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.

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?

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.

Resolve NOT to Set and Forget Your Social Media Channels This Year

Do you see a lot of relatively inactive pages and channels in social media?  So many companies start with great enthusiasm, but before too long, they’ve abandoned their Facebook page or forgot their Twitter login or the person who set up the Instagram account has left and no one knows how to open it.  A client once told me: “I just want to build it and then let it run by itself.”

The challenge is that these channels are organic and they change rapidly. To really use social media to engage customers, volunteers, fans or other key stakeholders, you have to be there – preferably with enthusiasm and a plan.Avbandoned on Facebook

Batch Scheduling

Chances are you have other marketing programs in development, some months or even a year in advance.  Consider grouping your content related to those programs in batches to minimize your time commitment.  This works for thinks like changes in hours of operation, events and activities that happen regularly around the holidays and cyclical events like your Spring Clearance or an Easter sale.

Be a Dart Monitor

Set an alarm on your phone or a meeting notice on your desktop or revise the notifications on the channels where you have the most traffic and “dart” in to monitor, respond to comments and resolve issues.  This only works for small pages who are NOT doing their entire customer service outreach on social media channels.  By doing this 2-3 times per day, monitoring becomes part of your daily practice.

Take the Analytics Tonic

There are a LOT of analytics that come with social channels.  Set aside one hour each month to review the analytics, click through all the options and within 2-3 months, you will start to see trends and patterns emerge.  It might even set you on the road to measuring the progress of your social channels.

Find a New Flame

Is it time to add another voice or different thinking into your channel?  This is a sure way to breathe life into a stale FB page or static Pinterest account.

By creating content in batches, monitoring by “darting” into your channels, you won’t have to worry about “setting and forgetting” your social channels again.  If you also take time with analytics and new voices, you might even see your channels grow.

What tools can you share for keeping your social media efforts fresh?

 

 

Remembering How ‘Miracle On the Hudson’ Changed Breaking News

Five years ago today, I watched — along with millions of others — the news story unfold about the “Miracle on the Hudson.”  Within hours, we knew what that phrase meant and learned a new name: Captain “Sully” Sullenberger.

It’s a miracle that the plane landed safely.

It’s a miracle that the Captain KNEW how to land the plane safely.

It’s a miracle that everyone walked away alive from that disaster.

These three facts alone are a good enough reason to celebrate five years later.

I will remember it for other reasons.

The reason I will remember this event is for validation.  When this event happened, I was the communications director for SeaWorld San Antonio. We had embarked on an ambitious social media experiment which was not YET widely accepted. We were in the process of something crazy: launch a corporate blog, allow our employees to use Facebook and Twitter at work and take off the corporate gloves to allow certain, “highly trained” employees the ability to speak on our behalf.  Like many companies in 2009, we were trying to figure out the “ifs” and “whens” of these new channels.

I showed that first photo  from Twitter of the plane in the water and all the commuter boats rushing toward it, and I made huge predictions to the assembled team about how breaking news in the future will be shared on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Not that it was an original thought — many others were saying this, too, including Robert Scoble, Shel Israel and David Meerman Scott, among others.

I’m pretty sure only a small percentage believed me that day, but since the Miracle on the Hudson photos and story emerged from New York City in 2009, countless news stories have reached us first on social media channels, and second in traditional media channels.

Now, this story is part of my New Media curriculum in the Introduction to Mass Media class.  The average age of the students is 19, so most of them don’t remember this event, much less its effect on mass media today.  We take for granted that we will get breaking news on Twitter and Facebook, something we didn’t believe would happen just five years ago. But it did and we’ve got the photos to prove it.

When Should I Post on Facebook – The DIY Version

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by my clients.  And one for which many seem to want a simple answer, like 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

A year ago, some social media consultants firmly stated that 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. was the ideal time to post on Facebook. Some even have specific posting rules, like this blog post which urges you to “post on the 9s” – 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The real answer used to be far more complicated for small organizations who are managing Facebook pages without the benefit of scheduling and analysis tools, but now you can do it yourself and, if you take some time to test and analyze, can find out which posts get the best results when your fans are online.

This is easier now with one of the enhancements on your Facebook Insights for Company Pages.  If you have a Company Page with 50 or more fans, you can see a chart like the one below by going to View Insights, then click on the Posts tab.

Example 1: New Fan Page

facebookchartsmallpage

This chart shows a new page which has just reached 50 fans.  It tells you which day of the week most of its fans are online and the second part of the graph shows the times which they are online.  If you hover over a day of the week, you get an additional line of information which tells you the activity for that specific day.  For this little page, the times of the week when most of the fans are online are:

Monday, 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Wednesday, noon and 3-6 p.m.

Friday, 3-6 p.m.

Example 2: Established Company Page

facebookchartlargepage

The second chart shows a larger page with more than 1,000 fans. For this page, the most number of fans are online during these days and times:

Wednesday, 4 – 9 p.m.

Friday, 3 – 9 p.m.

Saturday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

These two pages have no “optimum posting times” in common. That’s why the Insights are so valuable. So if you are a doing your social media campaigns without benefit of fancy tools, try posting during those times and see if you are getting a better reach.  To really test your theory, drop the stats for each post into a spreadsheet and you might even narrow it down further. But keep in mind that optimum posting times are not set in stone. The best day of the week or time of day can change from one month to the next. So what is the best time to post on YOUR Facebook page?

