The perils of online advertising

Aug 31st, 2019 | By | Category: News

Computer colmnist Matt Bentley looks at why you shouldn’t advertise online (with non-local giant faceless corporations…)

There’s a lot of problems with the internet. One of those problems is how difficult it is to advertise online. So much of the web is funded by advertising that it’s hard to get away from it – unless you install an ad-blocker. So you might think, well I’ll take advantage of that in my business, but unfortunately it’s not overly simple. Unlike a regular newspaper or billboard, where you put the ad up and then you’re done, online advertising is much more complicated. First you’ve got to choose where to put your money. Is it google ads? Bing ads? Facebook (or even spotify) ads?

Now that you’ve chosen a platform, you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that if anything goes wrong with your advertising, there is no recompense. You’re dealing with large, multinational corporations that don’t particularly care whether you live or die. I had one incident where an advertisement I displayed on facebook did not match what they showed in their ad manager; this led to many people accusing the ad of being a hoax due to the missing text. Several complaints later, facebook’s indian support center led me on, lied constantly, but never did anything or refunded.

As I learned, in social media each advertisement you make is basically a giant billboard that anyone can graffiti. Everyone can post a comment, and that comment gets viewed by the other people who see the ad. This can work out well if you have an established brand presence on Facebook and the people commenting are your supporters. But – as I found out the hard way – you can also become a target for an angry mob in a way that isn’t possible with traditional advertising.

In addition, my experience of advertising on Google Ads and Bing Ads has been pretty fruitless. It is possible to do well, and there are folks who do it for a living, but it is quite a fine art. Those people actually adjust ads on the fly, comparing the metrics of the different variants of ads they’ve put out and pushing ones which perform well, with more money. It takes effort and understanding to do, and unless you’re committed to it, it may be a waste of time and money.

For Facebook and other social media sites you are probably better off growing an audience organically, rather than paying for advertising, and that also takes time, patience and effort. Maybe not so much effort if you’re an extrovert and you like talking with random strangers (there’s nothing wrong with that!), but most aren’t wired that way, and so it can seem like an exercise in futility. If you’re so inclined you could hire someone whose job is to do this. That way, you can focus on getting work the done while someone else does the talking, like a personal digital secretary.

It has become apparent over the years that Facebook intentionally lied about it’s advertising, inflating the metrics of it’s advertising views by up to 900% in some cases – the result has been several class action lawsuits. I’ve observed that they also have a bank of what look like fake users that they show ads to. Regardless, if you want to use their services it pays to hire someone who specialises in online advertising to see through all the smoke and mirrors.

Overall what I recommend is word of mouth and organic growth when it comes to online marketing. It depends on your business of course, but often non-local online advertising is throwing money down a hole unless someone is advising you. The younger generation increasingly don’t read newspapers or local flyers, but they’re also leaving Facebook in droves, so mostly you’re reaching Gen X’ers. Advertising online is one hell of a job, and you have to decide whether it’s a job you want to be doing.

*Computer columnist Matt Bentley is director of Bentley Home PC Support.Matt Bentley

Email Matt here or phone 021 134 8576.

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