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What is Social Selling? (+How to Sell on Social Media)

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What is Social Selling? (+How to Sell on Social Media)

If you sell things to people who spend time on social media, you need to learn about social selling.

Social selling lets you use social media to find perfect prospects, build a genuine connection with them, and become the automatic choice when it’s time to buy.

It’s not rocket science. But you can’t go in guns blazing with the hard sales tactics. There’s more nuance required.

In this extensive guide, you’ll get a complete plan to launch your own social selling strategy. What to post, when to connect, and how to get more conversions with less pitching.

Table of contents

What is social selling?

Social selling is a lead generation strategy where you find, qualify, and connect with new prospects on social networks. The strategy includes using social listening to know what topics are important to prospects and then joining or generating conversations to build relationships with them.

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Let’s say you work for a commercial contractor. Someone on X (formerly Twitter) talks about expanding their business in your area and has a question about building codes. You give an answer with some helpful links. You’re at the top of the list when they ask for a bid to upgrade their new building.

Notice that social selling focuses on generating new leads rather than quick conversions. You want to build trust through genuine connection, not complete an impersonal transaction.

The best part of social selling is that it’s like a free, always-on networking event you don’t have to fly to. You get to generate and nurture 1:1 relationships at a scale you never could with in-person networking or cold calls.

💡 Want more oomph in your outreach? Download this huge list of emotionally charged marketing words and phrases.

Social selling vs. traditional selling

Social selling differs from traditional sales strategies by where it happens, who you target, and how you connect.

Social selling - differences between social selling and traditional selling

Social selling happens on social media platforms. Traditional selling often takes place in person or via cold calls.

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With social selling, you directly target product users or decision-makers. Traditional sales strategies usually start with engaging a gatekeeper before you speak with the person writing the checks.

Social selling uses warm introductions and personalized conversations to engage with targeted prospects. Traditional sales tactics rely on generic scripts and shotgun outreach.

Social selling vs. social media marketing

Social media marketing is usually a one-to-many broadcast. In contrast, social selling is more about building relationships with one-to-one conversations.

Social media marketing can also be conversion-focused and even include social shopping, where people can buy right from the social media platform. With social selling, you’re meeting and interacting with prospects, but the conversion happens outside the social network.

While they have differences, social media marketing and social selling do support each other. You may write some generally helpful social media posts as part of your social media marketing strategy, but when a prospect comments, they move into your social selling funnel.

Who is social selling for?

Social selling is for any company that sells products to people who spend time on social media. That is to say, it’s for just about every company since over 62% of the global population (and over 90% of the US population) is on social media.

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Any size business can use social selling. A Fortune 500 software company might interact with chief technology officers who make million-dollar purchasing decisions. A local physical therapist can provide health tips to weekend warrior athletes in their network.

What are the benefits of social selling?

Social selling isn’t hard (we think it’s fun), but it takes some time. Are you on the fence about trying it? Let’s see if these social selling benefits convince you.

You connect with people where they’re comfortable

The average person spends about 2.5 hours each day scrolling social media platforms. Many are there to catch up with friends and family. But a large percentage of people head to social networks to learn about products and get content from brands.

Social selling - Graphic showing the reasons people use social mediaSocial selling - Graphic showing the reasons people use social media

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That audience of information seekers presents a perfect opportunity to jump in and be the helpful authority when they need you most.

Builds trust through conversation

An older study from HubSpot showed that a dismal 3% of consumers consider salespeople trustworthy. Ouch!

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Social selling - LinkedIn post about rude salespeople.Social selling - LinkedIn post about rude salespeople.

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You’re unlikely to overcome the trust gap in the first few seconds of a cold call. But on social media, it’s possible to create relationships that generate trust over time.

Think about it this way. Say you need to hire more people. Would you be more likely to use a recruiting company that’s answered several hiring questions for you on LinkedIn or the company that cold-called you?

Lets you time outreach perfectly

In general, success on social media means posting at the right time. And that’s why social selling is so great. You use social listening to tell you when someone’s talking about your brand, your competitors, or some aspect of your business. Then, you can connect with them at the exact right time.

Social selling - Tweet from BiothermSocial selling - Tweet from Biotherm

Every major social media platform has a search bar. You can use it to search for hashtags, company names, or job titles that lead you to excellent prospects.

Plus, social media bios often hold lots of information about the people they represent. With a quick glance, you might learn where someone works, their job title, and what types of things they’re interested in.

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You’d have to buy one heck of a cold-calling list to get all of that!

It’s a proven technique

LinkedIn data shows that sales teams who use social selling are more successful.

According to the research, social selling leaders:

  • Create more opportunities
  • Are more likely to reach quota
  • Outsell peers who don’t use social media

Social selling - stats from LinkedIn graphciSocial selling - stats from LinkedIn graphci

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What’s more, your competitors are already taking advantage of social selling. Compared to 2015, sales reps spend 12% more time connecting with prospects and customers virtually.

EveryoneSocial, a brand advocacy software provider, says that social sellers close 48% larger deals than their nonsocial seller counterparts.

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Delivers a fantastic ROI

All you need to get started with social selling is a free social media account, a little time, and a strategy. There’s no significant initial investment, ads to buy, or travel to pay for.

As you start to generate quality leads from social media, you can invest in tools that make you more efficient, which we’ll cover in a bit.

What are the four pillars of social selling?

There are four concepts that, when taken together, form the foundation of a social selling strategy.

Social selling - Four pillars of social selling in a graphicSocial selling - Four pillars of social selling in a graphic

  1. Establish your brand on social media: Before connecting with prospects, create an engaging profile and publish relevant content that cements your brand as the expert in your space.
  2. Fill out your network: Identify your current customers, future potential customers, thought leaders, and influencers that you’d like to connect with.
  3. Engage them with insights: Become the go-to source for information by sharing thought-provoking directly with your prospects right when they need it.
  4. Build relationships: Strengthen your connections by establishing trust with the people who make decisions and influence others.

Which social selling platforms are best?

The best social selling platform for you depends a lot on the things you sell and where your audience hangs out.

