A snapshot profile of today’s Facebook as a marketing platform

Facebook's High-Wire Balancing Act Continues

Note to marketers who have been investing in Facebook: Fasten your safety belts.

Once again, Mark Zuckerberg is changing the algorithm that determines what users will see in their newsfeed.

Give Facebook credit. They announced some time ago the intent to make social media social again, and the change in algorithm is intended to give more visibility to status updates from friends and family. Positive social engagement should increase as a result.

The ancillary benefit for users is that their newsfeed will not feel bogged down by commercial content. But once again, marketers have to take a hard look at their Facebook spend.

The question: Should brands write off Facebook as a marketing vehicle?

Diosclosure: We make no money off media investments that clients make in Facebook. So our views below are relatively unbiased.

And our view on this is no, marketers shouldn’t abandon Facebook as a means of building brand awareness or community involvement.

Rationale: Mark Zuckerberg is walking a tightrope, balancing a publicly traded company’s need to hit quarterly numbers (which comes from ad revenue), and the largest social media platform’s need to remain committed to being essentially social, not commercial.

We think that Facebook’s decisions will pay off in the long run, and marketers should be reassured by the fact that Facebook literally cannot afford to push out brands altogether. So at least in the short term, there will still be opportunity for brands to market through Facebook.
In the midterm, we continue to watch the multi-year trend of sliding Facebook usership among key demographics.

Advice: Target and Moderate

Our position on Facebook is that while there are excellent targeted opportunities on the platform, our clients should not overinvest in a marketing tactic that fluctuates in reach (and therefore value) and which lacks policy transparency.

If you want to talk further about Facebook or targeted marketing over a beverage, please contact us, and stop by for a beverage.

Facebook does an about face

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Closing the Like-Gate

In a very quiet announcement last week, Facebook announced that the commonly used practice of “like-gating” a page for contests & promotions will be against policy, effective November 5, 2014.

Like–gating refers to the requirement that a visitor must like your Facebook page in order to enter a contest or take part in a promotion. The value of a like is questionable, but like-gating has been widely used as a successful fan-acquisition method. So let’s look at the issue.

The new policy

The updated policy, mixed in with other content on a Facebook Developers blog, says “You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.”

What it means & what you should do

With this new policy in place, contests, rewards, and promotions will be open to everyone on Facebook who encounters the content, no liking required. So you may get a bazillion entries, but not a single new like. For marketers who are still building communities and believe that Facebook likes may actually have some value, here are some ideas.

Use the wall

An on-wall promotion is when a brand makes a post and asks users to comment to enter. On-wall promotions have many benefits. For one, they cost less. They’re also easier to deploy & manage, with fewer barriers to entry for participants. Of course, these posts won’t get you more fans either, but if you run a weekly or monthly promotion, at least people have a reason to return.

Collect additional information

OK, so Facebook won’t let you make becoming a fan a condition for someone entering a promotion – but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for information prior to entry. Have email as a required field. Maybe try for a phone number. Just remember that your contest has to have enough value to justify asking for the information.

Don’t abandon Facebook

Facebook is concerned about its own usability, which is a good thing for everyone who uses it. And we think Facebook recognizes that the overall quality of brand communities will increase if those communities are not inflated with hit-and-run contestants. So don’t eliminate Facebook outreach. Just make sure it’s not the sole focus of a campaign. Customers have multiple networks to choose from and brands should be available across most of them.

Encourage UGC

And remember that a single piece of UGC makes more impact than a Facebook like. That’s why we sometimes suggest “action-gating,” requiring a customer to submit some form of UGC (on any social media network they like) to be entered in a contest or promotion.

If you have any questions or need a beverage, we’re here.

The Facebook Conspiracy Theory

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A few weeks ago, articles and videos were making their way around the web claiming that Facebook ad-buys were completely bogus.

Facebook claimed that if you purchased an ad focused on gaining likes to a page, you would set a budget, create the ad and, over a couple weeks, watch your fan-base grow. The real question is about quality: Who’s doing the “liking?”

We decided to do our own testing.

