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Programmatic Advertising: 5 Successful Methods to Reach Your Audience

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The first website banner ad ran on October 27, 1994, when Wired magazine launched its first website. It asked users an important question: “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?” Online advertising quickly exploded, as banner ads revolutionized advertising by allowing brands to actually track how many times an ad was seen and show true user engagement.

Even with these exciting innovations, there certainly were challenges in the early days of buying online media, including:

  • Publishers had to negotiate rates with each individual website and developing contracts every time a new budget was added.
  • Marketers had to use average site audience as a proxy for whether a brand reached its target audience. This may sound fine in theory, but creates a lot of wasted media dollars in practice.
  • Agencies and clients entrusted publishers to optimize their campaigns with very little visibility into actions taken on brands’ websites.

But no more! Programmatic buying — the automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time using data and algorithms — allows media buyers to efficiently identify and target users who are more likely to love their brand, be interested in its message, and purchase its stuff. Using signals like geographic location, demographic information, browsing behavior, purchases made, and shows watched on streaming services, it’s easier than ever to serve the right message to the right user in real time.

Popular Methods of Programmatic Targeting

Programmatic buying allows marketers to use data to segment and target users based on their behavior. There are five major targeting types, which can be used separately, or combined to create a more complete audience picture.

Remarketing: Generally the best-known type of online targeting, remarketing allows brands to reach users who have previously visited their site. You may recognize some brands “following” you around the internet with the same ad — that’s remarketing. While poorly managed remarketing can become annoying, good remarketing works. According to the conversion rate optimization consultancy Invesp, website visitors who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert than those that are not.

Audience: Audience targeting, also called demographic targeting, is reaching users based on their demographic information. This includes identifiers like income, education level, relationship status, and hundreds of other specific attributes.

Behavioral: This is generally used to reach users based on actions they’ve taken online, but can sometimes include offline behavior as well. Behavioral targeting allows advertisers to segment based on things like specific websites or types of websites visited, searches made, and purchase history. In a campaign for the Amanda Foundation, a nonprofit emergency animal rescue, this was used to reach users with an adoptable cat or dog that fit their lifestyle. For example, a user identified as athletic or outdoorsy would be served an ad for Mandy, an energetic and active pup with the phrase, “I love a good run, just like you.” Contrast that with the message for someone identified as a single reader: “I love curling up with a good book, just like you.”

Geotargeting: Using geotargeting, marketers can target users in specific locations or types of locations. Don’t worry, they can’t target anyone based on a specific address! But they can target types of places, like stadiums or gyms, or general areas by zip code or latitude/longitudinal address. This is often layered with other types of targeting to deliver specific messages in the right place at the right time.

Contextual: Similar to how marketers traditionally bought online media, contextual targeting reaches a user based on the website they are on. However, using programmatic, buyers are able to target not only specific sites, but also site categories and keywords, leading to increased efficiency and improved relevance.

We can start to see why programmatic targeting really changes the game and reaches the right user with the right message.

Programmatic Advertising at General Assembly

Programmatic advertising has changed the way marketers run digital advertising, from display to video, and even audio and out of home. Programmatic is constantly changing as new platforms and technologies continue to roll out. At General Assembly, all of our instructors are also practitioners of our craft, so we see and feel this change in our day-to-day lives.

We teach programmatic advertising in our part-time Digital Marketing course, across our campuses and online. For businesses, the skill is taught in our corporate training programs in formats ranging from one-day seminars to multi-day workshops. While programmatic education is certainly relevant to digital marketers, it can also help anyone in a company that practices digital media truly understand the landscape as dollars continue to shift. In our programs, we focus on making the theoretical real using hands-on exercises, real-world examples, and a collaborative approach to help each participant understand how programmatic approaches can help their team succeed.

Ask a Question About Our Marketing Programs

Meet Our Expert

Veronica Ripson is an experienced digital marketer with a passion for developing full-funnel, data-driven solutions across programmatic and paid social channels. Currently an Associate Director of Optimization and Innovation at the Kepler Group, Veronica has worked with leading brands including Google, Barclays, Church and Dwight, Albertsons, and Harvard Business School Executive Education.

At General Assembly, Veronica is a member of the Enterprise Education team, developing customized in-person and online training for large-scale enterprise companies. She also teaches our 10-week Digital Marketing course in New York and contributes lessons to our online training programs for companies.

