It’s time for advertising and social media to work together

A simple print ad for Panera started a conversation in a newspaper ad that continued with hundreds of engagements on Facebook.

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?”

This ad is laser focused on a small community in Minneapolis where I am speaking next week. But that may not be your best approach.

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?

19 comments
anku.singh1989
anku.singh1989

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used cars
used cars

ya this is so true that It’s time for advertising and social media to work together......

Mel Exon
Mel Exon

Edward

Thank you for such a deceptively simple, incisive post. A few thoughts in no particular order:

Some time ago I was happily dismissing Facebook as a stagnant lake - full of stuff I'd left behind when I (impatiently) skipped town and dived into the fast flowing river that is Twitter. Around the time they bought Friendfeed last year, I started to pay a lot more attention.

I have just read Steve Rubel's piece which also sums up the 'conversion' I've made in recent months - highly recommend it as a companion piece to your post: http://bit.ly/boSENG)

Newsfeeds are the single most extraordinary opportunity for brands, if they play it right. The cliched phrase 'fish where the fish are' has never been truer, or frankly faster and simpler. In a time-starved, ADD world, I want ''simple social", which is exactly what Facebook are delivering.

It follows that you've hit the nail on the head with your point about brands needing to care MUCH more about what they're doing to fuel the newsfeeds they'll appear in -as you put it, their conversation strategy - over what their static FB page looks like.

We're also having the same conversations about experimenting here - it's probably more expensive in the long run NOT to do so.

Finally, I liked the honesty of your open 'invite people' display ads. Why the hell not. (Frankly, this HAS to be better than the ludicrously poor, pseudo-personalised ads that pop up currently - 'You're female? 38 years old? Into Tech and Photography? You will love this pink camera phone!!!'... but that's a rant for another day.)

To Ben's point about whether or not outbound messaging works in this environment, I guess my answer is it's up to the brand to be useful and entertaining in that space in order to earn the right* to appear in my newsfeed, let alone be 'liked' or commented upon. I'd stress again though: it's fairly effortless distribution of content and low level, easy interaction thanks to FB's functionality (which is really why I disagree with Ben in this case - the term 'conversation' sounds much more demanding than it is in reality for a fan on FB). It's then up to the brand to keep it relevant and interesting and, of course, create awareness in the first place.

*I accept some brands earn that right instantly, whereas a lot of FMCG brands have to work harder to be acceptable in a social space like FB. Either that, or they accept the ROI just doesn't justify the effort / there are better ways to connect with their audience...though I'd still suggest they regularly review whether that still holds true and at the very least take the opportunity to listen in.

The only thing that's missing in your post, which reads like a very generous, snackable yet philosophical guide to brands on Facebook, is a discussion around the role of Facebook Connect. Again (sorry, I sound like a stuck record here), it's radically simplifying social activity on the web. The jury is out on whether or not that will ultimately be to the detriment of Facebook - see Tim Malbon's Telegraph article tackling this (another companion piece, if I may suggest it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/7154162/Does-Facebook-have-a-future.html), but worthy of another discussion, I think.

Thanks again Edward.
.-= Mel Exon´s last blog ..Where does the agency end, and the crowd begin? =-.

Thanaïs
Thanaïs

It is quite true that advertising through social media has become quite important. However, having an ad on facebook can only become productive if it leads to conversations between fans. The brand should probably find areas of interest that their fans would be willing to discuss and still relate to the brand.
However, as you mentioned in your last post, you have to love the brand to get to love the ads. I think it is the same thing for facebook: I do believe that users must probably already have some kind of interest towards the brand before they get to make the effort to become a fan of it. Also, it is quite unlikely that a facebook user will willingly go on the faceook page of a brand if the only thing he will gain from it is to see the same ad.
Moreover, I wonder if there are not only specific types of brands which could use facebook for advertising such as clothing brands which are closely related to the image and lifestyle of the people using them. Brands for cleaning supplies for example do not seem relevant to facebook, it does not really fit the image of the network. Don't you agree?

Spencer Ostrander
Spencer Ostrander

"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?”

The debate of whether facebook is an appropriate medium for social networking or advertising is a debate that is much larger than facebook itself, it eludes to the appropriateness of advertising in every day life. Regardless of inbound or outbound marketing tactics.

