If you manage a page on Facebook, then you’ve noticed recently that your organic reach has gone down quite a bit. It’s not just you: Facebook is has been quite transparent in telling marketers that they have to advertise to get their reach back. This is probably the first time they admit it.
This report from Facebook (via Ad Age) is not really breaking news for those of you who know your way around Facebook marketing.
"We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site." This means that Facebook will be heavily prioritizing paid placements over organic ones.
Further down the report, Facebook suggests that marketers should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.” So, who needs fans when you can pray for people to troll your advertising on said fan page?
Social media marketing was never really free, so I’m not in the least but surprised. Now that Facebook has FINALLY told marketers “Organic reach doesn’t work on Facebook so please, puh-lease buy advertising,” then it’s time to kick every social media marketer, media-buying people and community managers in the a** and tell them “You better optimize these ads right and get me the best out of my dollar.”
Here’s Facebook’s pay-by-play:
The impact of computers and the internet on western society is dramatic, but so far mostly positive. The communication with co-workers, sharing and ever increasing computing speeds make working in front of a screen more fun each day. Something that I have struggled with is actually getting work done with the largest ever human-built library at my disposal. Here at the Rockstart Spaces, it’s a constant flow of people coming to say hi, mails, social networks and telephones grabbing our attention. Also brief moments with colleagues distracting you is something you need to be aware of.
Maybe you start the day with checking your mail or reading your to do list of the day. It’s good to have a look at your current work routine. There’s always room for improvements. Two small tips that really worked out for me;
• Do the most important tasks early in the morning, when your energy level is at it’s peak.
• Try not to make your mail your to do list and don’t check your mail all the time. If it’s really urgent they will call you.
Learning Fundamentals published a blogpost about this very subject with some awesome tips and tricks. If you’re one of those people who can easily stay on track with a newly loaded page of 9gag goodness in the tab-next-door, move along. The rest of us could use the following link, which in itself is a distraction, but a productive one.
Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about (and applying) the best ways to market early-stage startups. Below is a synthesis of this thinking, packaged nicely into a few points. These insights reflect a wide range of responsibilities that fall under the marketing function, and cover both the strategic and tactical. They’re a product of my experience with consumer-facing tech products.
1. Get the nitty-gritties in order
Before getting started on any new project, marketing fundamentals need to be in set. These include having a clear definition of the company’s mission and vision, formulating customer pain points, understanding the target consumer and defining the key message. All of this information is captured in a few brief documents, and functions as a reference point for all future work. You can’t really do marketing without this key step. Different people will always have different answers to questions that define your company, which can ultimately lead to internal confusion and weakens your message to outside parties.
2. Focus your efforts on just a few things
There are a million things you can do to get the word out about your product. Unfortunately, you only have time for just a few. Rather than fighting this reality, focus your efforts on only 2-3 big initiatives at once, like PR, content, and 3rd-party distribution. Marketing activities require intense effort before they catch on. If your resources are spread too thin, nothing will work and you’ll end up scrapping initiatives that have a lot of potential.
3. Give each initiative enough time to succeed
Marketers often deal with the uncertainty of time. Something that you do today may give you results tomorrow…or a few months from now. This happens a lot with situations that rely on a third party with different schedules and motivations (e.g: PR outreach), as well as marketing activities that require a critical mass to drive growth (e.g: social media). Be patient with a program so it has a chance to succeed. I find that 1-2 months is usually a good benchmark of progress.
4. Create a master tracking dashboard
There are a lot of free (or cheap) analytics tools to track key performance metrics, including Google Analytics, Effective Measure, and Campaign Monitor. Each tool does something slightly different that contributes to your overall success, but none of them is the one-stop solution. It’s up to you to create a master-tracking dashboard (I do it in a Google Spreadsheet) that aggregates and standardizes information from all of these sources. It’ll help you see the big picture and understand why your company is (or isn’t) growing.
5. Ask only for one thing
In an early-stage startup, marketing is all about getting people to do things for you: getting users to try your site, getting the press to write about you, or getting partners to take a chance on a tie-up. The best way to do this is by asking them for one thing. If you give them options, they’ll come up with excuses or ignore your request. You should always think in a system of ones: one message, one call to action, one click.