“Anyone in media will benefit from learning about programmatic, especially as more channels shift to programmatic buying. GA instructors hold day jobs in our fields, so we’re able to share real-world challenges and solutions.”

–Veronica Ripson, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA New York

How Paid Social Increases Brand Engagement and Optimizes Your Ads

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The advent of the internet introduced new mediums through which people could communicate — and new ways for marketers to reach potential customers. In the internet’s early days, online advertising was focused on banner ads and emails targeted to audiences based on traditional methods built on demographics. But with the near-ubiquitous adoption of social media, marketers can now refine their targeting thanks to information users willingly provide in the form of a profile. Couple that with advancements from social media companies in the ways brands can communicate, and you have the creation of one of the fastest growing forms of digital marketing.

From 2014 to 2016, the amount of money spent on social media advertising in the U.S. doubled, and nearly every one of the top 100 global brands have used some form of social advertising in the past year. It’s no longer just Facebook, either. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have all gotten into the marketing business and brought with them intelligent engineers who have helped shape the next generation of paid advertising by offering a host of new features, like targeting, testing, and engagement.

There are plenty facets of paid social that make it a unique and constantly growing way to gain clients and increase revenue. The following are some of the most essential aspects of the practice.

Laser-Focused Targeting Tactics

Social advertising has transformed the way advertisers can target ads, reducing the wasted spend that comes with traditional media such as television or radio. Traditional ads are purchased based on impressions and target demographics, meaning marketers are forced to pay for every impression, even if, for example, only 80% of a program’s audience fits the marketer’s target audience. With social, we can eliminate this waste.

Thanks to all the personal information people willingly share on social media, marketers no longer have to rely on assumptions when trying to reach potential customers. We can target based on age, gender, geographic location (both in real time and your listed residence), interests shown from your comments, social interactions, pages you like, your friends’ social interactions, relationship status, trending topics, people interacting with events and live television shows, and on and on.

With new features like Facebook’s Pixel service, marketers can now even retarget — or show ads to people who have been to your website previously or are part of your customer database — next time they log in to Facebook. To take it a step further, we can utilize “look-alike” audiences to increase our reach to potential customers by allowing social platforms to analyze your customers and place ads to those that share similar characteristics.

Unparalleled Reach

It’s hard to argue with the reach of social platforms. In mid 2017, Facebook surpassed 2 billion monthly users and one in five pageviews happens on Facebook. Roughly 71% of all online American adults use Facebook and with new people signing up every day, there are very few entities that allow you the same reach that social platforms can offer. Add in frequency capping and you have the benefits of reach without having your ad shown to uninterested viewers.

Low Barrier to Entry

With traditional media like broadcast (TV and radio) or print (newspapers or magazines), marketers pay for the advertising space up front. Digital platforms blew that model up years ago with the introduction of cost per click, or interaction, as social channels have come to define it. What does that mean for digital marketers? We no longer have to worry about spending for lost impressions, and instead we now only pay for results. Couple that with the ability to bid in real time and with no minimums, and you have a platform that’s advantageous for any size business.

Ability to A/B Test and Optimize Ads

Not sure if you’re using the right image or if the copy you chose is driving people to action? Thanks to the ability to stop, pause, or edit campaigns in real time, we can analyze and optimize data from our campaigns as they happen and make immediate changes.

A skilled marketer will no longer have to guess when it comes to determining whether and why a campaign was successful. We can run variations of ads simultaneously and see which are producing better results. Really, we can A/B test every aspect of the campaign, including targeting, bidding, images, copy, and even placements to determine the best course of action. And if nothing is working — or worse, something went wrong — we can turn it off immediately.

Increased Engagement

Social advertising has evolved from only sending a user who clicked on your ad to your website. Now, marketers test the power of social media channels through engagement — direct interaction between a potential customer and the business. For example, an ad may now encourage a user to share a video with their friends or comment on a question, all of which can help increase a brand’s social equity.

Engagement can also help spread the brand’s message to a user’s network, furthering organic reach and creating a form of third-party validation. Because people can see others’ responses, oftentimes a positive comment can increase the likelihood of your message being believed. Thanks to YouTube and the proliferation of streaming video, advertisers can create rich media ads that keep users engaged and increase the likelihood of users remembering them. Social sites like Facebook are even taking it one step further, allowing users to autofill lead-generation forms. After all, your personal information is already packaged up and ready for shipment.

Social advertising has quickly become a requirement of any respectable marketing strategy. Thanks to social advertising’s ability to better target, unmatched power to reach potential customers, and low cost of entry, if you’re not taking advantage of everything social advertising offers, you may well be behind the times.

