of marketing that is tied solidly back to bottom line results.
There’s nothing wrong with this sort of shift. It makes sense and, yes, looks and sounds a lot like the kind of pitch television ad sales people have been making for decades as they promise to reach X million households and Xx2 million individuals. But it also makes it perfectly clear that Facebook is now in the display advertising business as opposed to one that focuses on interactions, engagements and other direct actions.