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How to sell featured classified ads with social media? Case study of 24x more sales

Featured classified ads (also known as paid ads, promoted ads, VIP) is one of main ways to monetize your classifieds website. In this article we will show how we used social media account to sell featured ads. Also we increased conversion of those featured ads by promoting them in our official social account.

This is case study, by one of our customers. Classified ads website increased number of subscription to their social account on mobile messaging application Line and increased featured ad sales. We used banners and share buttons in right places on the website to increase subscribers to Line account and drive more traffic back to our website.

Learn to sell featured classified ads with social media. Case study of classifieds website, 24x increase in featured ad sales per month. Promote on website and in your social account. You will learn all steps that we used to increase featured ad sales.

How to increase featured ad sales on classifieds website?

Every successful website has official accounts and many subscribers on popular social networks. They use every channel to reach more people on the internet and drive traffic to their website. Top social channels are Facebook, twitter, podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram, Pinterest and messaging applications like Line, WeChat, IMO, telegram etc.

More traffic means for classifieds website more page views, more ad revenues, more subscribers, more user generated content, more user posted item sales, more featured ad sales. Promoting your social channels results in more income and popularity to your website.

Overview of results we achieved

Before we get into some details on how we promoted on messaging application here are the results that we get:

  • Increased featured classified ad sales (paid ads) on website 24 times, from less than 5 per month to 120+
  • Increased social account new subscriptions per month 4 times, from 500 users/month to 2000+
  • Increased total subscribers from 36K to more than 60K in one year
  • Found optimal price and period for featured ads.
  • Offered more advertising features using notifications on Line mobile messaging application for featured ads, which led to quick sale of the product for the customers.
  • Added new payment option mobile payments for posting featured ads.

Prioritize your social channel

Having an account on major social networks is good thing but you have to prioritize your social channel. You need to invest most of your time end effort on channel where your potential customers are more active. There are two ways of finding your priority social channel that we used. Once is simply asking and the other is by measuring.

Why you need a social media channel (social media account) for classifieds website?

Social media channel is a way of communicating with your customers. You can post news, instructions, events, discounts, make announcements related to your classifieds website.

3 major reasons to use social media account.

Reason 1: Promote featured ads

Social media is a place where active users interact with your account. It is also best place to promote your featured classified ads. Users will attract more subscribers by lining your posts, adding comments, asking questions. Featured ads will also encourage them to promote their own ads.

Reason 2: Get feedback

Social media can also be an easy way of getting feedback and providing help to your users. You can learn their difficulties related to using your classifieds website. Then work to solve those problems.

Reason 3: Get mobile payments

Social media channel also can be a mobile payment tool. We used our social account to get payment for featured ads. Users paid with SMS and sent  screenshot of payment with direct message. Then we promoted their classified listing as featured item. This made payments easy and increased featured ad sales. Because our users used to pay with SMS.

How to find your priority social channel?

Ask - To find the right answer, you have to ask right question. Right question should be “Where do you spend most of your time?”.  Answer this question yourself. Then ask this question to your potential customers. For general classifieds website your potential customers are people around you, friends, family, classmates, neighbors and your website audience. Ask this question to them and you will find the right answer.

In our case Line mobile messaging application was the right answer and right social channel that we prioritized. Line is popular messaging application with social network feature similar to Facebook timeline or Instagram feed. It also has feature to broadcast direct messages to subscribed users. Direct messages then sent as push notification to users mobile phone. Which is a huge potential to reach big audience in short time and draw their attention to your marketing material. In our case we promoted featured ads to all our subscribers and boost its sale potential.

Countries where Line messaging app popular

Overview of popular social messaging applications by country. Source wearesocial.com

You can research which social application is popular in which country and explore their potential if your website is targeted for specific country.

If you want to backup your findings or not convinced with results achieved by asking limited number of users then we suggest using next approach.

How to measure social channel popularity?

Measure - Data driven decisions are more precise. Because one solution or one answer will never fit for all websites. Best way to find which social channel is popular for your website audience is by measuring. Measuring will give you complete picture of popularity of social media channels.

To measure which social channel is popular for your website is simple. You need to place share button for all social network and messaging apps that you think your audience uses. Then count how many times each social channel was clicked to share content on your website. You need to track this clicks for at least one month if you have a website with small audience or measure for a week if you have website with big traffic. These measurement need to be made every time when you feel that popular social media channel changed once a year if you are unsure. Because internet is dynamic, there is always new social channel appearing or getting more popular for your audience.

Data we used to define popular social channel

We used 9 month of data to calculate popular social channel, because we already had click tracking for social share and subscribe buttons on our website for that long. We used two thing to measure popular social channel.