That said, LinkedIn and Twitter are more geared towards social selling. People go to those networks more often for professional conversations. Plus, those platforms have some great tools to make creating a sales network easier.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best platform for B2B social selling. Not only does the platform have more than 1 billion users, but most of them are also there to talk shop. That means your conversations about professional topics will fit right in.

LinkedIn makes it really easy to grow your professional network. You can use the search bar at the top of the page to look for specific job titles or people working for a company. Then, you can refine the list to only show people connected with your current network. Hello, warm introductions!

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There’s also a really powerful tool called LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Use it to prioritize your prospects, find advocates who’ll help you connect, and even surface accounts showing high buying intent.

And the pièce de rèsistance is LinkedIn’s social selling index (SSI).

Social selling - LinkedIn SSI dashboardSocial selling - LinkedIn SSI dashboard

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The SSI is a metric from LinkedIn that measures your success against the four pillars of social selling. Just log into your account and head to your Social Selling Index dashboard. You’ll get an overall score and see how you fare against others in your industry.

X (formerly Twitter)

X is built for public discussions, which makes it a perfect place to jump into conversations and establish your brand’s expertise.

Finding those conversations is easy since many users add hashtags to their tweets. Search for hashtags using the bar at the top or click a hashtag from someone you already follow and see who else is using it.

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Say one of your customers uses the hashtag #HRIssues on their Tweets. Click it, and you’ll likely find a host of other prospects who need your human resources software.

But what’s really cool about X is the List feature. With Lists, you can quickly find whole groups of people in your field.

Social selling - A list on Twitter XSocial selling - A list on Twitter X

Follow existing lists to grow your network. Or create your own private lists to keep tabs on competitors or customers.

Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram

Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are popular social marketing platforms. But they’re less hospitable to social selling since people gravitate to them to get away from work. You can still see some benefits there, depending on what you sell.

Social selling on Facebook

The challenge with Facebook is that its privacy controls make it more difficult to engage with new people. Unless someone has made their post public, you won’t be able to interact with it. One potential workaround is Facebook groups. Look for existing groups that align with what you do, or build your own Facebook group.

Social selling - A group on FacebookSocial selling - A group on Facebook

Once you’re in the group, remember to be friendly and helpful. Most groups have admins that will boot you out if you get all salesy.

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👀 Speaking of Facebook…Want to know how your ads compare to the competition? Download our latest Facebook ads benchmarks!

Social selling on TikTok

TikTok is growing as a sales channel because more people now use it to find new products and services. But it’s a very visual platform that kind of buries comments. So, it’s not ideal for generating conversations.

Your best bet is to post entertaining videos that follow trends on TikTok and build awareness of your brand.

Social selling on Instagram

It isn’t easy to find individuals to connect with on Instagram unless they’re a celebrity or you know their handle. Plus, starting an organic conversation there is hard, especially since it’s such a visual platform.

Like TikTok, your social selling play here is to post helpful content that attracts people who would eventually use what you sell. You could also try following complementary brands (think of cosmetics companies if you’re a fashion brand) and reply to the comments you see there. Just don’t go too hard. No brand wants another company harassing its followers.

9 tips to become a pro-level social seller

We’ve got the pillars down and seen how they work on different social media platforms. Now, let’s look at nine ways to accelerate your program.

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1. Provide value and prove your expertise first

Before trying to make direct connections, you’ll need to build a foundation of credibility. Remember, you don’t want to be the person who meets someone new and instantly starts blurting out a sales pitch.

The easiest way to start is simply posting helpful, insightful content. Make it a mix of new content and posts you’ve shared from others.

Social selling - Real estate agent's helpful post.Social selling - Real estate agent's helpful post.

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Social sharing is built on two-way, mutually beneficial relationships. Before you ask for something like scheduling a demo or booking an appointment, give something first to keep the scales even.

2. Be an active social listener

Social listening gives you the superpower of knowing what people are talking about online. That way, you can get in on the conversation and engage with prospects organically.

On LinkedIn, you can set alerts to notify you when an account posts. Over on X, you can be notified anytime someone uses a specific hashtag.

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For more robust social listening, use a social media management tool. They’ll let you monitor:

  • Brand mentions
  • Product mentions
  • Competitor mentions
  • Trending keywords
  • Branded keywords
  • Relevant hashtags

3. Optimize your profiles

    What’s the first thing people do when they see your social media account pop up for the first time? Many of them head right to your profile.

    That’s why a professional and complete profile is critical.

    Social selling - Jabil LinkedIn profile.Social selling - Jabil LinkedIn profile.

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    Each social network has different profile styles, but in general:

    If you’re connecting through your personal LinkedIn account, gather some recommendations. In fact, it’s a good practice to trade LinkedIn recommendations with people you work with.

    4. Personalize connection requests

    After you’ve built a rapport by sharing content and conversing in the comments section, it’s time to formalize the relationship with a connection request. The best introduction messages are specific and relevant to the recipient. That’s true in social selling since you’ve done so much to create a personal connection.

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    Here are a few ways to personalize your connection requests:

    • Mention people you’re both connected with
    • Call back to a recent interaction you’ve had
    • Provide something of additional value (like a link to a relevant article)
    • Use their name and reference their company or job title

    5. Continuously grow your network

      Social selling isn’t a one-and-done strategy. It’s a long-term play that gains steam over time. Set weekly goals for the number of posts, comments, and replies you publish. Block out time dedicated only to tending to your social media network.

      And most of all, don’t rush it. Many of your new connections won’t need what you sell right now. But they will eventually. And even if they don’t, they could offer a warm introduction to other people in the future.

      6. Be active in comments and replies

      This is a foundational tactic of social selling. A well-timed, relevant comment is your first foot in the door with a new prospect. You are adding to the conversation, and your engagement helps boost the post with the platform’s algorithm.

      Don’t forget to listen out for people who’ve already bought, too.

      Social selling - Post reply from Away brand.Social selling - Post reply from Away brand.

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      Jumping in to save the day is the ultimate social selling tactic.

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      7. Strike up conversations in your posts

      You don’t always have to seek out people to converse with on social media. You can bring them to your posts with questions and polls.