I have used Social media networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace for the last 8 years. I like many of my Generation Y friends I have become quite savvy ignoring ads as much as possible. The accidental click on a banner or pop up on facebook has left me frustrated and annoyed countless times. The target marketing based upon online purchases, pages viewed, and a profile specific may be a dream come true for marketers but for an ordinary user of social media networking it is down right terrifying.

My constant conscious rejection of advertising and marketing is a result of a lifetime of being bombarded with ads. According to "the Story of Stuff” the average American is subjected to around 3,000 ads daily. I believe that the consequences of such aggressive advertising and marketing (TV and radio commercials, pop up ads, billboards, public buses, corporate sponsorships, sports teams, etc.) has had a disastrous effect upon the youth as an individuals (psychologically and socially) as well as that of the collective society (consumerist and debt culture).This has resulted in large scale pollution and irreversible damage to incalculable earth eco-systems.

I do not believe "It’s time for advertising and social media to work together" rather I believe it is time for some introspective honest analysis with in the industry at the current paradigm that they operate under and their effect on humanity and the environment as a whole.

Spencer Ostrander
Spencer Ostrander

"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?”

The debate of whether facebook is an appropriate medium for social networking or advertising is a debate that is much larger than facebook itself, it eludes to the appropriateness of advertising in every day life. Regardless of inbound or outbound marketing tactics.

I have used Social media networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace for the last 8 years. I like many of my Generation Y friends I have become quite savvy ignoring ads as much as possible. The accidental click on a banner or pop up on facebook has left me frustrated and annoyed countless times. The target marketing based upon online purchases, pages viewed, and a profile specific may be a dream come true for marketers but for an ordinary user of social media networking it is down right terrifying.

My constant conscious rejection of advertising and marketing is a result of a lifetime of being bombarded with ads. According to "the Story of Stuff” the average American is subjected to around 3,000 ads daily. I believe that the consequences of such aggressive advertising and marketing (TV and radio commercials, pop up ads, billboards, public buses, corporate sponsorships, sports teams, etc.) has had a disastrous effect upon the youth as an individuals (psychologically and socially) as well as that of the collective society (consumerist and debt culture).This has resulted in large scale pollution and irreversible damage to incalculable earth eco-systems.

I do not believe "It’s time for advertising and social media to work together" rather I believe it is time for some introspective honest analysis with in the industry at the current paradigm that they operate under and their effect on humanity and the environment as a whole.

Michael Troiano
Michael Troiano

"Don't narrow your targeting because you can." Amen.

I remember a conversation with the account team on a snack food brand a while ago, where they were arguing social media had limited value because it couldn't target men 18-24.

They couldn't see that "Men 18-24" was a *proxy* for what they really wanted, which was people who eat Brand X Snackfood. If some little old lady in Pasadena is interested enough in Brand X Snackfood to check it out on the web, wouldn't we rather talk to her than a randomly selected 19 year old male?
.-= Michael Troiano´s last blog ..The Siren Song of Perfection =-.

Ryan Drew
Ryan Drew

"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."

Edward, how do you convert from a broad brush approach to Kevin Kelly's '1000 True Fans' concept? How do you evolve your customer relationship beyond FB? Can '1000 True Fans' scale for larger organizations?

Mark Harmel
Mark Harmel

I've paid more attention to Twitter than to Facebook for my personal use, but this post and your recent Twitter stream on the topic has opened my eyes to the importance of Facebook for marketing.

My take away is to explore targeting cities for a group I'm working with.
.-= Mark Harmel´s last blog ..what, me a healthcare social media expert? =-.

Dan O'Day
Dan O'Day

As Alan Wolk points out, it's increasingly common to hear radio commercials end with "follow us on Facebook," replacing -- and sometimes augmenting -- the equally weak entreaty, "Visit us online at..."

Radio has proven to be the single most effective mass medium for driving targeted Web traffic (whether it's a website, Facebook page, or Twitter page). But it's effective only when:

1. The entire radio commercial is constructed specifically to get the targeted listener to follow you on Facebook (or go to your website, etc.). That is not the case when you blather on about your brand or push a product and then, as an afterthought, suggest the listener go to your online page.

2. The commercial's single call to action is to visit your online presence. When you blather on about your brand or push a product and then, as an afterthought, suggest the listener go to your online page, you're giving two calls to action. With radio advertising, choice paralyzes response; you need a single call to action.

