That’s a pretty bold claim, right?
But, I think it’s pretty accurate. And, it’s exactly what Facebook wants.
This isn’t great news for brands–especially smaller ones who welcomed Facebook a couple years ago. At that point, it was the ultimate playing-field leveler. Now, with the advent of Timeline and Facebook’s decision to go public, all that has changed.
In the blink of an eye.
What am I talking about?
Recent studies have reported that as few as 1 in 10 of your Facebook fans see your posts at any given time (real number Facebook shared: 16 percent). You might doubt the stats, but I’ve found this to be pretty close to the truth. For the handful pages I manage (or contribute to managing) for brands, we only see a small number of likes/comments on “organic” posts.
For example, one page I help manage currently has 2,200 fans (it’s a smaller organization). For organic posts, we typically see 10-15 likes and a handful of comments. But, for one post a week we put $300 of Facebook advertising behind it to spur engagement (and ultimately, page likes, too). The result? North of 700 likes and 50 comments for each of those posts. Pretty big difference, right?
And, that’s where we’re headed with Facebook from a brand perspective. Facebook ads (including sponsored stories and promoted posts) will be the PRIMARY way your fans see and engage with your content. I’ve seen some folks recently suggest that companies should add a line item to budgets for 2013 for Facebook advertising costs (I’m guessing that’s already happening in 2012, too). After what I’ve seen the last few months with my clients, I can’t argue with that suggestion.
Now, I’m not suggesting brands need to promote every post, or turn every post into a sponsored story. But certainly if you want to succeed on Facebook, whether your goals are engagement, reach or leads, you’re going to have to invest monetarily in the tool.
That could be $2,000 a month for smaller clients. Or, it could be $10-20,000 a month for larger brands. Depends on your pockets–and ultimately, it depends on how much focus you want to put on Facebook as a brand driver.
But make no mistake about it, Facebook advertising is becoming ESSENTIAL to success on the platform.
What do you think? Do you agree with that position based on what you’ve seen on Facebook with your clients/organization the last few months?
We’re more than halfway through 2012. Just a few short years ago, many of us were trying to convince brands to invest more money and resources into social media. No more. Today, many brands are involved in some way on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others.
But, are they making the best use of their time and energy with their social media work?
Since many brands jumped aboard in the 2009-2011 timeframe, they’ve been at things for a couple years now. And, they’ve learned a lot. Plus, a lot has changed since 2009. New platforms have emerged (Pinterest). Other platforms have changed significantly (Facebook). And yet others have come and gone.
So, these brands have been plugging away for a couple years now. Much has changed in terms of platforms and best practices. My question: How’s your brand doing?
The answer for many brands right now, I’m guessing, is: I’m not sure.
So, why not conduct a social media check-up? Or, really, a straight-forward social media audit.
What am I talking about? If you’ve been steadily working along, but not checking back to see if/how approaches are working–or what your competitors are up to, here’s what I’d suggest:
Take stock of your current social media work
* Are you using visuals consistently? According to recent surveys, visuals are resonating with fans more and more. And the brands that are taking advantage are winning–big time.
* Do you know the requirements around visuals for Facebook? If not, make sure to bookmark this post. And check back frequently as the rules change fast.
* Are you playing by the rules of Facebook’s Terms of Service? Do you KNOW the rules?
* Have you checked your Twitter stats lately? You can see a lot from a simple check on TweetStats.
* How many times a day are you posting? What times of day are working best?
* How many RTs are you getting per day? What’s resonating with your followers?
* Who are the folks that are interacting with you most? (another nugget you can learn from TweetStats)
* Have you updated your Twitter page with the new header feature? Here are a few brand examples.
* Where is your blog referral traffic coming from each month? Twitter? Facebook? Pinterest? Other sites?
* Which posts got the most clicks in the last month? 6 months? Year? What can you learn from that? Any trends?
* What keywords are people searching for to get to your blog? Can you capitalize on any that you didn’t expect? Do the keywords reflect those you’re trying to rank for?
* How long are people staying on your blog? How many pages are they reading during each visit? What does that tell you?
* Are you active on other social platforms? Is your approach working? Is it worth the effort/resources you’re putting into it?
* Are you leveraging resources across different platforms? For example, if you’re active on Instagram, are you promoting that on Facebook and Twitter and sharing those images on Facebook where they’ll really pop (with the right headline, of course)?
* Have you explored new platforms that have popped up in the last couple years to see if they’d be a good fit for your brand (i.e., Pinterest, Instagram, Google+)?
What are your competitors up to?
What platforms are they active on?
How many fans/followers do they have on those platforms?
What kinds of things are they sharing?
What’s working for them–and what’s not?
Insider tip: Consider a simple graphic that shows their accounts in fans/followers vs. yours–it’ll give you a nice, quick recap of where things are at (great tool to use with senior management).
What opportunities do you see as a result?
