Let’s get one thing clear up front: Your friends who assault your social news feeds aren’t stupid. They hate bad marketing as much as you do. But they’re enthusiastic. They’re putting themselves out there.
The problem is the way they do it is so irritating you want to de-friend them and petition they be banned from the internet. You aren’t stupid either. You also hate bad marketing.
You’d think that, as citizens of the internet, they too have experienced the annoying head buzz of blatant, chincy self-promotion and would swear it off, as you no doubt have done already—repeatedly.
But they’re enthusiastic, and here is the scary thing: you could become enthusiastic too.
One day you wake up, and you have a business opportunity. It’s great, but you have zero marketing. Pushed by the need to make a living and pulled by the desire to succeed, you turn to the place where you have the loudest voice: your social network.
And the cycle perpetuates.
Effort is noble, but there is no nobility in assaulting people with conversion demands. People must be won over thoughtfully. In social media, marketing to friends is not about getting them to engage you, but for you to engage them.
You Can Do Social Right
There is good news: you can leverage your social network to drum up business or spread the word. But it requires more than a goldfish level of aforethought. It requires a strategy that puts your audience ahead of your own needs. That’s the whole secret, right there. That, and keeping in mind that your glorious product or service is not the answer to their needs. Not in the context of Facebook.
So how do you put your audience first so you can make some money?
First consider your approach. Rather than assaulting your friends with a full frontal attack, seek to position yourself. That means that, in a way, they find you. But, that doesn’t mean being passive. You still have a lot of work to do.
What do people already like doing? Think about Facebook specifically? What actions make you smile, or interested? I’ll save us the classroom banter and hand you the one I’m looking for: celebration.
“Yay, I survived my first semester of college!” … you click “like”.
“Yay, we had a baby!” … you click “like”.
“Yay, I transferred to a better part of the company.” … you click “like”.
Now here we go:
“Yay, I officially launched my new business today! So excited!” … you click “like”.
See what I did there? It is easy to celebrate with people. It is one of the several activities we like to do. When they posted about their new company, they met your need to celebrate and you liked it. And they didn’t spoil it with a crappy commercial in the message.
Without overdoing it you could do what we sometimes call a diary entry:
“Drove by a house with a dried out lawn. Could have used the ole Cumberbatch Landscaping touch. Maybe I’ll drop them a card.”
You can also position yourself in your friends mind as an expert.
“Just a friendly reminder that this years tax laws allow for a marshmallow exemption. Carry on!”
Also, you can prove expertise by answering questions.
Notice a distinct lack of a call to action. There is a time and a place to straight up ask for someones business. Social media is not the place.
One of the best ways to get social attention is to be clever. Post a meme or interesting image and relate it to your business:
That passes what is called the “cleverness test”. The cleverness test says: will this post make someone feel smart or clever by sharing it? Here is a real life example of a post that was so clever I had to reshare it:
Cleverness test, passed.
But remember one really important thing: Don’t demean customers! This also seems obvious, but people do it, and it’s bad. Don’t do it. And consider not doing it to a potential customer either.
Also important: Don’t be a dick. (You knew that was coming at some point.) The smartphone image above was posted in the spring when everyone was thinking about warmth and travel. If you posted it in a conversation about popular smartphone apps, you’d look like a smart-ass downer. Don’t do that either.
Incentives are probably the most aggressive thing you could do without becoming an irritant, and even then you have to be careful. If you offer real value toward a good product or service, they actually pass the cleverness test.
“Refer a friend and get your next photo shoot half price.”
Milquetoast offers don’t pass the cleverness test. Especially early in your business, go extreme. Why not? If you can cover expenses, work for free some of the time! That’s not to say have crappy low prices. Have high prices that authentically reflect your true value, but also consider huge booster promotions to break the undertow of your obscurity.
“Get a coupon code for 15% off…” STOP
Make it a real offer, and consider limiting the available quantity. That will add urgency and make the sharers feel even more clever.
Also, don’t make an offer your first move. If people feel the need to research what you’re doing first the offer will lose momentum. When you have done good positioning as I described earlier, your friends won’t hesitate to take the two seconds needed to share your offer.
