Do Facebook Ads Work for Microbrands?

Part 2 of the $100 Facebook Ad Experiment

Last week I wrote about how Facebook is pushing Brand Pages into advertising in order to preserve their reach to fans.  And I gave an example of the first ad I tested for a client.

The post I tested for my client, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, was really successful because they have an enthusiastic fan base and always offer compelling images of their animals. It’s not uncommon for 30 percent (or more) of their fans to see and interact with a cute animal post.

Since not every page has such high engagement, I decided to test the ad platform further on two pages which are relatively new and have much smaller numbers. And my budget was $100. Here’s what I found.

Solar Texas

Screen capture of Solar Texas Facebook Ad testThis small business in San Antonio is relatively new to Facebook and experimenting with reaching customers there. The owner has a good sense of who purchases his products, so was able to target that demographic when boosting posts. Over two weeks, we boosted 3 posts for $15 each. Before we started the experiment, he had 60 fans on his FB page and his posts were seen by 15-25 people per post. The advertised posts had thousands of views, dozens of clicks on the photos and some shares, too. He gained 12 new page likes – a 16 percent increase — in two weeks.

Why did it work?  Solar Texas has a reasonable idea about its customers. This will help target any type of advertising in the future, whether on Facebook or another platform. Also, the images were very aspirational, which probably enhanced their reach. But the results are small, so further testing on this platform might be a better indication of future success.

St. Francis Renaissance Faire

Screen capture of results of Renaissance Faire adThis is a one-day special event run by a local church.  Their Facebook page was less than a month old and it was a month until the actual event. The event organizers have a vague idea of their audience, and are hoping to grow the size of the event each year. Over two weeks’ time, we boosted three posts totaling $35 showing different features of the one-day event. Prior to our test, this page had 60 fans and a typical post was seen by 20-30. The advertising had huge reach — as high as 2300 on one ad. With each boosted post, additional clicks on the image were seen. But only one new page like came from the advertising.

Why didn’t it work? This event was so new that they were not well established on Facebook and in spite of changing the ad targets for each post, it didn’t enhance page growth or engagement. The images shown were from past fairs, which may have had an impact. By adjusting the demographics for each post, we were able to increase photo click-throughs. With further testing, we might have found the audience “sweet spot” before the event.

Was Our Test Successful?

Over the course of a month, with a budget of $100, we boosted posts for three different brand pages. The first, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch’s Giraffe Bomb photo, had widespread appeal and delivered high engagement and new fans to the page. The second, a series of three posts for Solar Texas, also had widespread appeal and delivered some new fans to the page. The third, for the St. Francis Renaissance Faire, got wide views but had little page impact.

While this is a small test, it shows that a well-established brand page like Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch can benefit from adding Facebook advertising into its overall strategy. What is less clear is if that same opportunity exists for smaller brands. The Solar Texas page had more growth than the Renaissance Faire page, but there may be other factors which need to be resolved for these pages to increase their success. Targeting the right audience, having great photos and the timing and frequency of page posts all contribute to the success of brand pages on Facebook.

Have you been testing ads on Facebook for really small brands? What have you found to be successful?

The $100 Facebook Ad Experiment

The stage has been set in the last 6 months for brand pages on Facebook to change radically. I’ve been watching this trend on behalf of my clients and it’s hard to resist the “Sky is Falling” nature of the discussion.  An Ad Age article that appeared in December uncovered what a lot of practitioners had suspected for months:  Facebook is deliberately suppressing organic reach of posts in order to create an ad-rich environment to enhance its profitability.

The main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better.–Ad Age.

If you’ve been using Facebook for any length of time and have tried to keep up with the latest trends, this is completely the opposite of what many PR practitioners have adopted: create good content, target your audience, and your Facebook page will grow through fan engagement.

A Forbes article last month quoted a new study by Ogilvy looking at brand pages which are averaging 6% organic reach and predicts that those same pages will soon have zero reach.  Yes, zero.

“Brands are going to have to be more strategic in their use of Facebook, and think carefully about the content they are creating, when they post, and how they promote that post across Facebook’s network.” said Evan Spence, in the Forbes article.