We created a new page with no likes, posts or engagement whatsoever. We even gave it a title that no one would have interest in liking… “Virtual Apple Tree”. It’s an image of an apple tree doing what apple trees do: Growing apples. We put a $25 spend behind it and waited for the magic to happen.

Sure enough, magic happened. We received 141 likes at around $0.17 cents per like. Amazing, right? But that’s when the concern set in. How could we possibly get 140+ people to like a Facebook page with no content or interaction, simply from paying $25? We dove into the pages of our new friends.

They all seemed to be legitimate people. They had profile pictures, standard US names, some activities on their walls from playing games, sharing content, etc. But then we noticed a startling trend.

Click-farming: Worthless growth

The new fans of the Virtual Apple Tree all seemed to have liked 5,000+, 20,000+ and even 40,000+ pages. The research had brought us face to face with the reality of click-farms – companies that give people small sums of money for every thousand pages they like.

The real cost of empty likes

For unsuspecting Facebook page managers who are just trying to use the advertising tool, these fake likes are much more detrimental to a page than the waste of money. Pages built on click farming are now going to start taking your organic reach away from potential real fans, causing you to want to pay even more money to “promote” posts. And the only way to get rid of these likes? You have to manually delete them one by one.

3 Actions

If you are focused on buying likes, you should:

1. Reevaluate your Facebook strategy. Depending on your target, Facebook may be the wrong venue for your audience or you may simply just be too late to the game to start a new page.

2. Try to increase engagement organically. Although Facebook continuously makes this harder to do, stay focused on reaching the quality fans and worry less about quantity.

3. Consider hosting an on-wall promotion with your advertising budget instead of purchasing ads. This is a way to reward your current fans for their patronage and also gain new fans virally from others posting and sharing the content.

As always, we are here to discuss social media strategy with you. Give us a shout. Let’s talk. Beverages are on us.

Timing Is Everything

Knowing when to promote your Facebook Post

It’s easy for your eye to catch the “boost post” icon when you launch one on your brand’s Facebook page.

We’re here to tell you to wait and really determine if it is worthy of your dollars.

“How are we supposed to know?” You may ask. For that, we’ve put together an acronym for you- RIPE.  RIPE stands for “Relevant, Impact, Patience, Engagement.”

The idea here is that if you can answer “yes” to four-or even three- of the following questions, then your post is RIPE and ready to promote!

RIPE

Relevant. The best way to gain traction on a promoted post is by letting it run for a few days (ideally 3-5). That being said, you have to make sure that the post will not appear outdated after multiple days on a viewer’s news feed.

Impact.  Without it the viewer is left with no direction or reason to go further down the path to becoming a converted customer (or fan). So ask yourself “Does my post have an enticing call to action?” We talk about how smaller firms need to be disruptive and impactful and a promoted post is a great place to start. So write a short line of copy that will catch the viewer’s eye, and then tell them what to do!

Patience. Let a few hours pass before you promote the post. This helps you to get a feel for how the post may perform once it gets in front of the masses.  Wait time can vary depending on the size of your fan count.

Which brings us to the final determining factor…

Engagement. Your fans will serve as a nice test pool for how your post will reach once promoted. So determine an engagement metric that you want to reach before your promote the post. It can be a percentage (people who like, comment share and/or click, divided by total fan reach) or it can be something simple like a certain number of likes.

Hint: For starters, dig through the engagement on your previous posts and look for similarities on some of your best performing posts.

Any other questions? We’re here when you need us.

Weekly Blend – 4/10/14

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The Weekly Blend is a blog post by drinkcaffeine that provides a wrap-up of what you need to know from the marketing & digital spaces. Here is what’s going on this week: Read Time: 3 1/2 minutes

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE… FACEBOOK?

Twitter, that is.

It has always been evolving – for example the ‘@’ and ‘#’ symbols were never intended but adopted after Twitter’s community implemented them manually – but now that we have seen the redesign, it seems clear that Twitter will continue to move toward a more mainstream demographic and gradually away from its longtime users.

Twitter’s making changes to solve its most pressing issue—how to obtain and keep new users—as it looks to grow. That means looking familiar and non-threatening, and providing a recognizable experience to bring new users into the platform (or in other words, look more like Facebook).