Last on my list of approaches, consider soliciting input. Asking a question is a common technique of social engagement but you can put a finer point on it when it is among friends:
“Going to the trade show today: Red tie, or blue?”
Leverage Social Proof
Social proof is evidence that other people actually like your service. If you are small, avoid things like displaying total number of likes. That is actually anti-social proof. In fact, I’ve seen 12,000 likes serve as anti-social proof when competitors are boasting millions.
But, leveraging modules like the ones that let you see which friends like your page, it only takes one to speak volumes. Have you seen an ad on Facebook, accompanies with: “So-and-so and four other friends like this.” You sometimes pay attention.
This article isn’t about social proof, but it is a marketable by-product of good social marketing. One that particularly applies to your circle of friends, because they are more likely to recognize each other.
Asking for likes is another no-no. Think about it: do you like it when people ask you for likes? You don’t. Draw your friends to your page and they will decide to like it. They know how.
Here Are the Real Secrets in List Form
So think of this as your little black book of secret ideas:
Remember that enthusiasm is good, but it must be properly channeled or you will do stupid things, make no money, and lose all your friends. There is no limit to what and how you post, but never forget the underlying mandate that the post itself (rather than the subject of the post) must serve the audience.
As a starting point, try posting one of each of the six types of posts described above.
Oh, and did I mention: SHARE THIS TO 15 FRIENDS RIGHT NOW
Web professionals including myself are all guilty of riding the wave of slider popularity. When they were new, image sliders (also known as carousels) were seen as an interesting way to add life (movement) to an otherwise static web page.
They caught on quickly with business leaders who, as a species, get excited about “cool” things.
As with any design fad, the leading-edge web designers moved into new best-practice, while business leaders lag behind in their best practice knowledge. To this day it is common for them to require user interface professionals to do things in ways we now know to be outdated or ineffective. We can’t entirely blame them, as it is us that got them onboard with it back when it was considered best practice.
But sliders as they are commonly used are both illogical with current UX thinking, and quantifiably proven to be ineffective.
As the science of user experience improves, we are learning that it is more important to guide users with page content than with page structure (navigation). As we pour more and more effort into crafting the best content possible, the problem with sliders become self-evident.
As per best practice, we put the most important content at the top, “above the fold” as we say. This is content that is essential for the user to know where they are, what the site is offering, and why they should stay.
But how important is content that slides away?
Even if it is important…
Because it slides away.
Thinking along the same lines, how important is content that slides in? It’s not. Why? Because it wasn’t there to start with: other content was. Also, it too will slide away.
What content in a slider really says to the user is: this is kind-of important content that we don’t care if you see or not. And frankly users never care about kind-of important stuff.
How do we know this? User behavior research bears this out every time someone looks into it. At best people assume slide 1 is important. Response to subsequent slides is effectively nil.
So is there any use for sliders? There is: They still make sense in a gallery type setting. They also still have application in rotating backgrounds (where they aren’t acting as content per se). In fact, small sliders within content areas can be a valuable tool for observing users trying to locate certain parts of content, but that’s a topic for another article.
What should we be using instead of sliders in the “hero” area of home pages and landing pages? This is for the very most important hook. It’s for the title, supporting line, and image(s) that will keep users on your web page for the rest of your pitch. It’s definitely not content you want sliding away!
Recently Google made headlines when it began requiring people to post comments on Youtube from their Google+ accounts (and if you didn’t have one, why of course you should make one). This week they made news again by showing the first signs of merging their second most popular service, Gmail, with one of their least popular services, Google+.
The internet has no shortage of reactors and detractors, or people grandstanding about using cookie tricks or changing to alternate services entirely.
Personally I find Google’s moves to be predictable, inevitable, and welcome. Here’s why:
Let’s talk about inevitable. Since before 2007 Microsoft realized that it had numerous various products which would serve their customers better if they were horizontally integrated. Hotmail started working like Outlook, Outlook like Hotmail, then for a less specific master account they created Live. Now you can sync your Microsoft Live account between your Windows 8 log in, your browser, your Bing search, your e-mail, your cloud.
What you’re seeing with Google now is simply the same. They have all these disconnected services: Gmail, Maps, Youtube, Search, Drive, Chrome, Chrome OS, and Android. It makes perfect sense to do what Microsoft did and unify these under one master-type account. Enter Google+.
