“If the original Facebook was the first five minutes [of a conversation] and the stream was the next 15, what I want to show you today is the rest–the next few hours of a deep engaging conversation.” – Mark Zuckerberg, f8 2011
On September 22, 2011 we were presented with some groundbreaking platform updates and partnerships, which would shape the way we engage in social channels as end users, technical solution providers and marketers. Notably, a major release at the time was Timeline for Facebook users.
Working in the area of brand marketing, I find this quote from that release rings just as true with the announcement of the the brand Timeline and new products at fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) in New York on February 29th.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, opened the event by sharing some moments in which connections through the Facebook Platform have had a dramatic impact on government, family and institutions.
Chris Cox, VP of Product, echoed Mark’s original sentiments in his keynote today – this time expanding from the f8 presentations, discussing how the Facebook evolution more directly relates to brands and marketers.
Mike Hoefflinger, Director of Global Business Marketing at Facebook, delivered a compelling keynote, which gave a deeper overview of the platform changes and clearly marking Facebook’s positioning going forward from today. His delivery addressed the major announcement that Timeline is now available for brands and is “the richest, most customized marketing canvas we’ve ever built.” The point he clearly presented is that more and more Pages are going to become “mission control” for businesses to engage with consumers across all areas of the platform. We also received an overview of the new advertiser solutions to help brands achieve scale across the platform being offered from Facebook which we will provide an overview of later in this post.
Below are some of the updates being released as part of the new brand pages product. This includes an entire page redesign and functionality updates, giving brands Timelines.
Brands can now assign a Cover Photo to show at the top of their Timeline. This large creative canvas area, set at 851×315 pixels provides an opportunity to create an immediate visual impact. It’s important to note that there are policies for brands related to how to use the platform and the Cover Photo, which includes limitations on using this creative area for promotional messaging and certain calls to action. The profile picture still exists, and is the consistent representation that is used when the brand icon is shown throughout the platform.
There are also a handful of updates when it comes to administering a page as an owner. These include the “Activity Log,” which can be used to manage Timeline and posts to control Timeline content. Also announced is a new “messaging” option for users to connect directly, and privately, with page owners to create a one-on-one dialogue. User Insights management and notifications options are also enhanced in the administration area.
As a page owner, you can preview and push your Timeline live at anytime. Note that your page will automatically roll over to Timeline, if not performed manually, on March 30, 2012.
“This is where marketing on Facebook is going to feel like the rest of Facebook.” – Mike Hoefflinger, Facebook’s Director of Global Business Marketing
Facebook also announced their new advertising solutions for marketers on the platform. Their key point through connecting Pages to the new distribution opportunities is that we are no longer creating ad messaging but providing the opportunity to deliver stories at scale and the amplification to drive a return on investment.
The new advertising (or I guess I should say, “story”) distribution offerings include Reach Generator, Premium on Facebook and Offers.
Reach Generator is an offering from Facebook to increase distribution and provide more visibility and ultimately brand favorability for brands. This enables brands to take stories they post from their page (“mission control”) and gain distribution by being featured on the right hand side of the home screen. Facebook reported on average, brands reach about 16% of their fans on a typical week through stories. The distribution and placement of stories through Reach Generator provides the opportunity to push this reach to 50% (and beyond) on a weekly basis and increase engagement levels. This has been in beta for a few months, and Facebook reported this story placement is providing double the engagement levels than posts not being featured on the home screen.
Premium on Facebook is Facebook’s premier offering for marketers on the platform and what they are stating is “the most impactful way to distribute your content.”
Starting at the Page level again, this product allows a story, which is created once to be distributed in multiple areas of the site for maximum reach. These placements include:
Sponsored stories in the newfeed are showing a 5-10x CTR over placement in other areas of the site. Currently Facebook serves up over 100 billion impressions daily through the newsfeed and it is where people are expecting the stories in their life to be surfaced.
37 million Facebook users log out of the site every day (believe it or not, people do log out) and this has traditionally been an untapped area of real estate. Expect logout screen story distribution to be available in April ’11, while newsfeed and mobile distribution is already available. This announcement solidifies Facebook’s mobile positioning as they distribute these stories at scale to the over 425 million mobile users.
Offers provide a way for brands to get promotions in front of their more important customers. Offers can be distributed through a story, featured and give users the opportunity to claim the offer through 1 click, where it is then sent to their email and mobile device. Along with this there is frictionless distribution when you engage with an Offer.
