Native? Social? Both?

This summer, I interned at SocialToaster, a social media marketing agency that turns a company’s existing social media following into a team of organized brand ambassadors. Part of my job was to create blog posts and other marketing materials that reinforced SocialToaster’s core business concept, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned regarding native advertising and social media marketing.

Native Advertising: You’ve probably heard this term if you’ve kept up to date on the latest digital marketing trends. In short, native advertising is a form of communication that smoothly integrates with a user’s experience on a website or application. For instance, if you see a sponsored Facebook post that tells a story about a company’s new product, this is a native advertisement because it is part of the user’s core experience (i.e., not a banner ad). Online brand ambassador programs are also forms of native advertising: for instance, Maker’s Mark offers incentives for its ambassadors to share content about its brand.

Social Media Marketing, though, is the use of social media platforms to market a company to consumers or businesses. Examples of social media marketing are banner ads on Facebook, a company’s Twitter posts, or Instagram pictures with links directed towards purchasing or other landing pages. Social media marketing encompasses the development of marketing programs targeted at a company’s existing and intended social media audience.

Can Native and Social Intersect? Yes. For example, SocialToaster’s Super Fans (brand ambassadors) can earn prizes for posting a company’s message as a status update or sharing its content on Twitter. Native advertising can be seamlessly integrated into social media marketing because people use social media all the time. Therefore, native advertising and social media marketing are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two effective forms of marketing that work incredibly well together.


The Numbers: Consider some facts from a recent Gallup poll:

  • 94% of social media users do so to connect with friends and family
  • 62% of social media users do not believe social media influences their purchasing decisions
  • 29% of social media users use these platforms to keep up on product reviews and trends

That 94% is important, because it means that over 9/10 people who use social media connect with people they (hopefully) trust. Now, if you’re part of the nearly 30% who use, say, Facebook for product recommendations, what are you more likely to look to as a source: a friend’s recommendation, or a banner advertisement? If your friend is a Maker’s Mark brand ambassador and posts a picture of delicious bourbon on Facebook, you’re statistically more likely to click on this post than you are to entertain a traditional advertisement.

But do you even realize your friend’s recommendation for Maker’s Mark is an advertisement? According to the study, 62% of the time, you will not.

And that’s why native advertisements on social media work. Companies can employ people you trust to recommend their products, meaning you might not even realize when you’re being advertised to. But you might find some great products in the process!



JHU Graduate Produces Mother’s Day Video.

Ever since I started my graduate school adventure at Miami Ad School San Francisco (a portfolio school for advertising), I have been shown the true value of personal projects.

Personal projects that allow one to freely execute a campaign without being limited by the corporate aspects of advertising; personal projects that encourage individuals to pursue something true to themselves, while having fun playing with social norms.

This is how the idea of “Call Your Mom” came about. Everyday, we walk by so many strangers without interacting with them at all. My team and I wanted to break this social norm and get to know strangers in a unique way – by gaining insight into their relationship with their moms.

We therefore took to the streets of San Francisco and asked people when they had last called their moms. The end result was beautiful, and fully supported a notion we strongly believe in: if you are passionate about an idea, go and execute it. The benefits of advertising don’t just have to come from the professional workplace.

 Jiayi Wang ’13

I hope you enjoy it …

How the Internet and Advertising Technology Destroyed Newspapers.” dedicates itself to “chronicling the decline of newspapers and the rebirth of journalism,” and tracks an ever-growing list of newspapers that have gone bankrupt since 2007 when the site began. Dozens of revered daily newspapers have closed their doors in the wake of one of the most pronounced cases ever of technology disruption of an industry. All newspapers, especially those that focus on local news, have faced shutdown or drastically downsized operations.

The reason for this decline has less to do with the fact that readers consume news on their computers, tablets, and phones as most people suspect. Readership numbers are not down; if anything, total reader numbers have surged since the internet has made content more accessible for local newspapers. Rather, the decline has occurred due to fundamental issues of supply and demand of “advertising inventory,” which represents total, sellable available advertising space. The internet, as well as advertising technology, has created infinite advertising inventory in a world that previously had a finite amount inventory, all of which sat with newspapers and magazines.