But *how* Google+ entered the market is not one of Google’s bright spots. The original social media offering was limited, buggy, and awkward. I think this may have been the result of Google’s development model, which is to shape their services based on intense user feedback, versus Microsoft which tends to stack it’s teams with mega-experts like the New York Yankees (with some of the resulting conflicts of the Yankees too).
Those models generally mean that Microsoft puts a strong product out front, but is limited in it’s response to customer input. Google on the other hand, tends to put a weak product out front then innovate aggressively based on feedback. The Google method can lead to a great product, but with a tarnished reputation.
And in my opinion that is what we have with Google+. After a few years of aggressive improvements, it’s now a stellar social platform. I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.
I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.
Now that they are connecting their services, I’m afraid Google is again taking a PR hit. I don’t feel like they’re really selling it to the public like Microsoft did.
But people need to realize, it is unreasonable for a company to keep it’s services disconnected from each other. And it’s especially ironic that some of the people complaining about Google’s moves are the same people taking advantage of Microsoft Live. And don’t even get me started on Apple ID.
I think Google is currently in an awkward pinfeathers stage as it gradually molts into a unified product. While that happens, people will continue to react.
Executives tend to be cautious, even frightened by social media. The thinking is, when you put yourself out there, there is so much that could go wrong, is it worth it?
So one glance at the issue Heineken is trying to resolve only confirms their fears: social media is a dangerous game. Thus it should be minimized or avoided altogether, like any corporate liability.
Funny, I draw the opposite conclusion. Here’s why:
The incident started with pictures of tall Heineken banners in the background of a dog fight, in a country where dog fighting is legal exhibition. Someone… could be a random person, could be a competitor, spread the photo out on the internet and it went viral on social media, making Heineken look really bad.
So stop for a moment. In this scenario Heineken was not engaging social media. They had physical printed banners. Something nearly every company does. If you are a business leader and you want to use this story to react, start with ending all physical displays of your company’s brand. Yeah, I didn’t think you would.
Social media did help spread the image around, creating widespread moral outrage against Heineken. But that is a simple fact of the age we now live in. The image would have gone viral whether or not Heineken was socially engaged.
But then Heineken used the fact that it is socially engaged to set the record straight. They created a wordy-graphic (by definition an infographic has nearly no words) and set their loyal fans to spread it around. The graphic takes a slightly complicated situation and in a simple, easy to read, easy to understand way sets the record straight. And that graphic is going everywhere.
So my take on this? Being socially engaged is vital for damage control. If Heineken was taking a minimalist approach to social media they would have lacked the loyal base of fans who are spreading their correction graphic far and wide. My takeaway is that you cannot afford to not have a strong social media presence, even if you will never be as big a target as Heineken.
If you want to be reactive, the lesson here is to invest in your social equity before you need it most. But then, that would be proactive.
The act of running an offer is very simple, but making it an effective sales funnel is more involved. There are three critical bits I want to squawk about. If you get these right, then you’re going to really like what is going to happen.
If my previous post made you want to try Facebook Offers, this will tell you how to do it.
In my other mini series on promoting Facebook posts, I explained that laying the right groundwork makes all the difference. The following builds on that:
1. Your offer should be genuinely good
Generally that means no 10% discounts (unless it’s a truly big-ticket item). 20-50% discounts are what people expect, and thanks to sites like Groupon and Living Social, even the 20% discounts are going out of style. But maybe you actually can’t afford more than a 10% discount. Then make the coupon save actual dollars. A 10% discount on $100 sounds meh, but a $10 discount sounds maybe worthwhile.
Whatever it is, ask a few trusted friends or even a loyal customer what would motivate them to follow through. It may not be realistic but it never hurts to do a little informal research first.
2. Make your offer catchy
Believe it or not, even a dramatic offer can fall flat if its hook is uninteresting (yes, I know this the hard way). That means a clear, simple title, and an interesting, high-contrast image that has a single focal point. For example:
[highlight type=”light”]Get amazing discounts on all our brands[/highlight]
That was lame. Try this:
[highlight type=”light”]Huge discounts on your favorite brands![/highlight]
See the difference? In the first example the subject is brands. Blah. In the second example the subject is you. Everyone likes themselves, and they certainly like their favorite things.