This was an “aha” moment for me. It’s time to start testing Facebook ads to see what will work for my clients.  But a PR person buying ads? WHAT? No way!Giraffe photo bombing at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

I got a shot of confidence from Arik Hanson, who presented at the Annual Solo PR Summit in February. Arik is a PR practitioner in Minnesota who widely adopted a blend of organic and paid content for clients on Facebook last year.  You can read his post and see his slide deck here.

There were two things I took away from his presentation.  With a Facebook ad, you can amplify something that already resonates with your fans, and you have an opportunity to give fans what they want. During his presentation, I conducted my first test with the post you see here.

This photo post of a giraffe “photo bombing” the camera was taken by my client, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch on a day when we were experiencing a rarity in south Texas – snow! It had already been seen by 50,000 people and been shared more than 700 times when I decided to spend $25 to boost it. Once I did, the photo was seen by an additional 22,000, was shared 120 more times and got numerous comments and likes. The big payoff?  172 new fans that week.

Why did it work?  First, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch has a very enthusiastic fan base. Second, the photo was amazing and unusual. Third, people love giraffes (more than I ever realized).

Bolstered by this success, I next tested ads for two completely different pages, one for a brand-new page that promoted a once-per-year event and another for a small business in San Antonio.  On Tuesday, I will post the results of those two tests.

Are you testing any advertising options on Facebook? Seen any results?

Think Like An Entrepreneur: Use Free Stuff

Facebook Page for Yorktown MovieWhat if your next project had zero marketing budget?  If you only had your time and free channels, how would you use them? Think that’s impossible? Then you’re not thinking like many entrepreneurs, particularly those in cash-strapped creative industries.  Here’s the story of one entrepreneur who found success with free tools and no marketing budget.

Michael Felts didn’t spend years dreaming about being a filmmaker. But a series of events four years ago changed all that. I met Michael when he landed in my Introduction to Mass Communication class at Northwest Vista College. He was already making his first film, Yorktown, and had already used the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $5,000 of the $15,000 needed for the project.

When it came time to market the film, he created dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter for Yorktown. Those were used to promote online ticket sales to the premiere at a local San Antonio theater.  But that’s not all. He unraveled licensing issues for the music for the film and created a playlist on Spotify. He also organized rentals and pre-purchases through Amazon video on Demand.

Group shot of the Yorktown Production Team

The Yorktown team at the Wrap Party

He left nothing on the table. A friend and student created the cover art for the DVD release, which won a contest on the Deviant Art website.

“I was not even a blip on the radar a few years ago,” says Felts. Today, he’s working on his fourth film project and writing the script for a 12 episode television series.

He had the right idea about marketing his film. He connected with people online AND in real life. This led him to people who would connect him to other people, like actors, location providers and bands.  This is the magic combination for many entrepreneurs and a successful formula that larger companies often forget.

Shooting a Scene for Yorktown the Movie

Michael Felts behind the camera on the Yorktown film set

With so much experience under his belt, Felts’ recommendation to other entrepreneurs is surprising.

“I would not have done anything differently when it came to our marketing, at least, not for our first feature film. The guerrilla tactics we used on Facebook to promote the film, coupled with being aloof about the content of the film, and the intentional meshing of character vs actor on the blogs and Facebook fan page, created a cult following of individuals who spread word of the film and had great enthusiasm for the project that we would not have had otherwise,” said Felts. “Yorktown became bigger than it was, not because it was a good film, but because people were able to come along for the ride.”

It’s no doubt that Michael will be taking his fans along for another wild ride on his next project,  titled “Ghost Hunting is a Drag” scheduled to begin production in June. He’s also working on a horror adaptation of the Wizard of Oz, to begin production in December. His company, Angry Otter Productions, is a great place to stay on top of his current projects.

Mobilizing My Community to Fight Child Abuse

two-foot high cut out of a child FACT: In 2013, there were 5,846 victims of child abuse in MY COMMUNITY. 10 children died at the hands of their abuser.

FICTION: There’s nothing I can do about this.