Social Advertising at General Assembly

In General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, both on campus and online, we walk our students through the process of setting up social campaigns. As we move through the back end of these platforms, we highlight the features that allow you to become proficient as a marketer and make this channel so essential to the new age of marketing.

Through hands-on experience, our students become knowledgeable in all aspects of social advertising, including utilizing the latest techniques in targeting, data analysis, and optimization, adapted from our real-world examples. By highlighting integration techniques, we move our students from the idea of single-campaign tactics on separate platforms to fully cohesive campaigns that build off of one another. The cohesive campaigns can then be tracked through platforms like Google Analytics to measure desired outcomes and return on investment (ROI), and compare them against all other forms of advertising.

Ask a Question About Our Marketing Programs

Meet Our Expert

Will Hayes is a marketer, entrepreneur, and Digital Marketing instructor at GA’s San Francisco campus. A former media buyer, account manager, and public relations specialist, Will currently owns and operates The Grill House restaurant while consulting for clients on the side. He graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.A. in journalism and strategic communication.

“The rapid growth of the digital marketing industry has created a large shortage of skilled practitioners. GA’s Digital Marketing course prepares students for an exciting career in a fast-growing field.”

–Will Hayes, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA San Francisco

Personalization: 3 Ways Digital Marketing Can Speak to your Customers

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When was the last time you went through your mail? No, not your email inbox. Your physical, real-life mail. How much of it was relevant to you? I’m going to take a guess and say that around 90% of the material you found was impersonal, generic, and maybe downright bothersome. But log onto the internet and suddenly you’re inundated with content that seems tailored to you. Where a one-size-fits-all method still tries to succeed in physical marketing materials, smart advertisers are using their money and energy to grab you where you’re spending the most time: online.

From sponsored Instagram posts by a brand you may be interested in, to email subject lines that tempt you to come back by adding in your first name or a specific call to action “just for you,” the lines between pleasantly browsing and unsuspected marketing are blurry. Where, as users, we think of the internet and our social media channels as a way to catch up with friends, see what our relatives are doing on vacation, or share updates about our lives, brands see this space as prime real estate to catch our attention and convince us to buy a product or service.

For digital marketers, catering ads to users on social media is a smart move. When it comes to buying products, people most often trust the recommendations of family and friends, and, according to Nielsen, if they see the product on social media, they’ll at least consider taking action from that platform.

The landscape for personalized marketing is competitive — but with considerable payoff for brands that do it well. A study by marketing platform HubSpot notes that advertisers utilizing social platforms with paid ads are seeing startlingly high returns on investment. The popular morning newsletter theSkimm, for example, used Facebook’s lead ads to drive more signups, which led to a 22% increase in lead quality. There are many factors at play here, including a popular brand (versus one that’s lesser known) using ad space, and engaging with users on a platform they’re already familiar with, but it could work with smaller brands as well.

With a user base as large and active as Facebook (the same study counts 1.18 billion active users as of September 2016), marketers would be remiss to not consider implementing strategies on this more personal channel. The challenge is how to make a brand or product visible on a platform that’s already saturated with competitors vying for consumer attention. Savvy brands are utilizing personalization tactics to make their marketing stand out, and you can do the same.

A Brief History of Personalization in Marketing

The early days of digital marketing were similar to our mailbox example: Marketers tried to create enticing messaging that was general enough to be used on multiple parts of the internet. You’d run into the same banner ad many times over the course of a few days of browsing, and perhaps at some point thought, “This doesn’t relate to me at all.”

Geotargeting — pinpointing a user’s location — somewhat helped to address this by making regional sidebar ads more common and eliminating the extra headache and ad spend for marketers. With location as a driving force, marketers could spend time and money where their users actually were. Thanks to Google Analytics and other ad tracking tools, marketers could learn not only where their leads were from, but also from which kind of page they landed from, giving early insight into potential interests.

With the advent of social media, though, digital marketing exploded. People quickly started sharing personal data every day, sometimes without realizing it, including foods eaten, places visited, and entertainment enjoyed, complete with their own personal ratings. Social giants like Google, Facebook, and Instagram began to gather all this data as a compelling way to get marketers to spend money on their platforms and reach more targeted leads.