6. Use your pitch to evaluate your product
Writing out your pitch forces you to articulate your startup’s key points of difference. This, in turn, helps to evaluate your product. As you list your company superlatives, identify which ones really stand out and cannot be claimed by competitors. If there aren’t any, this means that your message is weak and will probably be lost in the noise. Compiling this feedback early can help steer your development team toward the most exciting and most differentiating product features, rather than building cost-of-entry ones.
7. Always pair social media with great content
Many people think that social media is a must-have in your marketing mix. The reality is that on its own, social media activity takes a lot of time and has very little ROI. Pairing it with content, either original or curated, adds substance to your conversations. It gives you a point of view when sharing with the community, and incentivizes your audience to participate. If you can’t commit to some form of content production with your social media efforts, don’t expect great results.
8. Make email your best friend
You’ll spend a lot of time marketing your startup via email, including pitching the press, reaching out to potential partners or communicating with users. It’s in your best interest to make it your best friend. Assuming you’re on Gmail (why would you use anything else?), arm yourself with various add-ons that save time on repetitive tasks. A few of the ones I use: Rapportive (plugin) to generate social profiles, Boomerang (plugin) for message scheduling, “undo send” to prevent mistakes, “default reply all” to keep everyone in the loop, and “canned messages” for standardized pitches and replies.
9. Spend money when necessary
There is a common notion among early-stage startups that you shouldn’t pay any money for marketing. The reality is that some very effective forms of user acquisition are paid, and they’re well worth the cost. For example, you can jumpstart your community efforts by paying for Facebook likes, and once you reach a critical mass, the community will grow by itself. The key metric here is arbitrage: as long as the cost is less than the average revenue per user, you have a strong rationale to spend.
10. Add polish to everything you do
As a marketer, you’re ultimately responsible for the final product and the image it projects. If something doesn’t look right or work properly, you’re the one who has to explain it to users and outside parties. Make sure to pay attention to details and add polish to new product features or marketing initiatives before they are deployed. This means doing things like writing site copy, fixing grammar/formatting errors and creating professional About and Press pages. Most of these tasks don’t require a lot of time, but are the difference between a real, unified company and an amateur operation.
"Tumblr isn’t a blog platform like WordPress; it’s a social network that has a blogging platform. The beautiful thing about Tumblr is that it makes it really easy to share your content with millions of Tumblr users… so you can get a big audience without spending a ton of money on marketing."
Unlike the more established marketing channels, social media is still in its relative infancy. For this reason, the life of a social media marketer is spent both learning and keeping his or her clients up to speed with the ever-changing social landscape. I believe one of the things that makes a successful as a social media agency is when clients are always asking questions and pushing us to define success for social media marketing, even though our world is still changing almost daily. And good for them! Any smart business person should be asking how she’ll know if she’s successful.
Recently, clients have been asking me how they’ll know if our community managers are succeeding in their craft. To me, that answer was simple: a healthy community.
That means the community manager is doing well, right? Well sort of.
Thanks to some smart thinking and advice from a few industry friends, and great partnership with a few clients who shared input on what they expected from their community managers, I’ve boiled down what it means to succeed as a community manager, taking that analysis beyond the traditional marketing KPIs and incorporating a more traditional performance review method.
Metric #1: Measuring Community Health
The community manager’s role is to get people to talk, share, and react to the brand in the communities he or she manages. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be set for each community based on the client’s objectives for that community and the community manager’s scope of work. Example metrics of community health (and therefore, the quality of the community manager’s output) are:
- Community Growth Metrics: Net new Likes, new followers, etc.
- Community Attrition Metrics: Unlikes, unfollows
- Brand Mentions on Active Social Channels:Facebook page tags, blog backlinks, blog comments, @replies and @mentions, etc.
- Engagement Metrics: Attrition rate, people talking about this, bounce rate, return visitors, etc.
- Content Analysis: Interaction rates ( [Likes + Comments + Shares] / Total Fans or [@replies + @mentions + RTs] / Followers), click-through rates, blog posts shares, blog backlinks, etc.
Metric #2: Tracking the Community Manager’s Deliverables
Additionally, there are certian skills and tasks required of a community manager that I can track to ensure that he or she is fulfilling the cope and meeting the client needs.