      Social selling - LinkedIn post with a pollSocial selling - LinkedIn post with a poll

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      Whether they’re funny or serious, questions get people talking. Make a note of who shows up and what their opinions are. And always reply to keep the discussion going.

      8. Engage with influencers

      Influencers in your industry can be beneficial allies in your social selling campaign. They have an audience of people that you’d like to know. Plus, the topics they discuss could be great fodder for your posts and outreach.

      Social selling - TikTok from Shopify with an influencerSocial selling - TikTok from Shopify with an influencer

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      You don’t need a formal agreement to engage with influencers. Just start liking and commenting on their posts. Reference and link to them in your own posts. Mine their comments sections to take the pulse of your industry and get new ideas. And invite them to collaborate on content.

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      9. Find communities to join

      There are loads of online communities, both on social networks and elsewhere, just waiting for you to join. These groups are ideal for social selling since they’re all about conversing and providing mutual support.

      Social selling - A helpful post in the Maverick Truck ClubSocial selling - A helpful post in the Maverick Truck Club

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      You can learn much about your target audience by observing what happens in an online group. But the real magic happens when you jump in, answer questions, and celebrate successes with the other members.

      If you don’t see a group you like, build your own brand community.

      What are the best social selling tools?

      Social media management tools help you to become more efficient and effective at selling online. Here are a few such tools to consider.

      LinkedIn Sales Navigator

      It’s not surprising that LinkedIn would offer one of the best tools for social selling. What’s unexpected is just how robust LinkedIn Sales Navigator is.

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      Social selling - Screenshot of LinkedIn Navigator.Social selling - Screenshot of LinkedIn Navigator.

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      One of the best features on Sales Navigator is the Relationship Explorer. With this tool, you’ll quickly find people who can help you get “in” with an organization—like people who share connections with you. It also helps you find the most relevant people to target and notifies you of important events like a change in management.

      Meltwater

      Meltwater is a leader in the social listening space for good reason. Its purpose-built tool lets you track brand, product, or audience mentions across all your social media accounts. You get audience sentiment data, and it can even recognize images.

      Social selling - Meltwater dashboard.Social selling - Meltwater dashboard.

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      The social listening alerts on Meltwater are worth noting. Set an alert for your brand, and you’ll get a notification when it’s mentioned. That’ll help you respond while the conversation is hot.

      EveryoneSocial

      EveryoneSocial is a brand advocacy platform that makes it easy for employees and executives to plan, post, and share content about their business. The tool has features designed to help sales professionals grow their pipeline on social media channels.

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      Social selling - Screenshot from everyonesocial websiteSocial selling - Screenshot from everyonesocial website

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      With EveryoneSocial, you get a hub of content anyone on your team can share through their social channels. You also get an analytics dashboard that shows the team’s engagement, reach, clicks, and more from all the accounts linked to your plan.

      3 stellar social selling examples

      Here are a few real-world examples of businesses big and small selling on social media with flair.

      TruMotion Therapy

      Here’s an example that proves social selling isn’t just for the Fortune 500. TruMotion Therapy is a local physical therapy practice that regularly posts on Instagram. They’ve built a loyal following of people looking for solutions to aches and pains.

      Social selling - Social media replies from TruMotion Therapy.Social selling - Social media replies from TruMotion Therapy.

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      The activity after the post is published transforms this strategy from social media marketing to social selling. TruMotion Docs take time to continue the conversation with individual commenters. Many of the replies are personalized advice and answers. And when it’s called for, the TruMotion team will take the chat to DMs, moving the new connection further down the funnel towards becoming a client.

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      Starbucks

      You may not think of chain restaurants or consumer brands as social sellers, but some are really good at it.

      Scroll through Starbucks’ feed on X, and you’ll see an endless stream of interactions the brand has with its fans. Most are simple “cheers,” while others are more personal.

      Social selling - Starbucks TweetSocial selling - Starbucks Tweet

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      Either way, social media lets Starbucks connect with a singular customer one-on-one in a way other marketing and advertising strategies don’t.

      Zoetis CEO

      Kristin Peck is the CEO of Zoetis, a pharmaceutical company specializing in pet care. She regularly comments on posts from people in her industry, especially when they mention animals.

      Social selling - LinkedIn post from the Zoetis CEOSocial selling - LinkedIn post from the Zoetis CEO

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      It’s a quick and easy way to generate camaraderie among people in your network. Plus, you can use your comments to inspire future posts to help establish your brand on social media.

      The 30-day social selling launch plan

      Let’s bring all of this down to ground level. Follow this step-by-step plan for the next 30 days to have a fully functioning social selling strategy.

      Day 1 to 5: Get set up

      The first week is about picking the tools you’ll use, setting them up, and creating the rules for your social selling strategy. Some of this may already be done if you’re marketing on social media.

      To get set up:

      • Decide which social media platforms you’ll use
      • Create a social media style guide
      • Find relevant hashtags
      • Create and optimize your social media profiles
      • Pick your social selling tools
      • Set up social listening for brand, competitor, and industry mentions
      • Review five competitor social media accounts

      Day 6 to 15: Establishing credibility

      Now, it’s time to lay the groundwork with your audience. Go into this phase looking for ways to help and show off your expertise (without bragging, of course).

      To establish credibility:

      Day 15 to 25: Begin outreach

      We’re getting more proactive here. Let’s find some people and social media accounts to lightly engage with.

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      To begin outreach:

      • Search for people in your industry that post often
      • Narrow the list to 10 targets
      • Reply to 2 to 3 posts from each account
      • Go beyond agreeing and add to the conversation
      • Repost or retweet content from at least one of those posts and tag the account

      Day 26 to 30: Make contact and analyze

      For this last phase, you’ll connect directly with one new contact and check the results of your efforts so far.

      To make contact and analyze:

      • Send a connection request to one new contact
      • Review the metrics on your social selling tool of choice
      • Note which posts, comments, and replies get the most engagement
      • Use the data to plan out month two

      Now, keep growing your network!

