It happens every Jan. 1. People set goals for the new year – and most stop working to achieve them within a month.
The same thing happens after webinars, conferences, how-to articles, goal-focused podcasts, or motivational videos. People feel inspired to do something. As with New Year’s resolutions, people get hyped up and may take a step or two toward executing new ideas.
And then … nothing (or very little). Conference notes gather digital dust in a folder with a last-modified date of six months ago. That bookmarked video gets buried at the bottom of the favorite sites list. The list detailing what they plan to do sits in a notebook, never to see the light of day again. The positive effect they associated with your brand’s content diminishes.
When the distance between setting goals and achieving them feels insurmountable, progress slows and eventually stops altogether.
Meanwhile, content marketers plan event after event (they’re consistently among the most popular tactics, according to CMI research). They create content designed to help audiences learn how to do something or how to improve what they’re already doing.
And then they move on to the next event, how-to topic, and so on.
But what if, instead of moving on, you stayed with your audience, helping then change that goal-failure scenario? Wouldn’t making that change help you grow and sustain a community?
It’s all possible when you set intentions and develop specific activities to bring those intentions to reality.
Why incorporate accountability into your audience strategy
The American Society of Training and Development found 65% of people complete a goal if they commit to someone. If they also set an appointment with that person, they are even more likely to achieve the goal.
Your content team (no matter how small) can make that happen – and set your brand apart from all your content competitors.
How to set up an accountability program for events
I’ll walk you through how to create an accountability program in support of a 60-minute webinar. You can extrapolate the concept to work for an educational or inspirational event of any length.
Let’s say your brand sells project management software and plans an educational webinar. You decide to give attendees added value through an optional accountability program.
On the registration form, you’d include an opt-in choice:
“To help you execute the ideas shared in the webinar, our brand is hosting a free accountability program after the webinar. Do you want to join it?”
The answer options would be:
- I’m not sure. Tell me more.
You’ll follow up with the “Yes” and “I’m not sure” respondents.
TIP: Include the accountability program option in any post-event communication in case someone missed it when they registered for the event.
As you develop the webinar content, fill in this easy-to-replicate template. Here’s how it looks for the project management software brand’s webinar:
- Title: Get Rid of Bottlenecks and Boost Productivity
- Presenter: Internal subject matter expert
- Attendee goal: Learn how to revise their approval process to minimize bottlenecks
- Steps to achieve the goal (as detailed in the webinar):
- Follow several projects through the existing approval process and note each completion date.
- Identify where bottlenecks occurred.
- Talk with the stakeholders involved to identify potential solutions.
- Revise the approval process to incorporate the best bottleneck elimination solutions identified.
- Estimated reasonable time to complete: Two months
With these details, you are ready to set up the accountability program. At this point, you can make it as straightforward or as detailed as you want based on available resources. For example, you could handle it through an automated email program or with a hands-on approach tailored to each participant.
Conduct an automated accountability program through an email campaign
Let’s opt for the simplest version for our example – an automated program implemented through an email campaign.
Here’s how that might look:
Day 1 (the day of or the day after the webinar)
Send a welcome email thanking them for signing up for the accountability program. The email should include:
- Every step the webinar detailed (these serve as mini-goals on the way to achieving the ultimate goal of getting rid of bottlenecks in the approval process)
- Completion dates for each mini-goal
- All the resources participants may need, such as links to the webinar and slide deck
- An opt-out button that’s easy to find so they can stop receiving the emails if they decide they can’t or don’t want to participate
This week’s email explains the first mini goal. (In our example, the first mini goal is to follow several projects through the existing approval process and note each date of completion). Remind them of the deadline. Include a few tips or resources to help them achieve this first mini goal.
Send a final reminder about the first mini goal. Then, on deadline day, send a message with positive reinforcement, such as:
Congratulations on completing the first step toward removing the bottlenecks in your approval process. Didn’t quite finish it? That’s OK. All progress is important. Keep up the good work.
Briefly outline the second mini goal in the deadline-day email.
Follow the Week 1 email protocol for the second mini goal (in our example, to identify where bottlenecks occurred).
Update the Week 2 emails (final reminder and deadline day) for the second mini-goal.
Follow the Week 1 email protocol for the third mini-goal (to talk with the stakeholders involved to identify potential solutions).
Update the Week 2 emails (final reminder and deadline day) for the third mini-goal.
Follow the Week 1 email protocol for the fourth mini-goal (revise the approval process to incorporate the best bottleneck elimination solutions identified).
