What You’ll Learn

Pioneer’s Digital Media Strategist & Marketing Consultant Tina Potter dishes out a baseline understanding of what targeting strategies are available in digital advertising and how utilities and ISPs can use them.

Guest Speaker

Tina Potter

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Intro: A production of WordSouth — A Content Marketing Company. StoryConnect: The Podcast, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: What are the options and trends for digital advertising? That’s what we’ll be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host once again with WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources, and I’m joined on this episode by a coworker, Tina Potter, who is the digital media strategist for us here at Pioneer. So, Tina, thanks for joining me.

Tina Potter: Thanks for having me.

Andy Johns: So we’re going to be talking today about a lot of different options for what’s out there in digital ads. We’re going to be covering some of the different trends and kind of what some of the newer options are. But I’ve been wanting to get Tina on for a little while because nobody knows this stuff better than her. And I think that there’ll be some folks out there, whether they are utilities or whether they are folks that are providing broadband, or maybe they’re both, there’s a lot out there to be done. So I guess let’s start there. Tina, why is it important for utilities and broadband providers to pay attention to and know a little bit about digital advertising?

Tina Potter: Well, honestly, I think that it can be coupled with anything that they’re already doing, so it doesn’t have to take the place of their regular traditional advertising. But with what we’re providing with programmatic digital advertising, we’re able to really hone in on the specific customer that the co-op wants to reach. And we can do that with behavioral targeting, contextual targeting. We can geotarget even down to geofencing their customer’s base. So it’s a really great way, and we’ve had a lot of success with a lot of the co-ops that we work with, just to cut out a lot of that advertising waste. And some of them are using digital solely and some of them are using it right along with everything else that they do.

Andy Johns: Perfect. Now we’ve already thrown out a couple of words, I want us to go back and define for folks. Because there may be folks listening to this episode that are really well-versed in digital advertising, but there may be folks that words like “contextual” and “geotargeting” that those may be new terms for them. “Programmatic,” you mentioned earlier. So let’s go ahead. When you say geotargeting, and I think that’s one that almost everybody that we work with on digital ads, almost everybody is doing some form of geotargeting, right? So let’s kind of unpack that word a little bit.

Tina Potter: Ok. You know, geotargeting basically is just simply taking an area and targeting only that area so that, you know, 20 years ago, all we could do is kind of the shotgun approach, spray and pray, right? You just threw it out there and hope somebody found it. Well, now what we can do with geotargeting is we can say, OK, we only want these zip codes. We don’t need these other zip codes or these counties, so we can do it by zip code, county, city. We can do the entire United States if they wanted it. But most of our co-ops have a customer base, and so what we’re doing is that geotargeting. But we can even take it a step further with what we call mobile conquesting and do geofencing. And that allows us to get down to their customers’ physical addresses and only target the people they want to target when they want to target them. It’s pretty cool.

Andy Johns: Yeah, and I definitely want us to get into that as we’re talking about it, a couple of other terms to define. So you talked about behavioral filtering and you talked about contextual advertising. Can you go through those terms for us a little bit as well?

Tina Potter: Ok, so behavioral targeting is simply online behavior. So when we say that we’re typically talking about being able to have a history of their online behavior, if we know someone is really into gaming and they’re really into entertainment based on their online behavior, their clicks, how long they stayed on a website, what they searched for, we can put them into a specific category. And so there’s thousands of behaviors that we can target for them just based on their online activity. Now there’s also offline behavior, but that gets into mobile conquesting again.

Andy Johns: Got it. So I know there are a few other ways to pick folks, and I do want to get into the search advertising here in a minute, but in terms of other ways to find the right folks, retargeting is something I know that we’ve talked about. So let’s talk just again and sticking with some of the basics about what’s retargeting, and are there other strategies and options that folks are using to reach their audience?