As brand marketers, we all need to be master storytellers to drive word of mouth at scale. It is also becoming critical to optimize your business to coordinate content with the media teams. From a content strategy perspective, marketers need to monitor and understand what does and does not work to optimize their new Timelines and scale opportunities. Equally important to drive this distribution, there needs to be an awareness and a connection to when content reaches a certain level of engagement with the media team so they can amplify the best performing content through Facebook’s new products in a timely matter.
To sum up Facebook’s positioning… now is the time for brand marketers (whether they have before or not), to focus on leveraging the power of the platform to engage in two-way conversations and deliver rich social experiences that drive engagement and curate stories over time. This can be done through the the various Timeline story types, custom experiences and a multitude of other ways. Facebook on their end, has put a stake in the ground to be the command center for businesses looking to engage consumers in a social manner at scale. With 800+ million active users and the most advanced owned, earned and paid media products on the market, Facebook is bar none becoming more and more critical for brands. Throughout the day, Facebook and its key clients touched on the complexity of social business efforts and the need for trusted partners that can deliver the strategy, management, technologies and services in this ever-evolving ecosystem.
“We are going to find our voice, learn how to use it, listen and learn how to adapt… in small and powerful ways every single day.” – Sheryl Sandberg at fMC as she discussed the evolution of brands and marketers with today’s announcements.
In 2002, I was having a budget conversation with my CFO. I was general manager of the online store and we were discussing my requests for FTEs, technology upgrades, and marketing spend. The CFO asked me, “this is an online store…why do we need to spend any more money…doesn’t it run itself?” (I’m 99% sure he wasn’t joking.)
This week, news has been circulating that FMCG company Procter & Gamble will eliminate 1,600 jobs and shift more budget into digital media. The headline over at Business Insider is a bit more incendiary: “P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It’s Free To Advertise On Facebook.”
The statement that “it’s free to advertise on Facebook” is wrong at minimum and leads executives to a potentially dangerous point of view regarding social business.
Let’s start with Facebook and free. From one perspective, this is true – anyone can start a brand page at no cost. However, building a successful page requires investment in media, social graph activation, and integration with large-scale marketing campaigns to offer custom experiences for fans and prospects. The world will learn more this week about the amount being spent on the Facebook advertising ecosystem – over $3 billion annually. That’s far from free – in fact, P&G’s remarks justify these investments.
What about brands that aren’t pouring money into the ecosystem? At minimum, companies need individuals to manage and moderate conversations. Although communities operating at scale may have members who engage each other with little company involvement, they aren’t free. Consider Wikipedia, a community that serves hundreds of millions of visitors every month – it takes technology and people to keep the site going – supported by donations. A company like Red Bull doesn’t get to over 26 million fans without engaging – which requires FTE/personnel expense.
P&G certainly didn’t pay for every one of the “1.8 billion in free impressions generated by the Old Spice campaign”…at least not directly. This is absolutely a success story and Dion Hinchcliffe and I talk about it in our forthcoming book, Social Business by Design. It’s important to keep in mind that this is an example of successful “big seed” marketing – plenty of money was poured into the initial mass media campaign and even more was spent to keep The Man Your Man Could Smell Like relevant with real-time videos. Free? No way – W+K grew 22% in 2011.
Not too long ago, I had a client who had a problem. He was the head of digital and emerging media for a consumer products brand. Recently, the CEO’s college-age children had come home for Thanksgiving break and showed the CEO this new thing called YouTube, where companies like Coca-Cola were having great success with reposting their TV commercials. As a result, the CEO decided to slash the digital and social media budgets; my client was laid off soon thereafter. Today, they are lagging far behind their industry competition and I have never seen anyone mention their brands or campaigns in social media.
Social media marketing success comes at a cost. Executives must take a social business perspective instead, considering external and internal factors as well as designing for intended and emergent outcomes. Without a holistic perspective, businesses end up operating like blind men around an elephant and a lineup of digital tombstones in online brand graveyards.
Disclosure: my company Dachis Group operates one of the world’s largest Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant groups. P&G is a client and our recent work includes the People’s Choice Awards and Thank You, Mom. Red Bull is also a client and we launched their Facebook presence.
I was in Minneapolis last week for a session for marketers hosted by Twitter. I had two big takeaways:
1. The stats
2. You need to plan.
Twitter offers three paid products: Promoted Tweets, Trends, and Accounts. Using these effectively requires a bit more than throwing some budget out there to see what clicks. Campaign integration is key to making spend work and brands need to plan ahead to maximize value.
For example, let’s say you sponsor a big sporting event and assume you already have a Twitter account.
