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Facebook’s Custom Audience Tool: Don’t Make This Mistake With It

Some pretty lousy advice is circulating about how to use Facebook’s Custom Audience Tool, and I hope you won’t take it. Here’s why:

First, there is this silly post on The Social Media Examiner (which is generally a terrific blog). The post title makes it sound like you can use Facebook’s Custom Audience tool to better understand your existing email list. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, what the post mainly does is explain how to upload your company’s subscribed email list into Facebook, so you can send them Facebook ads. That’s right, the advice is to buy Facebook ads and target them at people who are ALREADY on your email list.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Still, I try to stay open to new ideas, so I asked a friend and colleague I respect what she thought, and she pointed me to this slightly older, and even sillier post on SEOMoz about the very same thing.

In it SEOMoz explains that uploading your list to Facebook will help you (this is their order of priority, not mine):

  1. Get more Facebook followers (OMG)
  2. Drive sales and conversions
  3. Get newsletter sign-ups

Let’s look at  point #1, getting more followers on Facebook. Why is this such a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea?

Social media is supposed to (among many other things) help you build your list. Not the other way around! Anyone who tells you to pay precious marketing money to convince your email list to follow you on Facebook is letting the tail wag the dog.

(Note: This is totally different from asking your existing customers – nicely and for free – to fan you on Facebook so you can stay in touch with them there, which is a very good idea. But remember, Facebook only shows a limited number of your messages to fans, while your emails go to your entire list. Every time.)

What about their #2, drive sign ups and sales? That sounds good, but why on earth would you pay for Facebook ads when you can market to these people via permission-based email for free?

SEOMoz gives the example of a Valentine’s promo that you would only target at people who are married or in relationships. Have they checked Facebook lately? Or ever? How many people actually add that data? And how many lie?

To add icing to this cake, some of the commenters on the post actually suggest that you may get better clicks from Facebook ads than from your emails written to your subscribed list. Whoa. If you’re even thinking about Facebook ads because you think they’ll beat your emails for open rates and click-throughs, it’s time to fire your email marketing team – stat.

The data is very clear that email marketing is STILL the best way to drive sign ups and sales. And that’s just fine. Social media has its place, and replacing email is simply not one of them.

As for newsletter sign-ups, that doesn’t even make sense. By definition, people on your list have signed up for email from you, and your newsletter is part of that.

I’ll give the folks at the Social Media Examiner credit for explaining a fourth use for the tool in their post: gaining demographic insights about your list. Okay, but it would be a lot easier simply to look at your Facebook analytics and see what demographics you’ve got there. Will this be identical to your list? No, but if your brand image is consistent across all platforms (as well it should be), then you’re well on your way – without the extra work.

This kind of advice shows a painful over-reliance on Facebook. Never forget that Mark Zuckerberg runs Facebook for his own shareholders, not yours. And given the rate at which Facebook changes the goalposts, you should be looking for ways to be less reliant on it, not more. Certainly not ways that involve paying Facebook to advertise to people already on your list.

Just goes to show you that even the experts can get it wrong. The best way to  avoid getting taken is to give every new tool you are offered a traditional marketer’s gut check. If you already have a way to do something for less money, you probably don’t need it.

Crock Pot Girls: 3 Lessons for Social Media Managers

The Crock Pot Girls have over a million fans on Facebook

A week ago I got an email from my boss asking if I had heard about the Crock Pot Girls Facebook page. I hadn’t, but I quickly learned 2 things:

  1. They had grown from zero to almost 750,000 fans in just the prior two weeks (today they have well over a million).
  2. There was almost no information on who the founders are or how they did it.

Suddenly, everyone in the marketing group, including my boss, was looking to me to explain what happened.

