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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4 Topics Every Marketing Pro Must Embrace

Trends twists turns editedThe advertising and marketing arenas are bursting at the seams, and for good reason. The transformation of consumer behaviors based on technology are exciting…and yes, sometimes chaotic.

Are you keeping up with the trends, twists, and turns?  Here are some recent news stories that amplify the shifts in consumer marketing.

Advertising

Long-Form Digital Ad Views Skyrocket

Tumblr: Yahoo Overhauls Advertising Model to Leverage ‘Data Insights’

Dermablend Moves Beyond Shock and Awe of Zombie Boy for an Emotional Connection

Online Auction Site Ganklt.com Expands National TV Media Buys

Facebook to Marketers: Expect a Drop in News Feed Distribution

Brand Voice and Engagement

Big Opportunity for Social Media Campaigns with Emotional Appeal

Can a Payment Tech Company, Visa Canada, Create a Buzz and Shift Consumer Spending Habits?

Is Nike Paying Too Much for Superstars and Endorsements?

Future of Brand Marketing/Tech/Mobile

Mobile Startup Jana Launches New Tool to Reach Next Billion Consumers Via Mobile

Apps: The Future of Marketing

Mobile and the In-Store Customer Experience: How ‘Showrooming’ is Helping…or Hurting

Social Media Marketing Tips for Highly Regulated Industries

Visual Hashtags and Big Brands

Metrics

In Defense of Advertising’s Gross Rating Point

Trends to Act Upon: Avoid the Vortex of Valueless Marketing Metrics

Finally, Chobani Yogurt’s Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness says that part of marketing is innovation. “You have to keep pressure in the marketplace to keep things exciting.”

The Evolution of Marketing and Advertising: 10 Insights From Brand Stars

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Brand Masters Conference has left marketing, branding, and advertising professionals feeling energized about the coming months.

The event, held in Hollywood, FL from February 26-28, is considered the premier annual conference for Brand Marketers.  Top advertisers gather to share important Brand insights and trends.

The seismic shift in consumer messaging sparked discussions on campaigns, strategies, successes, and missteps from companies such as Samsung, Taco Bell, CitiGroup, and Chobani.

Here are 10 takeaways from the various sessions and panels:

On the New Customer Relationship: “We are shifting from marketer to publisher with the vision to create, curate, and co-create with customers.” -Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, Taco Bell

On Millenials:  “Show me that you know me.”-Millennials Panel Discussion

On People and Brands: “We don’t always see a brand as a person. They should be human though. We do think each person is a brand.” -Gen Y Panel

On Functions: “Brand is not a marketing function. It’s the core of the business and should involve all functions.”-Greg Revelle, Chief Marketing Officer, AutoNation. Noteworthy: Revelle said the auto industry spends $15 billion a year on ads.

On Innovation:  “Innovation shouldn’t just be the role of marketing. It needs to be instilled in the DNA of the organization.”-Andy Callahan, President, Hillshire

On Differentiation: “Connect your brand to something that impacts a consumer’s life in a meaningful way and people take notice.” -Elyssa Gray, Director, Head of Creative and Media, NA Marketing, CitiGroup

On Storytelling: “We’re breaking the mold with storytelling that demonstrates what the brand is all about.” -Mike Accavitti, Senior Vice President, Automobile Operations, American Honda Motor Company

On Relevance: “The world is changing and we need to stay relevant…Flavor and ritual are the two things we think about most. We innovate with what’s new and what’s next.”-Chris Fuqua, Vice President of Brand Marketing, Dunkin’ Donuts. Noteworthy: Dunkin’ Donuts launched 100 products in the past two years.

On Culture: “Don’t build a brand, build a culture. Build trust.”-Todd Pendleton, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung

On 2014’s Next Tech Trend: “Wearables are all about context. Deliver information based on where you are and what you’re doing. There is massive market potential with wearables. Brands can focus on utility, not simply brand marketing.”-Christina Warren, Senior Tech Marketer, Mashable

Finally, three words were prevalent throughout the ANA Conference: Authenticity, trust, and innovation.

 

Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic

Everyone knows we trust our friends’ opinions more than we trust brand advertising.

So naturally brands are testing social media to learn how best to create brand advocates.  A CMO said to us recently, “If we can get our  FaceBook fans to tell their friends, that will be more powerful than paid ads and we can create more efficiencies.”

 Nobody doubts that statement.

Unfortunately, turns out to be not quite that simple. It’s a lot of work and takes a 24/7 always -on approach. And the biggest challenge remains creating scale anywhere close to paid media in order to generate desired sales lifts.

In our media brand practice, we’ve tested everything from influencer programs to blogger programs to multiple facebook brand initiatives. We’ve had  varying degrees of success.

We’re  bullish on social media but testing has proven that social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.