Tina Potter: Absolutely. With retargeting, anytime we do a campaign for one of our clients, we automatically include a portion, typically, a quarter of their impressions, will go to retargeting, and the technology is really interesting. But with retargeting, we’re basically able to take a piece of code, place it on the back end of our customer’s website. When someone goes there, we drop a little piece of cookie on their IP address and now we can talk to them again and again, and we know that we need to do that. It’s just like in any other promotion or any other advertising. Repetition is key. So basically, we make it really simple for them. We just give them a little piece of code. They can put it on themselves or we can help them with that. It doesn’t show up on their website. No one can see it. All it allows us to do is retarget the customer and re-market to them. It also allows us to track conversions, whether or not did they do what we wanted them to do. Did they go to the page we wanted them to go? Did they fill out the form we wanted them to fill out? And last but not least, that little piece of code that we re-market with also allows us to put a conversion cap on it so that once they’ve done what we want them to do — sign up, fill out a form, take the rebate, whatever it is — we can then turn it off. And again, it goes back to that cutting out that advertising waste and also not annoying people.

Andy Johns: But both of those are important things for sure. So for example, if you’re a broadband provider and you have retargeting running, if somebody visits your site to look at the connection speeds that you have, then the next time that they go somewhere, if it’s set up for retargeting properly, when they go to the local news site or ESPN or a national news site, USA Today or something like that, that’s when they’re going to see those display ads show up advertising your broadband speeds, right? If we’re talking about retargeting or any of these, that’s the goal is to have those display ads show up for folks, right?

Tina Potter: Sure, it can be. We can retarget them with display ads. We can retarget them with video ads, social mirror ads. There’s a lot of different platforms that we can retarget them with. So the key is that they come to your website, they’re looking around, but they don’t convert. You know, maybe they’re just like, Well, how fast are these guys? But they don’t go ahead and sign up for the high speed internet, for example. Then they leave, and we can track that. We can see that they came in, that they left, and then they’re off, you know, reading other blogs and looking up other entertainment information or whatever it is. And because of that piece of code that we were able to track them with, now we’re able to show them that ad again, that retargeting ad and say, hey, for $59.99, you know, you can get one gig or whatever the promotion is. And we know that it works because 98% of consumers don’t convert on that first visit. So we’ve got to talk to a few more times and then get them that way.

Andy Johns: Got it, that’s important to remember now. No matter how good the website is or how good your sales funnel is, that first attempt, you’re not going to get very many folks ready to buy it right then and there. So you mentioned mobile conquesting and you mentioned the social mirroring ads, which I definitely want to talk about in a minute. But before we go too much further, kind of the granddaddy of them all has been traditionally the search engine ads or the search ads. So let’s spend a little bit of time talking about that. That’s been around a long time. I mean, relatively in the internet era, but it’s certainly still something that folks don’t want to leave off their digital marketing strategy, right?

Tina Potter: Absolutely. And honestly, if you were to ask me, you know what if someone didn’t want to hire an agency to do this stuff for them, where would you recommend they start? That’s where I would start is with Google Search. You’ll hear it referred to as Google AdWords. You know, Google ads, different things, but they want to be called Google Search now. And what I can tell you about it is it’s fairly easy to maneuver and get in there. You don’t have to be Google certified to do it. But it can be kind of time consuming. And so a lot of times they end up turning to us just to manage the campaign because we know what we’re doing. But that said, it’s that good old pay per click advertising. So the cool thing about it for customers is that they put out a text ad. There’s not a lot of creative going into it. They just simply put a text ad out. And with search, they only pay if someone googles some of the search terms that they’ve set up in their campaign, and then they actually click on it. So it’s fairly easy to maneuver. There’s no minimum budget required if they do it on their own. And that would kind of be a good place just to get your feet wet and probably one of the most necessary places, especially for some of the co-op’s building out fiber services and things like that.