  • Share button for social networks and popular messaging apps. We placed share button under classified ad item. Social channels that we added buttons to share content is Line (popular messaging app in Japan), SMS, Odnoklassniki (Russian social network translated as classmates), Google+, Vkontakte (Russian clone of Facebook), Мой мир (My World,  social network by mail.ru), Facebook, Twitter.
  • Subscribe button to our popular social account. We placed promo bar at the top of  classified ads website asking users to subscribe to our account on Line. We show subscribe banner as promo bar with call to action words further down in this article and share code related to promo bar.

Here are statistics of our measurement

Social sharing and subscription statistics on Classifieds website

Social sharing and subscription statistics on Classified ads website

See percentage of clicks for each social network share button that we used on the website in image chart.

  • 453k users visited our website
  • 52k times they performed click events leading to subscribing 42%, sharing content 38%, closing subscribe bar 20%
  • 19k share events performed, it is 38% of all events
  • Line was most popular social media platform with 71% of shares
  • SMS was second popular platform to share content with 13%
  • Worse performers were Facebook with 0.3% and Twitter with 0.09% probably due to geography of this classified ads website.

ConclusionAs you can see we asked some small number of people using our website and measured clicks performed to share content and found same result about our popular social channel. Line is our priority social channel to focus in order to increase featured ad sales.

If they were different the we would use measured approach. Because that report covers users that visited and interacted on our website. And it can't be wrong.

What to post in your social channel to increase featured ad sales?

Featured (promoted, VIP, paid) ads

Post Featured ads - As classifieds website we wanted to promote listings from our website. To increase our website revenue we wanted to promote featured ads, so more people would prefer featured ads instead of free ads. Also as our goal is to increase featured ad sales, it is more obvious to post those featured ads on our primary social channel. On our classified ads website featured ads were shown on home page, at the top of category pages and on sidebar on every page using widgets.

We added extra promotion to our featured ads by posting them on our social channel and sending as notification there. This brought positive effect as featured listings were getting on average 20 phone calls on first day and most of them were sold in couple days. Sellers using featured listings were impressed and promoted their other items with featured ads.

Sold featured ads

Post Sold featured ads – if featured item was sold we posted how quickly it was sold (how many hours or days) and for what price. This was interesting information for people to know. They knew that some items are sold in couple hours or in one day and wanted to promote their similar items. Price of sold items was also useful information for pricing their own similar items that they wanted to sell. We get thank you messages from users for posting this information. Of course we hide phone number, username and any other contact or identity information for sold items. If seller didn’t want to share sold item information we didn’t post it at all.

These 2 post types were bringing more featured ad sales. Featured ad sales increased 24 times since focusing on one popular social channel.

Along these posts we were posting congratulation messages on public holidays and some funny pictures and quotes 1-2 times per day.

Important tips when posting in social channel

  • Use #hashtags if possible. This brings more users interested in your items. Use city name, item category, item brand and other important information to filter your posts. Do not use more than 4-5 hashtags per post.
  • Separate your account if you have too many diverse items if possible. For example if you post 10 phones, 10 cars and 10 apartments per day then it is better to separate them and keep most active as your main social account. Subscribers can be directed to separate accounts when they first subscribe to your account in greeting message. Also you can cross promote your separate accounts once per week.
  • Do not send notifications after 22:00 evening or before 8:00 in the morning. Some people do not switch wifi / internet off and will be annoyed if their phone alerts when you send a notification. If some client wants to post a featured ad then you can post it without notification and send notification next day.
  • Share your posted item in chat to your client so that you can delete it when client informs you that item was sold . It will be easy to find the post that you have to take screenshot for promoting as sold item as separate post, and deleting original sold item from timeline. Also if client wants to renew featured listing you can easily find their old posting and copy it to promote it again as new post on timeline.
  • Add link to original listing on your website. This is useful when some chat or social applications load images slowly users can click on link and view listing on your website with more images. Which will bring more traffic to your website.
  • Use link in broadcasted notifications as well if possible. Line allows 3 message to be sent at once. This means 2 images and 1 text message. You can use link with words “View more images here” and add link to listing located on your website.
  • Add tracking info like ?utm_source=line&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=line at the end of every URL that you post and broadcast in social channel to track visitors converted from those channels. This data then can be viewed in google analytics. Use full utm tracking code. When utm_medium=social value used it will be automatically market as traffic from social media in Google Analytics. You can see their time on your website, how many pages they visit, bounce rate for those visitors and many more. If long tracking code is not allowed then use short code like ?ref=line then filter your visitors with those value in Analytics.
  • Remember to post at least 1 post every day. Social channels are very crowded so you have to be active there in order to be visible on users’ timeline.

How to promote your social account?

Best place to promote a social account is your own classifieds website. Because your website already has people posting ads and  people interested in classified listings on your website. They will be interested to see that you have an active social account.

Depending on activity of your social account they will follow you and interact there. It is easy to interact with you on social media. They can ask questions, learn more about your website and what options you offer to better sell their items.

