With the release of iOS9 and its built-in ad blocker on Safari many users fell in love with the idea of adless content. Ad blockers rose to the top of the app store and users began adding them onto their computers as well as on mobile devices. Ad blockers not only remove ads from websites, but also improve performance as there is less content to load which is especially useful when you have a limited data plan on your phone.
While great for the user, ad blockers create a headache for marketers trying to reach their target audiences with targeted content. In addition to becoming more common, ad blockers are also becoming more advanced by blocking not just banner ads, but in-content ads and sponsored posts on social media. This combined with the constantly declining organic reach of company pages on social media networks has resulted in becoming a major headache for marketers. How are marketers supposed to react when their content is no longer reaching the same audience and ads become ineffective?
Overcoming the content distribution challenge
The simple answer is advocacy. While it is a form of spreading content, it is not considered advertising and thus not blocked by any ad blockers. Advocacy is considered word-of-mouth marketing which is simply people expressing their opinions and creating conversations around the brand. This also raises the authenticity and trust of the messages as they are coming from actual people and not from brands directly.
If you have not yet started an advocacy program the first thing to consider is who are your best advocates? While customers and external stakeholders are great, they do not benefit from your brand's success the same way as employees would. Employees have a vested interest in the company’s success and are therefore the best place to start when launching an advocacy program. Even before ad-blockers became a major issue, Employee Advocacy was found to increase the reach of brand communications by up to 20x compared to traditional company pages and profiles.
A successful Employee Advocacy program always focuses on the benefits for the individual first rather than the company. No matter how much support the program receives from management, it won’t be successful if employees are unwilling to participate. This requires a combination of well-managed internal communications, high level of employee engagement and the right technology. Industry pioneer Smarp has found that an average employee has over 1000 combined friends, followers and connections across their social media profiles. Utilizing this resource can be a major advantage for companies willing to take the plunge with an Employee Advocacy program.
It is time for brands to rethink their marketing strategies and start investing in individuals and the impact they are able to create. In order to succeed, brands should see ad blockers as an opportunity to redefine their communications strategy and take advantage of the human-to-human (H2H) connections that advocacy programs enable.