The AllFacebook Conference (November 2012) had two standout themes:
- Facebook marketing is complex, and can be expensive
- Facebook marketing, done well, can have a great ROI.
Whilst several nods were made along the way to the wider brand and company benefits of social media (customer service, research, operational efficiency etc), the conference was about marketing, and as I can’t, realistically, relay a whole day’s conference without boring you silly, let’s focus on the marketing bit which will, for many search professionals, be the interesting bit.
The complexity in Facebook marketing, of course, comes because not everyone sees everything, not everyone sees the same thing, and Facebook rolls out features at different paces to different people. (At least one of the American speakers, for example, touched on features not yet visible in the UK.)
Declan Kennedy of Betapond made the point that as few as 10% of the people you think will see a post actually will. Any Facebook page is competing for attention with the other 100 pages the user has liked, and with everything else that user has in their news stream.
There were tips for content along the way, but in all honesty they were very much what worked for specific brands, and the messages were fairly standard fare, and well covered already in other places: content creation is king; pictures travel well; two way conversations not broadcasting;, adding value for the user; integrate with other marketing media/campaigns, and so on. This content was useful, but most search marketers will have heard it said time and again.
Content that travels well is quick and easy, appealing to a minimal attention spam, limited thought required, high emotional value (kittens!). Carnival Cruises is apparently one of the most successful travel brands on Facebook, attributed to the sharing of large images with very little text.
There was a lot of recognition for the customer journey being more complex in social spaces. The recommender may not be the purchaser, and tracking that journey is tougher. Overall Facebook was seen not as a replacement for other channels, but something to integrate WITH other channels.
Personally, I loved the way Ruben Quinones of Path Interactive generously shared a real life example of an emerging brand (rather than a big name) and demonstrated the amazing stats that you can get from Facebook insights, grouping information together to get some truly useful data to inform your posting habits including time of day, type of content, etc– enough to keep Excel junkies happy for hours, and making the customer journey, within Facebook at least, far more visible. Importantly, he noted the importance of using those stats to target a smaller, more specific group of people with very appropriate content. (One note though – you get far more information from inside a Facebook App than simply from a page.)
A repeated message was that social gaming isn’t meeting its demise as suggested by some, but can still be a very effective way of engaging people. The consumer, however, doesn’t care as much about the platform (PC, mobile) or channel (Facebook, Twitter, web page) as the game itself.
Methods for generating successful content varied widely, from using listening platforms (monitoring tools) – Mark Blinder, Adobe – through to employing a Chief Mischief Officer at Paddy Power.
My biggest takeaway was to play; to try a few things, and learn what works for your brand – the most popular time of day, the best kind of content. Once you start applying this information, you’ll increase your engagement level, and once Facebook gets the signal that people like your content, it will serve it up far more often. So despite the instant gratification demanded by users, for brands, both presence and reputation will build over time.
Overall, the speakers’ were thinking laterally and thinking creatively. The BBC started a fish fingers and custard day. Paddy Powers talk was pants – and no, I’m not being offensive. They ran a memorable stunt with underpants (see image) which they grew on Facebook. (Keep an eye out on their Facebook pages as they have promised the imminent introduction of Bingo pants.)
So, if you’re going to do it, do it well. The competition for attention is stiff.
And if you want an instant snapshot of how your page is doing currently, the panel recommended a free benchmarking tool: http://barometer.agorapulse.com/
It’s sometimes hard to get client buy-in on social media programmes, particularly Facebook. So here’s a compilation of some of the points that speakers made:
- Vincent Sider, the keynote speaker, is tasked with building engagement beyond shows that appear on BBC Worldwide (BBCW), the commercial arm of the BBC. They view social media as the intersection of consumer insight, CRM and brands – and as he handles 18 brands, including Sherlock, Doctor Who, Top Gear, BBC Earth, etc. he has more than a modicum of credibility. He has seen engagement levels of 3% on Twitter, interestingly 10% on Google+, and 7% on Facebook (26.6million likes with a continual gradual build over time). BBCW estimates almost a million pounds of extra revenue in the last year alone from Facebook. However, this has to be tempered (see below). And for certain events Twitter has certainly taken a lead in terms of sparking UGC (User Generated Content)
- Virgin Airlines applied tracking to quantify the results of their campaigns: a 15% increase in bookings was directly attributable to Facebook campaigns. They saw a 57% increase in order value from social media referrals.
- Karl Harvard of TBG Digital suggested that one of their customers has seen a 72% uplift in orders, generating 44% more revenue from Facebook activities. (Note the lower order size in this case study)
These stats have to be balanced, however, with the BBC Worldwide’s experiences. Interestingly – and I missed this, so a big thank you to Judith Lewis for this and a few other pointers – EdgeRank changes which were reported as happening in September, happened largely for them at the end of May..
Anecdotally, a significant drop in reach occurred when an image was pulled from TopGear as part of a post – and went up proportionally when just the image was posted.
Facebook visits declined by 28% but engagement doubled to 17% with the algorithm change. This is is where monitoring your data and understanding the numbers really pays off: to regain their previous level of customer reach they would have to spent more than they would make from referral traffic.
The BBC’s response has been to do more on Google+, including more hangouts. Unsurprisingly, given the notes on images, more is also being done with both Instagram and Pinterest as well. But despite this, they do still operate within Facebook. They have reduced the number of posts but generated more bespoke content, which is then pushed out across more platforms.
So how does Facebook compare with web search? What I heard at the conference, backed up what I had seen anecdotally, is that Facebook won’t drive the same kind of traffic to a website as web search. But the traffic coming through the medium is far more likely to convert. And if James Salins of Global SupersonicAds is right, Facebook may up its search functions in the coming year.
So next time someone says to you that a ‘like’ on Facebook is of no real value, remind them: others are already showing a huge ROI. A carefully managed campaign can pay dividends. And there is almost certainly a long term benefit in being there.