I wasn’t expecting to have to write this post, but apparently there’s some demand for it. Yesterday, I wrote a post called How NOT to Publicize Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts, which was all about why including those little social media icons in your offline advertising is ridiculous. You can check out the full post, but the gist is this: Putting icons in your offline ads to represent your Facebook and Twitter accounts instead of actually listing the URLs is the exact same thing as using an icon of a phone in place of your actual phone number.
This is what I’m talking about. You wouldn’t do this, right?
But that’s what you’re doing if your offline ad has just these little icons. People don’t know where to find you on Facebook or Twitter and they certainly aren’t going to look for you. For clarification, I’m talking about offline ads such as TV, print, or billboards. You can use the icons online and hyperlink them to the actual accounts, but there are no hyperlinks offline. So, my solution was that you need to put in the URLs or simply not include these icons in your offline ads.
Many of you weren’t satisfied with either of these solutions and asked if there were other alternatives. It turns out that there are. Here’s what I came up with. If I missed anything, please add them in the comments. Again, for the sake of this discussion, we’re talking about your offline advertising.
- Nothing. Don’t include the icons or a reference to your social media accounts. I know. Crazy. Why not include them when you have some extra space? It’s what everyone is doing. That’s probably a good reason not to do it first of all. Second, whatever happened to the idea that a good ad communicated one point really well? When you include those icons, you’re essentially asking people to do more than just the one thing. Presumably, your ad is asking people to do something related to your brand like…I don’t know…buy it. Isn’t that good enough? Chances are that most people are going to ignore your ad and it’s “call to action,” so you should probably concentrate on getting their attention and making a compelling call to action instead of figuring out where to stick some icons. Let’s assume for a minute that you have an amazingly compelling ad that gets everyone to buy your product. If this is the case and you’ve got some space then go with the icons. Let’s remember that these icons are another call to action. You’re essentially asking people to go to these accounts and follow or Like you. That’s a lot of work. Who looks at a print ad or billboard and says, “I’ve got to remember that Ralph’s Glass has a Facebook page when I get home, so I can Like it” or “That’s great news that Ralph’s has a Twitter account, I’m opening my phone and searching for it right now so I can follow them!” Answer? No one. So, why are you wasting space asking people to do this?
- URLs. While not as hip as including social media icons, you could include actual URLs of your accounts. For example: http://www.facebook.com/ralphsglass. Did that take up so much space? You can even use “facebook.com/ralphsglass” if the former option bothers you. At least people will have the URL to know where to find you if they are so compelled to follow you.
- Custom Short URLs. I know that the full URLs probably bother the designers among us, so what about a short URL? Get a custom short URL (bit.ly pro can help you with this) and use that. For example, “http://pan.es” or “http://pan.es/fb”. Again, the “http” is optional. (and, yes, I know that pan.es is not available, but I wanted to keep with the Ralph’s Window theme…it’s just an example). So, you could have one URL for each account in your ad like this: Visit us here: “pan.es/fb and pan.es/twit.”
- Your webite link. Remember your website? Remember how much you used to love it and think it was the coolest thing? You’ve moved onto cooler things with all this social media stuff, so you don’t pay as much attention to your website anymore. Big mistake. Your site should still be the central hub where people can find anything else you’ve got going on out on the Internet including links to your social media sites. So, if you’ve got a well-designed homepage with links to your social accounts, why not include your homepage URL in the ad instead? Or even better…
- Custom Landing Page Link. How about including a link to a page on your website you create just for this ad? This does a few things. First, it allows you to see if your ad drove any action, as you could use visits as a sort of surrogate. Second, you could include an additional incentive for the people coming from your ad to drive more action. Third, you could tell these people who were actually moved to take action because of your ad (or brand) about your social media accounts. They’re probably the only ones who would even remotely consider Liking or following you. So, now that you’ve got the dedicated few, why not pop the question? Include the custom link in your ad. You could even use a shortened URL to take up less space. That’s right! Mix and match my suggestions.
- Google Us. I’m not sure why this isn’t used more often, but to me it seems like an obvious way to handle these things. If there’s a term that you own (meaning you have consistently been the number 1 search result on Google for a while)…and I mean really own…why not just tell people to Google you? For example, when people ask me how to find the Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki, do you think I read off the enormous URL (http://www.doseofdigital.com/healthcare-pharma-social-media-wiki/)? Nope. I just say. “Google ‘pharma social media’” End of story. Result number one is the Wiki. Of course, that does two things. First, it makes it easy for people to remember and it’s something that they’re very comfortable doing. Second, it helps to establish you/company/brand as the thing that is associated with that term in the person’s head. So, include this in your ad: “Google ‘Ralphs Glass’” or “Google ‘Amazing Glass Repairs’”
- Text Us. I love this one. Everyone pretty much uses SMS (texting) today. Even if you’re not a big user, you understand how to use it. So, if you want to share where people can find your online in your ad, try this little experiment. Text healthcare to 50500 and see what happens. Do it…I’ll wait. Pretty neat (sorry, if you didn’t do the experiment you’ll never know how neat it was). While I hate to give out my secret on this one, try out contxts to be able to do the same. You can even have multiple “cards”, which means one for each different ad so you can track effectiveness. So, your ad would have this in place of those icons: “TXT ralphs to 50500.” Much better and something that people can actually take action on right at that minute. They can also remember it for later, which is a little tricker for a URL. This is especially important in a billboard.
- Google Goggles. If you’re targeting people with smartphones as your customers, then you should be using this instead. Google Goggles is the answer. Keep your current ad, don’t add any icons, and still allow people to get all those other links. All people do is open Goggles and snap a picture of your ad and you can share whatever additional content you want (including links to your social media accounts). Here’s how Google is doing this with a few select advertisers. This is much preferred to the final thing on the list, which I’m not fan of.
- QR Codes. Yes, you could put in a QR code (or heck, why not more than one?!?) instead of the icons allowing people to “tag” the code on your phone and go right to your accounts. For all the reasons outlined in this great BI post, I agree that QR Codes are (or should) be on their way out. Here’s a relevant snippet from their post about why these things are terrible: “Most people, before scanning their first barcode, have to download scanning apps manually and figure out how to use them. Then, each time there’s a barcode to scan, they have to make sure they’re using the right scanning app for the right barcode. That’s because different types of barcodes, like Microsoft’s “Tag” codes, don’t always work in all the same apps. And then there are the inevitable delays in finding the barcode app in your phone, waiting for the camera to prepare itself to shoot photos, getting the right distance and focus on the barcode, and hoping the mobile data network responds to your query quickly enough to be worthwhile.” Not to mention that they look terrible and are only relevant for print ads. You can’t realistically include a QR code in a TV ad. If you think people are going to pause your ad instead of fast forward through it so they can tag a QR code, then you’ve got more problems than I can help with. They also don’t work for billboards despite the growing use of QR codes in this manner. I’m not sure I could devise a more dangerous premise for a billboard than asking someone to slow down in their car, take out their phone, open the QR code reader app, line up and focus the camera, and snap a picture all while not crashing. Perhaps a billboard that shot high power lasers directly into drivers’ eyes in an attempt to burn the URLs onto drivers’ retinas would be slightly more dangerous. Here’s a great post from my colleague Bob Gilbreath on this disturbing trend.
So, there are your alternatives to putting those icons in your ads. You can do better, so no more excuses.