Using the New “Pages to Watch” Function on Facebook

Pages to Watch Function selection box on Facebook. Are you using the new “Pages to Watch” function on FB? I just started using it this week and have added it into the box of several pages which I administer on Facebook.  I’m surprised to see very little about this new function on Pages, but I did find this post which identifies some of its features.

It has been rolling out to brands selectively since July  , but I only saw it appear in my pages this past week.

I am still exploring this function, but here’s what I see so far.

What I like about this function is that it’s a quick snapshot of activity by the “competition,” but only against one metric: number of fans. The second thing I like about this function is that it keeps the competition top of mind. If your measurements include regular benchmarks against the competition, this gives you a quick snapshot of who is growing fans and who is shrinking fans.

So far, though, its usefulness seems really limited.

On Pages to Watch, you don’t get anPages to Watch Selection box ything BUT the total number of fans added or eliminated from the page. Assuming you are a smart communicator who is measuring more than just fans, it doesn’t give insight into the engagement levels of your competition.

The second problem I see is that the statistics on Pages to Watch are not integrated into any other page data, so they might be dead end data.

The third issue I have is with its clunky functionality.  When adding pages into the search box, some pages which I wanted to add were blocked and others that were of no interest to my brands at all were highly ranked suggestions. It also forces you to add 5 pages, so if you only want to add three, you’re stuck. I added pages that I really don’t care to monitor just to get it up and running.

In true Facebook fashion, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Facebook intends to do with this function.  So go try it on your Company Pages. I would love to hear what you find out about how it works for your brand.

Double Up Your Social Media Content

Question_-2

If your organization has gotten into a good social media routine, monitoring channels, posting content regularly and seeing results, maybe it’s time to double up on your content output.

What do I mean by doubling up? If you’ve been posting two to three times per week on your channels, try doubling your output for a specified time period to see what effect this can have on your engagement and followers.

Here are three recent examples from my client channels.

Increasing Twitter Action

A health care client went from posting 2-3 times per week on Twitter.  When that schedule was adjusted to a daily posting schedule, the results were immediate. In the chart below, you can see the difference in activity from one month to the next.

 

Twitter

Clicks

Mentions

RTs

New Followers

Month 1

51

20

13

7

Month 2

215

39

20

50

Facebook Contest

A nonprofit client doubled their content output during a Facebook voting contest, which really changed their footprint during and after the contest. The table below shows the regular Facebook insights from that time period. The contest was held in Weeks 3-6. Notice the halo effect in week 7. If you compare week 8 with week 1, the page had a significantly higher reach overall.

 

Timeframe

New Likes

Talking About

Weekly Reach

Week 1

6

12

297

Week 2

2

23

580

Week 3

10

69

944

Week 4

19

65

993

Week 5

4

107

817

Week 6

59

124

13554

Week 7

37

78

14248

Week 8

7

56

1551

 

Double Posting on Facebook

A local brand accelerated their Facebook posting schedule to twice per day due to a large number of events during a holiday period.  Prior to doubling up, their average monthly engagement was 7%. During the accelerated posting month, their engagement rate soared to 17%.  They also gained fans and over the next few months, their engagement rates were 11-12%.

Think how you might double up your social media posting schedule but more importantly, see what happens to your channel and analyze the results.

What Does Your Facebook Insight Chart Say About You?

You are, of course, looking deeply at your Facebook insights to see how your fans are interacting with your organization, and analyzing what content resonates with your community. But you can make some instant observations by looking at that little chart which is nestled just above the cover photo and between the “New Likes” and “Page Tips” section.

If you are managing more than one page, this is a quick benchmark to see how your pages stack up against one another.

As a refresher, the purple circles along the bottom of the chart represents posting frequency by the page owner.  The green trend line above it represents actions taken by fans. This includes liking the page, or a post on the page, sharing something from the page or commenting on the page. The blue trend line above that is what Facebook calls Reach.  It’s a complicated Facebook formula but basically take your fans and multiply it by how many people they are connected with or have “friended” on Facebook and you get a sense of the magnitude.

Here are some samples from client pages I have managed with some observations I used to examine next steps with the client.

On a Roll

This chart shows an organization with frequent FB contributions

This organization is doing well with creating frequent posts and interacting with their fan base.  Their fan base is engaged.

Hiccup

Chart Showing Glitch in Facebook Activity

This organization may have been on a roll, but recently had some kind of hiccup with their content strategy. Go back to the date to see what suddenly changed and see if it can inform better decision-making in the future.

Abandoned

This chart shows that a page has been abandoned

Someone gave up on this page. It happens to many organizations. Usually it means the page owner got reassigned or too busy to keep the home fires burning.

Smokin’ Hot

This chart shows an organization that is doing powerful FB content

This organization is burning up the charts with strong content and continuous growth.

Burnout

This chart shows a FB page with infrequent postings

This little chart shows how easy it is to reverse the “on a roll” trend.

 

Have you seen a page like one of these? Did it help you make new decisions? I use this short exercise once or twice a month to see where I need to look next for insight.