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Facebook is not dying but your Facebook strategy may be

The demise of Facebook is a regular topic (most recently due to a report on teen usage see here and a counter argument here and some alternative stats here), yet it continues to grow with 1.3b Global users and more than 2.3m Irish users.

To continue to deliver growth and increases in user activity and satisfaction, Facebook is, and will continue to change and evolve and as marketers we have to be alert to the changes happening with Facebook and what that means for us.

In a lot of cases I believe Page and Community Managers are still adopting an old view of how they manage their pages (post it and assume it will be seen/get likes/comments…).

Just as SEO and Google have evolved from been just about meta tags and descriptions, Facebook is no longer about pumping out content and hoping for likes, comments and shares.

In my opinion factors that Community Managers need to be aware of are:

  1. Reach: There is an assumption out there that once you post your content to your Facebook page, it will be seen by all those who like your page. Wrong. Facebook said itself that your reach is probably about 16% and a number of December reports and articles are showing that your reach is declining. Releasing more content is not the solution, it comes back to the challenge of driving engagement. If you don’t have it, you won’t have reach!
  2. Pay the piper:  How do you drive up your reach? Relevant and interest content that will engage your followers is an answer but Facebook also suggests that you invest in advertising to drive visibility of your posts. There is a backlash against this from some commentators and I tend to disagree. Think about it this way. You have a platform (Facebook) to host your Page and community, the potential to reach an audience of 2.3m Irish users/1.3b Globally, free analytics and engagement tools and you expect all of that for free? Facebook, like most companies, needs to make money and they have to balance the needs of their users and brands. Therefore you are going to need to pay to play (or at least to play well). You will also need to advertise your posts and page to stand out from the crowd, even to your existing friends, which leads me to my next point. You pay to advertise your website and drive traffic there!
  3. Clutter: Think about the amount of content in an average person’s news feed (average Facebook user has more than 160 friends and likes multiple pages). Now some pages and friends will post a lot of content, others might not post at all. On top of this you have ads appearing in their News Feed, it is crowded and we have a skimming and browsing culture. You need to stand out and you need to differentiate yourself.  Easier said than done but this is at the crux of my point. If you are adopting the same approach to Facebook, that you did 12 months ago or even 12 weeks ago, you will be falling back and missing out. The internal resource that is running your Page or the agency that you are paying to run your page will not be delivering a return for you.
  4. Types of content: An old one but really you have to have a variety – text, image and video. With the introduction of video into Instagram and the integration of Facebook and Instagram, you need to mix it up. Video is a large factor driving growth for digital and should be in your armour.

So what do you do?

The above are factors which will continue to surround Facebook as it continues to be a mass-social media player. No doubt there will also be more. The challenge is that as marketers we need to manage our channels, rather than let our channels manage us.

What do I mean?

If you don’t manage how you use Facebook, then you are letting Facebook manage you so you can’t complain when your stats fall off a cliff. Marketing is hard and you have to work at it, so you will have to work on your content and your social strategy.

You can continue to churn out content and support this with a little ad spend and yes, I believe you will address the decline but I think you are adopting a single view on Facebook – your view. That strategy is all about you. As you well know, your marketing and communications strategy has to be about your audience.

What do you need to do? In my view, you need to start considering that your Facebook page is a destination and a destination that your audience will want to visit.

A Destination

In the same way that you built a website (may be you haven’t built one of these???) and thought about what content and sections you should have there, you need to view your Facebook page in the same way.

Your News Feed is a single promotion channel to get people to your page and engage with you. It is a channel that needs investment, in terms of resources, time and budget. You also have numerous other ways to get traffic to the Page (from your press ads, emails etc) and organic traffic will be key, especially as they have decided that they want to visit the page. Once you get this traffic, you need to ensure they are coming back, again and again, just like your website.

Why would currents friends or potential friends want to visit that page? What is there to pull them back there again and again…and again. This is the challenge for you.

Posting 3-5 times a week or monitoring posts 9am-5pm Mon-Fri is not a strategy or an approach, these are merely just elements of what you have.

Your Facebook page must offer a benefit and be of value, otherwise you need to either dramatically increase your Facebook budget or settle to only reaching 2.5-3% of your Friends.