WHY IT MATTERS

Now that Twitter has shareholders, Twitter has to do this. It’s just another reminder that the online services that many of us come to love do not have our ongoing interests at heart, and should always be regarded as temporary.

There are many new features, such as emojis, tweet size, profile page redesigns, and more, but let’s talk about why they really did it, the ads. Look for more direct-response ad formats that allow consumer actions like app installs, click-to-call, and e-mail signups right from the app. There could be up to 15 varieties of different performance-based advertising methods available.

Here are a few celebrities with the new look.

Film stars @zacefron and @channingtatum, First Lady Michelle Obama @flotus, Boxer @FloydMayweather, TV star @kerrywashington, and Musicians @JohnLegend and band @weezer.

SPEAKING OF FACEBOOK

You know the right rail on Facebook? Yeah, the one that has those little ads that you don’t really read, that rail. Well, Facebook is making some alterations in hopes that advertisers will give it another chance after running to the news feed for a larger and more native space.

WHY IT MATTERS

By the end of May, the right rails will adorn 3 wider ads, instead of the current seven that are known for lower click-through rates and a boxy, text-heavy format. As data shows a swift migration of ad dollars from the right rail to the news feed, Facebook’s solution is to have less of it but make the remaining space more valuable. If the new ads are clicked on more, they’ll presumably have a lower effective cost per click for advertisers and fetch higher CPMs for Facebook. According to a Facebook blog post, tests of the new design have seen three times more engagement.

KNOCK KNOCK, WHO’S THERE? COMIC SANS

Our designers gave out a collective sigh of relief this week when they discovered that a designer, Craig Rozynski, created a font to replace the oft punch line that is Comic Sans. He calls his handiwork Comic Neue, and you can download it for free here.

WHY IT MATTERS

Less usage of Comic Sans = less designers ranting. Our critique: The new font soothes the cartoonish features of its ancestor in favor of a more stylish design that maintains the font’s casual demeanor. Oddly attractive, but definitely still lacks in ALL CAPS.

Here are some of the all-time worst Comic Sans uses.

1. The scientific discovery of maybe the century

2. An official photo-album of the Pope.

HAVE A BUSY AND CREATIVE WEEK!

Did you miss the Facebook bandwagon

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Good old Facebook

Early in 2014, Facebook will celebrate its 10th birthday. That’s a pretty major milestone for a fickle industry like social media. Facebook has more than 1 billion active users and over 50 million pages. Yet there are clients out there who haven’t established a presence, and they’re asking, Am I too late?

Why Facebook got old so fast

Look at the rise of Facebook, both in terms of user growth and ad revenue growth.

All that economic and social activity has resulted in Facebook fatigue – a level of exasperation with the platform’s omnipresence, and a corresponding desire to be different, especially among younger users.

Why Facebook isn’t what it used to be

Due to the over saturation of branded posts, advertisements, promotions, and daily contests, Facebook users are much less likely to “like” a brand than they were several years ago.  Marketers have responded to this trend with lots of new content but unfortunately, creative copy and cute pictures won’t get you very far with today’s algorithm.  You will need money and intriguing gimmicks to get noticed.

So, for a business to begin from ground zero on Facebook today – no fans, no social media program or presence, no active content calendar – the cost per fan acquisition most likely won’t generate a worthwhile ROI.

When does Facebook make sense?

The demographic of your target audience will play a huge role in the decision to begin a Facebook page at this stage of the game. If you’re looking to reach the tween-teen-young adult market, forget Facebook.  See  “My Grandma Uses Facebook!” for more information.

But if your targets reside in the 35-54 range, skew female, and if your brand has a built-in social dimension to it, maybe Facebook can work for you. Be prepared to invest in strategies for content development, fan acquisition, community engagement, and building a social platform beyond Facebook.

If your brand is product-centric consider Pinterest and Instagram, which have good visual platforms for showing off new products. If your brand is a B2B entity, LinkedIn will do a better job than Facebook of getting your headlines in front of the right people.  Check out a full breakdown of Social Media demographics.

As always, we are here to talk social strategy when you are.

Customized conversations on Facebook

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Don’t forget what makes Facebook great

It lets companies reach audiences of different ages, locations, socio-economic situations, and interests. It’s communal. It brings people together. But this can also be one of its biggest obstacles.

