During the days when modems screamed and hissed at you, then shut off access to your phone before allowing you to enter – and perhaps even surf – the heavily pixelated digital laneways of the internet, analogue media still reigned supreme.
This was the mid 1990s and although some forward thinkers saw the writing on the wall for the newspapers that had served us so well… mostly… for so many decades, many traditional media people thought the good times would roll on forever.
But what had for many years been called the “rivers of gold” – the classified advertisements that for decades had been the lifeblood of newspapers, particularly the broadsheets like The Age in Victoria and The Sydney Morning Herald in New South Wales – began to become more like creeks… and then very small streams. Where once someone wishing to sell a car or advertise a job would go straight to The Age, now they could go to carsales.com.au or seek.com.au.
As digital technology became more sophisticated, so did those websites and the kinds of advertising a client could create. The newspapers couldn’t compete, even on their own websites.
Today, websites like Seek and Carsales are still popular but Facebook and Google are the world’s advertising leviathans. Together, those two companies alone make more money from ads every year than every newspaper, TV and radio station in the entire world.
It’s an overused word, but Facebook and Google are the great “disruptors” of the moment. And they will be until the next massive shift in technology or media consumption occurs. If you’re reading this and you own a small or medium enterprise, you can (and should) take advantage of their supremacy.
Where to begin?
Google My Business Listings
If you’ve ever searched for a business on Google, you might have noticed a panel of information on the right hand side.
This is the Knowledge Panel. Now, Google tells us there’s no way of guaranteeing that when a person searches for a particular term that a business’s information is displayed in a Knowledge Panel. It’s safe to say, however, that as long as the enterprise is beginning to establish itself, if it operates from a physical premises, and if the searcher is nearby and using relevant terms, there’s a decent chance it will get its own Knowledge Panel content.
Google offers a free product called My Business. Once you sign up, you essentially get some control over what appears in that Knowledge Panel. Yes, people can still post reviews and photos of your business, but you can provide important details like your address, phone number, opening hours and your own images.
It’s an excellent, easy, no-cost way of building your web presence.
The next logical step with Google is Adwords. Unlike My Business, it comes with a cost, both in money and time, but the return on investment is potentially significant.
Adwords is the service behind the ads you see on… well, anywhere on what Google calls its Display Network and its Search Network. It gets a little bit complicated here, but the most important thing is that with carefully targeted and written Adwords campaigns you can get your products, services or messages seen across a scope of the internet’s most popular destinations.
It is, for example, one of the few advertising channels that captures consumer intent. On television you get shown an ad for a chocolate bar with peanuts, even if you’re an anaphylactic personal trainer. With Adwords, though, you get shown ads for, say, pink running shoes having searched for pink running shoes.
Facebook ads can no doubt look a bit messy when poorly implemented. But, with the right consumer understanding and creative skills and optimisation, they can become a super-effective online advertising medium.
With over a billion people logging in to the platform every day, its ability to reach an otherwise untapped market is currently unmatched. Within the ad platform, its tools let you specifically target users by their interests, age, location, right down to the apps and pages they engage with. Facebook’s precision and relative ease in infiltrating segments of people is what sets it apart. The ability to track detailed results also assists in understanding marketing effectiveness and future decisions to maximise your business’s return on investment.
There are numerous resources available – and millions of advice blogs – about how to get started with Facebook ads. If you’re really keen, you might also be interested in Facebook’s own online courses. They have dozens, everything from the absolute fundamentals, to slightly more technical learning about their many products for small and medium businesses.
Facebook and Google advertising is, to 2018 what classified advertising was to 1988; relatively inexpensive, extremely popular, and potentially highly effective.
But “potential” is the operative word. Like any opportunity, it comes down to how you take advantage of it.