Why Brands Are Starting to Hate Facebook

FacebookIsland

Yes, I get it. Facebook is HUGE.

It’s THE social network. Nothing else comes close.

Yet it seems like they are clueless when it comes to working with brands. With understanding how marketing actually works within large enterprises (the tension for example between communications/PR and advertising). Facebook also seems perplexed about what marketers really want to be able to do with their Facebook communities.

It’s unfortunate because it started out so great. Facebook gave brands free range to build interactive communities on its platform.

Come on in!

Use our stuff!

Let us help you!

Brands grew their Facebook communities to hundreds of thousands, even millions.

Brands created awesome content (and admittedly some not so great content). But brands were learning and moving forward. They were experimenting with new ways to deliver content. New ways to engage with fans. They tried product giveaways and sampling right on Facebook. Some brands even launched new products from the platform.

Remember all the talk about Facebook Stores? Direct selling right from a Facebook!

That’s all ancient history now.

Facebook is now a gated community. Exclusive and expensive. All those fan communities brands grew? Well, they now have to pay to talk to them. And not any real  strategic or smart way. Facebook makes you pay as you go. Because, you know, that’s how annual marketing budgets work…

Not.

Posting content on Facebook now reaches a small fragment of brand fans. So small that brands should begin to wonder if it is worth posting anything that doesn’t include paid distribution. The organic reach is limited. Very limited.

And remember applications (i.e. Tabs)? They have become secondary. They are difficult to find and they don’t appear on News Feeds. Again Facebook pushed them as the way to go and now has abandoned them.

I get it. Facebook doesn’t want News Feeds clogged with advertising and marketing.

So penalize for that type of content. Create editorial standards. No overt advertising. Just quality content. Allow that type of brand content  to thrive because people enjoy it and want it.

Facebook needs a plan for brands. A real plan.

The question is will they get one before brands give up on the platform.

Content Distribution Starts at Zero

Startzero

You’ve just developed a great piece of brand content:

  • a video
  • a blog post
  • an infographic
  • a survey

How many people are going to see it?

Without a content distribution strategy you should expect exactly zero.

That’s right. Nada. No one.

Zero.

The days when you could post content on social channels and expect large audiences are long over. You need a plan. Without a plan you’re just relying on chance that your content is going to reach the right audience.

You need to start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the audience for your content? (And please don’t say everyone. Prioritize your targets)
  • Where are your audiences? (What channels do they normally use to find content?)
  • What are the metrics that spell success? (What numbers do you have to reach to declare victory?)

Let’s get specific. You have a video case study that tells a powerfully emotional and visual story about how one customer is using your product to achieve their dream. In other words, the quality of your content is excellent.

You want your content to hit your key customer demographic: mothers between the ages of 30 and 45. In fact, you have created the content with this audience specifically in mind. You want views of the video to be the key measurement. You need at least 250,000 views within the first week to declare success (and impress your boss).

So start at zero and begin to design a distribution strategy to hit your number – and your target.

Let’s start with owned channels.

Your Facebook page has 350,000 fans – most in your key demographic. It’s a great place to start. But you know that a posting the video there will only reach a small percentage of your Facebook community. So you pay to augment the reach. The posting will now hit half your Facebook fans: 175,000 fans.

You also will post links to the video on Twitter where you have 12,000 followers – at least twice a day for three days. Each tweet will focus on a different aspect of the video and you’ll track to see which tweet works best. The tweet that works best will become a promoted tweet on the fourth and fifth days targeted at your followers and their followers.

You will also post the video on your corporate blog, which has 8,950 subscribers. A link to the video will go out in your corporate email newsletter which reaches 125,000 people.

Lastly, you post to your YouTube channel which has 1,090 subscribers.

Next we turn to earned channels.

You bundle the video with a strong news hook and pitch your targeted media. All the trade and business publications that you have developed a relationships with. Not only do you pitch the publications, but you pitch the reporters and editors. Will they tweet the link? Will they post to Facebook? Explore how you can work with them to embed the content on their channels.

Next come the bloggers. You have at least 10 bloggers you work with all the time. You approach them with a paid placement. They agree to write a blog post and embed the video. They will also tweet and post on their Facebook pages. This is a paid opportunity and they have to fully disclose the relationship with your brand. The overall reach of the bloggers is 750,000.