Update the Week 2 emails (final reminder and deadline day) for the fourth mini-goal.
Send a final email celebrating the goal achievement deadline. Outline the benefits participants who complete it will enjoy. Include a call to action with possible next steps (individually or through your brand).
TIP: Always include two unsubscribe options in every email – one for recipients who have already achieved the goal and one for recipients who no longer want to participate. Send a final congratulatory message that includes any next steps or calls to those who opt-out after achieving the goal.
Try a small group approach if resources allow
If you have sufficient resources, you can transform this email accountability campaign into a one-on-one or small group approach led by someone on your team.
In these cases, the participants can modify the goals and completion dates to fit their circumstances. Then, your team member can set up their accountability outreach according to the participants’ preferences.
TIP: Make sure your content marketing team doesn’t let responsibilities for this slip or stop altogether. It can be easy to let this become a lower priority because executives likely aren’t asking about it. However, a lack of attention to your audience would harm your brand credibility and reputation.
Invite readers, viewers, and listeners to an accountability program
You can set up an accountability program for content other than events. Try it for articles, podcasts, videos, etc.
You probably can’t set up a program for every piece of content you create, so select topics and assets that resonate the most with your audience.
The accountability program itself can follow a similar format as the one outlined above. However, since there isn’t a registration form to access this content, you’ll need to create a sign-up form and promote it in a call to action.
Add a community component
Whether you opt for the hands-off automated strategy or hands-on involvement, set up a community forum. It could be a dedicated Slack channel, a Discord group, or another easily accessible platform where people can interact.
Encourage participants to join the community and ask them to:
- Post their individual goals
- Ask questions about the topic
- Share their challenges in completing the tasks
- Help other community members overcome challenges
Incorporate multiple voices from your brand to cheerlead, provide expert advice, etc. Your goal for the community should be to create an encouraging place that helps hold participants accountable for doing what they said they wanted to do.
TIP: If the community converses on topics that relate to but aren’t directly connected to the goal, that’s OK. However, if they stray off-topic, move those chats elsewhere so they don’t disrupt the experience for other community members.
If the community was created for a single goal, plan to stop active participation in the group about a month or two after the goal-achieving timeframe. If the community is still active, move them onto your main channels or rebrand the goal-setting group to fit what it has evolved into.
Make accountability your differentiator
No one likes to set a goal and fail. Just ask all those people (or look in the mirror) who stopped their New Year’s resolution progress.
By setting up an accountability program for your events, how-to, and aspiration content, you send a message to your audience – we’re here to help. That’s important even if they never sign up to participate.
But for those who do, the connection you make will continue and grow long after they’ve attended your event or consumed your content. And that’s a top goal for every content marketer.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them
Ad fraud is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the latest data indicates that it will cost businesses a colossal €120 billion by 2023. But even more worrying is that fraudsters’ tactics are becoming so sophisticated that even big-name companies such as Uber, Procter & Gamble, and Verizon have been victims of ad fraud in recent years.
So what does this mean for the rest of the industry? The answer is simple: every ad company, no matter their size or budget is just as at risk as the big guns – if not more.
In this article, I summarize some of the biggest and most shocking cases of ad fraud we’ve witnessed over recent years and notably, what vital lessons marketers and advertisers can learn from them to avoid wasting their own budgets.
The biggest ad fraud cases in recent years
Let’s take a look at some of the most high-profile and harmful ad fraud cases of recent years that have impacted some of the most well-known brands around the world.
Methbot: $5 million a day lost through fake video views
In 2016, Aleksandr Zhukov, the self-proclaimed “King of Fraud”, and his group of fraudsters were discovered to have been making between $3 and $5 million a day by executing fake clicks on video advertisements.
Oft-cited as the biggest digital ad fraud operation ever uncovered, “Methbot” was a sophisticated botnet scheme that involved defrauding brands by enabling countless bots to watch 300 million video ads per day on over 6000 spoofed websites.
Due to the relatively high cost-per-mille (CPM) for video ads, Aleksandr and his group were able to steal millions of dollars a day by targeting high-value marketplaces. Some of the victims of the Methbot fraud ring include The New York Times, The New York Post, Comcast, and Nestle.
In late 2021, Aleksandr Zhukov was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay over $3.8 million in restitution.
Uber: $100 million wasted in ad spend
In another high-profile case, transportation giant Uber filed a lawsuit against five ad networks in 2019 – Fetch, BidMotion, Taptica, YouAppi, and AdAction Interactive – and won.
