Archive for Social Media

The Bleak Reality Of Social Media Marketing

There once was a time when social media was the solution to all of advertising’s woes. Social media was to replace antiquated interruptive advertising techniques by allowing customers to have “relationships” with brands. Brands could “join the conversation” and let customers “tell their story” too. All of this “engagement” would be called “earned media’ instead of paid media. But reality has struck, we’ve all been duped (including me) and it looks like what really matters is what has always mattered: interrupting people with interesting ideas about interesting products.

From Forrester “Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. Forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers, but less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links.”

Sure, the same arguments are still valid: social media (and display ads) has an impact the same way TV ads have an impact – people just don’t click through as much so the influence doesn’t show up in the data. Another valid argument is that most brands still just aren’t using social media right: they post self serving drivel that no one cares about.

But consider this quote directly from Facebook: After instigating the biggest bait and switch in ad history, Facebook has the audacity to say in Time Magazine, “Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising.” Facebook itself concedes that trying to market a product by engaging a community with posts is ineffective.

Create your own site, for creating quality, interesting, unbiased content where you have full control instead.

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Corporate Blogs Suck, Do This Instead

The common advice is that you should include a blog to your ecommerce or business website. So attached to your site is a blog.yoursite.com or yoursite.com/blog. The reasons behind this are sound:

  • Build traffic through search engine optimization
  • Increase credibility
  • Enhance customer interaction

But there is a common problem with corporate blogs: they lack credibility. This is especially true of big companies. When the blog isn’t boring every visitor by incessantly talking about itself, PR wants to throw in the latest earnings report and then the marketing team wants to repurpose it’s email creative in a post about the monthly sale.

I think there is a better way to still get the benefits of blogging for your business without having a corporate blog: give your blog it’s own brand.

Instead of yoursite.com/blog, make a whole new site that’s sole purpose is to be the voice that speaks to your target audience. It’s hard to not come off unbiased when right next to your content you’ve got links to buy all your stuff right there. With a separate blog you can say all the things that resonate with your target audience while not worrying the brand managers that you’re going to be “off-brand”. At the same time you can still slip in links to your own business when it’s called for.

This may seem sketchy but it’s a standard business practice. Big companies that are no longer “cool” buy smaller ones who have more credibility in the marketplace. Nike would never tell you that they own the counter-culture brand Converse. Or the company that owns the posh ski brand North Face would never let customers know that they also own the skate and surf company Vans and the cowboy brand Wrangler.

Keep yousite.com/blog for all the lame content that no one reads if you want to so that you can appear “relevant”. But build a different blog outside of your brand. If you can, build a few. Retailers need to become publishers online instead of relying so much on other content sites to post their links and serve their ads.

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Diluting Facebook Newsfeed

I measure the value of any website by the quality of information that I get from it (Snapchat is by definition made up of trivial content, stuff not worth keeping around, therefor I have no interest in the medium). Facebook has also dwindled in value for me. I think there are three main trends for the decrease of quality content on Facebook:

1. The assumption that what gets clicked is high quality. Facebook’s algorithm EdgeRank filters what will be at the top of my newsfeed based on multiple factors. One of them is what my friends are clicking, Liking or commenting on the most. Just because my friends read something doesn’t mean it’s good. It could be that the piece of content has been refined and tested to the point of becoming irresistible click bait. It’s just like how I continue to eat Oreos until the package is empty while wishing for something more nutritious to save me from my own compulsions.

2. What gets shared is for the value of the author, not the reader. Most of Facebook is made up of image crafting – where the author’s sole motivation is to affect the way people think of them. This content is insufferable because it holds no value for me, the reader.  Friends who publicize their consumption of content that they think reflects well on them isn’t content I want to consume.

3. Content from pages you “Like” won’t show up in your feed if the page admins don’t pay to boost it. So even if I want to use Facebook as a way to deliberately stay updated by specific brands or business I like, it won’t let me. EdgeRank has tweaked posts from pages to have decreased organic reach in an obvious move to make more money.

I’ve been a hardcore RSS fan for years because it keeps me from being at the mercy of a blended, algorithmic deluge of incoming news. I like to pick what I’ll see and when, and not rely on luck and the self interested filtering of a social network.

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It’s Either Social Media Or Nothing

The barriers to entry to publishing a book, or distributing music or any other creative endeavor used to be so high that artists had to spend much of their time trying to get in front of those decision makers.  Now the internet has placed all the tools of distribution and marketing into the hands of the entrepreneur. But there is a catch.

Not only are the tools of marketing and distribution in your hands, they are now your only option. It’s not a matter of choosing between a third party label or publisher or DIY, going DIY is now the only way to go.

There are plenty of writers, musicians and entrepreneurs that would rather just do the work of creating their art and not maintain a Facebook and Twitter account, post images to their Instagram, encourage engagement on their website or create a fan club. After all, these people are artists, not social media mavens. But alas, this is the new game that needs to be played. But at the end of the day, I prefer this new normal over the old for a few reasons.

1. People buy the experience not the product. This is now more true than ever. Your art is no longer a simple transaction about money, people want to buy a story. You have a better chance at successfully selling your story than any third party does.

2. If you didn’t have to spend all your time doing social media then you would have to spend all your time doing the demeaning work of trying to be picked anyway – casting calls, headshots, following leads, trying to get in with the tastemakers who could care less about you.

3. When you accept doing the marketing and distribution on your own terms you unlock your ability to make an impact, removing all the excuses between your current place and the art you want to make. You choose to be judged not by the tastemaker who picks you, but by the audience that you will find instead.

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Not All Impressions Are Created Equal

The bigger the reach the smaller the individual impact. The higher the frequency the more is wasted. The more people the message is designed for the more generic and uninteresting the message needs to be (the compromises necessary to make something appeal to everyone mean that it will almost certainly not appeal perfectly to anyone).

