Does this sound like a familiar dilemma?
“Should we continue sharing articles to third-party sites? I mean, every time we share one we get above-average engagement on Facebook and LinkedIn!”
It’s becoming a fairly common question I’m getting from clients and colleagues in recent months. So, I thought it might be worth further exploration and thought.
Historically, here’s where I’ve stood on this issue:
1: Why would we want to direct traffic to third-party sites instead of our own?
That’s really the big question for me–and still is, to be honest. Sharing third-party articles is great–but at the end of day, it’s actually building awareness and credibility for the media outlet–not our brand. Plus, it’s tough to track user behavior once the fan/customer is on the site (as in, “impossible”, since you don’t have access to the media site’s analytics). But, if you direct folks to your sites, you know exactly how they’re behaving once they get there. How much time they’re spending on the site. How many other pages they’re visiting. Which pages are they on when they leave your site.
2: It’s typically not “ownable” content
Another big problem–third-party stories are usually not “ownable” for your brand. And, many times, they’re not completely aligned with your brand and messages. For example, one third-party article might be interesting to your customers, but it also includes a reference to an industry thought leader you’ve had issues with in the past. Would you really want to point your fans toward that kind of article?
3: No chance for conversions
Another big reason I don’t like to drive folks to third-party sites–there is ZERO chance for a conversion. That is, there’s no chance they will sign up for your white paper, add their name to your enewsletter list, or ask for more info about your product or service? Why? Because they’re on a media site! Now, if that prospective customer was on YOUR site, you’d have some of those conversion opportunities right in front of them, right? I think I vote for that approach 99 percent of the time.
Now, I’ll take a contrarian point of view to my stance:
1: Third-party articles help us build trust with customers
By sharing third-party articles from media sites we’re building and earning trust with our customers and prospective customers. It shows them we’re not solely focused on ourselves and our products–and that we care about content that helps them!
2: Third-party articles are easier to share–we don’t have to create anything!
Sharing third-party articles means we don’t have to create content on our own. And, since we don’t have a huge budget, and we don’t have a big team, that’s huge. We can scour media sites and blogs and share content we believe our customers and prospective customers would find to be valuable and/or helpful.
3: Third-party articles get great engagement! Why *wouldn’t* we want to share these?
Most of all, almost every time we share these third-party articles we see great engagement! Our fans like and share this kind of content liberally–especially when compared with some of the content we create on our own. If it’s working from an engagement standpoint, why wouldn’t we want to do MORE of it?
Those are all the arguments I hear from clients and partners. And, for the most part, they’re valid and solid points.
But, I think they’re all worth a conversation–and, from where I sit, they’re all worth a closer look:
Client argument: Third-party articles help us build trust with customers
My perspective: You don’t need media outlets to build trust anymore
Why can’t you build trust in your brand on your own? That could mean developing content that helps your customer solve a problem. It could mean developing content that is interesting to customers. It could mean developing content that entertains, in spots. You don’t necessarily need the media for this anymore.
Third-party articles are easier to share–we don’t have to create anything!
My perspective: Who said you needed to create a bunch of content?
The new paradigm is a little different than the one that was shoved down our throats 2-3 years ago: You don’t NEED to produce a Facebook post every day. You don’t need to tweet 15 times a day. You don’t need 2 blog posts a week. Less is the new more when it comes to social content–largely, due to social advertising trends, which I’ve written about before. So, instead of the 7-10 posts you THINK you need on Facebook, maybe you only need 2-3 per week. You don’t have to produce *that* much content each week.
Third-party articles get great engagement! Why *wouldn’t* we want to share these?
My perspective: Sure engagement is usually a key goal, but we need to consider the larger brand implications.
If third-party articles are generating engagement, by all means, work one in every once in a while. But, I still wouldn’t lean on them for the lion’s share of your engagement. Why? Because all that’s doing is building trust and recognition for the media outlets you’re sending folks to–NOT your brand. Always consider the larger brand implications. Yes, engagement can and should be a goal when it comes to social, in some way, shape or form. But, you don’t chase it at all costs. And you certainly don’t chase it at the expense of your brand.