What if your offer is more modest? The same approach applies.
[highlight type=”light”]Save $10 on any purchase with this code.[/highlight]
Lame sauce. Lets add some awesome:
[highlight type=”light”]$10 off your purchase. Limited quantity.[/highlight]
That puts the money first. Again we made “you” the subject. Limiting the quantity makes them perceived as more valuable.
3. Target your audience well
If you only want to reach people who have already liked your page, then you can forego all targeting and promotion and simply publish your offer for free. If you are fortunate, it may even get shared around.
But most of the time you’re trying to reach beyond your little cadre of likes. In that case you want to promote it. There is no need to pay for people who are not interested. At this point you could just post the offer on your page, with no promotion at all, and it’s free.
Tragically, Facebook has steeply increased it’s price to promote. I’m not happy about that. I will say, however, that it is good at putting your offer out there, in front of people. So at $60 this is not the cheapest ad experiment you have ever run. As always you need to know how many responses will put you into profit. If you stand to make $20 per redemption then you need three just to break even. But maybe you get 12, which puts $180 in your pocket. It depends on your business.
There is an alternative way to promote your offer. That is to pin it on your page and run it as an ad. This enables to to work with the ad budget and increased targeting options. I’ll cover Facebook ads in the future.
So how do you do it?
First write your message. You get up to 90 characters (including spaces) which comes to roughly 16 words. Shorter is better.
Then make an image, in the odd dimension of 1200×627 pixels or basically a 1.9:1 ratio. As I said, make it something that grabs attention. A photo that is too busy, or has muddy coloring will not be noticed. Most people will see it less than 400px wide so think small. Of course keep it as relevant to your message as possible.
Then go to your page, and as you would write a post, click on the Offer, Event + button, select Offer, and upload your chosen image and write your headline, then click next.
Now you can set an expiration date, and you have the options for terms and conditions as well as advanced options. I strongly recommend doing both. Write your terms, trying to think of anything that could potentially go wrong.
Then expand the Advanced Options box, and there you have the option of entering a web site, which you may or may not need. You can also set a limit on claims, which may be a good idea, especially if you are using the limited supply as a selling point, but also if too many claims would put you in a bad position. There is also the very cool feature of being able to add a redemption code, or all manner of UPC or QR code. That is great if the offer integrates with your point of sale system! When that is all set, click next again.
Finally you select your target audience and budget. At this point it only selects by city, gender, and age. You can add multiple cities if you need to, particularly when suburbs are involved.
Every time you make a change here it changes the potential reach and the budget. Be careful to make sure your budget is set before you publish, because Facebook keeps changing it to the recommended budget every time you change the parameters.
If you are ready to spend $60 or more then you are ready to publish! Facebook handles it from here on out. Like Google, Facebook wants you to be a repeat customer so they will do the best they can on their end to make your ad a success.
You can see how many claims there were, and how many people were exposed right at the bottom of your post. You will also find the added benefit of more people liking your page, which is nice.
“But wait!” you say, “You mentioned a free option.” Yes I did; and there is, but you can’t make it from your page. You have to go into your ads manager to create the offer. You do that by clicking on the gear cog on the very top right of Facebook and choose “Advertise on Facebook” or “Create Ads” depending on the type of profile you are in.
It will then ask you what you want to do. You need to click “more options” to see offers. From there the process is very simple and intuitive, and you can post for free and promote later.
I strongly encourage you to give offers a try, even if you must go the free route. These things are designed to work, and if you do your part well, you could find the results very rewarding.
Coupons have a certain attraction that is hard to resist. So when I started using Facebook Offers, I shouldn’t have been surprised how effective it is. The potential it has to help you is really an offer you can’t refuse.
In the first part of my series on Facebook Promotion I introduced promoting a post. I did that first because it is the easiest and cheapest way to start. However I believe for many markets the most effective tool that Facebook offers is, well, Facebook Offers.
In it’s simplest form FB Offers is a coupon that contains a promotion code. Users see your offer, and can click a button to claim it. The offer is then e-mailed to their e-mail address where they can print it out, or copy-paste the code into an online shopping cart.