So, my suggestion. Spend more time thinking about changes to your Facebook page rather than criticising Facebook’s changes.


Plan to win the war, execute to win the battles

When I read a recent article that twenty-somethings are changing between electric and media platforms every two minutes, it started me thinking. Not just about the impact technology is having on communications but about the need for marketers to be able to react faster, adapt more and be flexible to the ongoing changing dynamics of the modern communications landscape.

There have been numerous articles, posts and blogs about the volume of information people now have to digest on a daily and hourly basis. For me, the big challenge is not how to track new media channels it is more about how to be fluid and flexible with campaigns and activities to leverage the opportunities and exploit these for your brand.

Plan to win the war, execute to win the battles.

Organisations and marketers tend to try and plan 12 months in advance, in some cases longer. With the changes mentioned above, does it still allow marketers to plan this far in advance? From a business perspective you need to have your roadmap, your strategy and key objectives. The difference for me is that you still need to give your brand tactical room to maneuver or react to the environment they are living in.

Have the plan that shows how your brand will ultimately succeed. Along the way identify the short term opportunities that you can win. You don’t need to particiapnt in all of them, choose your opportunities and know how they will drive you on the journey to deliver your brand objectives.  

You need to be relevant & disruptive.

The traditional sales timeline is shorter than it used to be but that doesn’t mean the process is shorter from the buyers perspective. The change is that buyers are doing more research on their own, they are now engaging a salesperson later in the process. They are more informed and educated than previously. As they are doing their research before they reach out to you, you have to disrupt them during this research.

If you want your brand to appear current, then it will need to be relevant and interesting. Knowing and planning for what is going to be current 12 months in advance is difficult. These activities still need to reflect the bigger picture but execute them in the short term helps to ensure they grab the attention of the buyer doing their research.

Remember that you should not simply restrict your flexible or tactical activities to new media and digital outlets. Press, TV and radio are fluid mediums also but generally not considered to be.

Stay Tuned In

Knowing your audience and trusting your gut will be key to successfully utilizing short term opportunities for long term brand gain.

Listen & monitor conversations about your brand, your competitors and your market. Use traditional research to identify trends and unearth insights. Listening and monitoring tools are sign posts on your journey.


Here are some examples of successful short term activities as part of a long term plan:

·         Johnson, Mooney & O’Brien is one of Ireland’s favourite bread brands. They also happen to be the surnames of three Irish cricket players. When Ireland beat one of the world’s leading Cricket nations, the bread brand grabbed the opportunity around this event to push their Irish message. They ran a press ad the following day – press can be flexible.

·         Bet365 – betting companies need to embrace short term tactics to survive in their industry. Bet365 has taken this insight together with the trend of watching live events while also being online to introduce a series of half time TV spots during football matches to highlight live odds. The spots deliver the brand message but the inclusion of live odds enables the brand to be relevant or innovate in the eyes of their customers. Again, this is delivered through TV – you don’t need 6-9 month windows for TV ads.

·         Hellmanns – The Unilever brand is delivering the ultimate in flexible personalization with recipes printed on the back of grocery receipts based on what shoppers purchased. Utilising digital print enables Hellmanns to serve a tailored recipe to shoppers

Wrap Up

Brands still need plans to give them direction but marketers need to have the skills and ability to adapt tactical activities to maximize unplanned opportunities (or challenges). With the growing importance of content marketing, if brands stick to 12 month plans they run the risk of not being relevant is the eyes of consumers. Flexibility is key but you need to ensure you don’t deviate from our course.

Marketing & Technology – the opportunity

I just read the piece below from a paper by Saepio (www.saepio.com) on Changing Consumer Practices Require New Approaches to Marketing and it sums up nicely the big opportunity / challenge facing marketeers today.

Here it is…

If there’s one word that defines marketing today, it’s “change.” Not branding. Not interactive media. Not measurement. Simply change.

Not long ago, marketing was all about interruption. As you watched your favorite TV show, an advertiser interrupted you with a message. Print ads begged for your attention as you read the morning newspaper. You were interrupted with a barrage of ads as you listened to the radio on your commute to work. Outdoor boards interrupted your focus just long enough to lock brand imagery and put seven key words in your mind. A stack of direct mail awaited you when you arrived at your mailbox. And, a full inbox awaited you when you opened your e-mail.

