Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Facebook Ads Are (Probably) Bad For Your Business

By now everyone has heard of Facebook, and everyone who runs a business, large and small, understands its importance in terms of marketing. However, ever since Facebook became a publicly traded company it has become increasingly difficult to use as an organic marketing tool.

If you'd like to reach the precious group of Fans you've collected, good luck. Facebook filters will only allow you to reach 1% of your existing audience. That means you have 1000 Fans, just 10 of them will your post. Unless you pay Facebook to extend your reach using their Promoted Post feature. Of course even this tool won't allow you to reach all your existing Fans--just a group of people who might be "Fans or Friends of Fans" or you can use the targeted approach and use keywords and "interests" and some geographic or demographic descriptions.

This all sounds wonderful until you realize this is going to cost you about $50, for each and every post. Or more.

So, maybe you've consider Facebook ads instead. Those ubiquitous ads which pop-up in our streams from time to time or linger in the sidebar when you visit your profile. You know the ads I mean because you have somehow avoided every clicking on one the entire time you've been using Facebook. Me too. In nine years I've never been interested enough to click on a single Facebook ad, much less have I been inclined to use them for my clients.

Oh, and let's not forget to mention that if your Facebook advertising isn't budgeted for thousands of dollars a month or more, you are unlikely to see any noticeable results. In fact, the only person who I know who has seen a decent ROI for their Facebook advertising spend was someone who sells a program which teaches people how to make money using Facebook ads.

Not a ringing endorsement to be sure.

In my opinion Facebook has squandered their advantage in terms of small business marketing by trying to wring every penny out of business owners. They have created algorithms which force business owners to use Facebook advertising tools regardless of their effectiveness, in an effort to derive some sort of effective marketing strategy. Only to find that they quickly deplete their budgets with little to no return on their investment.

My recommendation is that businesses make full use the free, organic, tactics available for marketing on Facebook until such time as Facebook proves that their advertising tools work with real, tangible, case studies. Without a proven track record of effectiveness Facebook advertising is merely going to waste your precious time and resources and make running your business all the more difficult.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Social Media Sinking In India-Or Is It?

A new report by Gartner seems to say that India represents both a promising social media market and a risky venture.

Which is probably true. Because of the fluid nature of social media it is difficult to gauge just what will happen in the next five minutes, much less in the next five years. Different forces are pulling users a myriad different ways, so predicting which forces will win out in the long run is dicey-at best.

However, the Gartner report clearly indicates that although the people who live in India might have qualms about using social media, they certainly don't have any problem working in the social media or technology industries and it expects the nation to soon become one of the most dominant forces in technology as a whole.

So, on the one hand we have the people of India who seem to be reticent about sharing too much information on social media; wary of the potential hazards they face using social media too much, or allowing it to become a dominant feature in their life. And on the other hand we have a people who are dedicated to making the systems work better for others.

It reminds me of the cigarette industry in a way. People making something they don't quite know if they trust enough to use themselves, yet not minding that others are using it.

So far social media has not been proven to cause cancer so maybe that is a poor analogy.

What matters here are two key pieces of information: India continues to represent a strong brain trust when it comes to the social media industry and that the people of industry, while representing a huge potential consumer market, are savvy enough to recognize a potential threat when they see one.

How the wider social web works to overcome this possible obstacle is yet to be determined, but it seems unlikely that social media companies will simply forget about the consumer buying potential of nearly one billion people, regardless of how those people may feel about their products.

India is already a powerhouse in the technology world and that strength is likely to continue. How well its people continue (or not) to embrace this same technology is irrelevant.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stop Thinking Like A Marketer; Start Thinking Like A Person

A new study shows that the use of social media brings most humans as much joy as sex or food.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who enjoys telling others about their own accomplishments. We all know the feelings of pride we receive for recognition and congratulation. Who doesn't love to bask in their own glory every now and then?

Of course opportunities like that don't come along every day. It's not as if we all walk around with our cheering section ready to bust out a rhyme on our behalf; sing our praises.

For many of us, our social media network is the next best thing to a personal theme song. They are our cheering section; the people we want to tell all the good news that comes into our life because we know they we care.

