Facebook’s Page Post Targeting: What it Means for Brands

Facebook recently added a powerful feature for brand page administrators and community managers: Page Post Targeting. Before this feature was introduced, the only message segmentation available to brands was based on location: posts could be geotargeted to a specific country or city. Now, commmunity managers have many more options at their disposal: posts can be targeted by age, gender, interests, and more. So, what does this mean for brands?

Messaging can become more relevant. By developing content for specific segments and subsets of the community, the brand can be more like a true friend, and talk about things they know will be of interest.
Costs for Content Development and Community Management will increase. Because a brand will be developing several different streams of content, the number of posts will increase, along with the variable costs associated with developing those posts. Community Management and monitoring costs will also go up, both because of the increase in the total number of posts being made, and because of increased rates of response and engagement with the more targeted posts.
Editorial Calendars may become more complex. If brands are already using segmentation strategies in their email communications, the same editorial calendars may be able to be adopted for Facebook. But for brands that are not already developing segmented messaging, the work will get more complex and the management tools will need to evolve. Community managers are already working with social Editorial Calendars that include multiple dimensions such as channel, georgraphy, time of day, and day of week, and will now need to add the additional dimensions chosen for segmented messages.
Interaction counts may go down, but rates may go up. It will be important that Social Dashboards emphasize interaction rates rather than sheer numbers, as each of the segmented folks will be targeted to a smaller number of individuals. However, if relevant content is being created and the segmentation strategy is working, engagement rates should increase, resulting in increased overall reach. Community managers will want to spend time with those who read the dashboards to help them anticipate and understand these changes.

With these new tools available to them, brands that are large enought to have multiple consumer targets should modify their content strategies to include a a mix of content. Some posts should continue to be developed to be appropriate for the entire audience of brand friends. Messages that reference brand values, features, and attributes experienced by all consumers should continue to be delivered to everyone. New categories of content should be developed that will be focused more on the consumer and the lifestyle connection points they are likely to have with the brand. A producer of premium meats may want to speak differently to a 25 year old single man compared to a 35 year old married one – because they will likely be using the product in different ways and have a different path to their purchase decision.

The incremental costs for adding segmented content may pose a challenge to brands and digital managers with already tight budgets. Demonstrating the ROI for community engagement will become even more essential as brands seek to gain additional funding for these efforts. The linkage between rates of engagement and a consumer’s increase in purchase intent or sales volume will becomoe even more critical to quantify.

This enhanced targeting capability gives community managers and Facebook content editors powerful new ways to increase the rate at which the brand’s friends interact with brand content. By working closely with market research and consumer insights collegues to identify the targetable characteristics of the most influential members of the community, community managers can augment their existing general content with relevant posts that will result in higher rates of engagement with the brand’s friends.

What’s the Point of Facebook?

Last month, the Australian Advertising Standards Board ruled that the comments of fans published on an brand’s Facebook page are actually advertisements and must comply with industry self-regulation and consumer protection laws. This ruling created a lot of discussion among social media managers and digital marketers. It felt like the common consensus was “how can they expect this of us? There is no way we have the resources to read every single post on our Facebook page!”

I beg to differ. Whether or not it is required by regulations, I firmly believe that if a brand is going to create and maintain a social presence on Facebook, the brand SHOULD be reading every post. That level of listening is the reason for having a social presence in the first place: Facebook allows a brand to humanize itself, to express its personality, and to be a “friend” to those who want a relationship with the brand. It allows us to hear what people care about – and the folks that have decided to “like” our brand on Facebook are possibly our most important customers. Why wouldn’t we want to listen to everything they have to say?

For Facebook to be effective with consumers, the brand’s comments need to feel “at home” in the news feed of those who have decided to “like” the brand. The brand’s posts should be like a lot of the other content that shows up in an individual news feed: things that make you smile, make you wonder, help you learn something, or give you a way to bear with a long line at the DMV. The comments posted by a brand’s friends on the page matter just as much as what the brand creates.

I often liken a brand’s Facebook presence to a cocktail party, and the brand is the host of that party. As a host, you don’t want to talk too much about yourself, and you want to help your guests to enjoy themselves. If you are hosting a party, and someone obnoxious is destroying the atmosphere for everyone, you would do something about it; inappropriate comments on your Facebook page can have the same effect as that obnoxious boor. They spoil the party for everyone. It’s the host’s responsibility to handle the situation.

I’m not saying that I agree with the Advertising Standards Board’s view that consumer comments on a brand’s page are “advertising”. But I am saying that the brand has responsibility for them, even if we didn’t write them. They are on our page – a page we created to build a community. We must treat our brand’s Facebook pages as a two-way street. It is not simply a vehicle for us to deliver our brand message to a flock of sheep. It is a place to get acquainted with real people, build friendships, have some fun together. We can’t allow ourselves the excuse of saying we don’t have the time to listen to our friends, or even those who are “posing” as friends: if that’s the case, then we should simply shut down the Facebook page. Unless we treat our friends as more important that the brand, we won’t be able to generate real consumer engagement anyway. We must find the time, the resources, the social management system – whatever it takes to allow our brand to be a real friend. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Facebook Advertising: What Brand Managers Need to Know about the Latest Changes

Facebook recently announced additions to their advertising offerings, continuing their efforts to provide ways for brands to deliver brand stories to existing and potential brand fans. Because of the Facebook Edge Rank algorithm, most brand posts are seen by only a small percentage of their fan base, (an average of 16% according to Facebook). By purchasing advertising units, brands can target their own fans (and others) with advertising units to ensure the brand’s message is seen by the folks to whom it is directed. In addition to the ad formats discussed in earlier blog posts, Facebook has added some new advertising formats:

  • Mobile: advertisers may now deliver ads to Facebook’s mobile platform.
  • Newsfeed: along with the placement in the right rail, premium ads are “eligible” to be delivered to the newsfeed.
  • Social features: premium and marketplace ads will offer like, share and comment features,
  • Large format ads delivered on logout.
  • Reach Generator is a product that guarantees 75% monthly/50% weekly fan visibility for Page post activity.