Now we go to paid channels.

You work with a distribution partner like Viral Gains to seed the video with dozens of media companies. Viral Gains agrees to send 100,000 highly targeted views to your video. You also work with OutBrain or Taboola to put a link to the video on articles and content on media sites that are related to your content. They agree to send another 100,000 views to your video.

Now you have a plan.

Through the paid distribution you are guaranteed 200,000 views. You have seeded the video on other distribution channels with a potential of 1.3 million viewers (not including the media pitching). Once you become more experienced in distribution you’ll have developed a formula to know your average returns on these audience numbers.

As you can see, paid runs across all the channels. That’s the way content distribution works now. It’s not advertising. It’s not a media buy. It’s using paid to drive audience and reach your targets.

You hit the switch on the plan.

A week later your video has 780,000 views and it’s still growing. There are conversations on Facebook, Twitter and on your key blogs about the video. Your audience is liking and sharing the content. Media are taking an interest.

Success.

And it all started at zero.

Links:

6 Turnkey Solutions for Content Distribution (via Mashable)

Facebook is Kinda Sorta Old

facebook_logo_gray

Facebook recently turned 10 years old. The most startling statistic about Facebook  out of that milestone was this one:

The average age of an American Facebook user is 41.

Try to wrap your head around that for a moment.

Facebook started out as a network for college students back in 2004. For its first two years, it was the exclusive playground of college students. Not until 2006 was the network opened to the general public.

So do the math.

Facebook started out as a network for 18-22 year olds in the United States. The average ago of users at the beginning was 20. Now 10 years later – really eight years later – it’s 41. The age more than doubled.

The average age went up 21 years in eight years.

That’s amazing.

While teens haven’t completely abandoned Facebook, Pew Research found evidence of teens losing interest in the platform.

One can see why.

Facebook is started to look more than a PTO meeting than the coolest place online.

Links:

Facebook at 10 (via CNN)

Teens Haven’t Abandoned Facebook (Yet) (via Pew Research)

Facebook is Broken, Editorial Standards Can Fix It

FBEditorial

Why do people “like” Facebook?

Simple: It’s the content.

I use it to find content I like: articles, cartoons, and videos. All recommended by friends. I use it to debate, quip, and joke with friends. I used it to see what friends, co-workers and neighbors are doing.

I use it to circulate my own content. I use it to ask advice and solicit recommendations (from everything to good books to restaurants).

Why do people “dislike” Facebook?

The advertisements. The brand intrusions. The feeling that Facebook cares more about mining my privacy than it does on giving me a good user experience.

I can’t help with the latter (However, Facebook could use the excellent services of my employer Weber Shandwick to help elevate its reputation). But I do have some suggestions on advertisements and brand intrusions.

Here’s the big one:

Ban All Advertising

People hate advertising. Hate it. The only time they like it is during the Super Bowl.

Why?

Because the ads during the Super Bowl are really well done stories. They are funny, silly and creative. It’s the only time the advertising industry seems to get what consumers really want. They want to be entertained and informed. They don’t want to be overtly sold or marketed to.

They especially don’t want that on Facebook.

So get rid of the ads. Facebook should be in the business of circulating good brand content, not advertisements. Brands should continue to pay to have their content distributed to their fans and to wider targeted audiences. But first the content should conform to strict editorial standards.

That’s why Facebook needs an editorial board.

If brand content is “advertising” or doesn’t meet editorial guidelines – it is rejected and can’t be widely distributed (the exception being on its own Facebook page). The first filter should always be if the brand content is worthy of the audience. It should never be that a brand is willing to pay to distribute the content.

Editorial standards will make Facebook better. It will make brand content better.

Links:

New Study Says Facebook Will Lose 80% of Users (via TIME)

Facebook is Dead and Buried to Teens (via Forbes)

It’s the Distribution, Stupid

distributionlottery

Create it and they will not come. They will not come by the boatload.

I guarantee it.

Posting digital content and thinking the legions will flock to it doesn’t happen anymore – if it ever did. That’s why every brand needs a content distribution strategy now more than ever.

Because content without an audience is useless content.

Oh, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Awesome content does get noticed and go viral. But, quite frankly, so does bad content. Viral is like catching lightning in a bottle. You want to do everything you can to give your content a chance to go viral – but you can’t rely on it.