      👋 Plan out your entire year’s marketing strategy with this free must-have marketing calendar.

      Social selling FAQs

      Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about social selling.

      Does social selling really work?

      The data proves social selling helps you fill your sales pipeline and close bigger deals more often.

      For example:

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      • Instagram found that 78% of social sellers outperform peers who don’t use social media
      • EveryoneSocial says a lead generated through social selling is 7x more likely to close than leads from other tactics.
      • 51% of Baby Boomers, 69% of Gen X, and 86% of Gen Z have interacted with a company on social media.

      What is social selling the inbound way?

      An inbound marketing strategy attracts new buyers to you instead of chasing them through ads and cold outreach. Social selling is inbound by nature. So, “social selling the inbound way” is another way of saying social selling.

      Is social selling creepy?

      Social selling is not creepy if you do it the right way. That means engaging at appropriate times and offering help instead of leading with a sales pitch.

      Grow your business with social selling

      The days of knocking on doors and cold-calling prospects are numbered. Generic sales scripts turn buyers off. And impersonal outreach gets ignored in the inbox. Replacing these old-school sales techniques are genuine connections and authentic relationships built on social media.

      It doesn’t take a considerable effort to give social selling a try. Just start reading posts that interest you and add your two cents. People will notice, and you’ll be off and running.



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Critical Display Error in Brand Safety Metrics On Twitter/X Corrected

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Critical Display Error in Brand Safety Metrics On Twitter/X Corrected

In a recent public statement on Twitter, Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, highlighted a critical error in the display of the company’s Brand Safety Rate which was provided by DoubleVerify, a third-party company known for verifying brand safety metrics.

The error, identified in the graphical display of the Brand Safety Rate on X’s dashboard, persisted for nearly five months, from October 24, 2023, to March 14, 2024. During this period, the dashboard erroneously displayed a significantly lower Brand Safety Rate, which sharply contrasted with X’s actual rate. According to the statement, the true Brand Safety Rate for X has consistently exceeded 99.99% since October 2023, a figure that surpasses global benchmarks for brand safety across all campaigns, as per DoubleVerify’s global industry data.

Brand Safety Rate refers to a metric used to measure the extent to which a brand’s advertising efforts appear in environments that are deemed safe and appropriate, aligning with the brand’s values and standards. This rate is crucial for ensuring that ads do not appear alongside content that could harm the brand’s reputation.

DoubleVerify has accepted full responsibility for this oversight, acknowledging the display of incorrect and misleading safety rates on X’s dashboard. They have assured that they have communicated the error to the affected advertisers and have corrected the display to accurately reflect the current and retroactive Brand Safety data for X.

Yaccarino assured advertisers on social media platform, that immediate actions are being taken to rectify this issue in collaboration with DoubleVerify to ensure that all clients receive accurate and reliable information. She also mentioned that the X team, along with DoubleVerify support, will reach out to advertisers who may have made business decisions based on the erroneous data.

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This situation underscores the critical importance of accurate data representation in digital marketing and the potential consequences of data inaccuracies on business decisions. It serves as a cautionary tale for all involved in paid social advertising and emphasizes the need for continuous vigilance and rigorous verification processes to maintain the integrity of marketing metrics.

Of course this follows a number of issues where paid social advertising platforms have shared incorrect data with advertisers leading to concerns about measurement accuracy and transparency. 

Here are a few notable examples:

Facebook Video Metrics Issue: In 2016, Facebook admitted to overestimating average viewing time for video ads on its platform for two years. This error reportedly inflated the average viewing times by 60-80%, which could have misled advertisers about the performance of their video ads on the platform.

Twitter Ad Billing Error: In 2016, Twitter disclosed a bug in its Android app that led to overcharging advertisers over a month-long period. The bug affected campaigns using the feature that charges advertisers for the first engagement with a campaign each day but instead charged them for engagements that occurred afterwards as well.

These incidents highlight the importance of accuracy in digital advertising metrics and underscore the need for ongoing vigilance by both advertisers and platforms to ensure data integrity and transparency. Such errors can have significant financial implications and can affect strategic decisions made by advertisers and we can’t always trust the data shared with us by platforms 100%.

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14 Ways to Use AI in Marketing that Actually Work

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14 Ways to Use AI in Marketing that Actually Work

Does your head spin when someone mentions artificial intelligence? It’s understandable. LinkedIn and Twitter (fine…X) are rife with newly minted AI experts and tech bros sharing their latest 27-step process for gaming algorithms and automating entire marketing programs.

That’s not useful for most ground-level marketers.

What can help? Knowing which everyday marketing challenges the technology can solve for us right now is a great start. So, I reached out to several marketers I admire to see how they’re using AI in marketing.

The response was outstanding. They shared specific, tactical examples, plus the prompts and AI tools they use—everything you need to repeat their processes.

Contents

💡 Download this handy, free Guide to AI in Marketing for more tips and strategies.

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14 ways the pros use AI in Marketing

Interestingly, no one said they were using AI to spin up entire ready-to-publish articles. But they are using AI tools to get out of writing ruts, analyze data, inform strategy, and automate marketing flows. The use cases were way more diverse than I imagined.

1. Pull insights from past campaigns for future strategy

Knowing which ad or blog post generated the most leads is easy. It’s harder to learn why they worked so you can double down on their success. Curt Woodward, Director of Content at ZoomInfo, devised a genius way to get Jasper, a generative AI copywriting tool, to help him figure it out.

Curt started by ranking a list of ZoomInfo’s content titles by a “power score” comprised of three weighted KPIs. Here’s a mockup of that list with fake data he uses for demonstration purposes.

AI in marketing - Curt's powerscore sheet

Next, he fed the list to Jasper, along with a prompt asking the AI to identify commonalities that would inform future content campaign choices.

His prompts looked like this:

“Act as a marketing analyst. I am going to give you a list of content titles with corresponding numbers, which represent a value score we use to determine top content. Higher scores are better.”

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“Compare the content titles to find common themes, keywords, ideas, and approaches among the top-scoring titles. Suggest ways to replicate successful content packages.”