Last week I was in lovely New Ulm, Minn., presenting to a small group on Facebook advertising. You can find the full deck here, if you’re interested.
As I prepped for this presentation, I was refreshing myself with a few clients I’ve worked with in the last 2-3 years, and the Facebook ad campaigns associated with those clients.
One thing they all had in common: Building the SIZE of their Facebook community by acquiring “Page Likes.”
But, then I got to thinking. Does the Page Like even matter anymore?
And I came to the (somewhat) surprising conclusion: No, it doesn’t.
Here’s the thinking.
In the “old” days of Facebook, your approach usually looked something like this:
* Build your page by acquiring “page likes”–typically you’d have to pay for these through Facebook advertising.
* Since organic reach hadn’t completely plummeted, you could post content and those existing fans (the ones you attracted via FB ads) would see that content.
* And, if there was a post you really wanted ALL your existing fans to see, you amplified it with a little promoted post.
That strategy worked. I saw it work first-hand with a few different clients.
But then, Facebook started changing the rules.
First, organic reach started to plummet.
Then, you started seeing more brands paying to promote content. Some even went as far as to say Facebook was now ONLY an advertising platform (and you know what, they’re RIGHT!).
At the same time, Facebook expanded its ad options, so you could promote posts to fans outside your existing fans.
So, rules kinda changed. Landscape changed.
And now, I would argue, the Facebook Page Like is dead.
You don’t need it anymore. It’s a complete vanity metric. And, some could argue it’s been a vanity metric for a while now.
Let me walk you through my thinking.
Let’s say you’re a midsized business with a page of 30,000 page likes. Not a huge community, but not a small one either.
Let’s say your goals with Facebook are to raise awareness for your brand and to drive traffic to your corporate web site (fairly common goals, I would say).
I would argue you can achieve both those goals now WITHOUT acquiring more Page Likes.
You could easily still drive awareness by running a number of Facebook page post ads each week targeting your key customers using Facebook sophisticated ad platform. Target by age. Zip code. Interests. You can do this no matter if you have 10 page likes or 1.5 million. No difference, as far as I can tell.
You could easily still drive traffic to your web site by running ads against posts that include links to your site. You could use promoted posts (and target fans outside your existing fans) or run page link ads, which are typically successful in driving traffic. Again, you could do this if you have 10 page likes or 1.5 million. No difference.
OK, so why do we need the page likes?
Good question. Vanity, maybe? From what I’ve observed over the last year, that seems to be a possible reason.
Some are merely infatuated with the page like, and haven’t kept up on what’s happened with Facebook.
For others, it’s a competitive thing. Our chief competitor has 1,00,000 likes–we have to get 1,000,001 likes!
I don’t get it, but I think that’s largely what’s to blame.
But, brands will wise up. And I believe they’ll wise up soon.
Because folks, let’s face it, the Facebook page like is officially dead.
There, I said it.
A couple weeks ago I spoke to a group of aspiring community managers at the Social Lights training program. During that talk, I spoke a lot about how the skills and abilities of community managers continues to evolve–and how the social media community manager “unicorn” still does not exist.
At least not in great numbers.
There are plenty of community folks who have SOME of the skills we’ll mention in this post. But I have yet to meet too many who have all of them.
Start researching “community manager skills” online, and you’ll find the usual suspects pop up:
* Strong communications skills
* Good judgment
* Strong organizational skills
* A deep knowledge of online analytics
* Passion for the brand
* Strong interpersonal skills
Personally, I’d add a few things to that list (which seems pretty generic, to be honest):
Art directing skills
I’ve talked about it before, but art directing skills are an absolute must for any community manager right now, with the weight of visuals in today’s online environment.
Strong copywriting skills
Note I didn’t say “communication skills”–there is a difference. “Copywriting skills” is the skill set people who work for Wieden & Kennedy have. Or Fallon. Or, Olgilvy. It’s the difference between communicating via a long-form email and communicating via a 140-character tweet (or 120 characters, if you want it to get retweeted and shared).