However, gathering consumer data is just the start. Knowing what kinds of people to market to is one thing, but knowing how to market to them is much more important. You can know any number of stats about your customer, from their age range, to gender breakdown, to how much money they make, but your customer is not merely a statistic, devoid of personality or motivation. Unless you speak to your potential leads as people rather than numbers, your personalization efforts will fall flat. It is the combination of informed statistical analytics and targeted content marketing that will lead to purchase conversions, and ultimately, brand loyalty.

Personalization Strategies for Digital Marketing

Once you’re armed with the statistics about your audience, you can better create a content strategy that will resonate with them. Below are a few content strategies you can use to make your marketing more personal, along with how to use specific data points to strengthen the message.

1. Ask customers for feedback. Fans love to interact with the products they love. The cosmetics brand LUSH is particularly known for using its social pages to drive conversation by asking for opinions, personal anecdotes, and ideas for new products or customer service initiatives. Once you have a good understanding of your user, consider nontraditional calls to action that will drive engagement.

For instance, instead of posting, “Like us if this is true for you,” share your update and say, “Tell us about a time where [XYZ scenario] applied to you. We may feature you in a future post!” By both asking for personal stories and showing how those stories may impact their future, customers will build trust in your brand and be motivated to contribute.

Data to watch for: engagement. Keep any eye on any post where you specifically ask for feedback and monitor engagement, including likes, comments, and shares, and promptly respond to or acknowledge comments. The more active a post is, the more likely it will stay in a prime spot in someone’s newsfeed, and the more likely that a relevant (but currently disengaged) user will see your content. This also shows current users that your brand is actively listening and responding to questions and anecdotes, and that you’re not just asking to appear interested.

2. Tell stories. There’s a good chance your product or service has helped you or your team at one time or another. Show your users how you are like them by tying in how what you do has affected you personally to create accountability and familiarity with your users. Employee testimonials are a great way to accomplish this, and show users that you as a company truly believe in your product. The online clothing retailer Modcloth uses employees to model its products. Potential customers can see firsthand that the company stands behind what it does — because it puts its people at the center.

Data to watch for: location. Take a quick glance at where in the country (or in the world) your customers are viewing your content, and if it’s appropriate, tailor your stories to a certain geographic area. I live in Chicago, and for the past few months I’ve been seeing sponsored posts from Smirnoff about how its vodka has ties to the Second City. While telling about its history, the company asked readers to share stories about their favorite cocktails and bars in the city (Smirnoff or not). By sharing the brand’s story and encouraging others, people throughout the Chicagoland area were talking about their favorite places to grab a cocktail, and users were interacting with one another in a genuine way. Smirnoff got to enjoy the increased brand awareness and the benefit of highly engaging content — some commenters even said they were going to give Smirnoff another try, after years of loyalty to other brands. Would they permanently switch? Maybe not, but the online experience was interesting enough to make them think differently.

3. Be conversational. Consider your product as another person your customers interact with on social media. Instead of “selling,” think of “sharing.” This automatically positions your word choices as more conversational and less toward conversion — but the difference in tone will be apparent to your customers. By offering advice or a recommendation as opposed to pushing a product (at least not directly), you’ll increase rapport with your audience in a way that’s natural and unforced.

Data to watch for: age range. Recommendations or advice are much better tailored when you know the age bracket you’re speaking to. BuzzFeed content verticals like Tasty (for food and cooking) and Nifty (for money-saving DIY projects) are great examples of this. Some of the language Tasty uses when it posts recipes and tips may come off as too trendy or informal for certain age brackets, but the content speaks directly to its most engaged audience, which happens to be a younger group. Similarly, if your product is aimed at a more mature demographic, be cautious of using slang to entice younger users. Not only will you drive away your core user base, but you’ll confuse the base you’re trying to attract — because they associate your brand with other language. If your metrics start to shift, however, you can adjust the tone and see how it performs on a post-by-post basis before you make a more permanent pivot.

Personalization in Digital Marketing at General Assembly

In GA’s Digital Marketing course, on campus or online, we cover personalization when students learn about content marketing strategies. By combining content marketing know-how with skills in social analytics and key performance indicators (KPIs), students discover strategies for creating marketing pieces that resonate, connect with audiences, and will drive sales and engagement. Throughout the curriculum, students learn about real-world examples of marketers who do this well, and get a chance to practice the skills as they relate to their own or future businesses.