This is exactly the way businesses should be suing their social media networks because it is what people expect. A social media network is good for much more than just touting your products or services. It is great for touting the positive stories; sharing good news about your employees, your products, your services; the awards you've received, the volunteer work one of your employees does in their free time; employee hobbies; births, graduations, promotions.

Social media is, by definition, social. That means you need to start thinking less like a marketer and more like a real, live human being. What news would you like to share? What news would you be interested in hearing about? What do you find interesting?

There is a reason people feel good when they share information via their social media network. Our brain releases dopamine when we do something self-serving because it signals that we are looking out for ourselves (important if we plan on procreating; surviving as a species) and no less important for a business that intends to survive.

Plus, when you actually participate on social media instead of using it as a soapbox or a bullhorn, you are much more likely to encourage engagement and sharing. This then is the secret to using social media: act like a real live human being and NOT a marketer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bing Offers New 'Social Search'

Google rolled out "Search Your World' not very long ago and I was anything but impressed. First, the new feature was touted as a social search tool, however it only searched my Google+ network. Despite daily use, Google+ is my smallest and least used social network so searching there is absolutely pointless. It should have at least given users the option of searching their other networks. But alas, it did not.

Then, it kept pushing those results to the top of my search page, interfering with the search results process I needed to accomplish as quickly and painlessly as possible. I turned it off within hours of the roll-out and haven't turned it back on since.

Now Bing is releasing its own social search function which it hopes will be more meaningful for its users by providing more relevant results.

Bing--remember Bing? That's the Microsoft search engine that has failed miserably in the search engine wars. Mostly it has failed because it decides what you are looking for and shows you that instead of just showing you everything that falls under the category of things you are searching for. Anyway, you're forgiven for being unaware of Bing.

But all that may change now that they are offering a REAL social search function. It is better and more effective than the Google "Search Your World" function in almost every way. For instance, it will search your Facebook and Twitter networks, plus your Google+ network (such as it may be.) In another burst of genius design, instead of plopping the results at the top of your search it puts them in a sidebar, out of the way.

The Google+ network now allegedly boasts more than 100 million users, but in my experience it is still mostly a one-way street. Engagement is close to zero and most people I know are not using it at all. In the meantime instead of creating its own network Microsoft has partnered with both Facebook and Twitter, opening up a treasure trove of information they can now mine at leisure with Bing.

Google still commands the lion's share of the search marketplace, while Bing is struggling to hold on to its 15 percent share, but this latest feature might just be enough to tip the scales in their favor. Now, if only Bing can do something to let people know it exists....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Social Media Is (Is Not) Advertising

I have already reminded you that social media marketing is not customer service. Now I am going to tell you that social media marketing is not advertising.

That's right. All the social media marketing going on--it's not actually advertising. Advertising is what you do when you buy a Google Adwords placement, have your promotion listed at the top of search results or buy a Facebook ad.

Social media marketing is something much more intrinsic to human behavior than that. It is all about increasing brand awareness through engagement; building relationships. We all know relationships take time. They are built on trust and empathy and require commitment. Social media can help deliver all those things, but calling it advertising outright is a stretch.

So, if you think you can create a Facebook page and people will come to it and hit "Like" you are in for disappointment. Without engagement your Facebook is nothing more than a listing in the telephone book--worse even, despite the fact nobody even uses telephone books any more, because people don't use social media to search.

Oh, I know YouTube is one of the top five search engines, but I'm talking now about sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr. These are the core of the Social Web and YouTube is just an ancillary of that network. And people don't search these social media sites in the traditional way.

Granted, for brands which already have high levels of public awareness (Coke, McDonald's, Virgin Airways) people who use social media can indeed search to find their presence. But for the ordinary business, especially start-up businesses, this simply is not going to happen.

It is incumbent upon me, as a social media marketer, to help my clients understand exactly what social media marketing can and cannot do. I must explain how it can best be wielded as a tool to increase brand awareness. If a client comes to me and expects advertising results from our social media marketing efforts I must explain the difference between these things and explain what is possible with SMM. If the client is content with that, we can do business together. If they aren't we can part company and they can easily find a social media marketer who will promise them anything to get their business.