Video production skills
With short-form video taking off, video editing and production skills will be even more important in the next year. Just look at all the horribly boring corporate Vines out there right now. Community managers need to step up their game in this area, to be sure.
Strong negotiating skills
The soft skill no one talks about: Negotiating. As a community manager you have to be strong in this area. Why? Because you’re going to get constant requests from managers and leaders around things they probably have no idea about. Therefore, you’re going to have to satiate their needs, but also deliver something that makes sense on the social Web (fun, right?).
* Content creation skills
* Social media marketing skills
* Event planning skills
* PR, customer service skills
* Analytics skills
* Business development skills
Most people I know that are strong in PR are not-so-great (that’s putting it gently) when it comes to analytics.
Most people I know who are great event planners aren’t the best salespeople.
And most people I know who are great content folks have no interest in customer service.
And this is why we have our social media community manager unicorn dilemma.
As a new type of position, it’s a moving target in terms of skills and requirements. Two years ago, art directing wouldn’t have been a requirement for a community manager. Today: It’s an absolute must.
And next year, we’ll probably be saying the same thing about video production skills thanks to Vine, Instagram video and the continued reliance on YouTube.
So, if these unicorns are impossible to find, what are companies to do?
I’m not sure there is a lot they can do right now. But, there’s a lot aspiring community managers can do to round out their skill sets and become this next generation of “unicorns”:
Hack your own training program
The big problem with this role is that there really is no formal training for it. Universities, largely, aren’t addressing it–yet employers are expecting it. So, it’s on YOU to train yourself. Learn video production via a FinalCut class in your market. Learn more about art direction by joining AdFed and buddying up with some experienced art directors. There’s a way to hack your own personal training–find it and pursue it.
Find emerging programs
Like the Social Lights program here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are others starting to pop up around the country. Find them, research them and see if they can teach you anything you might be able to use in a professional community management role (but be careful, some programs aren’t exactly what I’d call “legit”)
Find a community management mentor
Every market has them–a handful of community managers who have now been at this job for 2-3 years. Find these people. They are fonts of knowledge and experience in a discipline that’s still growing. Even though some of these folks might not be the aforementioned “unicorns” they have plenty to teach you. Soak it all up.
Wait. Before you click off this post, this isn’t your typical Pinterest strategy post. Not like the thousands before. No, this is a post directed squarely at the thousands of brands that have jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.
I’m here to tell you you’re “doing it wrong” (for you Gen Xers, that’s my “Mr. Mom” reference of the day).
Obviously, not all brands are doing it wrong. Clearly, some are winning. Big time. Sony, for example.
But, the bulk of the stuff I see on Pinterest from brands is pretty myopic. Look at me. Look at us. Pin our stuff. That’s what it screams, doesn’t it?
Now, you could make an argument that merely posting branded images to Pinterest isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Get your content out there–let others repin it. Promote it across your other social channels. Basic approach, right?
But here’s the thing: That’s not how people use Pinterest.
People use Pinterest (increasingly) for product discovery. According to this infographic on Social Fresh (from WishPond), 69 percent of online users have bought or wanted to buy an item they found on Pinterest.
People are also using Pinterest as a mindless escape–I wrote about that a year-and-a-half ago. In fact, it wasn’t my opinion–it was straight from the mouths of 17 “super users”.
And finally, people are using Pinterest as a source of ideas. For weddings. For dinner. For travel. You name it.
But, people aren’t using Pinterest to interact with brands. Not necessarily.
Here’s the four reasons I believe many brands are “doing it wrong” when it comes to Pinterest:
Too many contests–not enough value/creativity
According to the infographic featured above, only 9 percent of users have participated in a contest on Pinterest (compared with 30 percent on Facebook). So, 1 in 10 of your users will participate in a contest you organize on Pinterest. Do you like those odds? I don’t. So, why waste your time and energy organizing these contests? Because that’s what they take: Time and energy (read: budget). Instead, why not spend that time creating interesting, compelling, creative and useful imagery to post to your boards. Or better yet, spend that time interacting with potential fans/customers across Pinterest on boards that ARE NOT yours.