For decades, these interruptive tactics alone were effective. They often had integrated brand positioning and coordinated creative messaging across the different mediums. To the degree possible, these messages included specific calls to action on the part of the interrupted consumer. And when successful, these interruptive tactics drove the consumer behavior marketers sought.

But that’s just not the case anymore. As most corporate marketers are painfully aware, the effectiveness of historically strong interruptive tactics is plummeting. It would be easy just to blame the proliferation of mediums, DVRs and a multi-tasking audience. But it’s not that simple. What marketers face today are consumers who want marketing to be on their timeline and on their terms. Consumers want to be engaged, not interrupted.

That’s a tall order. Tall because it’s not something a marketer can fix with stronger creative, more innovative positioning or a greater number of ad buys. Instead, marketers must engage in real-time dialogue with consumers in a consistent and brand-compliant manner using an ever-expanding breadth of advertising mediums. The reality is that most marketers are woefully unprepared.

Is Google Putting a Gun to Brands Heads with Changes to G+?

Judging by the nature and content of a number of reports and commentary which I have read recently – Google+ is becoming a little bit Marmite (you either love it or you hate it). Maybe it is due to the fact that G+ is nearly one year old that people have now decided to come down on one side or the other.

For me, I shared my initial early two cents on Google+ previously and I think the fog is clearing for me with G+.

There is a lot to like about G+ (the new iPhone app, Hang Outs, sharing features) however I think Google is forcing it too much and is missing the core problem.

I think everyone knows how much Google wants to be active in social but with some recent moves I think it has now gone too far and it is putting a gun to the heads of brands and companies by saying get involved or we will hit you where it hurts and where we have power – search! It needs this to drive engagement rather than just drive more users.

Let me explain.

In short – Google+ has a large user base however they are largely (unless Google proves otherwise) inactive and now Google after publically declaring social is a priority (the words of Google CEO Larry Page), is telling brands, use G+ regularly or risk dropping down our search rankings! As a user I think it has benefits but as a marketer, I am annoyed and may just repurpose content to G+ to maintain search listings rather than drive engagement.

And in long…

It’s a Voyage

The growth of a social network should be organic and viral – a voyage of discovery for new members. You can expand beyond your offline social network and meet new contacts online (if you wish).

Google built up a huge hype about G+ leading to huge demand for initial invites. What happened then was all these people got invites, logged in but didn’t know what G+ was about. Was it a destination for B2B professionals (like LinkedIn) or was it was place for personal sharing (like Facebook). People were unsure, the network had not been defined yet so users posted once or twice (if even) and then sat back to wait and see.

The network needs to be defined by the habitants, not the creator. Remember it was users who created the RT standard for Twitter – not Jack & Co.  Users define you, not the other way.


I do think Google rushed G+, particular when you look at their iPhone app. The original version was poor which is surprising given that Eric Schmidt openly talked about “Think Mobile First” being the Google approach to all new development. Also look at the success Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have enjoyed due to mobile sharing and engagement. Google missed a trick which was only truly fixed in the last month.

Lessons Not Learned

Google had learned a lot of lesions about social from other social experiments with Buzz & Wave. Like myself, other commentators expected Google to start integrating G+ with its other portfolio of tools (gmail etc).  However for me I don’t believe Google has applied the lessons it has learned. It is still trying to force social too much (it gave every gmail user a Buzz account without much explanation about Buzz).  It is integrating G+ with its tools to drive its user numbers when the core problem is usage (the same problem Buzz had). Fix the problem first, then scale.

The Loaded Gun

Last week, Google started displaying enhanced listings for  G+ Brand Pages next to searches for brands (see more here). This would appear to still be in beta so the quest to understand it continues (as you will see in the comments on that post).

However I believe that this is Google putting a loaded gun to the heads of brands. It is saying if you don’t have an active, regularly updated G+ page (they want fresh content every 24 hours), you will miss out on this prime search position. It is a big call from Google as currently it looks as if it is willing to sacrifice PPC revenue from brands bidding on their terms (the G+ page pop up would seem to push any right hand side ads downwards). This comes on from the recent updates to Google’s search algorithm which also rewards increased social activity and the launch of Search Plus Your World.