Preparing for your event, you’ll want to build your follower base – this number constitutes your initial reach, the bigger the better. Promoted Accounts help build your base and Twitter’s research shows that these followers are stickier than organic follows. Offline, you should be promoting your Twitter handle in stores and on packaging and other portable materials that consumers can take with them and look you up later.
Leading up to your event, you should be engaging with your ecosystem on an ad-hoc basis to drive organic impressions. In addition, your content calendar should drive conversation topics and you can use Promoted Tweets to target messages to specific demographics, driving customer acquisition. Although consumers always love to hate advertising, research shows that Promoted Tweets don’t spur higher unfollow rates than other tweet types. You should be tracking and optimizing message efficacy, monitoring elements like content and daypart.
On the day of your event, you’ll want to use a Promoted Trend to drive traffic. The text of that tweet should contain a link leading to a monetizable consumer action. Brands need to plan ahead on this one, as inventory is limited and can sell out. The last thing you want is a competitor purchasing a key hashtag that diverts attention away from you – think about how Pizza Hut generated massive social media attention during the last Super Bowl despite Papa John’s position as official sponsor.
The infrastructure to support all of this includes a communications workflow and trained staff to support consumer engagement before, during, and after your event. Links that you include in messages should facilitate tracking, whether through URL shortener, landing page, or other method, ideally integrated with your existing analytics platform.
This advice might seem familiar, even too simple for some. But many brands still approach Twitter as a domain limited to 1-1 direct engagement, missing opportunities for valuable one-to-many reach. Increasing brand awareness on Twitter takes more than “let’s get retweeted by someone with a lot of followers.” Instead, brands should plan on channel integration to maximize advertising investments.
At least not in the way that the social media cliche would have you believe.
I was on an Alaska Airlines flight last week from Austin to San Jose. This route is nicknamed “the nerd bird.” However, Alaska announced that it would be canceling the route in May. While we were boarding, a passenger was lamenting its demise to a flight attendant. She told him that another frequent flyer had been on a mission collecting comment cards from the in-flight magazine to stage a write-in campaign to save the route.
Which reminds me of another write-in campaign that was once touted a feel-good best practice example of the POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA. As background, I disclose that I’m no stranger to being on the business end of multiple write-in campaigns. I’ve heard an earful about chimpanzee exploitation, racist reggae artists, and sexually suggestive advertising. But that was before social media – faxes, phone calls, and email are all one-to-one communication. Today, detractors can voice their displeasure publicly and incite others more quickly to their cause; examples like Comcast Must Die abound. The apparent takeaway for brands: customers are in control whether you like it or not.
In 2006, US television network CBS piloted a new show called “Jericho.” It was a tale about a small town in middle America and nuclear holocaust, with plot driven by the protagonists having a lack of information. CBS programming executives had all the information they needed, watching show ratings drop like a bomb. The show was cancelled. That was when social media swung into action.
Jericho fanatics started a write-in campaign to save their show. But they took it a step further. In the show’s final episode, a protagonist utters the rallying cry “nuts!” before heading into battle. Jericho enthusiasts embraced the idea and decided to send nuts to CBS President Nina Tassler. 40 tons of nuts. Finally, the network makes the decision to bring Jericho back for another season and tells fans, “P.S. Please stop sending us nuts.”
The story is described as a victory of social media. Power to the people! Consumers are in control!
But that’s not where the story ends. Jericho came back to TV – but no one was watching. Ratings were worse than when the show went off the air. Without ratings, a network can’t drive advertising revenue – and fans aren’t enough to offset a lack of corporate sponsorship. Jericho was cancelled again and finally put to rest. People rarely tell the part of the story where social media is proven wrong and that’s important to understand.
It’s true that consumers vote with their dollars. Social media can also generate business results when used properly. Plenty of opportunities exist for applying new thinking to content, operations, viewer engagement, commercial support, cross-platform integration, and elsewhere. It’s dangerous to rely on blanket statements from the early days of social media to today’s social business operating environment.
The overheated rhetoric acts as a deceptive rationalization. We marketers have far more control than we let on. We buy the media, make the product, write the message, pick the messaging platform, select the suppliers, and hire the employees who ultimately do all the above.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the Alaska Airlines route, but it’ll most likely go away as scheduled. I doubt loyalists think strategically about the decision – passenger loads, fuel costs, competition from Southwest, better yield on Hawaii flights – before beating their social and traditional media drums in complaint.
Organizations must have process and policy in place to deal with detractors (individuals and groups) rather than using a blanket approach based on the wisdom of the crowd – or lack thereof. And confidence that control is best shared in carefully measured cases.