The debate has raged for a year now. Old media is dead. New media owns the future. Advertising interrupts. Social media engages. Outbound marketing has lost its clout. Inbound marketing delivers greater efficiency. The fact is they work together. And most brands need both.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. Consider that the social network absorbs more of our online time than Google or YouTube. Its users number in the hundreds of millions — in the US alone 110 million people actively use the platform every month – easily rivaling the Superbowl and American Idol for reach.
The question, of course, is whether Facebook is a social media network or an advertising medium. Remember the quote from Ted McConnell, P & G’s head of interactive marketing and innovation, who just one year ago demanded to know, “What makes you think you can monetize real estate where somebody is breaking up with their (sic) girlfriend?”
It’s clear now, of course, that it there are plenty of ways. Victoria Secret introduces new products to its fans first, driving sales and word of mouth. McDonalds serves up local information and offers, and Splenda has created new products in significantly reduced time frames.
It helps, of course, to have a robust fan base. That can be achieved with the proven efficacy of Facebook’s enagagement ads — target your message, offer an invitation to be a fan to the right users and you can build a pretty significant fan base in very little time. You can also gather fans using any of your other advertising efforts, presuming your message initiates a conversation.
They key however is how these two tactics — advertising and conversation — work together. Attracting fans is easy. Keeping them, activating them, mobilizing them presents more of a challenge. At my agency, we’ve been working on developing an approach that will maximize Facebook’s potential by combining paid advertising with conversation strategy. Here are some things we’ve learned.
No one is looking to fan a brand
Let’s start with what should be obvious: very few people on Facebook are looking to fan a brand. Those of us in marketing and advertising may search for brands, but the typical user has little or no interest. Granted you can find exceptions like Coca Cola; but if you’re a bank or a detergent, forget about it. However, if a user sees an ad for a brand they do know and love, guess what? Chances are pretty good they’ll hit that “become a fan” button. Save yourself both time and wishful thinking and run some ads.
Fans rarely visit fan pages
The numbers pretty well prove this. Ninety percent of fans never go to a brand’s fan page. They engage via their news feed. This has all kinds of ramifications, but the most obvious is that you may want to put less effort into dressing up your page and more thinking into the conversation strategy that drives ongoing conversation and interaction. More on that in a moment.
Don’t narrow your targeting just because you can
Thanks to Facebook’s laser targeting, most advertisers slice and dice to the degree that they connect with thousands rather than millions. On any given day 55 million American men visit Facebook. And yes you can reach only those who live in Boston, go to college, take public transportation and buy lottery tickets. But you’ll end up with 2000 of them. Instead, start with the assumption that you may have prospective customers among those who did not include every relevant tag in their profiles.
Experiment with your creative
Amazing as it may sound, most agencies that buy ads on Facebook for their clients just buy the space and hardly think about the blurb or call to action at all. Facebook ends up writing it for them. In fact if you send Facebook a few options in advance they’ll actually test them for you and tell you which would work. Seems obvious, but according to Facebook itself, few take advantage of the service. Hint: if you want a fan, dispense with the video or pop-up window and just invite someone to fan you.
Your conversation strategy matters more than all of the above
Of course none of the above matters if you don’t have a plan for what to do with (and for) those fans. Facebook will even teach you. At Mullen, we’re starting to practice a version of what Facebook recommends everyone do on a monthly basis: gather your marketing team and map out product, advertising and promotion plans for the month. Set priorities and determine a compatible conversation strategy that avoids excess promotion and instead creates a not-to-intrusive balance of the following: questions that will stimulate reaction; content (video, images, entertainment) that will be both useful and welcome; and finally offers or incentives that can be tracked.
How many of each? Start with five from each category and then let Facebook’s new metrics for impressions and engagement, along with other measurements like comments, likes, and especially churn, determine whether you have the right mix. You’ll know pretty quickly.
Given that the average fan page sends out something only once every 16 days, and that a glance at most pages show nothing but brand posts and little fan interaction, it appears that few marketers have figured this out.
More revealing is this tidbit from Kevin Colleran, Facebook’s sixth employee and one of the company’s business development leaders: the above message – targeting + creative + conversation strategy = the most effective social media marketing – is easily understood by brand managers but less so by agencies that continue to work in silos.
It turns out that traditional ad agencies or media only agencies are often clueless when it comes to conversation strategy. PR agencies have little idea how to maximize a creative message. And neither one may understand best how to apply CRM tactics to measure acquisition and retention and develop social life cycle strategies. Yet it takes all of this working together to be effective.
It’s only a matter of time before everyone you want to connect with is on Facebook. You may want to get better at finding them, attracting them and engaging with them. Why not start today?