Despite the draw of accessing millions of regular users, many businesses are not yet ready to enter social media. There’s a host of reasons. They include: wrestling with compliance and regulatory issues; trying to establish clear corporate policies and guidelines; devising a strategy, or determining benchmark metrics and ROI (define). When it comes to social media, companies seem to be stuck in paralysis by analysis. Yet, to all of these concerns, there is a commonly-overlooked alternative: advertising!

Speak the Advertiser’s Language

When pitching clients on social media advertising, the online media planner should ease them into the idea by using terminology the advertiser already understands: impressions, page views, click-throughs, actions, and targeted (or niche) marketing. Social media advertising can increase reach, frequency, and share-of-voice and also give an advertiser a new metric with which to test: engagement. More on tracking metrics later.

Inject Social Sites Into Media Plans

Social media might not seem like the kind of thing an online media planner ought to be focusing on, but because of its popularity, media planners really do need to pay attention. Initially, many social media sites offered no advertising, or at most, only “irrelevant, annoying, and boring” banner ads. Now, however, social media advertising opportunities vary greatly and for the company yet unwilling or unable to participate in social media, advertising feels more safe and is something to which they can more easily relate.

Wondering what’s out there and where to start? This is just a short list of both broad and niche social sites that also offer traditional display or alternative online advertising opportunities:

Social Ad Networks and Solutions

If you don’t want to limit your ad visibility to a single social media site or group, consider building a social ad network into your plan. You’d probably be surprised by the variety of options out there such as:

  • Blog advertising: Use networks like BlogAdsBlogHer, and Technorati Media to reach readers in the blogosphere.
  • Conversation targeting: Get in front of actively engaged users by advertising where people are specifically seeking answers (sites like Yahoo AnswerseHow, and ChaCha) or targeting keywords occurring in conversations through technologies like BuzzLogic.
  • An ad network that can deliver your paid message through an assortment of social-specific opportunities like social overlays, social interaction ads, friend-to-friend ads, Twitter-enabled ads, video ads, and community polls.

Inclusions in User-Driven Local Directories

Though not ordinarily considered a media planning activity, ensuring that your advertisers with geo-specific locations somehow get submitted to and included in popular user-driven local directories like YelpAngie’s List,Urbanspoon, and Gowalla can help give them some very valuable social visibility.

Tracking and Reporting Brand Mentions in the Socialsphere

Last week, my co-columnist Harry Gold wrote a timely column detailing “Online Media Tracking Methodology for Social Media.” Providing metrics data like these combined with response data from test advertising on social sites might provide just the right amount of fuel to get advertisers to finally take the leap into fully-embracing social.

In addition to the tracking means Harry wrote about, a few other solutions, ranging from very robust to less powerful, exist to help you compile this data:

When it comes to social, it’s a bit like the early days of the Internet. We can’t expect marketers to dive right in. If they’re really afraid of the water, get them to try a little advertising first to get their feet wet.

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