Inconsistent Brand Strategy on Facebook Leaves Marketers Frustrated

What’s up with Facebook?

Those in branding and marketing are probably counting the days when yet another change to the social network will leave us puzzled…and frustrated.

When Facebook recently moved away from its fan-based organic approach and into promoted posts, there was pushback from users who are annoyed with the ads.

Marketers and business owners who had been gathering steam over the years by growing a solid fan base on Facebook’s business pages were also irritated.

Branding pros understand that paid ads are exasperating for Facebook users, and don’t want to be part of the mix. Who would? Any brand that cares about its reputation and how the company is perceived would head for the hills.

Being perceived as an interruption is not good for business. Brands work towards relevance, and this latest Facebook change moves in a very different marketing direction. I’m sticking with relevance.

Facebook’s new model, sans click-bait, oversteps the lines of consumer privacy. Facebook’s latest catch is that a new algorithm shifts from clicks to how time someone actually spends on a particular ad or site. That’s when the dreaded flood of spam and pop-ups begin.

A few years ago, I went online to get a coupon for an oil change for my car. Within a split second, I was receiving competitor discounts for oil changes, ads for new tires, a mechanic training program, and a car dealership right near my house. Oh, what a simpler time in social media….

Many industry leaders maintain Facebook is chipping away at the precious content that brands often struggle to create. If our content is bumped to Facebook’s back burner, and our fans are seeing promoted posts valued by the social channel instead, why should we continue with the platform?

I have to wonder how important Facebook actually is to my business, and my clients’ businesses.

There’s an interesting post from The Wall Street Journal about this very topic. East24, an online food ordering service, dumped its entire Facebook presence, “claiming the social network was deliberately limiting the exposure of its posts in order to force it to pay for ads.” The post, written by Jack Marshall further explains:

“Many marketers paid significant sums to accumulate audiences or ‘fans’ on the social network, only to find it’s getting harder to actually put content in front of them without paying. Interestingly, Facebook’s response seems to be that fans help boost the effectiveness of its ad products. In other words, marketers must pay for ads to extract value from the fans they may already have paid to acquire. The changes aren’t designed to help Facebook sell more ads, but they might.”

I’m not willing to dig into my client’s budget to pay to engage with relationships that were already established.

And did heaven and earth fall apart when Eat24 shuttered its Facebook page? This was the company’s parting post with Facebook.

“We closed our Facebook page, and absolutely nothing happened. The sky didn’t cave in. Hell didn’t freeze over. Tuesdays are still exclusively for Tacos. Everything is pretty much exactly the same as it was when we had a page. The only difference is now we don’t have to think about things like optimal headline length, preview image resolution, and the proper ratio of cats to cheeseburgers to maximize virality.”

Haven’t consumers already proven that they don’t want to suffer through irrelevant ads and commercials on TV? Can you say DVR?

 

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Visual Content Widens the Branding and PR Gap

The line between advertising, branding, marketing and PR may appear blurry to some, but I believe clarity has arrived.

Interestingly enough, it is the disruptive visual platforms Instagram and Pinterest that are bringing clarity to the overall communications industry.

In a traditional sense, Public Relations practitioners have been wordsmiths; conveying written and (limited) visual messages to the public. PR pros have mainly used words and text to increase awareness and educate people about products, services, controversies, and causes.

But, 2014 has been a tsunami of visuals and images in communication. This has widened the skills gap between branding and PR. For example, research proves that press releases and blog posts containing visuals have significantly higher open and read rates than content with straight text.

Many PR executives and organizations are inserting video snippets or infographics into their press releases. Their goal is to improve engagement and news pitches to reporters. Visual tours are becoming more commonplace with PR, too. Show, don’t tell.

This is a far cry from branding and the visual web that’s unfolding in our industry today.

Who ‘owns’ a company’s brand positioning?

Not the PR department, the mavens of linguistics.

According to a post on TheNextWeb, photo and video posts on Pinterest refer more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ combined.

Storytelling with visuals is driving branding as well. Forty-two percent of all Tumblr posts are photos.

The first commercial camera was introduced in 1873. Today, there are more than 1 billion photos on Instagram.

Welcome to the visual web.

Branding, marketing, advertising, and sales are based on the psychology of influencing human behavior and emotional touch points that convert into revenue.

I don’t believe that students of PR are the most trained, skilled, or experienced  in these areas. This is a far cry from matters such as Crisis Communications, an area of expertise that rightfully belongs within the scope of PR. Public Relations is aligned more closely with media relations than it is with branding. PR has largely owned social media because it’s closely aligned with reputation management.  But the visual web changes all that. Storytelling has long been the role of the Advertising or Brand Agency.

