Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Social media MADNESS

Companies often miss major step when advertising

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I've been driving around town lately and have been seeing these huge billboard advertisements. It's pretty cool that companies are investing thousands of dollars monthly to advertise their brand or their new product out in the middle of traffic. I mean, when people are sitting in traffic, they always look to the sky to see the advertisements, right?

Next time you are stopped at a light, take a look at what the drivers around you are doing. I guarantee that more than 50 per cent of them are checking their smartphones. They are texting, tweeting, checking Facebook or reading a summary of an email notification.

Why are companies paying a lot of money every month to have their billboard in the sky when people aren't even looking at the road, never mind the advertisement?

As dangerous and as illegal as it is, people still text, tweet and drive all the time.

There may be a few exceptions here that I must mention so I don't have realtors or mortgage specialists sending me hate mail. For some businesses, billboards can work because facial recognition may be a large part of their business model. In this article, I am aiming my criticism towards larger companies who have a product.

I also must make a conflict-of-interest declaration. If you've ever read my biography above, I run a full-service digital agency called iBX. We work with national brands. Our bread and butter as a company is social media consulting.

Lately on television, print ads, billboard, benches and buses, I've seen companies place a few social media icons onto the ad. You know, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube icons. Companies place these on the ads so they appear hip and social-media friendly. I applaud the effort, but laugh at the execution. If you are going to place social media icons onto a non-digital advertisement, you must do one thing: TELL THE CONSUMER WHAT YOUR USERNAME IS! I can't believe companies miss this step.

There is a company that is running a series of ads downtown right now. You could take a drive down Portage Avenue near Polo Park and see two or three of their billboards. They are pretty nice ads with great imaging. Of course they put Facebook, Twitter and YouTube icons on their ads. However, it wasn't as easy as it should be finding the company on Facebook and Twitter. Their username on Facebook and their Twitter name are two different things.

Maybe I am just extremely advertising OCD, but I just wish companies could do it right when trying to implement social media in their ads. It's simple. Throw up your icons if you wish and then identify yourself on those platforms. But be sure to include your username with the logos. It lets consumers know your identity across the social networks. Because if you are putting up the icons with some hope of gaining new fans or followers, if they don't know what your username or Twitter handle is, you will not gain any new fans, plain and simple.

If you are trying to attract new users to social media channels, why not create an online campaign dedicated towards that? Drawing users from social media onto the company's social channels makes a lot of sense, right?

Final question: Have you ever seen those advertisements with huge QR codes on buses lately? I get a pretty big kick out of those because how am I supposed to open the QR reading app (which not too many people have or care about) and take a picture of a moving bus? I always like to be professional but -- LOL.

Thanks for reading folks. Follow me on Twitter @thedavidbell and please send me an email telling me what you thought about these ideas. I'd love to hear them!

David Bell (@thedavidbell) is a young entrepreneur in Winnipeg. He specializes in emerging technology and online aspects of business, including web and social media consulting. Access his company online at He is an active member of the YouTube community (, with more than two million views and 5,000 subscribers. He was also a Dragons' Den contestant. Email:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 25, 2012 A15

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