Social Media should NOT be a stand alone brand tactic.  Here are some reasons why:

1. Social Media is very hard to scale on its own.

2. Social Media should part of the overall communication of the brand and work in unison with all other brand touchpoints.

3. Social Media, when done well, is integrated into the total business goals of the brand, not just the marketing goals.

4. Social Media is a long tail strategy and takes a period of time to realize results. Social Media is not inherently a fast audience builder.

5. Social Media should constantly tell a brand’s story (through video, blogs, photography, scribing) with rewards and incentives ocassionally thrown in to keep fans motivated. It should not be solely a broadcast vehicle that is only about brand selling.

6. Social Media, supported by paid advertising, can scale quickly and social content can be amplified to a much larger audience.

7. Social Media, when integrated into customer service, can help reinforce the brand attributes with customers and create happy customers.

When brands integrate social media with other marketing and business strategies,  the results are greater response rates, greater reach, greater brand engagement, and deeper overall metrics.

Don’t isolate  social media marketing into a siloed marketing tactic.  This approach greatly limits the ability of social media to be a force in strengthening the brand story.

 

 

 

 

Brands Shift into Online Video at Record Speed

In our media planning and buying practice, the biggest shift we have seen by advertisers in the past year is to online video. Our brand clients have embraced online video and we have seen tremendous success with driving traffic and growing engagement through digital video media buys. Big and small TV advertisers have been shifting a portion of media budgets to online video.

Brands who cannot afford TV are now producing video and buying across the web in a very targeted manner. The results we see are unlike anything we’ve seen previously online in terms of engagement and click rates.

Digital research firm eMarketer says video is the fastest growing form of digital advertising, with spending increasing 46% last year and outpacing search ads and display ads.  eMarketer estimates digital video will be a $4.14 Billion industry this year, doubling the 2011 numbers.

March 2013 comScore online video numbers are impressive, as well:

Consumers watched 39 billion online videos in March 2013, according to a new report by comScore.

  • Ads accounted for over 25 percent of all videos viewed.
  • 84.5% of the U.S. population viewed Video in March.
  • 52% of the U.S. population saw a video ad in March.
  • The average number of video ads per consumer was 82x

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise of TV as the dominant form of media by advertisers (it is estimated to be a $66.35 Billion industry this year) but online video is growing and gaining a lot of interest and ad dollars from national advertisers. As media buyers prepare to enter the annual television upfront marketplace, digital video has found a respected place among advertisers.

How Often Should Your Brand Post to Facebook?

Have you ever seen a TV ad just one too many times and become totally annoyed? How about that “stalker”  banner ad (behavioral targeting is the official term) that will not leave you alone?

In media planning for brands, it’s common to set  frequency goals for various media. In digital advertising this is known as “frequency caps”.  The idea is to cap the number of times a consumer might be exposed to a message to prevent them from being completely annoyed. It also enables ads to be served to a broader group to increase reach and manage  frequency.  Too much exposure to an ad often results in a tuning out of the message, having the opposite desired response. At some point for all ad campaigns, the brand reaches a point of  diminished returns. This is usually when a fresh ad is integrated into the mix. I mean how many times can we see the truck pull the space shuttle?  There are volumes of statistical research that  supports effective frequency theories, over decades of tracking ad campaigns. But what about frequency in social media?

I began thinking about this the other day when I realized I was getting social media fatique from some of the over-posters on facebook.  Because social media learning is so new, it has not yet adopted some of the best practices from other media: like frequency caps. The default theory seems to be: post often. But a deeper look into what early “experts” say shows that posting on facebook 1x per day seems to be the prevailing wisdom at the moment:

1. Socialbakers proprietary tracking shows that Brands post on average 1x per day and media companies (news sources ) post  an average 7x per day. In fact posting more did not increase engagement and likes and actually decreased engagement. Posting 1-4x per week received 71% higher engagement than 5+ times per week.  

2. At the AllFaceBook Marketing Conference in December, Facebook asked a roundtable of experts and the belief then was Brands should post no more than 1x per day.  Salesforce.com’s Customers for Life VP Michael Jaindl suggested that most professional users should only post one or two times a day. “The interaction rates are 19 percent higher,” he explained. Glyder director of social media Blake Jamieson agreed, saying he only posted one or two times a day.

3. Jeff Bullas wrote a great post that showed quality of content matters more than quantity of posts. In fact, more frequent posting of 3+ times per day shows less engagement than posting 1x per day.

4. In a recent Mashable article on top social media mistakes, Facebook suggests that brands start out with one or two posts a week to feel out the platform and see what works. Many brands post once per day, and many find that posting more than once per day can actually have an adverse effect on engagement. Facebook indicates that the average user “likes” four to six new Pages each month, so your content is constantly fighting for more attention from its fans. It’s better to post one excellent item per day instead of two decent ones. Bottom line: don’t overpost.