Newspaper Advertising Revenue
In 1994 if a brand wanted to reach a national audience that reads news, or on a specific day (rather than a weekly or monthly magazine), that brand could advertise on either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and to an extent The Washington Post and USA Today. Advertising inventory to target newspaper readers was scarce, and limited to these newspapers with a broad reach. Newspapers contained a fixed amount of pages and square inches that could house advertisements, and with this limited supply came a high price for advertising space, and incredible power and influence for these newspapers. Rumors of the golden age for advertising salespeople include tales of newspaper ad salespeople being entertained, perversely, by brands that hoped to be moved up a “wait list” for advertising placements. Life was good for newspapers.

As the internet grew exponentially in the late 1990’s, so did the amount of advertising inventory. Any person with an internet connection and a blog was technically a “publisher,” and could procure content to a large audience similar to a newspaper. With more content came more advertising inventory, and suddenly major newspapers were no longer the sole purveyors of this finite source of advertising inventory. Advertising inventory could be found everywhere on the web. In 2003, Google opened the advertising floodgates by creating a network called “Adsense” that allowed publishers (even your roommate with a video game blog) to sell advertising space, and in a way that would be more “targeted” than newspapers. An advertiser that only wanted to advertise to video game buyers could do so a lot more efficiently by running on your roommate’s blog than he could on, say, the Wall Street Journal.

With these innovations, in an extremely simple “supply and demand” scenario, the supply of advertising inventory surged, so the price of advertising space dropped considerably. Much of this expanded inventory came at the hands of Google Adsense and a few other networks. Surprising to some, roughly 95% of Google’s revenue (which was $50 billion in 2012) comes from advertising. Google is, at its core, an advertising company.

Because the value of advertising units has plummeted, newspapers today simply drive less revenues, whether print or digital. And the unfortunate newspapers with operations that require higher prices for advertising sales than the market was paying, found themselves underwater and on possibly Hit especially hard were the local, smaller newspapers that could not attract advertisers the way that larger, farther reaching newspapers could.

In the next article I will explore how advertising technology, despite bringing an industry to its knees, is now rewarding and leading a resurrection for premium newspapers that have a strong brand and broad reach.

Tripp Weber graduated Johns Hopkins in 2009 with an International Relations major and Entrepreneurship and Management Minor. He currently works as an Advertising Manager for the New York Times.

– Tripp Weber

Successful Media Monitoring at maslansky + partners.

In expanding on my internship with maslansky + partners (m+p) from this past summer, I can definitively say that the firm understands the importance of monitoring both social media and the greater media in general.  Founded on the principle—“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. ®”—maslansky + partners practices what they preach by making sure they are constantly in tune with the media.  As m+p takes on a project, they make it their responsibility to help a client share their story with their audience.  And part of this responsibility involves knowing what has been said in the past and what is being said in the present, so they can properly help the client tell their story for the future.  This is extremely important, since m+p will only be able to appropriately recommend a strategy if they approach the situation with a complete understanding of the client’s identity, both perceived and defined.

There are several ways in which m+p filers through the media—through Google alerts, a collected ad database, in depth focus groups, and through an analysis process called WireTap™.  Google alerts are one of the most underutilized services available to the public for free.  Provided by the search engine Google, users are able to receive email alerts customizable by their interests, which can range from general news to specific keywords.  The firm also maintains a collection of advertisements, which not only offer an in house resource for m+p staff, but also for the general public (

Social media monitoring

The advertisements are entered with key information (context, industry, publication, etc.) that allows users to filter through them.  Another way that m+p listens to the general public is through in depth focus group sessions.  These focus group sessions are designed to understand how a particular client is perceived by its audience, which is done through exercises, question and answer sessions, and individual interviews.  Depending on the client, these can be the most lucrative for comprehending an organization’s presence within society, due to the unfiltered nature of the sessions.  The final aspect in which m+p works to understand a client’s target audience, specifically through social media, is through their WireTap™ Analysis.  This is a social media report that helps identify and analyze target language sourced from social media interactions.  In addition, this report allows m+p to understand and hear the specific opinions and conversations being communicated on the World Wide Web.

In a society full of distrust, it is valuable to understand the power of language.  Monitoring and being aware of what is being said through public opinion allows one to harness this power.  Lucky for us, we are fortunate to have many resources today that help aid us in this process.  All that’s left is for us to take advantage of it.