Relying on going viral to reach an audience is like relying on lottery tickets for a salary.

Luck is not a content strategy.

The Internet is crowded. Literally bursting with content.

  • 6 billion hours of video is watched on YouTube every month
  • 54 million brand pages have been created on Facebook
  • About 3 million blog posts are written each day

All of this content is competing for attention. Pushing and shoving, elbowing and kicking. Look at me! Read me! Share me! I’m not like the others. I’m special! I’m different!

It’s crucial to have a smart strategy to get your content to the right people. To get it seen and noticed.

And that isn’t as easy as it used to be. The best way used to be developing a plan that incorporated owned, earned and paid channels. Owned is pushing out content on channels the content creator controls: websites, blogs, Facebook pages, tweets, etc. Earned was pitching media and bloggers the content to see if they’d be interested in using it or sharing it. Paid was buying advertising to drive people to the content.

A strong mix of all three was the best way to distribute content.

It still is, but paradigm has shifted. There are no neat owned, earned and paid buckets anymore. In fact, paid now runs across every content distribution plan. Owned channels like Facebook require a paid component now. If you don’t pay you don’t get reach. Media companies, especially bloggers, insist on being paid. Native advertising is exploding.

There are also new digital distribution companies that specialize in paid approaches. Companies like OutBrain, Viral Gains and Taboola. They have partnerships with media companies that can deliver targeted views and broaden your audiences.

Distribution is now a sophisticated discipline. Brands should be thinking about their audience and how to reach them even as they create the content. Engagement should be built right in to help the distribution, especially the sharing.

Because without a distribution plan you’re just playing the lottery.

Links:

7 Ways to Pay for Play (via CustomerThink)

Make 2014 the Year of Distribution (via AdKnowledge)

The 3 Golden Rules for Creating Brand Content

goldenrules

Social media content only works if:

  • It’s on brand
  • It’s of interest to your customers
  • It’s high-quality

Otherwise why bother?

Let’s look at these three golden rules more closely.

1. It’s on brand

The key to a great content strategy is finding the intersection between your brand and the passions of your customers.

ESPN is about sports, but so is Nike. People use Nike apps for exercise. They read Nike tips on running. And, yes, they end up buying Nike sneakers to run in. Nike understands the passions of their customers. They provide it and customers eat it up. Why? Because it is what Nike’s customers expect Nike to be talking about.

This is the same for every brand – from back-end technology providers to pizza restaurants. So a clothing retailer can engage with their fans about fashion. A food company about barbecuing. An outfitter on climbing mountains. And so on.

Being on brand also means the content has the voice and appearance of the overall brand. No one expects a bank to write in slang with all capital letters on its Twitter account. In fact, it would be shockingly odd.

2. It’s of interest to your customers

Brands get in trouble when they wander off the reservation. Likely no one cares what a software company thinks about the latest baseball trade. Likewise few people want financial planning advice from a company that makes cleaning products. Brands should stick to their knitting. Focus on what they know and what their customers expect them to know.

Brands should also avoid being boring. Posting “Happy Fourth of July” isn’t content that many fans and followers want from a corporation. However, “Happy Fourth of July – here are our three favorite grilling recipes for the holiday” would be valuable from a brand that sells barbecue grills.

To be interesting you need to provide value.

3. It’s high-quality

Shooting a 10-minute Q&A video of your vice president of sales on your iPhone might provide value to him – but few people are going to want to watch it. Why would they?

Social media isn’t about adverting. It’s about building a stronger relationships with your customers.

So don’t short change your customers by giving them crap.

Links:

The Death of Content Marketing (via LinkedIn)

Six Golden Rules for Social Media Marketing for Business (via Business2Community)

Is It Really Important to be First with the News?

FirstJourno

It is to journalists.

They are obsessed with being first – with getting the “scoop.” It’s a badge of honor in the industry. When I was a newspaper reporter the most important thing was to beat the competition. To beat them to a story. If you got it first it didn’t matter if they got it better.

In fact getting beat by your competition was the fastest way to get in trouble. Fact errors? Not so much. But getting scooped by another newspaper? Trouble. Big trouble.

Ironically, the only people who care about being first are journalists.

Because guess what?

Readers could care less.