In media planning, there is a wealth of research over decades of ad testing, that supports effective  frequency levels for maximum response and maximum brand awareness. Much of the recommendations vary depending on brand category, the competition, the consumer profile, the message.  In social, it will take much more time to build an arsenal of reliable research on social media to know with certainty what frequency is most effective.

The best direction is to create compelling content, understand what your audience wants to hear, and don’t overdo the posting frequency…as it will likely wear down the audience and create an annoyance reaction.

How often do you post and how to you feel about people or brands who post too often?

7 Twitter Tips Every Marketer Should Know

Twitter has been around since 2006 and many companies still struggle with how best to use the platform. When done well, twitter can be a powerful part of the integrated marketing mix.

Whether you’re new to Twitter, a veteran, or somewhere in between,  here are  some helpful Twitter tips.

Post a clear and concise bio and take advantage of opportunities to brand your Twitter Page 

Twitter allows you 160 characters to post a bio on your profile page. Humanize your bio.  Choose your keywords wisely and describe your product or service succinctly. Add a link to your website or any page you want your followers to click on to get more information out there about your brand. Take advantage of the new cover photo feature Twitter rolled out recently. Use the extra page real estate to promote a campaign or new product you offer. Much like the cover photo feature on your Facebook page, take the opportunity to use this space effectively to communicate more about yourself and your brand.

Offer value on your stream

If shameless self promotion is your only strategy, you’re doing it wrong. Sharing information about your brand and services is important and sharing posts about your campaigns and events is important; however, sharing information relevant to your audience is most important. Take the opportunity to build your thought leadership within your community. Share information that will help your community grow and learn new things about your industry or business. If people like/value your tweets, they will suggest you to their friends. Take note that 69% of follows on Twitter are suggested by friends.

Be present and proactive 

It’s interesting to note the latest Twitter statistics state 56% of customer tweets to companies are being ignored. Engagement and relationships built with customers are key to acquiring loyal followers. Watch your @replies and make sure you reply to questions and inquiries made by your followers. Joining in conversations will also allow you to better know what your customers need. It is good practice to be have a consistent presence to build your base, not only when you have a campaign running. Relationships are not created overnight. Be patient and stay at it.

There are now more searches performed on Twitter  each month than Yahoo and Bing combined ( 24 billion on Twitter, 4.1 billion on Bing and 9.4 billion on Yahoo.) If your competitor is present on Twitter and you are not, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Make use of hashtags 

The hashtag on Twitter is a tool where in keywords in messages can be categorized and searchable. Including the # symbol before a relevant keyword or phrase in a tweet makes that word a search term and will bring up a Twitter search page for that term when clicked. Create your own hashtag or follow hashtags to access relevant and real time search information. When creating your hashtags, make sure you don’t over do it. Choose one or two keywords in every tweet and make sure it is relevant to what you are tweeting about. If you want to know more about hashtags and how to use then effectively, check out this article from Mashable. Hashtags are also a great way to monitor your tweet stream to see who is talking about your brand and monitor mentions related to your product or service.

Take advantage of photos and videos in your Tweets 

Twitter recently rolled out a feature  where users will see better search results that highlight visual experiences. Search results now include photos and videos shared on Twitter. Take the opportunity to share your stories via photos and videos. When someone searches for an event or a hashtag, users will now see a grid of the most relevant media above the stream of tweets.  With more people tweeting on the go, users can also see media embedded in search results on smartphones phones and mobile devices. Photos and article summaries automatically show previews offering a tree top view of what’s happening at the moment.

Participate in Twitter Chats 

Twitter chats are a great way to get more exposure on Twitter, find great people to follow and encourage people to follow you. Oneof my favs is  #MMchat for marketers on Monday at 8P EST for  marketers and advertising pros who are interested in all things social media.  If you want to create your own Twitter chat, check out tweetchat.com to find out how to go about creating your own chat or get a list of other chats to follow. If you have the budget, why not sponsor a Twitter chat that is relevant to your brand and take the opportunity to connect with people in your industry.

Add a Twitter button to your website 

According to MediaBistro  there are about 500 million registered users on Twitter and 50% of active users say they follow companies and brands on social networks. 79% of active users will recommend brands to their followers and 67% say they will buy from brands they follow. Make it easy for people to share your brand story with their friends by adding a Twitter button to your site. This will make it easy for people to share your content with their networks. Don’t forget to add a “follow” button to make it easy for people to follow you. Twitter offers several free widgets  you can use on your website or blog.

Twitter is a powerful social media tool you can use to compliment your marketing campaign. Knowing how to utilize this social networking platform will help you gain insights about your customers, what’s trending and what is being said about your brand. I hope these tips will help you take advantage of Twitter for engaging and building your community. Are you using Twitter as part of your advertising and promotional strategy? I invite you to share your experiences here. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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