After looking at what you’re doing a bit more closely (and keep in mind, this post doesn’t cover ALL the questions to ask yourself0, and peeking at what your competitors are up to, what opportunities do you see?
Continuous learning is what social media is all about from a brand perspective. You have the tools at your disposal to track your progress (Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, TweetStats, etc.). Now it’s just a matter of checking in every month/quarter to make sure what you’re doing is working–and tweaking strategies and tactics that aren’t working.
Note: Photo courtesy of Crafty Dogma via FlickR Creative Commons.
Last week, I talked about the obvious trend of “art direction” when it comes to content on Facebook. However, what’s relatively shocking is the few number of brands that have caught on to this huge content shift on the biggest social platform.
I mean, by and large, many of the larger, Fortune 500 brands are on board. Mostly because they have huge agencies assisting or guiding them (not all the credit goes to the agencies, but it surely mitigates the risk that you’d miss a trend like this when you employe a huge, international agency to keep you AHEAD of trends like this). Look just below those larger companies though, and you’ll find an overwhelming amount of companies that are still playing by the 2010 Facebook rules–share links, ask questions, use polls.
Those rules are virtually dead, my friends. Welcome to the visual era of Facebook (and, oh by the way, I really should have welcomed you about 4-5 months ago).
Truth be told, imagery is everything on Facebook right now. So, what can you do to catch up? Here are a few simple ideas (that seemingly all the early adopters are using):
Art direct shots on the fly
I know this has been well documented by now, but you know what I love most about what Starbucks does on Facebook? It’s the ad-hoc shots they share. These are shots that are not taken by a full-blow production team, but instead (most likely–my guess) by one of their PR or social media folks “on the fly.” It’s the way of the new world. Brands that are nimble enough to pull these sorts of visuals off quickly are going to succeed in the new Facebook world.
Use (pieces of) ads as the post
Look what Tiffany’s is doing here. Simply using pieces of ads as the visual and pairing it with an “ad-like” headline is enough to earn a few likes/comments.
Branded photos still work
As much as everyone wants to be Oreo right now (don’t lie, you do), good, old-fashioned branded photography still works in terms of engagement. Remember, most of your fans on Facebook are there because they are EXISTING customers. They’re just looking for reasons to like your posts. Sometimes you just don’t need to overthink it. Give them branded photography–like what Burberry does here.
Celebrate the odd dates–creatively
Oreo solved the problem so many brands have: How do we “celebrate” all these odd dates we want to recognize on Facebook, but do it in a way that inspires engagement? As we all know by now, Oreo has done it brilliantly by using their product in a creative way. I’m not say you need to go follow Oreo’s lead, but how can you use your creative flair to do the same? Visually.
Still use quotes–just make them visuals
You know those quotes you use all the time on Facebook via text? Here’s the thing–they work MUCH better as visuals. Just see what Dove has done here. You’re seeing more brands taking this approach–because it WORKS.
Make regular posts visual
You know those run-of-the-mill text posts that worked so well 4-5 months ago? Fill in the blank posts, for example? Well, why not make those visual, too? Just look what Burt’s Bees has done here. Perfect.
I’m taking a rare week “off”–which means I’m also trying to unplug for 9 days (we’ll see if I’m successful). So, I thought I’d ask some other smart people to post here in my stead–starting with Tyler Orchard, who’s going to talk about testing your social strategies. Here’s hist post.
We operate in a world that is both unpredictable and uncertain. We strive to minimize loss, failure and waste by being prepared, ready and deliberate. Planning begets success – isn’t that the reality of this industry? Preparation, research and calculated risk are the standard operating procedures to remain innovative and forward thinking.
Strategic planning is akin to a roadmap that has planned every move, decision and action. While some may argue detail isn’t always an aid, it is a necessary function within any industry. What people have forgot is that although ideas, strategies and tactics may seem disreputable on paper or the whiteboard, what evidence do we have that proves the assumptions at its core?
Testing can be perceived as a tactic that isn’t fitting for larger companies or creative campaigns. Many believe it should be preserved for startups. However, the assumptions that one holds should not be perceived as definite—that is until proven to be more than mere hypotheses and unqualified beliefs.
The benefits of social media are vast, but they are not guaranteed—nor are they static and predictable. They are malleable, fluid and never the same. Many companies perceive social media to be a sales function; to others it may be used for crisis management, market research or thought leadership. While each strategy may be appropriate, they are all born on assumptions.
A Company’s Assumptions
Whether it is consciously identified with or not, a company will hold certain assumptions that influence decisions. These assumptions—or hypotheses—are necessary for innovation because they are unique, cutting-edge and focused on growth. For example, the company that wants to become the industry’s thought leader chooses to employ a social media strategy that occupies LinkedIn and a blog. This company is taking significant action on numerous assumptions, which include:
- The company has content that adds value to the conversation,
- People want to learn about the company’s insights, views and ideas,
- LinkedIn/blog is a better source than Twitter, Youtube and Facebook,
- A robust thought leadership profile will yield benefits that matter to the company,
- Social media is a better platform than other means.