But why use a coupon? Why not use a promoted post or an ad making the same offer?
There are a few advantage to coupons. First is psychology. A coupon implies some exclusivity. People like to feel like they are getting a truly special deal, and even if it takes a few extra steps to claim it, those obstacles actually make people motivated to actually use it.
Next is tracking. While we did look at ways to track promoted posts, and you can certainly track ads, it is very easy to know a response to a coupon code because your customer self-identifies by the act of using the coupon!
The bottom line is, if you do it well, FB Offers will help more people actually follow through on your offer. It is not at all expensive to run one, and like promoting posts, can have an excellent return-on-investment. Technically it is free, but IMO it’s not worth doing without paying for some promotion, hence why I don’t play up that fact.
We’ll go into the mechanics of running an offer in my next post.
People love simple solutions. It is human nature. A turnkey process that works is gold in business. There was a time when there were turnkey SEO solutions that worked.
That time is gone. The faster you realize this, the less damage you will do to yourself.
Imagine you have a speedy delivery van service. Every day your van would go 75mph down the highway to make its deliveries. Then one day the speed limit was changed to 55mph. But, knowing how well 75mph worked for you, you keep doing it.
But then you get pulled over, and a $280 fine. But you really liked how driving 75mph worked for your business, so you keep driving that speed. Every day you get a $280 fine until your license is completely suspended. Then you’re really SOL.
That is the world of SEO right now. People doing what they used to do are not just ineffective, but penalized or potentially blacklisted. This is serious stuff.
The tragedy is this news is not what a spunky CEO wants to hear. Its the internet, after all; there is no such thing as consequences on the internet. Everyone knows that, right?
Try to tell them that a link farm is a bad mistake, and they’ll cite all these “successful” companies that provide the service. Well yes, people will happily take your money. We’ve established that people love turnkey solutions. There will always be someone willing to take your money who don’t care about your reputation.
There is such a thing as Search Engine Optimization, but it doesn’t look like what it used to look like. It has evolved to be more gimmick-proof, which is good for internet users as well as companies putting out genuinely good content (and forking out money to Google). More on that later.
The bottom line is: don’t sink your own boat using methods that used to work but will now get you penalized. If you are talking to a boss or client, stress the urgency of not being penalized. In most cases being penalized by Google is not a bell that can be un-rung.
You can also talk about the need to stay current with the times, focusing on the best practice of now. Often that is even part of your job description even as they tell you to do something obsolete. Its a battle of perception vs. reality.
You did it. Following the strategy we set out last week, you managed to release $7 from your white-knuckled hands, now fully acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that you have paid money into what has hitherto been a free service to you (Facebook).
But it wasn’t really so bad, was it? So what do we do now?
First lets see what Facebook says. I promoted the post promoting my post about promoting posts. According to Facebook 31% of the views were regular views. These are views people would have seen anyways without paying to promote it. Inversely 69% of the views are paid views, meaning people who would not have seen it had you or I not paid to promote it. Thus they boast a grand total of a 3.2x improvement.
Now here is a dirty little secret: They are using percentages because the numbers are low. When I promote a post for a client that gets 10,001 extra views, you’d better believe Facebook is saying “Hey look, you got 10,001 extra views!” Saying they more than doubled my exposure sounds better than saying “Hey, ten extra people saw your post.”
I wish they did though, because if the potential revenue from each of those ten people were $1,000 and my post turned over one conversion, I would be pretty happy to pay the $7! That’s why I said in my previous post you need to put a value on conversions (people that turn into customers). We could look at the exact same numbers but what may be inadequate for me may be excellent for you depending on your market.
Since Facebook won’t actually tell me, that is why we use services like Bit.ly or Google Analytics. In this case I used the latter, clicking on Traffic Sources/Social Media, to see that in the previous day I got x number of visits from Facebook. It’s crude, but I can safely assume that 60% of those clicks were the result of the money I paid.
There is a lot of other things we can do to measure success. For instance if you linked to your business page you can look at the page insignts, and it will show you how many new “likes” were the result of what you paid. You could even do fancy things like set up goals in Google Analytics to track if Facebook resulted in actual sales (if that is your goal).