A post on Content Marketing Institute addresses the transformation of brand experience:

Just as Copernicus revolutionized our understanding of cosmology by proving that the sun is the center of our solar system (not the Earth), marketing has gone through a transformation of focus. Historically, we placed our brand at the center of our marketing decisions, which resulted in a lot of wasted effort. Cristina Heise gyro’s Director of Brand Experience points out that we’ve now put the customer in her rightful place — at the center of the marketing universe. “Think about the human at the center and how to make it easier on them. Think about what’s concerning her, what’s troubling her, what excites her, what motivates her, what she wants to accomplish and how you and your brand can help,” she recommends.

The hub of today’s hybrid messaging and modern marketing is the visual web. Analyst Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester says a marketing strategy based around value-driven interactions is vital in meeting customer expectations.

Linguistics and text are a shrinking part of the overall picture.

As the demand for consumer engagement skyrockets, it’s the visuals that show–and tell–our brand stories.

 

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Watching Programmatic Advertising Grow Up

It’s not commonplace in the marketing world because it’s too confusing.

That’s the conclusion I have drawn about programmatic advertising, which is defined simply as an automated process to buying online ads. Think Amazon or e-Bay.

Marketing pros who are embracing this (somewhat) new model see a busy and bright future for online display advertising.

On Adweek.com, Mike Shields says programmatic is about buying specific audiences using a lot of data to figure out the right ad, the right person, the right time. “It’s the idea that machines will simply handle all of the process involved in buying media—the insertion orders, the paperwork, the trafficking, the spreadsheets. A few mouse clicks, and you can go home.”

Marketers may be watching programmatic mature, but it’s still not sitting at the adult table just yet.

I like this thumbnail from AdAge:

“For all the ink spilled, you’d think the entire world had gone programmatic, but it’s still just a sliver of online-display advertising. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ buying arm Magna Global projects that programmatic spending will reach $9.8 billion in the U.S. this year, or about 20% of the overall digital-ad market. To move brand dollars, programmatic technologies have to grow up and advance to other forms of media, like TV and radio.”

There is movement in this direction.

A few weeks ago, Google launched Partner Select, a programmatic exchange for video ads.

TechCrunch.com’s Frederic Lardinois explains that almost by default, Google’s customers also want to buy their ads programmatically and spread their investment across multiple publishers. At the same time, many content providers tend to sell directly to the brands that want to advertise around their content.

And with this comes the challenges that brands and agencies are facing. One concern is a lack of quality content that’s available right now for programmatic video.

A second point that is bringing uneasiness into the conversation stems from location.

Programmatic is being hailed as a software tool that saves marketing dollars. But what happens if an ad is placed on a less-than-reputable web page that could do more damage than good?

We’ve seen brands getting burned by fraudster’s who create shell websites with an impressive number of followers and subscribers who don’t exist.

As long as marketers and brands are educated about the growing pains associated with programmatic advertising, we may just find it an efficient and exciting way to influence consumers in real time.

 

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3 Ways to Keep the Real Score in Social Branding

Too many marketing, branding, and advertising pros are going into social campaigns with a lot of information, but are confused when asked the following fundamental questions:

  • Why are you conducting this social media campaign?
  • How will you know if it’s a success?

Yes, these may seem like rudimentary questions, but the answers must be extremely clear to every single member of your team…before the social campaign gets underway. As business leader Napoleon Hill said in the 1940s, it’s all about definition of purpose.

This takes us beyond just watching the number of followers or likes that have accumulated on Facebook or Pinterest. These tallies are good for our egos but they fail to bring the conversions that are at the heart of marketing campaigns, the conversions that drive revenue and business.

It’s time to look deeper into three aspects of the data that is available to us:

Know the value of a visitor. How long does a visitor stay on your website or blog? What was their point of entry and where did you lose them? A person who is on and off the page in 12 seconds cannot be quantified the same as a return visitor who spends 1.5 minutes on your site and registered for a free catalog or white paper.

Look at where your paths cross. By fully understanding consumer behavior, you will be able to pinpoint where your brand intersects with consumers. How did the consumer find you? Was it a search engine, link from another site, or a referral from a trusted friend? Marketing and branding professionals must have access to data (and understand it) as it relates to consumer habits across content, social, mobile, and search.

Disseminate information quickly. Real-time analytics will prove vital to your campaign as data enables you to listen, react, and respond in just moments. Certainly this is important in customer service as consumers take to social channels to air their delight or disgust with a brand, product, or service. But, companies that use free tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and BrightEdge, can monitor keywords and multiple social channels to engage with the public as conversations unfold. Consider it a softer side of customer service.

We are living in the age of the connected consumer.

We must be able to dissect the information that’s going on inside the data.

According to best-selling business author Seth Godin: “The essence of marketing today is to tell a story to people who want to hear it, in a way that resonates with them so they are likely to either respond or connect to you, or tell their friends.”

 

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