3. You give the targeted listen a compelling REASON to take that action. "Follow us on Facebook" is worthless, because it doesn't promise to solve a consumer's problem or in some way enhance the consumer's life. Will the listener benefit in some way by following your Facebook fan page or by following you on Twitter or by going to your website? Yes? Okay, sell that something in the commercial. No? Don't waste your time and money (and the announcer's breath) mentioning it.

Dan O'Day
http://danoday.com

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

Good stuff - thanks.

Companies seem careful not to offend their targets yet I've noticed that opinions / polarizing statements get the most conversant activity in social media - could be an eggshell dance.
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..In a Quest for Originality, Don’t Forget How to Be Good. =-.

Jeff Shattuck
Jeff Shattuck

Edward, for you to share all this knowledge is incredibly generous. Thank you. The point I like most is Experiment With Your Creative. It BLOWS MY MIND that in todays's digital age, more marketers don't TRY more stuff. This should be the age of experimentation in advertising, yet so many continue to behave fearfully. What are they scared of? Some wasted pixels?
.-= Jeff Shattuck´s last blog ..Getting passed: More thoughts on running. =-.

Alan Wolk
Alan Wolk

This is the whole theory behind my "Your Brand Is Not My Friend™" empire.

There are certain brands - I call them Prom King Brands - that people want to be friends with for the cool factor. It's the usual suspects: Apple, Nike, Startbucks, et al. Entertainment properties (movies, TV shows, bands) and sports teams are also also Prom King Brands. An easy test is whether or not someone would unironically wear a cap to t-shirt with the brand's logo on it. (And there are 'personal prom king brands' too- brands with small but devoted followings of people who think they're the best.)

Beyond that, you've got to offer something up to get people onto your social media site - there needs to be a value exchange. Red Bull is an easy example of this - no one really likes the taste of Red Bull, but they've got over a million FB fans because there's always something cool to look at there-- videos, music, tweets from the extreme sports heroes who are their spokespeople. And so they've managed to create a community around this.

But again, Red Bull is sort of cool or at the very least, in a sexy category. To Ben Kunz's point, an old stodgy brand or a brand in a low-interest category is going to have to work a lot harder to get any kind of conversation or engagement going. It's not impossible-- put enough money behind the content and you can charm people, especially if you're the first one out in the category. But what if you're not?

That's where your point, Edward, comes in - there's no reason not to advertise. Especially if you have something to say. And while I now hear "follow us on Facebook" appended to the end of radio spots the way 800 #s once were, I have yet to see many TV or print campaigns that specifically drove to a brand's social media site or a social-media based promotion they were doing.

Sorry to ramble, but as Kunz can attest, this subject is near & dear to my heart ;)
.-= Alan Wolk´s last blog ..The iPhone, The Kindle App & Me =-.

Ryan Leeds
Ryan Leeds

Great post as usual Edward. This one really hit the nail on the head though. I have to disagree with Ben on his point that people don't want to interact or engage with brands. What they don't want is BS from a brand or some marketing mumbo-jumbo. What they do want is relevant, useful content and interaction from brands they choose to associate themselves with.
A proper conversation strategy should be applied to any marketing challenge to help brands tap into the power of conversations that are happening online and start new ones. The whole point of having this strategy established is to ensure that people want to interact with your brand and thus giving them something that they would want to interact with (be it useful information, engaging content, etc.)
The sweet spot that your post touches on briefly is how this conversation strategy integrates not just with social media and the advertising within it, but into every marketing touch point and advertising medium that is out there. All media is social media really.
Great stuff though.

Ben Kunz
Ben Kunz

"Collaborative marketing occurs when you listen as the customer speaks, and when you invite a customer to participate in actually making the product, before asking the customer to take it."

Those words were written in 1993 by Don Peppers in "The One to One Future." We've been talking about this for a long time. The truth is outbound advertising works and collaborative engagement works. Of course the two go together, because both are powerful tools.

This is a good post, Edward, because you remind marketers that the latest fad in "engagement" is only one aspect of a tool that has been here for a very long time. Social media agencies that think their tool is the only one for attracting customers are not only wrong, they're dangerous.

I frankly think social media is a poor channel for any outbound messaging or even engagement, given the fact that customers don't really care. I believe it will be more useful as a data profiling tool -- similar to how Experian monitors credit card behaviors -- that could help us understand customer segments and connections between customers, for use in other media.