So, did I sweat and fret and struggle to come up with an explanation that would justify why, as the Social Media Director at Cozi, I hadn’t produced in two years what this page had done in just two weeks? Nope. Here’s why:

  1. Stories like this are the REASON we all have jobs in social media. Just like the David After Dentist YouTube video (now with a staggering 99 million+ views), or the People of Wal-Mart Blog, sometimes stuff just takes off. (Asha Dornfest’s wrote an excellent post highlighting the unpredictability factor in the success of her popular blog, Parenthacks.)
  2. The kind of lightning-in-a bottle represented by the Crock Pot Girls page makes for a useful story in many ways, but at the end of the day, these stories are few and far between for a good reason: Smart social media is a marathon, not a sprint, and the real value only accrues to your company over time.
  3. There has already been some speculation on how they did it, and whether it was driven by black hat techniques. Although the page looked decidedly unkosher when I first checked it out, and several of the people producing anecdotal evidence of foul play are people I trust, there is no doubt that the page now has many thousands of legitimate fans too.  So, do the origins matter to you as a social media manager? Probably not. (Better to let the consultants and agencies worry about that.) Because at the end of the day, your first goal is to build YOUR page and use it to serve your customers better.

The truth is it doesn’t really help you or your business to stress out about how the Crock Pot Girls got there.

See, I do not believe that social media is a zero sum game; If the Crock Pot Girls have a million+ fans, good for them. Their fan count does not in any way prevent you from continuing to benefit from the excellent Facebook page you’ve already built. One that you use to engage your customers, gather product feedback, develop a nuanced understanding of your audience, deliver great product support, and so much more.

And if your page is NOT doing all those things for your company, the last thing you want to do is spend your time worrying about someone ELSE’s fan count.

But wait! What if you have a crock pot or recipe fan page and website? Isn’t it a zero sum game then? Aren’t they stealing all your customers’ eyeballs?

I have good news for you: If they actually do a good job and make that Crock Pot Girls page super engaging, then they aren’t stealing your customers from you, they are AGGREGATING them for you. You now have the ideal place to park your limited marketing dollars in the form of a super tight and targeted campaign of Facebook ads – to be served exclusively to the fans of the Crock Pot Girls. After all, who is more likely to click “Like” on your crock pot recipe page than someone who already likes a page about crockpot cooking? And if their page sucks and fails? Then they aren’t hurting you are they?

So, go ahead and read about these fun viral hit stories; Heck use ’em in your presentations too. But then go right back to staying focused on what you were doing before your boss asked you about this: build a great page that works for YOUR business goals.

What I Learned from Summer Camp About Facebook Pages

This week my 8 year old daughter started daytime summer camp, and came home with this sticker on her chest:

Facebook "Like us" sticker

Note: Do NOT use your customer's children as marketing vehicles


It says, “See all the fun we are having at camp!” Like us on Facebook”…

So, the camp is asking me to “Like” their Facebook page. Which I totally get, except for a few things:

First, I already “Liked” their page when they asked me in an email a while ago. And since I tend to pay more attention to Facebook pages than the average citizen, I have repeatedly checked it out. And you know what? As a mom and customer, there’s just not much to “Like” about the page. In marketing language, their content sucks.

Second, I’m totally cool with them asking me to ‘Like” their page in almost every which way: Emails; at the bottom of every single one of those dozens of forms I have to sign; a big sign on the door — hey, even a camp ditty with a line about how fun their Facebook page is(n’t). But a sticker on my kid’s chest? Now you are creeping me out.

What can everyone who runs a Facebook page learn from this?

1. Don’t use desperation tactics to drive your Facebook page. Especially when it comes to people’s kids. First think, “How would I feel if someone used this tactic on me? Could I do something similar that would work just as well? ” My friend Lua over at Miss Lulu Blogs rightly pointed out that even putting it on her backpack would have been way better.

2. As the always-amazing Ramon DeLeon commented, the problem here is really lack of winning content. See, my older daughter attends another summer camp, a sleepaway camp no less, and their Facebook content is equally bad. It’s a sleepaway camp people! Can you think of a better, more interested audience than parents of kids who are away for the summer? That page should be HUMMING with interaction among interested parents. What do they got? Nada.

Just imagine:
“Name your kid’s favorite Harry Potter book correctly to win a free goody bag for the whole bunk!”

Parents name the book and their kid, camp checks, and declares the winners both to the campers on site and then to the parents, on the Facebook page of course. Thus, kids and parents have a unique interaction VIA Facebook that is fun for all.

“Congratulations to Joey in the Raccoon bunk for having a mom who knows her Harry Potter! He and all his buddies will be enjoying candy bars and popcorn tonight!”