“Jasper, as a tool, often asks for more information about what you want the output of your prompt to look like,” Curt explained. “In this case, I gave it instructions about format, use of the memo, etc.”

Here’s the follow-up prompt Curt gave Jasper:

“I want to come away with a memo that summarizes our best themes, formats, and concepts for our future marketing content campaigns. Give us ideas and frameworks to use going forward.”

AI in marketing - AI output of recommendationsAI in marketing - AI output of recommendations

Based on the data and prompts Curt gave it, Jasper created a list of recommendations with detailed ideas for future content.

Curt qualified the fairly obvious results from this example by pointing out that it was fictitious data. He said you get a more insightful analysis when you feed it accurate information. Next up, he plans to get Jasper to proactively rank and sort the content assets by the power score, which will make the process even faster.

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But for now, Curt suggests trying this tactic with other marketing copy. “You can easily adapt this for any measurable marketing asset. Ad and landing page copy comes to mind. Just rank them by whatever KPIs are important, and ask the AI to find themes you can use in future campaigns.”

📚 Free guide >> 135 of the Best Words & Phrases for Marketing With Emotion

2. Complete competitive analyses

Completing a competitive analysis is a core function for just about every marketer. The hard part is synthesizing competitive product features and brand positioning for multiple competitors.

Celia Quillian is an MBA and product marketing leader who’s also an influential voice in the artificial intelligence space through her channel @smartworkai on TikTok and Instagram. She uses ChatGPT Plus (the paid version) to quickly curate competitive intel.

ChatGPT Plus’ web browsing feature is fabulous for competitive analysis,” she said. “In my prompts, I provide the links to competitor websites, asking that it only source from these sites for its competitive intel, and have it craft a table comparing the features of different market competitors.”

The free version of ChatGPT can’t surf the web. I tried a quick version of the request on perplexity AI using three HR software competitors.

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AI in marketing - competitor comparisonAI in marketing - competitor comparison

Obviously, this would need some additional prompts to make it useful. But Celia said AI is really good at that. “Generative AI models like GP-4 have lengthy ‘context windows,’ meaning I can continually ask follow-up questions,” she said. “My combined prompts and answers only build on each other, helping me to learn, brainstorm, and find answers more efficiently.”

For context, Celia said ChatGPT Plus can “remember” the context of about 100 pages of written text.

3. Roleplay for customer sentiment

AI can’t replace humans, but it can pretend to be one. Celia said that’s a valuable feature of the technology. “ChatGPT is great at playing pretend, so when it comes to thinking of how I might solve a problem for a customer, I can ask ChatGPT to roleplay as my ideal customer persona.”

I gave this a try with the free version of ChatGPT. I fed the AI a description of a backpacking tent that focused on its weight, then entered this prompt:

“Pretend you’re the target customer for a company that sells outdoor camping gear. You’re very concerned about the durability and weight of the next backpacking tent you buy. How would you feel about this product description.”

Here’s what I got back.

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AI in marketing - ChatGPT reply to customer question.AI in marketing - ChatGPT reply to customer question.

This was a simple example, but ChatGPT spotted the durability gap and suggested we add more specificity. Not bad.

“It’s never as good as talking with a real customer,” Celia added. “But it can make for a great stand-in when I’m in the early phases of research and ideation.”

4. Produce internal project management assets

One of the best applications of AI is to automate repetitive marketing tasks. That’s a common way Alaura Weaver, Content Marketing & Community Leader at Writer, uses it.

“I use Writer to spin up internal project management assets instantly—stuff like writing briefs, editing checklists, and creating content promotion plans,” she said. “That way, I don’t have to start from scratch with routine tasks.”

Alaura detailed how she creates briefs since that’s a common task for many marketing team leaders and those who work with freelancers.

“I built a custom ‘brief generator’ app in our no-code Writer App Studio,” she explained. “All I have to do is give a working title, indicate what audience the piece is for, and paste or upload source material (like an executive LinkedIn post, research article, or dev documentation). The app generates content briefs that align with our business goals and content strategy (which I baked into the prompt that powers the generator).”

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AI in marketing - Writer AI responseAI in marketing - Writer AI response

Alaura said that using AI this way speeds up the entire editorial process, freeing up bandwidth for high-level tasks.

“The output follows a consistent format, so I can easily plug it into docs without much editing,” she said. “It means that my writers have what they need to get started on assignments a lot faster, and it means I have more time to focus on fun, creative, strategic work like producing our Humans of AI podcast.”

5. Find thinking models for thought leadership content

The best thought leadership content has a unique, personal, and interesting point of view. It’s not the typical wheelhouse for robotic writing.

But Anjana Vasan, a Senior Copywriter and Content Strategist at Block Club, found an unexpected way to improve thought leadership content with AI. She asks ChatGPT for thinking models or academic concepts related to her topic.

AI in marketing - ChatGPT thinking concept output.AI in marketing - ChatGPT thinking concept output.

“Using AI this way, I can develop a unique point of view or think of an interesting metaphor and connect the dots to the topic or the person I’m writing for,” Anjana said. “All while still keeping their experience and expertise in mind.”

The great thing about this tactic is that it works with just about any AI writing assistant or even generative search platforms like Perplexity AI.

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6. Analyze data for SEO audits

Anjana showed us another way AI can help analyze large blocks of data—this time for SEO audits.

Here, she asked ChatGPT to review a spreadsheet of content links.

AI in marketing - ChatGPT audit reply AI in marketing - ChatGPT audit reply

“Usually, I dig in further with additional questions or prompts to draw the insights I’m looking for,” she said. “Or I ask ChatGPT to organize the data so I don’t spend my time on administrative tasks.”

Here are some of the follow-up prompts Anjana uses:

  • “Based on the available data, can you identify the top 10 pieces of content?”
  • “Have you noticed any themes or overarching topic categories in all the content?”
  • “Can you edit the spreadsheet to include only the URL, date of publication, title, meta description, and word count and remove the other columns?”

She warned that this tactic only works with the right information and that any AI output should be double-checked.