While this list is not finite, it presents several high-level assumptions that, if incorrect, would result in a waste of resources and diminish ROI in its entirety.
How to Approach Assumptions
Everyone has assumptions that they believe to be true. Many decisions within an organization are made based on those assumptions—others are grounded in evidence. Some of those ideas and decisions may in fact revolutionize industries, markets and products. However, in order to limit waste (capital, human and time) success is dependent on whether that assumption was correct in the first place.
Therefore, we need to test these assumptions in a way that allows a company to learn. If these tests indicate that the assumption (or idea) is correct, a company can implement a strategy that it can be comfortable will yield benefits. However, if the tests indicate that the initial assumption was wrong, it can absorb that data in an effort to either reconstruct the model or abandon the initial idea and shift towards a new objective. It’s much like employing a trial run that generates two streams of action.
The company who seeks to increase their thought leadership through LinkedIn and a blog can in fact test their assumptions in a way that reveals significant insight, but only requires a minimum level of implementation (number below correspond to the assumptions above).
- Run a simple SWOT analysis that identifies areas of current saturation and opportunity. If the company’s thought leadership content and ideas fall within the saturated side of the equation, the strategy needs to be adjusted. However, if the current content is operating in a field of its own, there is a prospect to pursue.
- Listen and learn from what is currently going on in this space and analyze if there is even a desire from the audience to consume this type of content.
- Compare Twitter/Facebook/YouTube to LinkedIn/blogs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of both? What does it mean to the company?
- Employ a weeklong pilot program. One for LinkedIn, perhaps focusing on answering questions on a daily basis. Another for blogging, perhaps a guest post. This allows the company to test content, receptiveness and its value-add index.
- Consolidate the data/insight from pervious thought leadership marketing strategies and compare them to the limited offering from point four. If the company can only choose one strategy, why is it choosing social media? Remember, it comes down to creating value for the company.
It is counterintuitive to deploy a multichannel content strategy that is based solely on an assumption. A person wouldn’t invest in a company without performing due diligence, so why don’t companies take the same precautions with social media?
It’s because social media seems simple and the benefits easily obtainable.
Before kicking off a strategy that looks great on the whiteboard, break it down into its assumptions. Then, test those hypotheses through quantitative and empirical research to gain the insight that can inform a finalized decision.
Tyler is the Manager of Strategy and Social Media at Zync in Toronto, an award-winning brand and marketing communications agency. He also is the founder of Back Rank. After finishing his Masters degree, he spent time in political PR. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, his Blog or the Zync blog.
Note: Photo courtesy James Raymond via FlickR Creative Commons.
Blogging for business. It’s picking up steam. A full 65 percent of companies now have a blog. According to Hubspot’s 2011 State of Inbound Marketing Report that’s up 17% from just two years ago.
But, with that commitment comes a major commitment in resources–both staff time and money.
With big investments come big expectations.
And, corporate teams are often left a little disappointed in that area. Not enough RTs. Not enough page views. Not enough actions on behalf of their customers.
So, why not make that content work a little harder for you “off platform?”
What do I mean? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’ve either used first-hand with clients or that I’ve noticed others doing in the last few months:
Pitch blog content to mainstream media outlets before posting
It’s interesting to think about it this way–most people do the opposite. Make the post, then think about how they could repurpose it as a media pitch (which is also a fine idea). Going this way, you go for the bigger bang first. Chances are whatever mainstream outlet you’re pitching has more followers/readers than your blog. Why not go big first, then post to your blog so you can “own” the content, too?
Syndicate your content
Vastly underrated and overlooked tactic by many corporate marketers and PRs. Instead of merely letting your content sit on your own blog, why not extend the reach to your key target audiences by finding syndication opportunities (read: re-running your post, with credit and links) in your industry? Most industries have Web sites or online magazines or blogs that are thirsty for this kind of “re-purposed” content. Find them. Not only does it extend the reach of your original post–it gives you much-needed links back to your blog, which ultimately aid your SEO.
Great e-newsletter content
Got an e-newsletter you send customers and prospective customers? Why not repurpose and trickle out your blog content to this audience through that vehicle? This one’s a no-brainer. Remember, you want to repurpose original content as much as you can–make it work for you. Think about it. On average, you probably invest 8-10 man-hours per post (including research, writing, reviews and testing). So, let’s say you’re paying an agency to create this content for you. You’re probably looking at $100/hour minimum rate. That means you’re paying at least 1,000 per post. Are you getting your money’s worth by posting just once to your blog?
Curate an e-book
Really smart way to curate your existing content in another electronic asset format. Look through your posts–identify a storyline or trend and pull out 10-15 posts from the last year that play to it. Boom–you have an e-book. Here’s a great post that lays out the process of creating one–not as tough as you may think. And, like I said, you then have another electronic asset you can share via: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email, your Web site, and internally on your intranet. Worth the additional time investment? Most likely.