Engage where your customers are (hint: Not on your boards)
According to the infographic, 85 percent of users are engaging with brands–but NOT on their boards. A mere 15 percent of users are engaging with brands on their boards. Again, almost 1 in 10. Not great odds. So, why not spend more time where your customers are spending time–in the Pinterest atmosphere. Go find them. Repin their stuff. Comment on their pins. It’s kinda community management 101, in a way.
Are you SURE Pinterest is the right platform for your brand?
So many brands have gotten caught up in the Pinterest craze this last year. And, so many people have been actively encouraging brands of all walks to get involved. But the simple fact is: Pinterest is DOMINATED by a handful of categories: Food, home decor, arts and crafts and style and fashion. If your brand doesn’t play in one of those areas, it might be worth taking a second look at Pinterest. Here’s why. Again, you’ll spend a decent amount of time and energy (read: money) engaging here. And, if you’re say, an engineering firm, does that really make sense? I might argue no. Spend more time where you know your customers are. And where you know you’ll have a better chance of meeting your goals.
If you’re going to pin, pin with a price
According to the infographic, pins with a price tag receive 36 percent more pins than those without. Pretty compelling stat, right? So why aren’t more brands including price tags? We may see that trend shift, but if you’re a retail or consumer brand trying to sell your wares on Pinterest, you know people are in “buy mode” (see stats above). So, why wouldn’t you include a price tag with your pin.
Those are my observations. What about you? What missteps do you see brands making with Pinterest?
Disposable social media–it’s “all the rage” (as my wife likes to say) among teens these days. Media outlets are claiming teens are turning to tools like Snapchat and Poke to share lewd messages–“sexting”, apparently, is running rampant across our world.
But, beyond the buzzwords, what is disposable social media all about? And why is it suddently so popular?
I decided to ask friend and fellow digital marketer, Greg Swan, a few questions about it since he has shown an interest and “passion” for disposable social media lately.
You’ve said before that you prefer “disposable social media” like Poke and Snapchat to more “traditional social media” like Twitter and Facebook. Why?
Disposable social media is a term I’ve started using to categorize online and social content that will not last forever. Unlike things cached by Google or our tweets stored in the Library of Congress, there is a new breed of social networking tools that purposefully don’t let its users archive or retrieve content once it has been viewed. As someone who spends their days concerned about online reputation management for my clients (and myself), this is quite refreshing.
Although there are those people who share too much and/or inappropriate content on social media, for the most part we humans are comfortable translating our censorship and self-aggrandizing skills from the real world to our social channels. Our profile pictures and cover images reflect our ideal state.
Our shared photos are perfectly cropped and filtered. Our bios are concise yet witty. Part of the appeal of an online persona is the ability to shape what we share with others — and what we don’t. We all now Stepford Wives. With the exception of the odd political post, a quick audit of my social channels show my friends, fans and followers are all in love with their jobs, significant others and perfect kids.
Everyone is traveling to exotic locations and/or eating the most wonderful-looking food. They are all master photographers and chefs, super parents and community organization leaders. Oh, and everyone is SO FUNNY. I mean, just really funny. And thanks to tools like Timehop, these beautiful, clever, exotic status updates, photos, checkins and shares can be relieved easy and often.
Disposable media is low-risk. It won’t last forever – on purpose!
I’ve sent people content through Facebook Poke I would never share on Facebook, Twitter and certainly not LinkedIn. Uncombed hair and unshaven face pictures. Food that didn’t look appetizing that I was eating anyway. Video of my kids not wearing pants at 2 p.m. screaming at me. You know – the life stuff you wouldn’t share on social media but that you might share with a friend (if it was lightweight enough and you knew it couldn’t be saved). I also use it for comedic terrorism, of which I cannot ever have my fill when it comes to my circle of friends.