Andy Johns: Definitely. I mean, it seems like, you know, if you have somebody who’s googling high speed internet or Wi-Fi or broadband and the name of a community you serve, that’s where you want to be, and you may only get one chance at that. So more and more that’s showing up at the top of the the search results there. That’s certainly crucial to do it. And it sounds like it’s usually less reliant on SEO than it used to and more reliable on the paid search ads to make sure you’re at the top. Is that a fair statement?

Tina Potter: Yeah. Google is always changing their algorithm, so they keep us on our toes. But I would say for most clients, for our customers anyway, especially broadband build outs that pay per click would be the way to go versus paying someone to do SEO, which we do, by the way. But there’s a lot more involved in SEO, and it’s a little bit more difficult to navigate. Where with search, you literally just define, OK, we want to hit this zip code or we want to hit this city. And then you define your search terms, which if you’re working with an agency, they can help you with those search terms. You know, it would be high speed internet, broadband, fiber, etc. And then you put the ad up, and those type of campaigns can really drive a lot of traffic to the website. You know, it gets them there. But then you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a great website, and you’ve got a great landing page for them to fill out a form or to sign up or whatever it is that you want them to do.

Andy Johns: Yeah, the second step is certainly crucial. And I always talk about, and you’ve probably heard me say it, but the what if this works idea? You know what if it works? What if they click your link, or they click your ad or whatever, where does that take them? And it’s got to take them to a page that’s focused on that conversion that you want them to. So that’s probably a whole other discussion for another day. But the thing that I would encourage folks to do is whether you’re at a utility or a broadband provider, just Google some of the terms that you think people might search for, you know, like we were saying, fiber and the town that you serve. Or if on the electric side of things, you know, Google solar providers in the town that you are and you probably if you have a solar program, you definitely want to be up there and just look at who else comes up at the top to who your competitors are, who are trying to steal that attention up there. So let’s say if you’re not sure whether or not you need to invest in a little bit of search advertising, just do a search and see who else comes up would be kind of my thought there. But OK, good, we covered that. I wanted to be sure that we talked about that because I know it’s been a while, but kind of like email marketing that just because it’s been around a while doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. But there are a couple of newer technologies that we’ve talked about that I know you’re very excited about. We’ve seen some good results with it. So we’ll talk about mobile conquesting in a second. But let’s talk about social mirror ads because it’s amazing to me how quickly our brains have kind of changed to really pay attention to things that look like social media posts. So explain to us a little bit about what you mean by social mirroring ads.

Tina Potter: Yeah, no doubt. And they are my favorite. You know that. So thanks for bringing them up. But social mirror ads are one of the programmatic platforms that we … So we’re kind of flipping around, but we’re going back to programmatic now, meaning that with social mirror, we can target them with all those technologies that we talked about earlier, whether it’s behavioral targeting, geotargeting, contextual targeting and many other factors. So kind of going back to that, it’s just like basically a display ad, which a lot of people are familiar with. The difference in it and what makes it so special is that a social mirror ad mirrors the exact look and feel of a social media post. But instead of appearing only on a single platform like Facebook, for example, social mirror ads are served programmatically across thousands of other websites and apps, and those type of ads run on all devices. So the thing I love about them is that they have three different call to actions or three different opportunities where the call to action button will direct them to the website. So that’s going to drive signups or fill out the form or get more information. But then on top of that, the social mirror ad will include the social media icons that we’re used to interacting with, such as the like button, share comment, and they link back to the social media page. So again, that’s why I love them, and nearly 90% of our customers that we’re helping are utilizing them. And I just I think it’s fabulous that there’s three opportunities for people to engage with those messages and see those types of ads. And by the way, social media ads have seven times, they’re getting from our studies, are getting seven times the click through rate of just a regular still image display ad. So they’re working really well.