Where on the website to promote your social channel?

Promo bar to promote your priority social channel on classifieds website

Promo bar to promote your priority social channel on classifieds website

Usually most valuable space on your website is most viewed areas which means above fold on all pages. This could be banner before content or promotional bar at the top of your website. We found that promotional bar works best and visible on mobile phones and desktops. With Promo bar you should add close or dismiss button to allow people to close it if they are already subscribed to your channel or are not interested in subscribing to it.

When you are placing links to subscribe remember add tracking to it so that you can optimize and increase clicks after you generate some click data. We implemented click tracking using google analytics events. You can get source code further down in the article.

Read more about monetization of classifieds website with banner ads.

Use right words for call to action

We wanted more subscribers to our account on Line application so we promoted what users will get when they subscribe to our account. We were posting featured items on our account and some of them were hot deals. Our users were interested in buying or selling their items. Based on this we used following text in our call to action promo bar.

Subscribe to our Line @line_id
Get hot sales first in your mobile

Use icon of social channel that you are inviting to join. Familiar icon instantly draws attention to your call to action promo bar.

Pricing and time period for featured ads

On Line messenger we had many competitors offering to post items for sale on their accounts. They didn’t have a website so all their postings were on timeline and broadcasting notifications. We used similar pricing of accounts having same number of subscribers or more. It was around 1-2 $ per ad. We used that price for posting on line and as regular ad on our website. Twice that price for featured ads. Time period for featured ads were depending on how many featured ads we get. Mostly we featured ads for 30 days on our website. IF we had more than 200 featured ads then we reduced that time to 15 days.

JavaScript code for Promo bar

Promo bar - is big prominent link at the top of your website to promote your social media account. It will have logo of Line messenger (our popular social channel)  and link to our account with call to action text.

Here is the code that we used for our promo bar to increase number of subscriptions to our social channel. You can place it in classibase admin area “Settings”-> “Header/Footer” page in field “Custom footer”.

Highlights of this code:

  • It uses cookies to store closed state info so bar will not be displayed for 30 days if user closed it.
  • Multilingual website code - has conditional content for each language.
  • Has built in tracking code integrated with google analytics. Records when user clicks on bar and navigates to Line subscription page or opens line application. It also tracks when user closes bar.
  • Line id is provided as an example, use your own id.
  • Includes CSS styles to draw attention to the promo bar.

You need to provide your own values to line id, direct link to line account, URL to line icon.

<style> 
.top_info a{display:block;background-color:green;color:#fff;text-align:center;font-size:14px;margin:0;padding:0;text-decoration:none;} 
.top_info a:hover,.close:hover{opacity:0.9;} 
.top_info_icon,.top_info_text{display:inline-block;margin:2px;text-align:left;vertical-align:middle;position:relative;} 
.top_info_text b, .top_info_text em{display:block;} 
.top_info em{font-size:90%;opacity:0.95;font-style:normal;} 
.close{color:#fff;opacity:0.7;font-size:30px;position:absolute;left:100%;top:0;border:none;margin:0;padding:0 5px;background-color:transparent;}
.icon_line{border-radius: 5px;border: solid 3px #1dcd00;display: inline-block;width: 32px;height: 32px;background: url("/url/to/icon.gif") repeat left!important;background-position: 0 0!important;vertical-align:middle;} 
.icon_line:hover{opacity:0.9;}
.line_share .icon_line{box-shadow: 0px 0px 1px 1px #fff;}
</style>
<script>
// define function to load promo bar
function set_top_info(){
 var line_id = '@YOUR_LINE_ID';
 var url = '/url/to/social/channel';
 var info_name = 'top_info_line'; 
 var $info = $('<div class="top_info"> <a href="'+url+'"> <span class="top_info_icon icon_line"></span> <span class="top_info_text"> <b>Subscribe to our Line '+line_id+'</b> <em>get hot sales first in your mobile</em> <button class="close">×</button></span> </a> </div>');
 var lng = $('.language .sel:first').html();
 // check if it is multilingual clasibase site
 if(typeof lng != 'undefined'){
 var title='';
 var sub='';
 // switch language
 if(lng.search('ru.gif') != -1){
 title='Подпишись в Line '+line_id;
 sub='получай выгодные предложения первым'; 
 }else if(lng.search('gb.gif') != -1){
 title='Subscribe to our Line '+line_id;
 sub='get hot sales first in your mobile';
 }else if(lng.search('tr.gif') != -1){
 title='Line hesabına katıl '+line_id;
 sub='ucuz satışlar cebine gelsin';
 }
 // set new info
 $('b',$info).html(title);
 $('em',$info).html(sub);
 }
 // run if user is not in admin area
 var is_frontend = ($('.popup_sidebar').length<1 && $('body.login').length<1);
 // if no data in cookie about closed bar display bar
 if(is_frontend && readCookie(info_name)!='1')
 { 
 // close button action
 $('.close',$info).click(function(e){
 // sore closed state in cookie
 createCookie(info_name,'1',30);
 // hide promo bar and remove
 $info.slideUp('slow',function(){$(this).remove();});
 // record click action to google analytics if loaded
 if (e.isDefaultPrevented() || typeof ga !== "function") return false;
 ga('send', 'event', 'Line_close', 'Line_close', 'close');
 return false;
 });
 // click on promo bar actions
 $('a',$info).click(function(e){
 // if google analytis is not loaded then continue load lined page
 if (e.isDefaultPrevented() || typeof ga !== "function") return;
 // cancel event and record outbound link
 e.preventDefault();
 var href = $(this).attr('href');
 ga('send', {'hitType': 'event','eventCategory': 'Line_subscribe','eventAction': 'Line_subscribe','eventLabel': href,'hitCallback': loadPage});
 // redirect after one second if recording takes too long
 setTimeout(loadPage, 1000);
 // redirect to outbound page
 function loadPage() {
 document.location = href;
 } 
 });
 // add promo bar at the top of the page 
 $('body').prepend($info); 
 }
}