– Kathrin

The Business of Biking (Across the Country)

I’m glad to be back on campus, and I’ve brought a little two-wheeled friend with me.

The summer of 2013 was the most exciting one of my life. I traveled with the 4K for Cancer Team Portland on a 70-day, 4,500-mile trip across the country. Our mission was simple: to help raise awareness and support for young adults suffering from cancer. Armed with little more than my trusty bicycle, my sturdy hand pump, and a small black backpack, I set out from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at 7:30 am on June 2nd, 2013 for the adventure of a lifetime. Our team was filled with cyclists ranging from beginner to expert in ability, and we definitely formed a tight bond during our excursion.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

However, the trip was a serious business venture. While it may seem to be mainly an athletic endeavor, biking 4,500 miles requires quite a bit of resources. Riders need food, water, spare tubes, bike parts, and other necessities in order to survive, let alone conquer the Rocky Mountains. Today, I want to explain how our team managed to acquire what we needed to embark on our journey. First, a few key points:

  • The Ulman Cancer Fund is a nonprofit organization. Before the ride, each of us needed to raise a minimum of $4,500 in donations before participating in the ride. These donations helped fund scholarships for young adults whose education was interrupted during their treatment.
  • None of us were able to work this summer. Try holding down a job in addition to being on a bike for 10 hours a day: it’s just not happening.
  • We needed to feed 25 people on a daily basis with no food budget.
Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Shelter was taken care of well before the trip started. Members of the team called leg leaders were tasked with calling churches, high schools, and even the occasional vacation home to find free housing for us each night. Believe it or not, people were willing to let us crash on their church floors without paying a cent.

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Food was possibly the most anticipated commodity of the day. Hungry cyclists, whether at a lunch break or ending point, needed food all summer.

  • Breakfast was usually taken care of by our hosts. Church and high school communities were more than willing, for the most part, to provide us with a hearty breakfast before we took off for the day’s ride.
  • Lunch was always a wild card during the day. We had a rotation of 2 people per day who would work the food van and find food donations for everyone on the team by calling and walking into various restaurants along/close to our route. Subway, Chipotle, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald’s were largely responsible for feeding us this summer.
  • Dinner was usually provided by our hosts, but was every once in a while provided by the food van. Restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, and various local pizza places helped us along the way.
That's what it takes to feed 25 people.

That’s what it takes to feed 25 people.

Bike parts were often donated to us on the road as well. Inner tubes became more valuable than gold during the trip, so we were always happy to have a bike shop throw a few our way.

Setting up the donations for these items felt like a full-time job. During the trip itself, people in the food van made sales pitches to almost every restaurant they could and explained our mission plus why 25 adults didn’t have enough money to feed themselves during the day. I definitely practiced skills in sales, public speaking, and resource management during the trip, and I look forward to continuing this education during the coming school year.

Surprise, Surprise – Bernanke Shocks Markets Again

This time last year, I wrote my first blog post for the Leader’s Edge about the Federal Reserve’s decision to implement a new quantitative easing program. The Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke introduced a surprising twist – the program was open-ended, setting no predetermined limit for purchasing bonds. Markets surged in reaction to the unexpected news. Since that time, the Fed has consistently bought $85 billion of treasury and mortgage-backed securities per month, aiming to dampen interest rates, boost the housing market, and encourage spending and investment.


Bernanke surprised markets announcing the Fed will not begin tapering the quantitative easing program.

This past Wednesday, Ben Bernanke surprised markets yet again – but this time, by announcing that the Fed will not begin tapering the quantitative easing program. Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, investors and economists were convinced that the Fed was going to cut its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion. After assuring investors this Wednesday that the Fed will continue at its current pace, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average reached all-time nominal highs.

These press conferences from September 2012 and 2013 both defied investors’ expectations and fueled optimism in the markets. Even more so than last year, investors today obsessively analyze Bernanke’s statements, attempting to forecast the Fed’s future plans. Analysts are already anticipating the next Federal Reserve press conference, debating whether quantitative easing will be tapered before the year’s end. This sensitivity to the Fed’s policy decisions has contributed to market volatility.