I’ve never heard anyone outside of the journalism industry talk about which news organization was the first to break a story.

So it was interest that I read Steve Buttry of Digital First’s blog post about live tweeting and using Twitter during news coverage. The post – which admittedly was aimed at journalists – was mostly concerned about the battle of being first with the news and whether by using Twitter a reporter was alerting his competition to what he was working on.

A big part of the debate was whether a tweet counted as breaking a news story.

There was little discussion about the readers. About how using Twitter to report news is a way to make a better and more interesting experience for them. The subsequent conversation about the post – on Twitter of course – even discussed the revenue implications of tweets vs. website.

Ugh.

A big problem with the news business today is that they too often write and report for their competition rather than for their readers. The audience that gets the focus and the most attention are their rivals. We beat you! We did it better! Are you gnashing your teeth yet?

That mentality further alienates readers. As does all the hand-wringing about views, SEO and revenue generation. That’s the job of the business end of journalism. Journalists should be focused on delivering quality news content to their readers.

And yes that means using Twitter and other social media networks. It’s where large blocks of their readers now find their news. By using Twitter they provide better coverage and a better experience for those readers.

End of story.

Links:

You Don’t Tip Competitors on Twitter, You Beat Them (via Steve Buttry)

MediaNation Storify curation of Twitter/Journalist discussion

All the Fake News That’s Fit to Print

FakeNews

Here’s how many people now get their news and information:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

In other words, through search and social media.

It works one of two ways:

  • People go to a search engine, enter a search term, and then click on a link within the top 10 search results
  • People scroll through their social media feeds and click on links shared by their friends and followers

In fact, 52 percent of Twitter users and 48% of Facebook users are using the sites as their primary news sources, according to Pew Research. That number is going to continue to climb.

What’s missing here are filters.

Because Google, Twitter and Facebook aren’t news sources. They are delivery systems. The actual source of a piece of news or information is still crucial, but many people are placing less emphasis on who wrote, researched and published the news because many times they don’t even know.

All they know is they read it on “Google” or on “Facebook.”

But news and information are not created equally. Journalists who work for the New York Times, for example, go through a rigorous process of reporting, fact-checking and having their news stories edited by professionals. This doesn’t hold true for bloggers and other online news sources.

We need trusted filters, but unfortunately even these filters are eroding at a rapid rate because of cutbacks and the speed of the Internet.

The latest evidence of journalism demise happened last week when a story about North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un murdering his uncle by feeding him alive to 120 hungry dogs circled the globe. It appeared in major news outlets like USA Today and the New York Daily News.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. It was fake.

It was first “reported” on a Weibo, a social media site in China – as a piece of satire. It then got picked up and circulated. Finally, getting into a Chinese newspaper and later being picked up by western media.

Oops.

With the speed and convenience of the Internet, fewer people – and fewer “journalists” are paying attention to the actual source of the news.

Digital news sources have already surpassed newspapers and radio as the most common source for news (and it is gaining on TV news at an alarming rate). Already about 1 in 3 members of Generation Y use social media as their primary source for news and information.

So expect more “fake” news this year as filters continue to fray.

Links:

News Use Across Social Media Sites (via Pew Research)

How Do Americans Get Their News in 2013 (via Social Media Today)

Fake Story in USA Today

NPR story on “fake” Kim Jong-un story

Do You Have a Right to Pornography?

BritPorn

There’s a lot of porn on the Internet.

Maybe you’ve noticed by “accidentally” stumbling upon it.

Some of it is done tastefully, some of it is quite grotesque. Most of it leaves you feeling icky (or so I’ve heard). But the biggest problem with online pornography is that it is so accessible.

Without a filter just about any online search delivers back pornographic content. Just try to search on a woman’s name – any woman’s name – and see what you get back.

As a result, getting porn – even the grotesque kind – is only a few clicks away. And that means children can be exposed to it quite easily without really trying.

So this begs the question: Should filtering pornography be the responsibility of individuals or society?

Britain is about to try the latter. Prime Minister David Cameron has passed legislation that requires the four largest Internet providers to block pornographic content unless a customer specifically opts in for it. In other words, you can’t access pornography unless you make a formal written request to get it.

The new legislation will affect 20 million households in the UK.