function createCookie(name,value,days) {
 if (days) {
 var date = new Date();
 date.setTime(date.getTime() + (days*24*60*60*1000));
 var expires = "; expires=" + date.toUTCString();
 }
 else var expires = "";
 document.cookie = name + "=" + value + expires + "; path=/";
}

function readCookie(name) {
 var nameEQ = name + "=";
 var ca = document.cookie.split(';');
 for(var i=0;i < ca.length;i++) {
 var c = ca[i];
 while (c.charAt(0)==' ') c = c.substring(1,c.length);
 if (c.indexOf(nameEQ) == 0) return c.substring(nameEQ.length,c.length);
 }
 return null;
}

function eraseCookie(name) {
 createCookie(name,"",-1);
}

// load promo bar after page fully loaded
addLoadEvent(set_top_info);
</script>

 

One more thing when you want to attract more people to your classifieds website. Encourage your classified ads website visitors to post their listings by showing number of ads posted per day. This gives them impression of live site with lots of active users using it.

FAQ

What is featured ad?

Featured ad in classifieds website is a listing that appears in several prominent locations and viewed several times more than regular ads.

On active classifieds website regular ads will fade over short time, lost among other regular listings constantly added to the website. Featured ads remain visible for the defined period. Owner of featured listings will get constant attention, calls, increase possibility of sale, have more views and reach bigger interested audience.

Who uses featured ads?

Featured ads can be used by many posters who want to attract more views and make sale or conversion quickly:

  • Regular users that want a quick sale.
  • Agencies with many listings that want to stand out
  • Car dealers with big inventory
  • Real estate agents
  • Companies posting job listings

Generally classified ad owners who want constant interest to their listings.

How to sell featured ads with social media account?

You can increase featured ad (promoted ad) sales by promoting it in your social media account using following steps:

  1. Promote your social media account on your classifieds website with  promo bar or banner.
  2. Promote featured ads in 2 places: on your classifieds website and in social media posts.
  3. Post sold items in social media posts, with info stating how long it took to sell, to show efficiency of promoting with featured ads.

Where featured ads appear?

They usually appear at the beginning of category pages, on home page, in related ads widget, on sidebars. You can define where to show featured ads. We also posted featured ads in our social media account.

How much to charge for featured ad?

Depending on your website it should note be too expensive. You can adjust price by number of existing featured ads. If you want decrease number of featured ads then you should increase price. Usually too many featured ads does not make them any different that regular ads. So increasing price will be reasonable to make a listing featured.

How long should featured ad promoted?

Time should be also adjusted with price and how fast featured item sold. If generally featured items sold in 5 days then you can set featured ad period to 5-10 days.

How to get paid for featured ad with social media account?

Some popular social media messengers have built in money transfer options. If there is no such feature for your messenger then you can always receive  small payments with SMS (text messaging with GSM operator). We used SMS to get paid. After payment done users posted screenshot of payment and link to ad they want to make featured. We promoted that listing and informed user again through messenger.

Mobile payment and communication with social media account was one of key factors to make more featured ad sales.

Conclusion on how to increase featured ad sales

We used these methods to increase subscription to our social account on Line and increase featured ad sales 24 times on classifieds website.

These are quick steps that we used

  • Determine priority social channel
  • Promote subscription to priority social channel on your classifieds website
  • Post featured ads on social channel and advertise featured ad sales
  • Send featured ads as direct messages if your social channel supports it
  • Adjust pricing and period of featured ads if required

For more ways to monetize your classifieds website read our detailed tutorial.

If you applied any of these methods or used other ways to increase sales or use different monetization tactics please share with us in comments.

 

 

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