When you think of your social media channels, do you ever think of how you can use the networks you’ve built to help your community?  This is an often-overlooked area when it comes to bringing attention to community causes.  This month, I’m using my networks on behalf of ChildSafe. 

ChildSafe and the Burden of Child Abuse

Earlier this year, when I was asked to be a volunteer with ChildSafe and help them advance their cause using a more strategic approach to social media, I had no idea where it would lead. Child Safe provides a range of services for child survivors of abuse and neglect and their protective family members, including forensic interviews, crisis intervention, case management, individual, group and family therapy and even adventure therapy to aid in healing child victims. They work with dozens of organizations in San Antonio but there’s more work to do. Only 1 in 10 cases of abuse is reported, so we need to create an environment to bring the problem to light.

Introducing Cardboard Kids

Cardboard Kids is a new program of ChildSafe, which should bring attention to the problem. 5,846 two-foot-high cardboard cutouts decorated in every way imaginable, will appear around San Antonio on April 3, which is the official start of Child Abuse Awareness Month in our city.  One Cardboard Kid for every case reported last year.

How I am Using My Online  Community

Bloggers from the Coffee Hour Holding their Cardboard KidsFirst, we invited bloggers who participate in a chat group on Facebook to meet the ChildSafe team and hear about Cardboard Kids. We asked them to participate, and dozens have already contributed. We created sample messages on a Google Drive document to make it easy for them to share messages and included important links and hashtags for easy retrieval.

Next, we scheduled a Thunderclap, a tool which combines the power of many voices in a simultaneous message delivery on a designated date and time.  Here’s a picture from our Thunderclap page.  You can add your voice to the “thunder” for our April 3 “clap.”

As our message begins to build momentum, we are seeing traction in many channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  But it’s hard to be everywhere at once, so we’re going to set up some keyword monitoring and we’ve created a Tagboard to collect everything in one place. We have so much more we can do between now and April 3, when we expect people who see these cardboard cutouts all over town will start posting pictures and questions.  We are encouraging citizens to take a picture, tag it #cardboardkidssa and reading about what ChildSafe does.  We have no idea how many tagged photos we expect to see next week, but it should be thousands.

thunderclap march 27There are lots of different ways we could mobilize our community, but this is how it evolved for us. Have you ever used your community for a special cause? Share your ideas in the comments. I’ll be back to share how we did in a couple of weeks.

Was I Hacked?

My autoresponder message after I was hacked

Posts appearing today about a recent phishing scam for Google and Google Drive made me stop and remember an incident that happened to me about one year ago, which scared me enough to file a police report.

Yes, a police report. Here’s what happened.

It was a routine work day for me, which involves using dozens of websites, apps and tools, many of which require a password. I thought I was cautious about my passwords because I change them often and I don’t use the same one everywhere.

Step One: Not Paying Attention

One day, I am doing what I call “kamikaze” through my Gmail — click and delete, click and delete. Instead of deleting, I clicked on something which took me to what was obviously a scam-style website. I leave right away and think nothing of it.

Step Two: How Did That Happen?

Two days later, I am in my email again and I am asked to sign in with my password, which fails. But I hadn’t changed my password???  I reset everything and think nothing of it.

Picture of a Canoe hanging on a fenceStep Three: WTF?

Not long after, I get a longish email from someone about a wire transfer for the sale of a boat which, when I click on this link, will authorize the final transfer. I may not be paying attention some days, but I don’t own a boat.  Okay, well, I have a canoe but seriously, would you need a wire transfer to own THIS?  I do not click, but I delete.

Step Four: Oh, Crap!

Within hours, I was getting emails generated from a list of 35 people, all claiming that I sent the email and what about the boat? At least one of them was actually selling or buying a boat and demanded to know who I was and how I got his banking information.  One kept sending an email saying “Hey, Fran, I need to hear from you. Are you okay?” What sent red flag signals for me is that I could see all the addresses in the email and none of them were people I know or have ever done business with. Usually, someone hacks YOUR address book.