Just as we don't expect credit cards to be good conduits for advertising, why do we expect conversations between customers? Instead, the data we collect could support marketing efforts elsewhere.

No one wants to fan your brand. And frankly, they probably don't want to have a conversation with your brand. But brands can certainly listen in, and some company somewhere will eventually make a fortune by figuring out how to monetize that data. Let me know if you find it.
.-= Ben Kunz´s last blog ..Web appliancification: Why new cars have old GPS =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Mel,
So sorry for taking a long time to get back to you. Almost forgot about this. First, thanks for the links to those other articles. Incredibly helpful. Second, not sure about Facebook Connect from all the possible angles. Some aspects of it are simple and easy, i.e. the consistent login. Others perhaps invite or encourage unproductive brand behavior. At a recent presentation I was asked about FB Connect from the perspective of one who thought that simply using it as a call to action would drive up friends for his brand. When I asked if he had any kind of conversation strategy to engage them, the answer was no. Not quite sure what he expected. It may be that FB connect saves you time and effort, not necessarily diminishing your time on FB or accessing your news feed. Remains to be seen. We do know a couple of things: there are a lot of people on FB and they spend most of their online time there. However, I find the news feed too cluttered, even on my iPhone. And if brands or even public service orgs send me too much stuff I lose 'em. Still, whether it takes place on FB or elsewhere, the art and science of conversation strategy is growing. We haven't even started to talk about social bookmarking as content an connection yet. More to come.

edward boches
edward boches

Spencer:
Great comment and some valid points. My one argument back at you is the basic value exchange. For years you have enjoyed the subsidy of advertisers for all of your content: newspaper, magazine, TV, web, even social networks. You pay little for most of it and nothing whatsoever for the privilege of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Why do you think that is possible? When you are ready to start paying thousands and thousands of dollars a year for all the media you have come to love, your argument will carry more weight. Of course then it will be targeted at the greed of the medium. I don't see that day arriving any time soon given that your generation expects all of its content for free, at least free to you. But someone will have to pay. Right now it's advertisers, willingly subsidizing many of your pleasures. Just saying.

edward boches
edward boches

Of course, with Facebook they could target that narrowly, or close, I believe, if not by age then by an awful lot of other criteria. But agree that we do get overly enamored with the targeting; instead we should be looking to create more ways that allow customers to find us and opt in.

edward boches
edward boches

Ryan:
I usually agree with Ben on everything, but I'm also not sure he's right that social isn't a good medium for engagement. It depends on how you go about it. For our client Panera we find that our loyal fans are excited to engage, sometimes with each other, sometimes with the cafe itself. Unsolicited they'll make suggestions, they'll answer questions, they'll speak up if there's something they don't like. Sure we can listen, but there are greater opportunities. Facebook will argue that you can use their platform for outbound messaging, as long as you know the "rules of engagement." The fact is all of this is changing daily. Do we want brands in our social media? If it's on our terms, not theirs, then possibly yes.

edward boches
edward boches

Ben,
Some of this is out of my zone, but I assume Facebook is soon enabling engagement ads to tap into the tags in status updates, not just profiles. "Going out to dinner with friends tonight," should get you some restaurant recommendations or other subsequent kinds of engagement. That's both a way to listen and tap into data. What are your thoughts on the little "i" that came out this week?

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  1. [...] While an actualization of social networks has just started happening recently via offline support for online actions, the websites themselves have started to become more than networks purely within the online space. Facebook recently became the fourth largest distributor of news online, even rivaling Google News. Suggestions are beginning to emerge that Facebook may even become a ‘first go-to’ portal for many young people, John Palfrey recently suggested that they are now beginning to get their news through osmosis and “grazing” headlines their friends link to. Young people generally spend more time on social networking sites than they do Google and search engines, so it is no real surprise that shared content on Facebook surged fivefold in the last seven months. Yet the billion-dollar question still remains for Facebook, about whether it’s relatively simple and enjoyable (in comparison to MySpace) user experience can begin to pay similar money to the amount Google has been making for the last few years. Suggestions have varied from asking that question pessimistically, to thinking of it more positively as a centralizing internet force and to constructing a revenue stream that reflects it’s 400+ million users worldwide. [...]