To me it would appear that Google is hoping brands and companies go to G+ and by placing 24 hour windows on their activity, they will need to invest more time and resources there (potentially at the expense of other networks).  Is the Google bet – get brands on board and user engagement will follow???

There is no arguing that the users are on G+, the issue is that users are not posting or engaging.  This post claims G+ is a ghost town and I would share similar concerns. Google could clear this up by sharing usage stats similar to the style of Facebook but it hasn’t (or won’t).

For brands to invest in G+, they will need to know expected ROI and will want to understand engagement and interaction rates. Google claims all published data is inaccurate as it excludes private activity and sharing, fine, so tell us the real story! For now the only reward brands can be hopeful of with G+ brand pages is protection of their search rankings. 

The Future

I think Google has upped its bet on G+ and it is now close to going “all in”. If G+ was to fail, it would leave more egg on faces that other attempts.

Reports suggest Google is losing market share to Bing, maybe the team have taken their eye off the ball and should stick to the knitting for now. Cost per click is also down and maybe time would be better invested on search and in expanding mobile search (expected to account for 1 in 4 dollars in 2012) then another attempt at social.

Their latest moves may see more brands heading to G+ but unless user engagement increases, brands could treat the social network as a tool to be updated (similar to their website) rather than nurtured and developed (similar to other social networks).


Why Marketers Shouldn’t Care that GM Pulled $10m of Facebook Advertising

There has been a lot made this week of the news that General Motors announced it is pulling its spend of $10m from advertising on Facebook. Obviously the news is getting more coverage due to Facebook’s IPO but the news should only interest those potential Facebook investors with little knowledge of how Facebook works, rather than marketers and people who know how Facebook operates for brands.

The piece of news that got less coverage was that GM also spends $30m creating and generating content for Facebook and as all good marketers know, to succeed on Facebook you need content not ads. GM’s CMO described their content on Facebook as being “effective and important” (Facebook needs to worry about how its gets its hands on some of this $30m but that is not for us to worry about).

When the Game Changed

If we go back 18-24 months, Facebook marketing was focused on advertising, whether it was PPC ads or Sponsored stories and brands were scrambling to jump on board and spend some budget on Facebook advertising.

Despite low and descreasing CTRs (currently estimated at an average of 0.04%), brands pumped the budget in. Then Facebook changed the game with their new Edgerank system and the clever brands realised that it was all about engagement, quality content and frequency of posting rather than getting more people to like your page (notice how GM spends 3:1 on content generation vs advertising). 

How to Win Now

To succeed now on Facebook you need focus on content and delivering value to your fans. Despite engagement levels apparently being low (estimated at approx 1% here and here) and posts only reaching 16% of your fans organically (according to Facebook themselves), Facebook wants brands and page owners to work hard at creating good quality content that fans like. Similar to how Google rewards websites that create good quality content which high search results.

While Facebook advertising can extend the reach of your page and can contribute to fan growth, you will win the Facebook game with content – which will deliver engagement, growth and reach and more in terms of favourable brand perceptions, awareness and so on. The news which should have interested marketers this week is the launching of the Pages app for iPhone – allowing community managers to manage pages on the go – a long overdue and welcome addition.

It’s a Platform Dummy!

The important item to remember is that Facebook is not an advertising channel (such as traditional TV or radio), it is a social platform. A platform where people (and brands) share news, stories, links, videos and pictures and where friends and fans can engage with this content and re-share it if they wish. This is what is important to Facebook and should be to marketers.

Whether things will change when Facebook has to report quarterly earnings and revenue growth is a different story but for now, the news that GM pulled 1/4 of its budget for Facebook (and the part that is least important) should not really be a big story for marketers.


Friendly and welcoming wifi point http://instagr.am/p/H8-5M9hafo/

Edelman Trust Barometer 2012: Analysis

Regular employee is now more trusted than the CEO, time to give the regular guys and gals a voice

Edelman Trust Barometer 2012: Analysis

2012′s Edelman Trust Barometer was released a few weeks ago, the latest instalment of the global trust and credibility … Read more