Step Five: Get A Hat and Dark Glasses

The author with a hat and dark glasses to hide her identitySince all these people had my email address, and like a good business person, all my contact details are in my signature line, next I started getting phone calls, including one so threatening “I’ll come down to Texas and pop you if you email me again…” that I filed a police report. I immediately put an autoresponder on my account and screened my emails extra carefully for a few days.

What Should I Have Done Differently?

I asked myself that question at the time and even asked some of my techie friends, who couldn’t figure out the source of the scam.  It was only at the “oh, Crap” stage that I reconstructed the first two steps in which I was not paying attention and moving so quickly through sites and clicks that I inadvertently went somewhere which allowed my information to be compromised somehow.

Here are some other tricks I have seen since that incident.

The display name in the email looks like someone you know, but you hover over it and it’s a horribly weird email in a domain that sounds gibberish.  I caught this one quickly when I realized the name was from a relative who I know doesn’t even own a computer.

A recommendation from something in an email:  Your friend Susie just joined The Blah Network….and you should too. This then activates an email targeting all the contacts in your email domain.  This happened to me when I wasn’t paying attention and it’s a pervasive thing that angers all your friends and certain CEOs who might have been your boss at one time and are still in your address book.

What Should You Do?

I don’t even know if you should call it hacked, but somebody was acting in my name. The whole thing was scary and frustrating. I wish I could say I have a complete laundry list of things I do differently. But I don’t. I do, however, PAY ATTENTION. And maybe you will too.

Using Cheat Sheets to Improve Social Response Time

I recently posted about companies hiding from their customers on social media. The story raises the single biggest challenge for organizations: how to meet the demands of responding to customers on social media. No matter the size of your business, you can shorten response time with a few simple cheat sheets.

Make A Standard Responses Document

When I first started working with one of my clients, they had all sorts of “standard” answers to questions which were asked over and over again, but they weren’t in a single place. Some were at the receptionist desk, some were used in H.R., others were used by an operations team.  The language, the approvals, the legwork had all been done! Many of these responses could be applied to some of their social media channels BUT, these tools were not really formatted for social media networks. By creating a standard document, everyone who manages your networks can access information quickly.

Here’s a quick example I remember from a nonprofit I counseled. They got numerous calls from people offering to volunteer, but they had a lot of guidelines and training for specific jobs in this organization. Once we gathered them all, we created brief answers tailored for Facebook and Twitter AND created a dedicated web page with more detail which could be used over and over.

graphic of FAQ page on Freshbooks website

Great example of an FAQ From Freshbooks

Build an FAQ

It sounds like a big project if you do it all at once, but you can build it over time, just like the standard responses document. It might even use some of the material from a Standard Responses Document, especially if you find 2-3 questions which come up all the time. Drop your responses into a text document or in the CMS of your blog.  Before too long, you’ve formed responses for questions you get over and over again. Now, publish it and save the link to point people there quickly.  The screen grab to the left is an example of a great FAQ from my accounting program provider, Freshbooks which you can explore further here.  Another great FAQ is from the learning platform we use at Northwest Vista College, Canvas.

Create A Link Library

What is a link library? It’s another cheat sheet to quickly pull appropriate links to which you want to point your customers.  Let’s say you already know that you will point people to the main portion of your web site, but sometimes you will send them to a contact form or to that FAQ you just built.  I like to drop the full link into an Excel or Google sheet and then shorten each of those links for tracking purposes. That way, you can show how much traffic you’re sending directly to your company’s channels.

Using cheat sheets allows you to spend time on the tone and voice you need to achieve in customer service without agonizing over finding the background for each answer on the fly. What do you use to save time on your customer outreach?

Related Post: Are You Hiding From Your Customers?

Are You Hiding From Your Customers?

Are You Hiding From Your Customers GraphicWhile social media has enabled widespread conversations between brands and their customers, for some organizations, it’s also an opportunity to hide behind social channels.  These organizations are still struggling with how to manage the 24/7 nature of online customer service.  Here are some signs that you may be hiding from your customers:

  1. You never have humans answer the phone– all calls go to voice mail.
  2. You do not respond to Facebook posts or Twitter feeds or use any social listening platforms.
  3. There’s no obvious contact method on your website or it’s buried at the bottom.