Andy Johns: Yeah, that’s a big number. And social mirroring ads are one of the things that I bring up to folks when it’s, and I know I’m probably guilty of this too, but you get the sense that whether it’s a billboard or whether it’s a digital display ad somewhere that we kind of go blind to like the banner ads. Sometimes if you’re always going to your local newspaper site, and they always have a banner ad, you can kind of go blind to that. But we train ourselves, some of us an hour, two hours, three hours a day. Scrolling through social media, we’re training our brains to pay attention to things that look like social media posts. So all of a sudden, when through digital advertising, you’re able to put something that looks like a social media post on a page, then all of a sudden you’ve trained your brain to pay attention to things that look like that. So to me, I think it’s a super powerful tool to be able to do that and kind of adjust to how people are using devices, how they’re seeing content that they’re after, and then taking advantage of that to advertise to them. So a super cool function there.

Tina Potter: Absolutely. I agree.

Andy Johns: So let’s talk about it almost like a little mini-case study here. So if there’s somebody, and I’m going to use a broadband example, but you certainly could do it either with solar or EVs or some of the other efficiency programs that you may have going at an electric utility. But so if somebody is advertising, talk us through the goal there. So they’re going to want to put an ad out. And we know that to get that conversion, I’ve seen everywhere from seven touches all the way up to 17 or 18 touches to get that person to make the purchase or do what you want them to do. So what’s the ideal kind of to hit them with? And if I’m one consumer, talk me through, if you can what it might be to get those all those different touches, the different places where they might see some of these digital ads appear.

Tina Potter: Ok, so let’s use a fiber build out just for the simple fact that we’ve helped a lot of our customers with that. So what I typically recommend is if they have a list of their customer base that they’ll share with us, that they’re allowed to share with us and most of them do, and most of them will, then we’ve got the physical addresses. And what’s cool about that is we’re able to do like targeting phases. So a lot of times these fiber buildouts, for example, go in phases. But this strategy can be used for any other type of campaign. So you’ve got phase one, and you only want to hit 2,500 people, for example. So that’s where we use that mobile conquesting that we talked about with the geofence technology. And literally, Andy, the technology just is completely amazing to me. But basically what we do is we take that address list and we’re going to draw little tiny fences, virtual fences, around each of those addresses. So it’s completely anonymous. And when they walk inside, when anyone who walks inside that person’s address and that would be their members’ addresses, right, then they would be served that mobile ad initially. Okay.

Tina Potter: So that’s kind of the first step is what we recommend because we are on our mobile devices. Probably everybody listening right now is either listening on a mobile device or has it right next to them. So it’s a great way to kind of capture those customers initially. And then once we’ve reached them on their phones, we can then cross platform target them on other devices in their home. Like, you know, on their PC, their laptops, their tablets, and we can really drive more engagement and signups that way. So what we’re kind of doing is using the addresses to target them first, but then with cross platform targeting, now we’ve got their IP address, and now we can remark it to them on their laptop or their tablet, where they’re more likely to sign up for something. And you could do that cross platform targeting with anything. You could do it with video ads. You can do with social mirror ads, good old display ads. They still work, but we have been recommending social mirror ads because I mentioned earlier, they have such a high click through rate, and it does kind of trick the eye, which is probably a bad term to say, but it kind of tricks the eye and think, Oh, this is a social post. OK, I’m going to look at this. Oh, this is interesting. And we’re seeing that those are working really, really well in tandem with whatever it is that they’re doing on Facebook.

Tina Potter: So that’s kind of a journey. And basically, what would happen is someone would walk in their house, they’d be served a what we call a mobile composting ad. It’s just a mobile ad on their phone. And then maybe that evening, they’re on their laptop, and they’re reading a blog. And now we’ve got that person’s IP address or through programmatic targeting, we can go ahead and target them with another type of ad, the social mirror ad. Getting them to engage. Come back to the Facebook page, click through to the website, fill up the form. Once they filled out that form, because we’ve given them that little pixel code that we talked about earlier on the back end of their website, we can turn those off, and we can focus our energy and our ads on people who we still need to reach. So that would kind of be the full, you know, A to z spectrum of the journey of the customer.