The problem for marketers has to do with targeting. How do you create messages and content that’s equally relevant to everyone?

Digging into the tool box

Facebook comes equipped with tools in the Ads Manager that allow you to target very specific audiences with your posts. Giving each post another $5-$10 of highly targeted support (depending on the size of your page) can be very beneficial when focusing on user engagement.

Remember the Facebook rules

The most recent Facebook algorithm change has decreased the reach of page posts, making it harder for companies to connect with 100% of their fans. Another reason why you should target people more precisely is because you can increase engagement since users will feel more connected to the post, and position you as a brand that gets it. And them.

Think old school: Craft the message

Approach the digital space the same way you would traditional media.  You wouldn’t run an ad for a power drill in Cosmo. You don’t see ads for women’s shoes on MNF. The same goes for the social-sphere. Here’s an example of how you can take one generic message and target it to different audiences:

Product: Sweater
Message: Upcoming sale

Target Audience

Facebook Category

Message

College Students

Education: In College

Get ahead of the game & start next semester’s shopping early!

Shopaholics

Retail/Shopping: Fashion

You don’t need a good reason to go shopping this weekend, but we have one.

Business Professionals

Events: New Job

New job. New boss. New colleagues. Time for new clothes. Check out the 20% off sale this weekend.

Mother/Father

Family Status: Parents (child: 0-12yrs)

Kids outgrowing last season’s outfits already?  Come in for a 20% off sale on sweaters!

Coming home for the Holidays

Family Status: Away from Hometown

Impress your family when you go home for the holidays this season in a new sweater!

Upcoming Birthday

Events: Has birthday in 1 week

Someone has a birthday coming up. Treat yourself with 20% off this weekend!

Other categories to consider

Sports fans, pet lovers, DIY/crafters, relationship status, mobile device, educators, politics, health conscious, beer/wine/spirits.

And if none of these groups are specific enough for the audience you want to target, you can use the “precise interests” field to target whatever you want. Check out specific sports teams, certain games, television shows, books, magazines. Facebook has inexhaustible data, and they know how to carve it up like a turkey.

Still reading? Here’s extra credit.

Don’t forget: You can also target by geography, gender, and languages. You can decide if you want to reach only the people already connected to your page, people who are not already connected, or both. While using the ad manager, Facebook will continuously update the size of the audience to let you know how many people fall into those parameters.

So enough with the generic ad messaging, already.  It’s time to reach your consumers with targeted messages. Need help developing your social strategy? Come on in, have a beverage and lets talk.

“My Grandma Uses Facebook!”

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When Facebook announced their Q3 results yesterday, it was no surprise that usage among teen users is decreasing. It’s been going on for months.

While Facebook says the decline “was not statistically significant,” we think it tells another story. Why are teens leaving Facebook? It’s easy to use, mobile friendly and has 1.25 billion active monthly users worldwide. But therein lies the problem. Everyone is on it. That includes teachers, parents, grandparents, and the weird guy at the bus stop with highwater pants and tube socks.

Teens don’t want to jump onto the bandwagon that everyone else is already on- they want their own space.

Why the teen demographic is so important

They set trends, especially social ones. Older generations look down to them to see what the newest platform is. Once a network gains enough clout from these early adopters, they can begin to reach out and gain more users.

Where they are going

Facebook’s teen numbers are down, but Instagram (owned by Facebook) has seen a major upswing, although they were named most important network by the same share of respondents. Twitter ranks 3% above both but has also declined since the Spring.  There’ no frontrunner because teens are not just in one place (the way college students were when Facebook first made its debut). Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and countless others that aren’t mainstream enough to even report on yet, when it comes to reaching teens, marketers have a tough decision of choosing where to put their brand and budget.

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What we recommend

Grandma said: “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” (Thanks, gran.)

As we mentioned in “Why Pinterest reminds me of the Stock Market”, it is just as necessary in social media as it is in finance to have a diversified portfolio.  Let’s not forget that in 2006 85% of online teenagers had a MySpace account.