Uber claimed that its ads were not converting, and ultimately discovered that roughly two-thirds of its ad budget ($100 million) wasn’t needed. This was on account of ad retargeting companies that were abusing the system by creating fraudulent traffic.
The extent of the ad fraud was discovered when the company cut $100 million in ad spend and saw no change in the number of rider app installs.
In 2020, Uber also won another lawsuit against Phunware Inc. when they discovered that the majority of Uber app installations that the company claimed to have delivered were produced by the act of click flooding.
Criteo: Claims sues competitor for allegedly running a damaging counterfeit click fraud scheme
In 2016, Criteo, a retargeting and display advertising network, claimed that competitor Steelhouse (now known as MNTM) ran a click fraud scheme against Criteo in a bid to damage the company’s reputation and to fraudulently take credit for user visits to retailers’ web pages.
Criteo filed a lawsuit claiming that due to Steelhouse’s alleged actions — the use of bots and other automated methods to generate fake clicks on shoe retailer TOMS’ ads — Criteo ultimately lost TOMS as a client. Criteo has accused Steelhouse of carrying out this type of ad fraud in a bid to prove that Steelhouse provided a more effective service than its own.
Twitter: Elon Musk claims that the platform hosts a high number of inauthentic accounts
In one of the biggest and most tangled tech deals in recent history, the Elon Musk and Twitter saga doesn’t end with Twitter taking Musk to court for backing out of an agreement to buy the social media giant for $44 billion.
In yet another twist, Musk has also claimed that Twitter hid the real number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. He has also accused the company of fraud by alleging that these accounts make up around 10% of Twitter’s daily active users who see ads, essentially meaning that 65 million of Twitter’s 229 million daily active users are not seeing them at all.
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6 Lessons marketers can learn from these high-profile ad fraud cases
All of these cases demonstrate that ad fraud is a pervasive and ubiquitous practice that has incredibly damaging and long-lasting effects on even the most well-known brands around the world.
The bottom line is this: Marketers and advertisers can no longer afford to ignore ad fraud if they’re serious about reaching their goals and objectives. Here are some of the most important lessons and takeaways from these high-profile cases.
- No one is safe from ad fraud
Everyone — from small businesses to large corporations like Uber — is affected by ad fraud. Plus, fraudsters have no qualms over location: no matter where in the world you operate, you are susceptible to the consequences of ad fraud.
- Ad fraud is incredibly hard to detect using manual methods
Fraudsters use a huge variety of sneaky techniques and channels to scam and defraud advertisers, which means ad fraud is incredibly difficult to detect manually. This is especially true if organizations don’t have the right suggestions and individuals dedicated to tracking and monitoring the presence of ad fraud.
Even worse, when organizations do have teams in place monitoring ad fraud, they are rarely experts, and cannot properly pore through the sheer amount of data that each campaign produces to accurately pinpoint it.
- Ad fraud wastes your budget, distorts your data, and prevents you from reaching your goals
Ad fraud drains your budget significantly, which is a huge burden for any company. However, there are also other ways it impacts your ability to deliver results.
For example, fake clicks and click bots lead to skewed analytics, which means that when you assess advertising channels and campaigns based on the traffic and engagement they receive, you’re actually relying on flawed data to make future strategic decisions.
Finally – and as a result of stolen budgets and a reliance on flawed data – your ability to reach your goals is highly compromised.
- You’re likely being affected by ad fraud already, even if you don’t know it yet
As seen in many of these cases, massive amounts of damage were caused because the brands weren’t aware that they were being targeted by fraudsters. Plus, due to the lack of awareness surrounding ad fraud in general, it’s highly likely that you’re being affected by ad fraud already.
- You have options to fight the effects of ad fraud
Luckily, as demonstrated by these cases, there are some options available to counteract the impact and losses caused by ad fraud, such as requesting a refund or even making a case to sue. In such cases, ad fraud detection solutions are extremely useful to uncover ad fraud and gather evidence.
- But the best option is to prevent ad fraud from the get-go
The best ad fraud protection is ad fraud prevention. The only surefire way to stop fraudsters from employing sophisticated fraud schemes and attacking your campaigns is by implementing equally sophisticated solutions. Anti-ad fraud software solutions that use machine learning and artificial intelligence help you keep fraud at bay, enabling you to focus on what matters: optimizing your campaigns and hitting your goals.
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