And I just made that up.

What do you recommend for juicing up a summer camp Facebook page?

How NOT to Build a Facebook Following

I belong to a LinkedIn group focused on Facebook success. From what I can tell it’s a mix of people from all over North America (mainly), who work in social media (or who would like to), and people who just want to get a better grip on using Facebook for business success.

Recently, someone posted a discussion thread that went something like this: “Let’s all band together and “Like” each others’ pages, so we can all build up our followings.”.

I was tempted to post back what a silly idea I thought this was, but figured it might cause some hurt feelings. Besides, no one asked me for my opinion there, right? That’s what this blog is for. So, here goes… This is a NOT the way to build a Facebook page. In fact, it’s a terrible idea. Let me explain.

Let’s say you have a Facebook page for your local hair salon. You use it to post specials, chat about what’s going on in the neighborhood association, give some hair tips, maybe even post photos of cutting someone’s hair for Locks of Love. All good stuff that your existing fans like. But you’ve only got 350 fans and you wish you had more. So, you follow the advice of this thread and ask for “likes”. Suddenly your fan count zooms to 700. Yippee, right? Wrong.

Before, Facebook was looking at your stats and rating you an A+ content provider, because a nice percentage of your 350 fans were interacting with your page – “liking” your posts, writing comments, maybe even posting “I got an awesome haircut!” to your wall.

Now, Facebook is gonna give you C, because you’ve got 350 new people who, after “liking” your page once, are never going to interact with you again. So as a purely strategic move, this is bad idea because it hurts where you will show up in the news feed. And showing up in your fans’ news feed is the #1 goal of any post. The higher, the better. After all, you can’t be relevant if you aren’t being seen.

But put that aside, and pretend Facebook doesn’t have an algorithm that rates which posts are most popular, and then put them in your feed accordingly. This is STILL a bad idea. Why? Because 50% of your fans are NEVER, EVER going to set foot in your salon or spend a dime on your services. So what business goal has been accomplished?

Of course, you could argue that artificially inflating your fan count is good simply because people love to join a winning team. Thus, the bigger your fan count, the more likely new visitors will take the step to “like” your page. This is actually, the only decent argument for doing this, and not an entirely bad one. But you have to pay a price. Now YOU have to go fan all those irrelevant pages to pay the favor back. (Unless you’re a freeloading jerk.) Do you really want to do that?

How about just building a REAL following instead? A following of people in your area who actually need their hair done? A following of people who love your services and will recommend them to others? Even a following of people from all over who are really into hair products and styles who come to your page to learn the latest and greatest?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t deploy tactics that bring in new fans. Of course you should. But when you choose them, make sure you’ve got at least a better than even chance that you’re attracting and retaining RELEVANT prospects and customers. Because don’t forget, business success – not fan counts — is what Facebook marketing is for in the first place.

Top 5 Most Annoying Things Parents Use Facebook For

Facebook

As we get ready to ring in yet another New Year, here’s my round-up of 2010’s most egregious parental Facebook faux pas:

#5 Inviting friends to your child’s theater performance. Note: I do not want to go to your child’s play. Ever. If your kid makes it to Broadway, I’ll make it up to you by not asking for a free ticket to opening night.

#4 Posting the details of how fast your kid ran in the race, or swam in the meet. Ditto for how prodigiously talented they are at soccer, baseball, tennis or gymnastics. Photos are fine – crowing about your kid’s stats is not. That is what grandparents are for. Note: You get extra douche-bag points if you post your kid’s stats to people whose kids scored lower at the same event.

#3 Posting that your 3 year old can read, or, even worse, casually mentioning that your 2nd grader is enjoying the same book as my 5th grader. Don’t think for a minute I don’t know that this is you bragging at me while pretending not to.

#2 Soliciting donations for school and activity fundraisers, like the walk-a-thon, entertainment book, girl scout cookies and gift wrap. This is what aunts and uncles are for. Don’t you know we all have to buy the same school crap from our own kids? Sheesh.

#1 Requesting advice on what to do about the fact that your child has been asked to join the gifted program. As any parent whose child has not been asked can tell you,  the “gifted program” is a code name for the “program for socially maladjusted children”.