Are Customer Expectations Changing or Just Changing Channels?

But customers expect you to be there and many expect a response from you when something goes wrong. Some expect you to respond within 30 minutes and, according to the Sprout Social blog, 26% of consumers post a negative comment on social networking sites after less than stellar customer service.

“Customer service is not about speed. It’s about expectations and satisfaction. For businesses, setting and managing customer expectations may be the single most important step to improve customer service,” says Alan Berkson in a recent post on Social Media Today.

A third example, in a recent infographic by KISSMetrics, shows that the majority of customers still want a response within one day. This makes doing customer service via social media very manageable for many organizations.

Customers Still Want to Be Heard

Customers still want to know that someone hears their problem. And if you can respond by saying “I’m working on it” within a day, your organization will stand out.  Look at all your digital sites and see how can make them more obvious. Is it a form, a button, a phone number or an email? How about using all of them? Now you are on the road to being more visible with your customers.

Related Post: Using Cheat Sheets to Cut Social Response Time

More ‘Pages To Watch’ Functionality on Facebook

Late last year, I shared my experience using the new Pages To Watch Function on Facebook, which was being rolled out to brand pages.

Some of its functionality has been enhanced in the last couple of weeks, so I thought it was time for an update.

New Location for Pages to Watch

The original location was above the page’s cover photo.  You can still find it there, but if you go to your Insights page, then click on Overview and scroll down, you will see a larger version of the graph, with some additional features.

There are three new functions which have been added. They are useful if you are benchmarking your Facebook page against competitors or against similar organizations who aren’t direct competitors.

  1. You can see increase in growth of fans on the pages you are watching through the Total Page Likes Column and the New Page Likes Column, which is expressed as a percentage. Green is up; red is down.
  2. A new feature I like is the column which shows number of posts. For some of the smaller brands for which I track competition, I used to visit each of their pages individually and count how many posts they were doing per week, and then average it. This saves me a lot of time.
  3. A new column to track Engagement  gives you an idea of how you are engaging with the fans on your page against your competition. You definitely want to be Brand #1 on this graph and NOT Brand #2.
Sample Graphic for a Brand Page Using Pages To Watch

Sample Graphic for a Brand Page Using Pages To Watch

There’s no doubt that Facebook will be trying to monetize this or work the data in some way to inspire you to purchase ads. So it’s anyone’s guess whether this feature evolves to be more or less useful.

BUT, if you are working with a client who is watching their competition in other facets of their marketing campaign, this graph does give you a snapshot of what’s happening. It is not in-depth by any means and it doesn’t give you any trends, but it can certainly spark discussions around your engagement level, your content strategy and channel integration.

Have you used this new chart? If so, I’d like to hear whether it’s useful to you and what features are most helpful.

Make it Easy for Brands to Find You

Make it Easy for Brands to Find You

Are you a blogger with a story to tell? Do you think you might want to hear from brands who align with those stories? Then make it easy for us to find you.

You might think you’re “visible” because you have a Facebook page, Twitter channel and a Pinterest and Instagram account. But is that where you want to do business? Most brands want to reach out (at least in the beginning) in a more business-like fashion.

There are a few simple things that bloggers can do to be more discoverable to brands, to public relations people and to other bloggers.

My good friend and colleague Jennifer Hatton paused from a recent research project to post a “public service announcement,” which you can see below. She was reaching out iJen Hatton on Mom Bloggers Groupn a bloggers group to which we both belong. There are more than 300 in the group – representing everything from diaper discussions and tourist destinations to marketing principles, home schooling and photography. We are bonded by the fact that we live in the same city. Some of us in the group are also communications pros who often connect with bloggers on behalf of a cause or brand. Jennifer is one of those “connectors.” And you can see by her post that she’s full of great ideas.

This really got the group talking about best practices. So here is a combined list from Jennifer Hatton, Colleen Pence and Stacy Teet, of the best ways for bloggers to be discovered.