A message hyper-targeted and relevant, designed for a specific individual gets noticed and acted on every time. Those who receive such direct attention become loyal ambassadors. But you can only make a handful of such interactions at a time.

I think there is a sweet spot between reach/frequency and effort/impact. Too much marketing done today is still too far over on the reach frequency side than it should be with all the social media tools at our disposal.

Frequency reach vs Impact Effort

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Self-Obsessed Social Media Marketing

Is anyone else ever annoyed with these self-obsessive tendencies of brands on social media: retweeting every positive mention about themselves, uploading every product image on their site to Pinterest and Instagram and posting nothing but product updates to Facebook?

There is more to social media than trying to remind people that you exist. Instead of doing nothing but talk about yourself, find some content that aligns with your brand purpose and give people something they would want to share.

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Self Expression Through Curation

People are already loyal to the purposes they believe in; when a company’s purpose aligns with ours they give us a way to manifest our purpose. They give us an emblem or symbol for telling the world who we are and what we believe in.

Now that everyone is a publisher of content via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest we all have mediums to express ourselves and our purposes, through the content we curate. Brands interested in having their followers re-share the content they post need to think in terms of whether or not re-sharing it will allow their followers to express their personal purpose.

I think most people are realizing that what they share says something about themselves that other people, mostly strangers, will use to judge them. Liking something on Facebook to get a coupon says something that that person might not want to be said about themselves. People curate content for their own personal brand just like big brands do and are just as concerned with being “off-brand”.

I think self expression through curation is one more important filter to consider in deciding what a brand should post.

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Sharing Online Only Counts When Its Genuine

When brands incentivize people to share content, it defeats the point of sharing, like American Express giving discounts for tweeting something. These incentives dilute the channel with too much junk, and as platforms enable those advertisers to do so, both the advertiser and the platform will suffer. Brands should instead focus on creating content worth sharing.

Studies show that content that goes viral isn’t because there are a few big influencers that cause something to spread quickly, it’s small groups of close friends. If you have a friend that tweets out something like “Tweet #Amex1800flowers, get $10 back 1x on next $50+ online purch w/synced Amex Card! (Exp 4/30) See terms aexp.co/YMZ,” you can be confident that it’s not a sincere share, and that small group of friends will see it for what it is – junk.

According to another study by NYTimes, they discovered that the most emailed articles were long articles on intellectually challenging topics. People who share this kind of content seem to have loftier motives than trying to impress their friends, they’re seeking emotional communion, or “the feeling of awe.” You would want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe because if your friend read the article and felt the same emotion, it will bring you both closer together. That’s what people want when they share – an emotional communion with their friends. Incentives don’t tap into this at all.

As platforms try to incentivize sharing for business reasons they will run their platforms into the ground. I think Facebook is getting dangerously close to this problem. As Molly Wood says in How Facebook Is Ruining Sharing, “hurting sharing is a disaster for a social network. Sharing is the key to social networking. It’s the underlying religion that makes the whole thing work. “Viral” is the magic that every marketing exec is trying to replicate, and Facebook is seriously messing with that formula. Plus, it’s killing the possibility of viral hits by generating such an overwhelming flood of mundane shares.”

People will find ways to share what they really care about with or without Facebook or Twitter. And if brands meddle too much with the process, users will find an easier way to share what they really care about somewhere else.

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Diminishing Marginal Returns Of Social Media

At the head of most social media marketing strategies is “get more fans, friends and followers.” If left unchecked, that metric for more fans, friends and followers can be a runaway train that leads to methods that are detrimental to the channel. When quantity of fans is more important than quality, it creates a path to diminishing marginal returns. Content gets impersonal and spammy and people stop caring. Diminishing marginal returns means that in a production process, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns. Each additional tweet, post, and update produces less attention, less action and less return.
Good social marketing starts with a cause, bad social marketing starts with a goal. Focusing on a goal rather than a cause means:

  • A constant flow of bleeding-edge content instead of thoughtful analysis of what has already been said. This is risky because there is always the threat of someone else being just a little more bleeding-edge.
  • A veneer of community but not really enough time to make connections – you need more followers! There comes a point when followers don’t feel like they are a part of anything special.
  • Increasing deals, offers and fan-only sales that drive transactions but not loyalty.

Diminishing Marginal Returns Of Social Media

Social marketing that values quantity over quality feels manipulative rather than inspiring and the the number of those you offend, or turn off forever, keep increasing as a result – which in turn, speeds up the need for more spam-like methods to juice the numbers. The center of your social media strategy should be your purpose. When it feels like the content is speaking at you, rather than for you, it’s time to rethink what the point of social media is.

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Facebook Growth Rate Versus Churn Rate

Churn rate is the fraction of subscribers in any period who fail to remain engaged with the company. If the rate of growth ((total likes – new likes)/new likes) exceeds the churn rate (unlikes/total likes), the fan page will grow. Analyzing the causation of these events isn’t always easy with the metrics that Facebook provides. You do know what you post and how often, so using that data along with the growth rate and churn rate you can see which posts are leading to growth or attrition. In this chart the green bar represents a post, the higher the bar the more posts in that one day.

There is definitely a relationship between posts and attrition as you can see the blue line jumps when ever people see a post show up in their feed. And you can get a sense of which posts lead to the most growth. In this case the three posts on 8/9 were promotional based which drove so much growth. And churn rose on 8/28 – 8/29 where two posts a day on two consecutive days had editorial content that must not have resonated or may have been too frequent.
You can download this data from your own Facebook page in the Insights section. All you need is the Lifetime Total Likes, Daily New Likes and Daily Unlikes.

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