I’d recommend tracking all of these over time, rather than holding community managers to a specific goal, because there are many factors outside of their control that could affect results. Examples of scope fulfillment metrics include:
- Volume of content output: Number of posts, number of @replies sent, % of fan comments responded to, etc.
- Speed of replies
- Spam removed
- Escalation paths followed properly
Examples of content fulfillment metrics include:
- Clear CTA
- Matches brand voice
- Relevant to the community
- Includes appropriate tags, mentions, or backlinks
- Proper spelling and grammar (just because you’re posting on Facebook doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that you are a professional company with some expectation by your customers of professionalism)
- Links are properly tracked and work
- We have permission to use all media (licenses and rights confirmed, waivers collected, etc.)
- Facebook-specific: Title and meta data for links are edited appropriately
- YouTube-specific: Tags, title and descriptions optimized to match keyword strategy
- Blog-specific: All content and images are sourced properly; post is tagged and categorized; post slug is correct; post-previewed and formatted correctly
Metric #3: Alignment with Client Needs
There are also subjective measures that any agency with a focus on client success should care about. I recommend discussing these needs with our clients on at least a quarterly basis and ask our client partners to engage in an open dialogue with us, providing feedback on the community manager’s ability to do the following:
- Provide strategic guidance as it relates to the brand’s online communities
- Grasp and adapt the brand voice
- Represent the community’s point of view
- Provide actionable insights
If you run a website, you know how important search engine rankings can be. Getting your site on the first page of Google can bring in widespread awareness of your cause/product/service, or an influx of new customers.
There’s more to a high Google ranking than just optimizing your website for certain keywords. Social media can both really help or really hurt your your ranking, according to TastyPlacement, who have done a little testing to see how much Google+, Facebook, and Twitter actually affect search results.
In a nutshell, TastyPlacement created six websites based in six US cities. They let them be for ten months, and then began testing various social networks for each site, focusing on the following for five of the websites:
- Twitter followers
- Tweets and retweets
- Facebook shares and likes
- Followers to the site’s Google+ business page
- Google +1 votes to the homepage
(The sixth site was left as-is for a control test.)
They promoted these websites using the particular social network chosen for one month, and then measured how each site’s search engine ranking changed for a set of keywords.
So how did social media influence the search results?
Overall, the websites’ search rankings changed by between a fall of 1.22 to a rise of 14.63. So, social media does affect search results.
Google’s own properties yielded the best results by far (let the conspiracy theories roll through…)
The website that was linked to a Google+ business page saw a full 14.63 rise in its search position, while the website that had a Google+ +1 button rose 9.44.
And these stellar results, sadly, did not translate to Twitter. Targeting tweets and retweets only got the website a 2.88 rise in Google’s search results, and procuring 1,000 additional Twitter followers actually caused another site’s position to fall by 1.22. (Didn’t Google try to buy Twitter a while ago? May more conspiracy theories roll through..)
Social media is not a strategy. It is not a goal. It is a series of tactics.
I’m not one for semantics, when it comes to your social media the difference between these three terms are important.
If you are a small business or a startup trying to venture out into the social media world, you can easily be led to think that you should neglect traditional marketing, customer support, PR, and just replace them with social media.
"We need to put everything on Facebook and Tweeter, that way we won’t need to send out newsletters!"
If that statement makes sense to you, or is even remotely attractive, HALT. Don’t even think about taking that direction. Go get your marketing plan, and consider where social media tools will support or extend your existing marketing strategy. (Social media can enhance more than just marketing, but that’s a good place to start)
These are the actual Merriam-Webster definitions:
Strategy : the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war
Goal : the end toward which effort is directed
Tactic : a device for accomplishing an end
Don’t get so hung up on these terms that you become paralyzed. All you need to do is have a clear, written plan to help you accomplish your corporate goals. You’ll use a variety of marketing strategies, one of which is social media.
Growing a multimillion-dollar corporation during a recession is no small feat and it’s no accident. Companies that are swimming against the economic tide are doing things differently than those that are treading the water, or worse, drowning. These are numbers from a PwC: Accelerate report.
