I don’t know about you but, when it comes to online advertising, very few phrases have the power to make me instantly cringe the way that “I wanna be everywhere” does. The fact that I’ve heard it and argued against it almost as many times as I’ve tied my shoelaces might have something to do with my adversity towards the concept. Still, the fact remains, many business owners and managers have this insatiable desire to “be everywhere”. It’s probably a relique of traditional marketing where, since you’re talking at your audience, you have to use every single channel available to increase your odds of being noticed. However, the online environment is very different, in the sense that the whole trick is not to be everywhere but to be exactly where you need to be.

From AdWords and AdSense to social media ads, pages, stories and advertising spaces up for grabs on different websites, the Internet allows for a better reach, targeting and effectiveness of your advertising efforts. So why do businesses chose to ignore this very advantage the online environment offers and instead of segmenting, targeting and selecting where and how to display their assets, they’d rather throw all they’ve got, all over the place and cross their fingers in the hopes their message will be heard. Sure, being known and having a brand that stays with your potential customer is something every single business owner and manager wants but being in people’s faces all day, every day, everywhere, is not the way to go. Because, unless you’re a corporate giant, you simply cannot afford it.

Online ain’t free

There’s this distorted notion floating around according to which if it’s online, it’s either cheaper than dirt or free. Sorry folks but that’s not even close. Online advertising can be, and if done correctly almost always is, much more affordable than anything you could do to promote yourself offline but it’s not free. It will cost you time, money and resources which is why trying to be all over the place will literally bankrupt you. Let’s say I own a bakery and would like to migrate all my marketing efforts online and, of course, I strongly believe that being everywhere is the best way to go. First, I’ll probably start small and invest in some social media, mostly because it’s “free”. Which is true, up to a point. Meaning, you can set up your pages on Facebook and Google+, create a Pinterest account and sign up for Twitter and that’s pretty much where the “free” bit ends.

The problem is you need content, so investing time is mandatory and, unless you’re very creative, you’ll struggle with what to say and when. Most of these accounts just post pictures at an alarming rate and of questionable quality at best, in the hopes that people will flock to their door and order that brown, blurred cheesecake just ‘cause. In reality, you will have to either invest enough time to learn how to showcase your product in appropriate imagery and open a conversation with your potential customers, or you’ll have to invest money and have someone do it for you. Then there’s the matter of finding your audience and bringing it to your content, which is where the real money will start draining. All those tutorials and articles advocating “organic Facebook growth” and telling you how to captivate your audience on a nickel, in practice, amount to about the value of that same nickel.

Of course, Facebook won’t bring customers, at least not right away, so our baker will become frustrated in short order and remember there’s a dedicated online tool for bumping up those sales numbers; enter AdWords. This is the go-to service for business owners who want to just sell and are utterly disinterested in branding, PR, user interaction, brand loyalty; you know, all those things that make a brand memorable. Which is a shame, because AdWords is so much more than just a door-to-door salesman.

DIY AdWords

While it’s easy to use and can be setup with just basic digital skills, AdWords is very deceptive in that it’s way more complicated to actually make it work than one might initially expect. It takes experience with running not just generic campaigns, but it takes experience in that particular market segment for someone to know exactly which keywords will convert and which will not. If he tries to run the campaign on his own, our baker will find himself spending all his budget with little to no gain because focusing on just getting clicks to your website without focusing on the value of said visits, will do nothing more than inflate your number of visits and subsequent inevitable drop-offs.

Most business owners do have the good sense to not go for the DIY route when it comes to AdWords but even so, the budget itself won’t be on the cheap side. Generally, the higher the value of the product you’re trying to sell, the more competitive the market is and therefore, the higher the toll on your budget. In time and with adequate management, your keywords will get higher Quality Score and the budget required to stay on top may decrease but AdWords is not a service you should use if you’re trying to cut costs.

Pins & Tweets

Another popular service with business owners is Pinterest, often because they have their own personal accounts or have at least a few times browsed it. The same goes for Twitter. While very different in terms of form and function, both social networks can be fantastic assets for almost any business. And the best bit, it can cost a lot less than Facebook and AdWords.

This, by no means, implies either of them comes for free. Building an interesting Pinterest account takes time and filling the ranks of your tweeps with people you can actually communicate with instead of tweeting at, doesn’t happen overnight, which can be discouraging. And last, but not least, Facebook’s great rival, Google+. While they were testing ads for pages with over 1000 followers, Google+ is otherwise free of advertisements. There are many reasons why in the great feud between these two networks I am partial to Google+ but for the purposes of this particular article, I’ll stick to the costs of running content campaigns on the two.
Just like any other popular network, setting up an account is free, although limited to your email address (which often requires verification), meaning you have fewer phantom accounts. The issue with Google+ content campaigns is the content itself. Pages and businesses thrive when using visual content and actually engaging posts, meaning without a proper content strategy and high-quality content, it’s not even worth getting started.

You really don’t have to be everywhere to be successful, the trick is to know when and where to greet your audience with a friendly and warm “Hello”.

Last, but by no means least, the most important argument against being everywhere is the fact that your audience won’t be everywhere. People don’t manage 4 social network accounts for themselves on a regular basis, it’s redundant and we simply don’t have the time. This means that by insisting to advertise on every single channel you can think of, you’re advertising to the wrong people. It’s like a small bakery in Dubrovnic, Croatia advertising worldwide, in the hopes that maybe, in 5 years time, if they visit the town, someone will come by for a muffin. Talk about a long-term investment.

It takes more than you think

All these may not sound like much, especially if you’ve never had to do them. Because, except for AdWords, all of these environments have an indelible social component and almost everyone has had some sort of run-in with at least one of them, it’s easy to think social advertising isn’t such a big deal and shouldn’t cost too much.

What people might not take into account is that content research, concepts, design, measuring their effectiveness, competitor research, etc takes time, a lot of time. If you look at what a huge brand is doing it seems effortless and that’s the point, being social is not supposed to seem like a struggle but there are huge budgets and armies of people behind the scenes.

The Bottom Line

Instead of spreading yourself too thin and spending money with little to no return on your investment, focus on the channels where most of your audience is, social networks you can provide high-quality content for and, most importantly, have realistic expectations.

You really don’t have to be everywhere to be successful, the trick is to know when and where to greet your audience with a friendly and warm “Hello”.

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