The Guardian is vehemently opposed to it. The newspaper believes the government should not be determining what is pornography and what is not. It argues that a lot of legitimate health and gay lifestyle material is being blocked by the government filters.

According to the Guardian:

“Cameron’s porn filter looks less like an attempt to protect kids than a convenient way to block a lot of content the British government doesn’t want its citizens to see, with no public consultation whatsoever.”

However, the Huffington Post UK notes that 7 our of 10 children were exposed to “raw” sexual images on the Internet last year and that age limitation filters have proven to be a failure (for example, 38% of children under the age of 12 have social media profiles when most sites require users be at least 13 years old).

According to Suzi Godson, a sex columnist for the Huffington Post UK:

“Given the number of screens most kids now have access to, the only way to protect young people from the worst excesses of porn is to explain to them that an interest in sex is natural, and healthy, but porn is to normal sex, what Barbie and Ken are to normal humans.”

Do people have a right to unfiltered pornography on the Internet? Should governments help to block pornography from children? What do you think?

Links:

David Cameron’s Internet Porn Filter (via The Guardian)

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Filter Porn (via Huffington Post UK)

5 Social Media Predictions for 2014

Facebookexplosion

Happy 2014.

I’m still disappointed that we don’t have flying cars and robot servants yet, but I’m hoping we make strides this year. I’m also hoping we get smarter about the environment and how to remove big money from politics.

But I digress. Let’s talk social/digital media instead.

Here are three predictions for the social and digital media industry in 2014.

1. Content Distribution is Elevated to a Must-Have

2013 was the year of content creation. Brands still need to create powerful content, but more emphasis will be placed on distributing that content. It’s no longer effective to simply publish content on social channels and wait for an audience to arrive. Think about it like this. Book publishers don’t just publish books – they market them. Film producers don’t just create movies – they market them.

The same holds true for digital content. Brands need a sophisticated distribution plan to get their content noticed by the right audiences. This means developing a strategic social and digital strategy across paid, earned and owned channels. And remember, paid now includes both earned and owned.

Social channels have evolved and brands can no longer reach organic audiences effective without a paid plan.

Brands need to wake up to the fact that spending $25,000 for a cool video does little good if only 200 people watch it.

2. Facebook Continues to Blow It

I get it. Facebook is public now. They have to monetize and please shareholders. But they also need to realize that they are in the process of killing their own product.

Teens are fleeing at an uncanny speed. Advertising is clogging News Feeds.

But even worse Facebook is slowly eroding organic engagement between brands and their fans. Instead they want brands to pay for that engagement – per post. Yet many brands have not woken up fully to the fact that most of their postings on Facebook reach a paltry percentage of their fans.

When they do – look out for major backlash.

Facebook is truly becoming a leased property and less appealing as the rent increases and they nickel and dime brands. Facebook needs a better system for brands. How about a tiered partner program with features and options built into an annual or monthly subscription rate?

3. Digital and Social Media Gets Grayer 

Brands continue to rely on agencies for digital and social know-how. But internally they continue to hire junior level executives to be their digital and social leads. This isn’t working and they finally realize this in 2014.

Digital content is now at the center of most brand marketing and brands need senior leadership to run these operations – everything from strategy and to content channel optimization. Digital content can’t be bolted on to marketing or communications. It needs to be its own department with a smart leader running it.

4. Live Content Explodes

Social and digital channels were built for live engagement – especially video. This year brands will realize that “live” programming from streaming events and panels to original programming is a way to grab attention, increase engagement and build stronger relationships with customers and influencers.

It also adds sizzle and excitement to every campaign.

5. Media Relations Transforms into Media Partnerships

Pitching the media your brand story is becoming a thing of the past. While it will continue to hold ground (like fax machines and writing a letter), it will no longer be the center of a PR campaign.

Public relations efforts will be more focused on media partnerships, pitching digital content, media integrations and paid sponsorships.

Even the mighty New York Times is preparing a new website to handle sponsored stories from advertisers.

——————

Do you have any predictions for 2014 you care to share?

Links:

Teenagers migrate from Facebook (via the Guardian)

The Worst Social Media Marketing Advice You Will Ever Hear (via Jeff Bullas)

Facebook Saturation (via Social Media Explorer)

Marketers are Forced to Buy Facebook Ads (via Social Times)

New York Times Gets Ready for Native Advertising (via Mashable)

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