So, what exactly separates the best from the rest? In a world of tech-empowered consumers and employees, companies that are bucking the economic trend exhibit key behaviors that allow them to exploit technology and weave it into their businesses - the company’s Digital IQ.
PwC surveyed 489 companies across industries with annual revenues of more than $500 million to find out what successful companies are doing that the others aren’t. Following is how the ‘top performers’—companies that grew by 5% or more last year—are making the grade.
1) Integrate Technology into Strategic Planning: Naturally, creating a strategic plan is the first step in implementing any sort of large-scale corporate effort. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is what counts. 89% of top performers feel confident about their strategy versus 63% of the pack.
Top performing companies are also more likely to integrate IT into their strategic planning process. Of the companies that are excelling, 86% said that their CEO is an ‘active champion’ in the use of information technology to achieve corporate strategy. That number drops to 56% for the remaining respondents.
Moreover, the crème of the crop is more likely to have a CIO who not only reports directly to the CEO, but has strong relationships with other C-suite executives. In growing/winning companies, the CIO is seen as a ‘business champion’.
2) Set and Share a Single, Multi-year Roadmap for the Overall Business Strategy: In the mobilization stage, executives create a blueprint for breathing life into the strategy. Too many companies bypass this critical step. Not the best companies.
77% of top performers have a single, multi-year roadmap. That number sinks to 54% among average performers. Furthermore, sharing that strategy throughout the company is also critical to success. 76% of top performers say that their strategy is well communicated throughout the company. Only 44% of the rest make that claim.
Additionally, 78% of top performing companies say that their business and IT leaders share an understanding of the strategy. Only 49% of the other survey respondents feel that everyone is on the same page.
3) Look Beyond Delivering IT Projects on Time and on Budget Setting: a strategy leads to IT projects that are delivered on time and on budget so it’s no surprise that superior corporations are meeting their goals more often than the others.
67% of top performers say that their initiatives were delivered on time. In stark contrast, only 38% of the rest of respondents hit the mark. Coming in at or below budget proves to be more difficult for both groups, but nonetheless, 54% of top performers did so compared to 35% of the larger group.
However, many organizations downplay the trade-offs in cutting scope and therefore potential business value in favor of bringing a project in under cost and time targets. Almost 100% of top performers say that they frequently or always deliver their planned scope versus only 35% for all surveyed.
4) Invest in Mobile Workforces: Top performers spend more on empowering their workforces with mobile devices than the rest. 44% of the high performers will invest between $250,000 and $1 million and 33% will invest more than $1 million. For the remainder of respondents, those numbers are 37% and 27%, respectively.
5) Interact with Customers Using Mobile Technology: Only 44% of the pack interacts with customers via mobile devices “quite or very significantly.” That number jumps to 66% among the top performers. And, top performers are putting their money with their mouths are: 50% of them plan to invest more than $1million in mobile solutions for customers in 2012. That number plummets to 29% for the rest of the group.
6) Reap the Rewards of Social Media: Both the best and the rest are investing in social media at almost the same rates, but the top performers claim to see more of a benefit from their efforts than their lower-performing counterparts. 41% of top performers say they are benefiting from their investments in social media compared to 24% of the others. To gain a greater edge, 40% of the top performers expect to increase their use of social media. Only 26% of the rest of respondents plan to spend more in this area. In fact, 36% of the top of the heap plan to invest $1 million in social media for internal communications in 2012.
7) Invest in Cloud Computing: Top performers are investing more aggressively in cloud computing than the pack. 52% of top performers will spend more than $1 million on public cloud applications. Only 34% of the remaining survey respondents plan to spend that much. For private cloud investments, the gap is even wider: 58% of top performers will invest more than $1 million, compared with 39% for the rest.
Overall, top-performers link strategy to specific programs and actions while mobilizing the organization around that strategy. Everyone knows what role they should be playing and what success looks like. Top performers also don’t shy away from opportunities to innovate. The role that the CIO plays is to drive superior execution and innovation.
I’ve been under heat lately for refusing to work with some startups, so I think this deserves a blog post.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: social networking has completely changed how brands interact with people. Media is not only consumed by the masses, but is produced by them as well. This isn’t something you haven’t heard before, but it’s important to always keep it in mind.