How to Help Brands Find Bloggers

  1. Have your actual real name on your blog.
  2. Better yet, have an “About” page with your real name and your preferred method of contact.
  3. Update your social channels to include links back to your blog or website
  4. Claim your Facebook page so your URL looks professional when copied.
  5. Provide a strong comment option on your blog; allow readers to leave name and URL as part of the commenting platform.
  6. When uploading photos to your media library, make sure to put titles and alt tags on all your photos, so when people share them on Pinterest, they are catalogued and linked to you.
  7. If you are researching bloggers in an area you don’t know, ask the bloggers you DO know, as you never know where their networks might reach.

The best tip from the group is worth a whole paragraph. And it came from Stacy.

Find Your Colleen

In San Antonio, we have an awesome resource in a very generous and giving blogger, Colleen McGinley Pence.  She runs the San Antonio Mom Blogs which aggregates blogs from moms all over our region. At last count, she was indexing between 150 and 200 blogs and bloggers. She’s one of those people who thoughtfully and instinctively knows how to connect people online and in real life.

I have mined her site frequently to research and identify bloggers for outreach on behalf of several of my clients. If you’re really trying to discover and be discoverable, find that person in your industry, city or circle who will connect you to where you need to go.

Take a Moment and Make an Update

Take it from the bloggers who participated in our discussion yesterday—being discoverable is important for brands AND for bloggers.

Do you have a tip to help make great relationships with brands and bloggers?

Note-Taking is Good for Your Strategy

books2croppedNearly everyone I know takes notes in some form or fashion. Most of us were programmed to do it as students, when we faithfully tried to hang on every word the teacher said in case it showed up on a test somewhere.  If you want to make sure you are counseling your clients in their strategy, maybe a new note-taking strategy will get you there.

Research on Note-Taking

Educators call the first stage of note-taking  a “regurgitate strategy,”  If note-taking evolves to the next level, the person taking notes actually reformulates and interprets the information.  In a Sept. 2005 edition of the WAC Journal, published by Colorado State University, Boch and Piolat found that note taking helps students to learn, but also helps them learn to write.

The authors also offer three benefits of note-taking.  First, note taking aids in reflection, which allows the note-taker to synthesize the information. Second, it helps the note-taker remain attentive and finally, creates stronger connections to the material which is being noted.

“It contributes to the carrying out of a range of intellectual processes, such as making judgments, resolving issues, and making decisions. The taking of notes can aid time-consuming, real-time thought processes…” Boch and Piolat.

In Praise of A Notebook

Ann Quinn with her Notebooks

Ann Quinn, Director of Education for SeaWorld San Antonio, with her Notebooks

I am a note-taker, but the veracity of my work varied greatly from day-to-day and project-to-project.  Several years ago, I found myself with loose papers, scribbled ideas, and stacks of sticky notes of different sized and shapes all over my notebooks until Ann Quinn.

Ann is the Education Director for SeaWorld San Antonio and a devoted note-taker. She is a gifted teacher, but before she was a gifted teacher, she was (and still is!) a gifted student. Ann and I were in lots of meetings together and one day, I couldn’t recall part of a discussion from a meeting we’d been in and after consulting her notebook, she quickly and easily filled in the missing information. AND she made a copy of the page out of her notebook and dropped it off in my office. That’s when it hit me:  Ann had a NOTEBOOK. One notebook, carried everywhere, with every meeting titled, dated and timed and all contents summarized.   My approach to note-taking changed immediately because, I, too, adopted THE NOTEBOOK.

Note-Taking as a Strategy

In his piece on the Lost Art of Note-Taking, Michael Hyatt gives 5 good reasons for taking notes, including the fact that it provides “a mechanism for capturing ideas, insights and questions.”

Many of my Solo PR Pro colleagues  are big on note-taking too, but using an actual notebook is not necessarily how they accomplish it. Many are using tools like Evernote and Notability or are making audio recordings of actual meetings from which to make notes.

Since adopting the “Ann Quinn Notebook Strategy” I find that whatever form my notes take, they give me a point from which to review my week. They assist me to follow up on to-dos and make assignments to team members.   I can jot down ideas and concepts and the mere fact of writing it down, clarifies my work and my thinking. I can’t imagine life without my notebook.