Andy Johns: Super powerful. And I like the way that you put that from a marketing communication standpoint, super cool. From a consumer standpoint, maybe a little creepy, but a lot of the big, I mean, all of the big retail providers I know, get ready. We’re getting into whenever the shopping season hits, you know, they’re all using things like that. So. So as we’re looking at that, you know, that’s the emerging. I mean, it’s here, folks are using it. But I know some of the other newer stuff, especially for smaller rural audiences, even a couple of years ago, to do things with some of the audio streaming services or some of the over-the-top services. The minimums were really high, and it was really out of reach. But now some of those are becoming easier and more accessible for folks to get involved on some of that as well.

Tina Potter: Yeah, absolutely. And I definitely recommend it. What’s funny is five years ago, when that came out, I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know how many people are listening. It was really hard to make that jump from digital audio or from linear audio over to digital audio. But now, you know, things have really changed in the last two or three years with how we consume any type of media and music and podcasts and things like that are no different. So I definitely encourage people to look into the audio digital. We do have more and more listeners. And now what’s so cool about it is we used to have to buy direct. So we can only place with iHeart, or we can only place with Pandora and so on. Now we can buy that programmatically, and we don’t have to rely on the end user, the end consumer, to be on Pandora just so we can serve them an ad. Through the magic of real time bidding, just like all these other digital ad capabilities that we’ve talked about now, we can do that with digital audio too. And so it just makes that bucket of people that we can reach that much larger. And we have done it. We’ve actually just done it for one statewide here recently and the results were phenomenal and they were really, really pleased with it.

Andy Johns: Excellent. It’s always kind of cool to see what’s coming next, and we’re seeing that all the time with any, anything digital. There’s still a lot going on with with print other formats as well, but always something new coming up on digital. So thanks for keeping everybody up to speed on that. The last thing, and we’re running a little bit long for this episode, but we’ve got some really good stuff here. So in just a couple of minutes right here at the end, what advice do you have if there’s somebody who’s listening to this podcast — and of course, full disclosure, we would love for the answer to be come work with us — but let’s say there’s somebody like you said that maybe doesn’t have the budget for it, maybe they’ve already put in their budget for the for the next year. What are some some kind of baby steps, or some basic, easy things that they can do? What advice do you have for folks who are just trying to start getting into the world of digital advertising?

Tina Potter: Well, one thing they can do — even if they’re not going to work with us — we provide a lot of free resources. So definitely check out our website. We’ve got all kinds of blogs and e-books on there, so that would be the first place. Sorry to plug us again, but you know.

Andy Johns: It’s pur.coop/ebooks. We’ve got a digital ad e-book in there. So pur.coop/ebooks.

Tina Potter: Yeah, check that out. Do a little bit of research. Find some other reputable firms or organizations that you trust and listen to the experts, do a little bit of research. Again, I think I would tell them to start out, depending on what their message is, they can start out really inexpensively and fairly easy with some display ads. Now, they can’t really place those on their own. There’s a way through the Google platform that they could, although I don’t recommend that. Don’t tell Google. But if you’re going to go with Google, go with Google Search and those are those text ads that we talked about. And I think that’s a really great place for them to get their feet wet and start understanding things. The other thing I would recommend they do if they haven’t done is make sure that they’ve signed up for their Google Analytics account. If they have a website, it’s a free service offered. They need to do that so they can see what kind of action is happening on that end. And those would be the two things that I would recommend just starting out for baby steps.

Andy Johns: Perfect. Well, Tina, thanks for joining me. That’s a lot of good information to throw out there for folks, and we’re always trying to help, so thank you for taking the time to join me on this episode.

Tina Potter: Well, thank you. I love this stuff, so any time.

Andy Johns: She is Tina Potter, the digital media strategist for Pioneer. I’m your host, Andy Johns and until we talk again, keep telling your story.

Outro: You’ve been listening to StoryConnect: The Podcast, a production of WordSouth — A Content Marketing Company.