News publishers can win local advertisers back from social media with an offer they can’t refuse

By Christian Scherbel


Berlin, Germany


There’s the notion that local advertisers that left publishers for social media (or Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, in general) are lost forever because they left for the “promised land of milk on honey.”

I believe this might not be the case, and more than a few of the local advertisers might be willing to switch back — when publishers offer them attractive options and communicate their unique selling propositions (USP) clearly.

Ease of use

Many of the small local advertisers that left publishers left because they were promised “gazillions” of clicks at fractions of the price they were paying with publishers before. But they had to realise it would take hard work when this promise became reality (if possible at all). Local advertisers with little or no digital advertising experience had to build creative assets and landing pages, create advertising opportunities, and interpret daily analytics and act on them.

Local craftsmen, for example, who were used to the services offered by their sales representatives at publishers suddenly had to do it all themselves — at 8:00 p.m. after work. In the beginning that was fun, but now it’s getting exhausting. The only thing that keeps them at it is not having a better offer from their trusted publisher on the table and the pride to admit they might have signed up for too much work.

But winning back local advertisers does not mean everything the advertisers learned and did was bad and needs to be reverted. Advertisers learned a lot and created great content that publishers can use on their own platforms.

Quality instead of quantity

The original promise of social media with unlimited clicks at low prices goes along with low quality and high bounce rates. Every advertiser that celebrated their first campaign with 5% or higher click rates at less than US$1, knows that, in the long run, only “more business” counts.

However, with bounce rates often greater than 90%, the low cost-per-clicks get a different value, especially when you take into consideration the daily work involved with getting the social media account running.

While click rates for display ads might be lower for publishers, the traffic quality is much better. This can be shown with lower bounces rates as well as longer dwell times on the landing pages.

But be aware: You should control the landing pages to measure these values to prove your point. Also, only a relevant offer on the landing page helps with this KPI while most “standard digital business cards” of small business owners do not do the job. (Disclaimer: Smartico does landing pages as a service for more than publishers).

Communicate clearly

Quality over quantity is the clear goal, but your communication toward the client needs to by crystal clear. We learned over time that it should follow these three steps:

  • Attention: Average social media ads have views less than one second on average, as people are scrolling that fast through their feeds. But on publisher sites, a display ad is seen an average of five seconds in the visible area. Make sure to measure these values and show them in your dashboards.
  • New users: Readers on news outlets are fundamentally different from the ones on social media. Make sure to also reach them by amplifying the creative from social media to the publisher environment without any operational hassle.
  • Brand environment: Being shown on the local news authority with your social media post about your new offer makes a total difference compared to being surrounded by funny cat videos. The neighbourhood of the ad matters!

Do not overwhelm internal operations

When reaching out to social media advertisers in your area, think about the “best case” first. What if we convert 10, 20, or 100 of these advertisers? Who does the creative? How do we import them? How do we book them? How do we report them?

Make sure to have suppliers in place that do not only work on the creative assets but also on the ad operation and reporting side of things.

The offer local advertisers can’t refuse

First of all, you must reach out.

Secondly, it is about the clear offer: “We can amplify your social media campaign using the same but slightly modified and optimised creative in our trusted news environment, reaching new and relevant local readers with guaranteed higher attention times.”

Then: “Do you want to give this a try? You do not have to do anything but give the okay, and we will take the ad or post or profile from social media and transform it into a display ad campaign on our domain.”

About Christian Scherbel

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