“The results are only as good as the quality of your data, so ensure you include the right types of information in your file,” she said “And remember to validate the information since you may not always get the right insights if you rely completely on ChatGPT.”

7. Link ideas while you write automatically

If you have folders full of half-complete ideas and clever copy that are hard to find when you need them, Anna Burgess Yang feels your pain. “I publish a lot of work online and have thousands of notes from articles I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to, and even my own writing. In the past, I’ve relied on tags or categorization in note-taking apps to connect topics or ideas.”

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Anna is a prolific freelance content marketer and a self-described workflow automation geek. She uses an AI tool called Reflect to surface related notes based on the text she’s writing. So, mid-draft, Anna will see categorized suggestions from her network of documents.

AI in marketing - ideas for content to add to text.AI in marketing - ideas for content to add to text.

Our human brains are wonderful, but they’re not always great at quickly recalling a specific point buried amongst thousands of others. AI is ideally suited for the job. “This has become an invaluable part of my note-taking since AI can pull ideas together that I may have overlooked or not considered,” Anna said.

8. Repurpose long-form content for social media posts

Social media marketing is one of the best channels for brand awareness and lead generation. But it’s also a never-ending grind that requires a constant flow of content ideas to stay relevant.

Anna came through with another AI tip: a way to pull social media posts from the content she previously produced. “I’ve already done the hard work by crafting long-form content. Why not use AI to speed up the process of creating social posts?”

Anna uses a content summarization feature in the generative AI platform Writer to do this.

AI in marketing - summary of content in WriterAI in marketing - summary of content in Writer

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After dropping in the URL of her source article, Writer comes back with a brief synopsis of three key takeaways.

AI in marketing - three takways from WriterAI in marketing - three takways from Writer

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Next, she pastes the takeaways into Trello, the tool she uses for content planning. Those snippets inspire social posts when she’s ready to write them.

Why not just ask AI to write the posts? “You can try and use AI to write social posts for you, but I’ve found that it never sounds like me,” Anna said. “I’d rather use key takeaways as a launching pad and write my own social posts.”

👍 Get copy-and-paste social media posts you can customize >> Social Media Calendar Template

9. Create customized SMS and email marketing campaigns

Customer journeys are like choose-your-own-adventure stories with dozens or hundreds of potential flows. Personalizing those journeys requires a lot of manual work.

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Angela Rollins, an ecommerce-focused content marketer and strategist, suggested a tool called Attentive AI as a solution. “Instead of manually creating all the different flows a brand normally would and layering on segments, Attentive AI basically personalizes SMS and email messages at scale based on all the data a brand has on its customers,” Angela explained.

This screenshot from Attentive AI’s website shows the campaign creation workflow.

AI in marketing - screenshot from Attentive AI page.AI in marketing - screenshot from Attentive AI page.

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The tool continually learns from the highest-performing marketing interactions to create multi-channel campaigns. It can also build refined segments from your pool of subscribers and dial in the best time to send messages for the highest rate of response.

By using AI, you can “send each person the right message at the right time depending on where they’re at in their relationship with the brand,” Angela said.

10. Prepare an interview question list

Here’s an exciting use of AI’s ability to riff off an existing text. Angela gives the AI assistant Claude outlines and asks it to fill out question lists for subject matter expert interviews.

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Here’s an anonymized version of a conversation Angela recently had with Claude.

AI in marketing - questions given to Claude.AI in marketing - questions given to Claude.

Claude replied with some pretty insightful new questions to add to the list. It even categorized them like Angela did in the original structure.

AI in marketing - Questions put into Claude.AI in marketing - Questions put into Claude.

Once the interview is over, Angela goes back to Claude to help pull out the most interesting bits. “It’s so helpful to just plug large amounts of content into Claude and ask it to summarize for me. That helps me find specific answers from a long interview.”

11. Improve design elements in email headers

Marketers who aren’t necessarily graphic designers are often called on to produce visuals for the assets they manage. When Ceillie Clark-Keene, Head of Marketing & Communications at Building Ventures, finds herself in this position, she turns to AI.

“I’m not a designer, but I do put together the occasional email header,” she said. “I’ve started experimenting with the AI features in Canva and Designs.ai to improve design elements or generate graphics.”

I gave it a try on Canva. I had trouble creating a new newsletter design (I found plenty of pre-made templates), but with a few clicks, I got a handful of post designs that were properly sized for Instagram.

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AI in marketing - AI generated instagram posts from canva.AI in marketing - AI generated instagram posts from canva.

“These tools help me create better graphics for those times when outsourcing a professional isn’t in the budget or timeline,” Ceillie said.

A word of caution is warranted. Review AI image generators closely. They can sometimes go off the rails and create less-than-ideal visuals.

12. Build article outlines quickly

I’ve written hundreds of articles, and without fail, creating the initial structure is the hardest step. Once you have the logic and framework down, it’s just a matter of filling in the blank spots.

Will Ruzvidzo is a seasoned B2B SaaS content marketer who’s worked with global brands for over 10 years. Will explained how he uses Writer to overcome outlining obstacles.

He starts by entering a straightforward headline. “With just a few clicks, I can generate a well-structured outline for my blog post, complete with relevant subheadings, key points, and supporting examples.”

AI in marketing - Outline workflow in Writer.AI in marketing - Outline workflow in Writer.

With the “bones” in place, Will customizes the outline to “add my own voice, insights, and creativity into the blog post.” Writer also gives Will AI-powered copy suggestions as he writes.

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He said the time saved lets him focus on crafting captivating introductions and compelling arguments—the types of things that make human-written content stand out.

13. Write craftier subheadings

Subheadings are among the most important aspects of a blog page. They help readers skim and search engines crawl articles more effectively. That’s why Hsing Tseng, a freelance content writer, editor, and strategist, uses ChatGPT as a sounding board when she writes subheadings.

“AI tools can brainstorm much faster and more imaginatively (sometimes) than I have the creative bandwidth to do,” she said.

Here’s an example prompt Hsing shared.

AI in marketing - Subhead examples from ChatGPTAI in marketing - Subhead examples from ChatGPT

Notice how she adds tone and structure instructions to the prompt, like “don’t be too flowery” and “keep H2s concise.” Hsing said the more specific you can be, the better your output will be.