Given the Fed’s inconsistent announcements in recent months, Nrayana Kocherlakota, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has admitted that communication has been an issue for the central bank. In June, Bernanke announced that tapering would begin before the year’s end, sparking a media frenzy. Analysts forecasted the dramatic consequences of reducing the flow of cheap money into the economy. On Wednesday, Bernanke counteracted his prior statement and emphasized that the program is not on a fixed course. In a Reuters’ poll, economists agreed that the Fed’s communication has been unclear in the past few months, resulting in market uncertainty and widespread distrust of the central bank.

How do you think the Federal Reserve should improve its communication strategy? Do you think the media contributes to market uncertainty and confusion?

– Kara

The Weight of Weightlessness

Applying for internships is a daunting experience because the truth is that you can apply to 50 internships and hear back from one without any offer. With more students enrolled in colleges and applying for internships from top universities, the competition is fierce. You must do everything possible to market yourself: attend resume workshops, speak with the Career Center, join clubs, and take relevant coursework. I almost single-handedly landed my internship this past summer based on taking a course relevant to the industry in which I desired to work. Yet, I contend that it is the journey of a college education that prepares you for the workforce and strengthens your resume, rather than the postcard you receive at the end.

Johns Hopkins Uinversity Center for Leadership Education Universal Studios Social Media Marketing

Johns Hopkins prepared me for a summer internship at Universal Studios that was both challenging and rewarding.

Last summer I interned in the Creative Advertising department at Universal Pictures, where I worked on creating trailers and designing posters for upcoming releases. I have always been interested in film, but never taken any film courses at Hopkins and only recently declared a Film & Media Studies minor. I’m an English major, and the majority of courses on my transcript hail from those departments. Last fall, however, I decided to try a course on social media marketing. I reasoned that because the film industry is infamously cutthroat and impossible to break into, I should probably have at least some basic knowledge in another, more directly applicable field. With the increased value of social media sites and a company’s ability to connect directly with their consumers through numerous platforms, I believed this course had far more practical utility than any Shakespeare seminar.

While the course was both engaging and wildly interesting because its subject is so prevalent to our generation, what helped me get the internship was the final project: a complete social media marketing campaign for Man of Steel, the newest Superman film that premiered this summer. When I interviewed with Universal, my knowledge of the creative marketing arm of the film industry and the detail with which I could discuss the marketing campaigns of other films impressed executives enough to hire me.

Although the course helped me get the job, I arrived at Universal Studios and was thrown into the Hollywood bustle to discover that very little of the knowledge I had about marketing or film was particularly pertinent, if only because the real world is not synonymous with textbook material. As one of the executives would say of the industry, “It’s a constant fire drill. There is no course at Hopkins on firefighting.”

Even though my breadth of my knowledge was not wholly applicable, the skill set I acquired from Hopkins and this particular course was. Throughout your time at Hopkins, you learned how to articulate your ideas effectively, to “always say the right thing”. You nurtured persistence to turn in an assignment that exhibits the best of your capabilities, not just a draft that was the fastest and easiest to complete. You cultivated the ability to think creatively, to solve problems efficiently, and strategize successfully. You learned how to perform research. You learned to manage your time and form mature, adult relationships. And perhaps most importantly, you learned to do things you may not want to do, and do them well.

This is the real value of your college education. Yes, my final project in social media marketing garnished my resume and illustrated a foundation of relevant knowledge, yet it was how the course taught me to think about marketing and strategy that allowed me to thrive at Universal, in combination, of course, with my passion for the product I was marketing.

While at Universal, I did not know how to market a film. I did not know what a tentpole film was, or a competitive reel, but because of Hopkins, I had the toolbox to learn quickly and lucratively. I knew how to think. When I sat down with one of the executives on my last day, he described to me how critical these skills really are, saying: “you don’t know the importance of how you answer the phone until you hear someone do it wrong.” You cannot possibly understand the importance of what you have until you realize that not everyone has the same toolbox you have as a Hopkins graduate.

So take a deep breath. Take that philosophy course. You may not remember Aristotle’s theories on dialectic logic, but you’re going to learn something far more useful, something that might not appear on your resume or on the syllabus, but when you’re sitting in a conference room next summer having to research past movie trailers and campaigns, you will probably exercise the same diligence and resolution required to write that final essay or study for that final exam. And this is the true value of your education, and how something so intangible and seemingly weightless can weigh tons.

– Andrew Townson ’14