Ask a Question About Our Marketing Programs

Meet Our Expert

Rachel Wendte is a designer, content strategist, and marketer who teaches the User Experience Design Immersive course at GA’s Chicago campus. She is passionate about communicating design for connection, and uses her skills in client management, user research, and strategic thinking to craft meaningful solutions that are user-friendly and aligned with client goals. Before learning UX, she worked as an arts administrator and social media consultant.

“Giving students the information they need to succeed and providing tools to turn their ideas into solutions is powerful. Combined with input from career coaches and industry experts, GA students are well rounded and strong.”

Rachel Wendte, User Experience Design Immersive Instructor, GA Chicago

5 Must-Have Skills for Today’s Enterprise Marketers

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In January 2016, the corporate training team at General Assembly set out to determine the marketing strategies and skills that all companies need to succeed in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

As an educational institution providing skills on technology, business, and design to individuals and corporations, our greatest asset is our network, which comprises students, alumni, instructors, subject matter experts (SMEs), and Fortune 500 clients. Leveraging this incredible network, we were able to survey CMOs of Fortune 500 companies, CEOs of startups, and a host of branding experts, mobile experts, performance experts, data experts, and digital experts.

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The 5 Pillars of Your Brand’s Business Model

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A marketing firm in Atlanta, Syrup Marketing, recently wrote a great article about how your brand is the “lead domino,” to quote Tim Ferris. What that means is that, once you create and solidify your brand, everything else tends to fall into place easily. One of those other dominoes that falls into place after you’ve created a fantastic branding strategy is the actual nuts and bolts of your business model.

Any business model is made up of many different moving parts, but they can be boiled down to these five pillars, on which you should build your business.

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The myth about agencies training themselves

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2015 has been an unprecedented year of media agency reviews–the list of companies who reevaluated their ad spend reads like a who’s who of the deep pocket set– Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, SC Johnson, and L’Oréal to name just a few. Ad Age estimated more than $17 billion up was for grabs and even christened the cataclysm with its own moniker– “Mediapolooza.”

It’s logical to conclude from this trend that brands are expecting more from their agency partners, especially with regards to technology. Thorough, up-to-date comprehension of the rapidly evolving digital marketing landscape has become absolutely crucial for any agency looking to grow their business.

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Woman on the Rise: Meet Rachel Skolnick, Director of Marketing at GoodWorld

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Meet Rachel Skolnick, one of four Women on the Rise winners who will be flying to San Francisco this fall for a week-long educational journey!

Rachel Skolnick is the Director of Marketing at DC-based startup, GoodWorld, where she is helping to unleash generosity on social media with just a hashtag—#donate. An experienced digital strategist with a background in marketing, communications, and social media, Rachel previously served in marketing roles at several nonprofit organizations.

Rachel earned a Bachelors of Arts from Lehigh University and a Certificate of Digital Marketing from Georgetown University. Aside from her love of all things digital, she enjoys yoga, soccer, and travel.

Keep up with Rachel on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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New to Social Media Marketing? Here are 6 Best Practices

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You’re just starting out marketing a business or non-profit organization using various social media channels and tools. You’re not a social media expert yet, but you will be very soon. What’s your next step? It’s wise to start off with some boundaries around your social media posts and content sharing.

In addition to maintaining your standards and representing your brand with excellence, here are six best practices that span all of the top five social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, and Instagram) and most other social media channels. In other words, if you start off using these best practices, your chances of early success will increase greatly. Continue reading

Growth Hacking: What It Is and What It’s Not

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Growth-Hacking

In case you’ve not yet heard the term, “growth hacking” is a term that’s been bandied about for several years now. On the one hand, those who get it and embrace it seem to just do it. To these experienced marketers, growth hacking is just using the technologies at their disposal to grow a product or business. But, unfortunately, the term “growth hacking” has also been misused by marketers who haven’t changed the way they’re doing things, but rather have simply added “growth hacker” to their LinkedIn profile in an effort to get new business.

So what exactly is growth hacking, and what is not growth hacking? Let’s take a look at some industry sources.

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5 Ways That Offline Marketing Is Still Critical For Startups

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For many of us, planning and executing a flawless digital marketing strategy is mission critical when scaling a startup. With so much focus on acquiring new customers through mammoth channels such as search marketing, social media, and display advertising, advocating an offline marketing strategy can sometimes feel irrelevant or antiquated.

Don’t make the mistake that many entrepreneurs and marketers commit by leaving offline initiatives out of your go-to-market strategy. Not only is it more relevant than ever, but it can be the perfect complement to your online strategy. Read on for our favorite tips employed by some well-known once startups and noteworthy up and comers.

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