It’s not just about banging out better section titles, though. The AI suggestions Hsing gets incite new directions for a post she hadn’t considered yet. “I’m able to explore a broader range of angles, picking and choosing wording that might align better with the framing of my article,” she noted.

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14. Scale product descriptions and ad copy

A single ecommerce website can have hundreds of products, each needing a concise description and advertising copy.

Gordon Donnelly, a multi-discipline marketer and SEO expert, said that’s one of his favorite use cases for AI. “I have a couple of affiliate/dropshipping sites, and ChatGPT is great for creating product descriptions and ads.”

Here’s an example of how Gordon prompts ChatGPT to zhuzh up a bland product description.

AI in marketing - product description examples from ChatGPTAI in marketing - product description examples from ChatGPT

The key, said Gordon, is that you need to coach your AI tool with the right prompts to get it to say something interesting and useful. As he previously wrote, when prompting an AI tool, you should:

  • Be specific
  • Provide all the relevant information
  • Follow up

The future of AI in marketing

We’re just scratching the surface of what AI can do for marketers. Current trends seem to be headed towards more automation, more complex customer-facing AI tools, and analytics that predict as well as review.

Celia also sees a comeuppance on the horizon for marketers trying to game the system with AI.

“There’s an ethical issue behind passing off AI-generated writing as your own, which is unfortunately becoming more popular a pastime as people chase a quick buck or a shortcut,” she said. “If you were to ask ChatGPT to generate the content of a blog post packed with SEO keywords, it would certainly be possible. But you risk not only false information making it in, but ethically not flagging the content as AI generated is by most considered plagiarism.”

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Does that really matter to less-ethical marketers who only care about driving traffic? Celia said it should, in light of the recent volatility of Google SERPs.

“Well, it might end up doing more harm than good for your site’s SEO,” Celia warned. “Google recently announced updates to its algorithm that will make it more vigilant at removing low-quality content like much of what AI produces without human refinement. So, if ethics aren’t as much of a concern for you, a drop in your site’s rankings might be!”



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A History of Google AdWords and Google Ads: Revolutionizing Digital Advertising & Marketing Since 2000

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A History of Google AdWords and Google Ads: Revolutionizing Digital Advertising & Marketing Since 2000

What started in 2000 as Google AdWords with just 350 advertisers has burgeoned into a comprehensive digital advertising platform, indispensable to digital marketing strategies worldwide. Now re-branded as Google Ads, it stands as a colossus, shaping the way businesses reach their target audience online.

If you’re your looking for a guide on how to use Google Adwords to advertise your business you might enjoy our Ultimate Guide to PPC.

The Conceptual Foundation of Google Ads

Before Google Adwords was launched, the online advertising landscape was vastly different. Traditional models dominated, and the concept of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising was still in its infancy. Google Ads introduced a game-changing model that allowed advertisers to pay only when a user clicked on their ad, offering a more performance-driven approach than ever before. This innovation not only maximized the efficiency of advertising budgets but also laid the groundwork for a more interactive and targeted advertising ecosystem.

But Google Adwords was not technically the first pay per click advertising platform. There was another PPC paid search platform known as Overture which launched before Adwords.

The Early Days of Online PPC Search Advertising

Before Google AdWords became synonymous with search advertising, there was Overture. Founded in 1998 as GoTo.com, Overture was the pioneer of the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model. In February of that year, Jeffrey Brewer of Goto.com presented a pay per click search engine proof-of-concept to the TED conference in California.

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This model was revolutionary, allowing advertisers to bid for placement in search results based on specific keywords, with the cost determined by the bid amount. This approach enabled advertisers to directly connect with potential customers actively searching for related information, products, or services online.

When Google introduced AdWords in 2000, the digital advertising landscape was ripe for innovation. Google’s entry with AdWords brought a new player into the field, initially offering a cost-per-impression model before shifting to Overture’s PPC model in 2002. This shift was a clear acknowledgment of the effectiveness of PPC advertising in connecting businesses with their target audiences in a measurable and cost-effective way.

Mutual Influence and Evolution

Overture felt Google’s approach was too similar to their’s and ended up filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Google, claiming that Google’s AdWords service violated its patents on PPC and bidding systems. The lawsuit was settled in 2004, with Google agreeing to issue 2.7 million shares to Yahoo (which had acquired Overture in 2003) in exchange for a perpetual license to the patents in question. This legal battle underscored the high stakes in the online advertising arena and the importance of intellectual property.

For the broader industry the relationship between Overture and Google AdWords is a classic example of competitive innovation, where the presence of each spurred the other to evolve and improve.

Google’s innovation wasn’t just in adopting the PPC model but also in enhancing it with a focus on ad relevance and targeting. Google introduced the Quality Score, a metric that determined ad placement not just on the bid amount but also on the relevance of the ad to the search query. This move forced Overture to refine its own algorithms and offerings to stay competitive, emphasizing the importance of ad quality and relevance.

Both companies played crucial roles in expanding and enriching the digital advertising ecosystem. Overture’s model laid the groundwork for keyword-based advertising, while Google AdWords introduced innovations that improved ad relevance and efficiency. These advancements helped attract more advertisers to online platforms, increasing the diversity and quality of ads presented to users.

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The competition and innovations brought forth by Overture and Google laid the foundation for subsequent advancements in digital advertising. It influenced the development of advertising platforms on social media and other online channels, highlighting the importance of targeted advertising, relevance, and the user experience.

1712832962 546 A History of Google AdWords and Google Ads Revolutionizing Digital

Early Challenges and Evolution of Google Adwords

The journey was not without its hurdles. As internet usage surged and Google’s popularity soared, the platform faced significant technical and scaling challenges. This period also saw the expansion of Adwords beyond search to include display advertising, marking the beginning of the Google Display Network.