Later we’re going to run an actual ad and an offer on Facebook, and that will provide you with massive amounts of information. Post promotion is a simple creature. It’s up to you to decide if it’s is worthwhile, but regardless $7 is a very tame amount of investment to experiment with. It’s then up to each of us to decide if it’s worth it.
If you have any specific questions on how to apply this to your own situation, feel free to comment. I’ll do my best to answer.
In my last post I talked you into it. You have your $7 in your hot little hand and you want to know what it can do for you. Maybe you’re flicking the bills at the screen, only to see them listlessly fall to your desk. It’s okay, that’s normal.
So how do we so this?
At the broadest level, the trick is to marry a noun with a verb. You want a someone to do a something. If you want more “likes” on your page, that is the something. The someone is your target audience. Facebook has lots of targeting options for ads and offers, but no options for promotions. Basically your promotion will target friends and friends-of-friends by giving your post much better news feed ranking than it would have naturally. For our purposes it is just as well, because friends and FoF’s are the most statistically likely to respond anyways.
But what shall we use as bait?
In my previous post I said “one simple step”, and if you have already done the prep work then it is as easy as clicking “Promote” on your post and adding your payment information. But if you haven’t done the other things then you need to do a few extra steps. In that case keep reading.
I suggest a one-two punch. Get them to your page, then show them something genuinely exciting on your page. I referred to Game Theory before, and by that I mean the method is to set up several moves in a row. You design each action for your prospect with the next step being obvious.
To get them to your page you could create an ad or promote a post. A post is simpler so lets do that for now. So what do we post? Ask yourself; what gets you to click on a post in your news feed? Usually bait of some kind… something you want or need that resonates with you in the moment. So what do you have that people want or need or makes them feel clever for seeing?
Going with the example of Photographer from my previous post, people want pictures of themselves or family. Good, flattering, fun, brilliant pictures. They want to believe they are smart for choosing you, and that you’ll make them look their best.
An obvious answer would be to post one of your best pictures, but don’t do that without careful thought. Are your pictures better than what other photographers in your circles are posting? Honestly? If not, do you really want to play a losing game?
So what will distinguish you from the twenty-some-odd friends who offer a similar thing? Be off-balance. Stage a crazy photo for your promotion. Maybe a picture of you hanging upside-down on monkey bars to take a picture of a kid also on the monkey bars. Do something fun and outlandish. The point is to capture attention and get them to click. So with your outlandish pic, put in a simple, and I mean dead simple call to action, like “Fall Photo Deals Now”.
So the bait is good. That is what we’re going to spend the $7 on. But before you clicky-clicky, lets make sure they actually want to like your page and (better yet) hire you. So you are going to have another clever picture as your cover photo, something both showing off your skill, and encouraging them to like your page. Then, set as a feature post, you’ll have an image (or video!) about your actual offer. Something that will be the real call to action.
So let’s review. You write a catchy post and promote it for $7. Friends of your friends notice it, because it’s catchy, and Facebook kindly notes that their friend is a fan. Now interested and disarmed they click on it, landing on your business page. The first thing they see is the canvas, and glance at the “Like” button, but don’t click it, because they’re not sure they need to yet.
Then they of course notice your offer. It looks good. And your description says to “like” to see future offers and discounts. Okay then “click”. They liked your page, and they may even message or call you.
Digital marketing is the most accountable kind of marketing ever invented. We have the ability to track all kinds of information about how our various efforts perform. However, choosing, tracking, and interpreting that data in a way that truly informs good decisions is not simple at all. That’s why companies hire people like me.
But you can do it yourself, at least well enough to make some progress.
If you’re promoting a page, use Facebook insights to track your effectiveness. If your promoting something outside of Facebook, use a tracking link like bitly.com or a more expansive service such as Google Analytics.
If you are promoting a page, go into that page, write your post (be sure to include your catchy image), post, then click “promote”. Add your payment info, and that’s it! If you are promoting something outside of facebook, write your own personal post and promote it in the exact same way. Over the next 24 hours Facebook will let you know how it is going. It may not result in miracles, but I highly suspect you’ll conclude it was $7 well spent, and will find yourself plotting your next moves. We’ll talk about those moves later. Right now, get out there and do baby step 1.