I’m not going to talk about why startups should utilize social media and all that other basic stuff; I could write a book about that, but that would be silly, because a) I don’t have time to write a book, and b) other people have written them.
Instead, I’ll focus more on the bottom line aspect of finding out what their purposes and agendas for using social media are, which is a prerequisite before even thinking of hiring a “social media expert.” (This is starting to sound like I’m trashing my own profession, but keep reading.)
Above all else, the startup’s product or service should always be the number one priority. If you’re going to market a bad product that hides behind a smokescreen of flowery words and flashy ads, it might sell for a while until people start to experience how crappy it is. One thing to keep in mind is that other startups are using social media as well, so if you screw your shot, chances are people will just move on and talk about the next big thing (UnThink, ring any bells?)
Since I’ve chosen social media marketing as a career, let me be the first to tell you: there is no such thing as a ‘social media expert’. If you’re looking to hire someone to help you with a social or digital marketing strategy, walk away from the self-proclaimed ‘experts’, which is a blog post to come. That being said, the goal for startups is simple: making money. Twitter followers, Facebook likes – they’re all well and good, but unless you’re able to convert them into cash in the end, they’re pretty pointless. They are simply opportunities to connect and engage with people – a medium to get a message across.
All efforts to interact with customers and get that message across boils down to delivering an experience that will make them want to use your product, and have your brand name on top of their minds as something that provides a benefit, so startups really need to be focusing on their product before they take Twitter followers as a means to measure their success.
Here’s my take on startups and hiring social media ‘experts:’
- Focus on your product/service: Get your product and experience right, first and foremost. If you invest in marketing before what you have to offer the market is nailed, you’ll just accelerate your failure as more people find out that you suck. Again, smokescreen of pretty, flashy words aren’t going to save you. Make your product/service awesome, and you’re social media will reflect that eventually.
- Get your sh*t together: One of biggest challenges is hiring the right team and keeping the right team, startups are hard, and people will come and go quickly. I know that getting your message out there is definitely a big concern for all startups, and that’s why going to a social media person seems like the best of ideas at first, but the only right message would be one that lets the brand look unified and has it buttoned-up. You can’t communicate it if you’re not exactly that internally.
- Democratize your social media: At the startup stage, social media can’t and shouldn’t be100% of one person’s job; it should be 1% of 100 peoples’ jobs . Split and share responsibility for social media channels throughout your team; you’ll discover that your smallest efforts will yield big results that way. Especially if that “Get your sh*t together” point has been secured.
- Hire someone social-media savvy, but not just for social media: If you do decide that you need someone to work solely on the social media, make it part of a more general role – communications, marketing, etc… Don’t stuff the square block into the round peg. As a startup, you’re going to need everyone to lend a hand in everything else going on.
- The exception goes to online startups: Companies based online by their nature are going to focus on social media, it’s just part of the online as a whole. But the online startups are the ones that should focus on this last take the most:
- Be weary of flashy smiles: If you DO decide to outsource your social media efforts, CHOSE WHO YOU WORK WITH WISELY. To stress that point, it’s in capital letters, bold, and has been underlined. Hire someone who gets how social media fits into a broader approach and will help you strategize your digital efforts accordingly. Don’t outsource to people who tell you a Facebook page will solve all your problems and rake in the bacon for you, because this results in failure of social media campaigns for the all companies, not just startups.
To be clear: I am NOT trashing what I do for a living; I’m a social and digital media strategist, and the above are issues that should be considered for any social media strategy. I’m not trying to be discouraging to startups, either.
I’m 100% for the current shift towards social innovation, and chose a career based on this shift and the crazy idea that I wanted to be involved in the startup world.
The problem is, 99% of social media people won’t tell startups that social media is really focused on the importance of people and how their product/service works for them. My role is to develop and execute strategies on how to build and maintain online relationships and cultures -recognizing and appreciating your online peeps. I always encourage startups to answer questions like: What is our culture? How are we rewarding? How are we communicating to people that we value them? What are the little things we do in between and how do we let them know they are the most important thing and are the biggest assets? If startups can’t answer that yet, then I just can’t take over their social media for them. Maybe if I’m honest, they’ll find me when they really do need me.