Its rise to prominence in digital advertising can be attributed to several key factors:

1. Integration with Google Search

  • Vast Reach: Google’s dominance as a search engine provided a vast audience for AdWords ads, offering advertisers unparalleled access to potential customers.
  • Intent-Based Targeting: Ads on Google are shown based on user search queries, meaning that AdWords could deliver highly targeted advertising based on real-time intent, a significant advantage over traditional advertising mediums.

2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Model

  • Cost-Effectiveness: AdWords popularized the PPC model, where advertisers only pay when a user clicks on their ad. This efficiency made it an attractive option for businesses of all sizes, ensuring budget spend was tied directly to tangible results.
  • Accessibility to Small Businesses: The PPC model leveled the playing field, allowing small businesses to compete with larger companies for ad space, as long as their ads were relevant and of high quality.

3. Continuous Innovation

  • Quality Score and Ad Rank: Google introduced the Quality Score, a metric that assesses the relevance and quality of ads and their landing pages. This innovation ensured users saw more relevant ads, improving the user experience and increasing the likelihood of ad clicks, benefitting both advertisers and users. Ad Rank built on quality score and improved the quality of adverts for search users.
  • Advanced Targeting Options: Over time, Google introduced sophisticated targeting options, including location targeting, demographic targeting, and later, remarketing. These features allowed advertisers to refine their audience with precision, improving the effectiveness of their campaigns.

4. Comprehensive Analytics and Tools

  • Google Analytics Integration: AdWords’ seamless integration with Google Analytics provided advertisers with detailed insights into their ad performance and website traffic, enabling data-driven decision-making.
  • Robust Toolset: Tools like AdWords Editor and later, Google Ads Manager, allowed advertisers to manage and optimize their campaigns efficiently, saving time and enhancing campaign performance.

5. Expanding Beyond Search

  • Google Display Network: AdWords expanded beyond search ads to include the Google Display Network, offering visual ads across millions of websites. This expansion allowed advertisers to reach users across different stages of the buying cycle, not just when they were searching for specific terms.
  • YouTube and Mobile Advertising: The acquisition of YouTube and the growth of mobile advertising opened new channels for AdWords advertisers, tapping into video and the increasing use of smartphones for internet access.

6. A User-Centric Approach

  • Enhancing User Experience: Google has consistently prioritized the user experience, refining its algorithms to display the most relevant ads and penalizing low-quality content. This focus on user satisfaction has kept users engaged and trusting in the Google ecosystem, indirectly benefiting advertisers by maintaining a high user base.

7. Global Reach and Local Relevance

  • Language and Localization: AdWords supported multiple languages and localized advertising, making it a powerful tool for businesses targeting global markets or aiming for hyper-local advertising.

1712832962 66 A History of Google AdWords and Google Ads Revolutionizing Digital

Key points in history and Milestones for Google Adwords

1. Launch and PPC Model Introduction (2000-2002)

  • 2000: Google AdWords launches with a cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions model.
  • 2002: The introduction of the pay-per-click (PPC) model, significantly altering the online advertising landscape. This shift made advertising more accessible to businesses of all sizes, offering a more performance-oriented advertising solution.

2. Quality Score and Ad Rank Introduction (2005-2006)

  • 2005: Google introduces the Quality Score, a critical component that would determine the cost and placement of ads based on relevance, landing page quality, and click-through rate (CTR).
  • 2006: The Ad Rank formula, which decides the position of an ad on the search results page, now includes Quality Score along with the bid amount. This emphasized the importance of relevant, high-quality ads.

3. Expansion Beyond Search (2005-2008)

  • 2005: Launch of the Google Display Network (GDN), allowing advertisers to place ads on a wide network of websites beyond Google’s search results.
  • 2006: Introduction of local search ads, enabling businesses to target ads based on the geographical location of users.
  • 2007: Acquisition of DoubleClick, enhancing ad serving and providing advertisers with sophisticated tools for managing display ads.
  • 2008: Google introduces AdWords for Video, later integrated into YouTube, allowing for video-based advertising.

4. Mobile Advertising and Enhanced Campaigns (2010-2013)

  • 2010: With the rise of smartphones, Google focuses on mobile advertising, introducing features that allow advertisers to target mobile device users.
  • 2013: The launch of Enhanced Campaigns, making it easier for advertisers to target users across devices with the right ad type, size, and message based on user context, time of day, and device type.

5. Introduction of Machine Learning and Automation (2015-Present)

  • 2015: Google starts incorporating machine learning into AdWords to improve ad targeting and bidding.
  • 2016: Introduction of Smart Bidding, using machine learning to optimize bids for conversions.
  • 2017: Launch of Google Ads Data Hub, offering advanced analysis and reporting features.

6. Rebranding to Google Ads (2018)

  • 2018: Google AdWords is rebranded as Google Ads. This change reflects the platform’s growth beyond search to encompass a variety of advertising formats across Google’s vast array of services, including the Display Network, YouTube, and Google Maps.

7. Introduction of New Advertising Solutions and Platforms (2019-Present)

  • 2019 and beyond: Continuous introduction of new ad types and formats, such as Discovery Ads and Gallery Ads, aimed at providing more engaging and visually appealing advertising options. Expansion of automation and AI-driven tools to optimize campaign performance.

These milestones highlight Google Ads’ evolution from a simple text-based advertising system to a comprehensive digital advertising platform. By continually integrating new technologies and adapting to changes in user behavior and advertiser needs, Google Ads has maintained its position as a leading platform in the digital advertising space.

Impact on Digital Marketing and Economy

Google Ads has undeniably shaped modern digital marketing strategies, enabling businesses to reach their audience with unprecedented precision and efficiency. Its impact extends beyond marketing, contributing significantly to economic growth by providing businesses of all sizes with accessible and effective advertising tools.

Challenges and Controversies

However, the platform has not been without its challenges and controversies, particularly concerning privacy and regulatory issues. Balancing advertising effectiveness with user privacy remains an ongoing challenge for Google Ads.

The Future of Google Ads

Looking ahead, Google Ads is expected to continue its trajectory of innovation, with automation, personalization, and integration with emerging digital platforms at the forefront. Its role in the digital marketing ecosystem remains as vital as ever, adapting to the changing needs of businesses and consumers alike.

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