Your social media strategy should depend on your consumers, objectives and brand identity.  If you are looking for some help in determining where your focus should be, come in, sit down, have a beverage and let’s talk.

Why Pinterest Reminds Me of the Stock Market

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Choosing the right websites to invest your marketing time & money is like the stock market.

Think about it. When you get wind of a hot startup stock, you want in on the ground floor. Earlier investment can mean less cost for you, and faster market entry for the company. There’s always less clutter and more energy around the offering in the early days.

Same with social media. It’s tempting to bet the ranch on the hot new stock, and try to clean up. But remember: Financial planning is built around diversification. You don’t over-invest in any single area because if things go bad, you and your portfolio are in for some pain.

Yet new social media networks (like new stocks) can add to your portfolio. They can allow you to test unknown waters and attract new followers. And yes, sometimes they go to the moon.

Buying into Pinterest

A short story: More than 18 months ago a client manager here spotted a trending activity for a client website. For 100 days, there had been a steady increase in visits from a site simply labeled in our analytics as “pinterest.com.” At the time, Pinterest was just gaining the momentum that would make it the fastest social site to reach 10 million users.

So we looked harder at Pinterest. It looked good. Our client – a household name CPG brand that makes pens and markers, among other things – was right for the site. So we increased our client’s presence on Pinterest.

18 months later, Pinterest-driven traffic to the client’s site has increased by a factor of 10- with very little work on anybody’s part. BTW: In 2009 the same client used Facebook (when it was en route to a 900% increase in 35-54 usage) to build a 100K fan base in record time.

3 lessons learned

Monitor the referrals portion of your site analytics. Look for websites that are starting to refer visitors. Vet those sites for synergies. Build on the ones that show the most promise.

Think big picture. We advise a relatively cautious approach to digital investment. Not every trending site is going to make it. Anyone remember Pets.com? Scale your investment in cultivating inbound traffic to other areas of investment. Remember: Diversify.

Stay agile, my friends. Like any investor, you should manage marketing investments actively. Weigh up on things that are working hard, weigh down on those that aren’t. And enjoy the ride with promising but unproven areas of engagement. You can learn a lot along the way.

Whenever you feel like talking further about this stuff, you know where to find us.

Facebook Rules: Like it or Not

Some Cans & Cannots

Facebook is changing the rules for on-page promotions and giveaways. Here’s what you can and cannot do:

  • YOU CAN collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
  • YOU CAN collect entries by having users message the Page
  • YOU CAN utilize likes as a voting mechanism
  • YOU CAN notify winners via Facebook
  • YOU CANNOT tag or encourage people to tag themselves in content they are not depicted in

Pros:

Cons:

Engagement rates will improve significantly.  Hosting promotions that require a like or comment for entry will improve both the page & post engagement rates, which will in turn benefit organic reach of future posts Less data for you. Saying bye-bye to apps means there won’t be a form that collects the names and email addresses of users. So tracking entries just got harder.
Relieve user concerns.  Users have shown frustration about giving Facebook access to private information, friend’s lists, etc.  Using on-page elements to run promotions will alleviate this. Legal concerns.  The only stated requirement from Facebook for running these promotions is to provide the rules on your page.
No issues for mobile devices.  There will no longer be a need to make the contest mobile/tablet friendly because all posts are available across all devices No Like-gating. If the post is seen by someone who is not a fan of the page and they interact to enter the contest, there is no way to Like-gate the entries (where the user can enter only after liking the page).
Less costly. The cost to run a promotion with posts will be no more than a status update, monitoring the page, running ads, and selecting a winner. Less cool content. 3rd party apps create a customized experience, with better branding, more space for content, and better data control.
Your contest will be displayed in the news feed. By posting the promotion to timeline, and asking for likes & comments, the contest goes right into the news feed of its users.  


Advice from drinkcaffeine


Have clear goals
. As with any marketing endeavor, be clear about why you’re doing it. Get some clarity around whether you’re in it for Likes, engagement, email contacts, awareness, or another reason.

Go forth and promote. Don’t let down once your promotion is up. Promote it on you page. Promote it across your social media channels. Promote it in your site, ads, PR, and with targeted carrier pigeon strikes.

Better yet, join us for a beverage and we can do it together.