Getting them the results they are expecting, however, well, that's another story.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Girls': Social Media Failure In Progress

Quick--unlike most social media failures which happen in the blink of an eye and only bear scrutiny once they have passed, there is an ongoing social media failure you can watch unfold while it is happening.

Specifically, I am talking about the new HBO show 'Girls.' Based on the supposed real lives of 20-something girls living in New York City, it features a main character who tweets constantly about the state of her life, while the show is going on.

Unfortunately for HBO, and despite the fact the power of social media in creating entertainment powerhouses has been well proven, the character only Tweets on the show--there is no real-world social media connection. Her Twitter is not only fictionalized, it is non-existent.

This is a social media fail of the highest order and it is going on right now. Don't believe me? Are you thinking that surely someone at HBO would have thought it a good idea (if not necessary) for the main character's Twitter account to actually exist? So do I, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

There is an active Twitter account for @HannahHorvath_ (the main character) but it clearly is not affiliated with the HBO show or with the character-it just ReTweets stuff from the show. In the meantime, there is no active Twitter account for the 'real' Hannah Horvath-except on television.

Personally, I am shocked at the shortsightedness of HBO and whomever is in charge of marketing at the network. When you consider the very small amount of work required to take advantage of the marketing potential connected with this show, it seems totally irresponsible to not have taken action. The possibilities for promotion are nearly endless. Not to mention the growth of this fictionalized network of social media savvy individuals.

The good news is that once again, someone else's social media failure can be your success.  Here is a classic example of failure to capitalize on the power of social media, committed by a company that has seemingly been in business long enough to know better. Even if they didn't realize the connection before the show went into production, surely someone saw the connection between a character who Tweets and the real world tool called Twitter-and recognized there was marketing potential in that connection.

The connections are there for your business as well. All you need to do is take advantage of them.

It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. Then again, perhaps it does and I am simply giving myself enough credit...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bookmarking Sites Help Blogs Prosper

I currently operate two of my own blogs, this one (obviously) and The Starved Writer, where I decry the state of the writing industry and its meager standards for survivability.

Both of my blogs have been in operation for about nine months and during that time they have each seen steadily increasing page views month over month. To accomplish this feat I rely upon my experience as a social media manager, leveraging my network to promote each of these sites to audiences who I believe will find them interesting, including the use of social bookmarking sites.

Bookmarking sites are one of the many of tools I use to target my blogs to audiences interested in reading them. Bookmarking sites are crucial to all bloggers because they are used primarily by Internet surfers who are interested in reading blogs and articles. In other words, the millions of people who go online just to read stuff, use bookmarking sites to find the content they are looking for.

Myself, I use Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious to bookmark my articles, tag them appropriately, and promote them directly to people looking for that type of content. There are plenty of others, of course. Sites like Reddit, Fark and DZone do something similar, but they are a little too tricky for me to navigate, so I avoid them. My time to produce and promote my blogs is limited so I look for methods which make it as easy as possible for me to do what I need to do and move on to something else.

Combined, these sites produce an additional 100 or so page views every day for my blogs, directly. It is difficult for me to judge exactly how many additional visits I get when someone passes a blog post they like to someone else in their network (simply because I am too damn busy to do the analytics work required to tell) but it is safe to assume it is an additional 50-75 percent, judging by the response I get when I use them.

It is worth repeating that these sites are designed to be used by people who regularly read blogs and articles. Their core audience is comprised of exactly the sort of people I am looking for: readers. These aren't people who might just happen across a link to my blog (such as when I post a link to Twitter or Facebook) they are people looking for blogs to read.  That means they are already actively looking for content so when they happen across my content it already fits one of their criteria for clickability: It is something to read. By marketing directly to them I am giving them what they are looking for. I am not trying to push them into something new and this key to their effectiveness.

If you have a blog, or if you are thinking about starting a blog, be certain you find at least a few (if not all) bookmarking sites to promote them on. This will not result in a huge influx of readers overnight but it will likely gradually increase your audience by marketing directly to the people most interested in reading online.