Snapchat and Poke claim media (photos, videos) shared on their platforms are disposable. That is, they are deleted within 3-10 seconds after the user opens it. But, many media outlets have recently outlined hacks to get to that “disposable” media after its deleted. Do you see this as an obstacle for these tools and users? Or, are these media claims completely overblown? Do users even care, given the relative complexity of the hacks?
We humans have short memories. Only recently has it been physically possible to store every photo, save every email and review every text message every sent. Printed photos would fade and notes passed in sixth grade science class weren’t meant to archived for the duration of one’s life (and beyond!). We have quickly become accustomed to having access to everything we do online and on our phones – forever. These new apps are challenging data permanency. Will there be hacks and work-arounds? Yes, until those are closed (then there will be new hacks and work-arounds, etc. etc.).
Snapchat vs. Poke what do you think will win out over time? Why?
I don’t really care who has the legacy, because we’ll just move to that. Supposedly Facebook offered to buy Snapchat, was rebuffed and built Poke in 12 days. Twelve days! The social web starts and ends with Facebook, and they have an automatic market. But the diaspora of youth to non-Facebook destinations shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with AOL, Friendster and (old) Myspace.
Facebook’s Poke was briefly #1 on the App Store’s list, but has fallen back signficantly since Dec. Does Poke have a future as a Snapchat rival?
Again, I’m not really focused on the apps themselves but more at how they add value to help solve a problem while influencing our behavior at interacting with one another.
Recently it seems like tools like Snapchat have been a trend with younger people (teens, especially)–do you see the coveted 25-44 demographic adopting these tools in the months/years ahead? Why or why not?
Teenagers like these apps for sexting. They do. But why? Because it’s disposable media. That’s the value proposition; not the chance to flash someone their private parts. If older generations find value in sending short bursts of content (text, photo, video), they will. And if they don’t, it didn’t offer enough value to attract users.
You’ve mentioned the term “success theater” before in our conversations–what do you mean by that? And how has that shaped how we participate in social media to date?
Everyone should this this NYT piece (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/digital-diary-facebook-poke-and-the-tedium-of-success-theater/). Just as offline reputation matters in the meat-space (aka real world), one’s personal online reputation management can increasingly make or break the chance to land a job, keep a client, join a club or find a date. People spend hours crafting the perfect online profile and obsess Google results for their name. And that’s great. I counsel clients to do exactly this exercise, and we help them craft proactive reputation programs to influence what the public discovers and learn about key brands and individuals.
But the tedium of success theater, or strategically-constructed-online-reputation, can grow weary. I think especially for people in the PR industry, this is true. We are meticulous about photos we’ve been tagged in, search-optimize our profiles and more or less neuter our truest personality in social due to the long-term effects of data permanency. For example, if I have a bad experience at a big box store, with my cable provider or at a restaurant, I’m absolutely not going to bitch about it online. But I might share a Poke or Snapchat to a small group of friends…. if I knew it would never come back. I might also share a photo of myself not looking well-groomed or with dirty dishes in the sink in the background – and not think twice about it.
Is there opportunity for brands with disposable social media? What kinds of brands?
Perhaps, but to be honest the examples I’ve seen so far aren’t compelling, and my fear is that brands will have awkward requirements and/or ruin the trend. I guess that puts the pressure on us to come up with the genius idea, Arik.
Should marketers and PR folks have disposable media on their radar at this point or is it just way too early?
Marketers should absolutely be thinking about the human behavior of wanting to share content that will not live forever and be thinking about how that impacts their brands or clients. I recommend downloading every app and checking out every mobile experience you hear about. Then test it long enough to know how it works, and determine if it adds value to you or your client. If it does, move forward. If it doesn’t wait for the next thing. And keep in mind, there’s always a next thing.
Greg Swan is the vice president of digital strategy at Weber Shandwick (Minneapolis office). He was one of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2011 and also blogs at Perfect Porridge.