Most premium ads are limited to 90 characters, and must originate as posts on the brand’s timeline.

Since ads originate as posts, brands have the opportunity to maximize ad effectiveness by using only those posts that have been most effective in generating fan likes, shares and comments.

These new units and the new Reach Generator product ensure that the content brands develop for Facebook is actually seen by their brand’s fans. Although these changes reinforce the fact that Facebook is NOT free, brands that make the investments in quality content and distribution mechanisms will be able to establish strong and ongoing relationships with the people that use their products, and expand their reach across their fans’ social graph.

For more thinking about the mix of investment for ads vs. apps, see this AdAge article: http://adage.com/article/special-report-audience-buying-guide/brands-market-facebook-spending-money-advertising/233929/

Facebook Page Changes: What Brand Managers Need to Know

In support of Facebook’s goal of helping brands to tell their stories and engage consumers in those stories, Facebook has changed the layout for Brand Pages; these changes will take effect on  March 31 (or sooner if the brand chooses.) If you have an advertising campaign in market on March 31, all traffic will land on the new Timeline, rather than any custom tab or app that you might have created for your campaign, unless you adjust your media links to go directly to the URL for the application.

The new layout, called Timeline, will be the same for every page visitor: those who have already liked the brand and those who have not. A brand is not allowed to create any graphics for the page that are designed to emphasize “liking” the brand, encourage sharing, highlight any offers or prices, or provide contact information (i.e.: website or email address).

The Timeline is important, but the brand’s publishing strategy continues to be more important and deserves the most focus. Most consumers will experience the brand’s content through their own News Feed, not via the brand’s Timeline page or applications.

What you should do now (and what you shouldn’t):

  1. DON’T PANIC. Brands have the option of “publishing” the new Timeline anytime between now and March 31. Go to your page and choose “preview” to see how your brand page will look if you do nothing; you can make as many changes as you like before you publish the page (or it automatically publishes on March 31.)
  2. Pick a cover photo. Facebook has already selected one for you from your photo album; you may want to choose a new one.
  3. If you use apps, identify the 3 most important ones and move the thumbnail images for these apps into the tops spots below the cover page.
  4. If it is appropriate for your brand, identify four or five important milestones in the life of your brand, decide how you can illustrate those milestones, and develop associated text for each. You can add milestones to your brand’s timeline without posting the update to the news feed of your brand’s friends.

The Timeline’s important “above the fold” features:

  1. A large “cover photo” image
  2. Four buttons below the cover page image that link to brand tabs and/or applications; the brand can choose what shows up in 3 of 4 of these.  (The photos button is immovable.)
  3. Up to 8 additional applications can be made available to consumers via a drop-down button.

How these changes will affect the brand’s publishing strategy

In this new format, visual images will be much more important to a brand’s publishing strategy. Photos and videos are much larger in the new layout, so posts that are text only will get lost on the Timeline (but might still work very well in the News Feed of the brand’s friends, so don’t go overboard and  force the use of an image if you don’t have something appropriate.)

Despite its name, Timeline does not appear to be displaying posts in a strictly chronological order. Facebook has added a “pin” feature to allow you to pin a post to the top of the timeline for up to 7 days. You can also “star” a post to make the image double wide.

Helpful links for more information:

http://ads.ak.facebook.com/ads/FacebookAds/Pages_Product_Guide_022712.pdf

http://mashable.com/2012/03/01/facebook-timeline-brands-guide/

http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/facebook-brand-timelines-changes-marketing/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/29/how-to-use-timeline-for-pages/

Facebook Insights for your Brand

The platform that Facebook has developed for brands includes a standard set of Insights, visible to site administrators. There are four Insights tabs providing an overview of the level of interaction with the page and its content; additional data can be downloaded for deeper analysis. The brand’s objectives for the page will determine which of these metrics will be important. Here’s a rundown of what is available. 

The Insights Home tab provides top line stats: Total Likes, Total Friends of Fans, People Talking about This and Weekly Total Reach.

The insights tab also shows a trend graph for People Talking about This and Weekly Total Reach, along with bubbles that symbolize the number of posts made.  The “people talking about this” number represents the number of unique people that have created a “story” in the previous week; a “story” is any of the many way a person could interact with your page content, including liking the page, posting to the wall, interacting with a wall post, mentioning or tagging the page or responding to an event.

This page also shows a listing of recent posts and their performance: the number of engaged users who interacted with your post, the number of people “talking about” the post, and the “virality” of the post (the percentage of folks who interacted with it compared to the number who saw it). These statistics are accumulated for a 28 day period, and additional detail can be viewed by clicking on a result. You can spend a lot of time looking at all the data here; it is most efficient to download the file on a regularly scheduled time frame, and analyze the results in a way that is consistent with your brand’s objectives on Facebook.

The Likes tab provides additional details about the people who have chosen to like the page – all the data here is based on the data in a consumer’s profile: gender and age, the top countries, cities and languages represented. This tab also includes a chart that shows the “source” of recent likes, which is particularly useful when the brand is running an advertising campaign that is intended to increase the number of likes. When an ad campaign isn’t running, the common sources of new likes are Facebook recommendations, the Facebook page browser, and from the viral spread of fan activity; an example of sources is shown on the left. This tab is also a good place to keep an eye on the number of “unlikes” – if the graph spikes, it’s a sign of trouble!

The Reach tab helps the marketer understand the reach and frequency of the content: who is actually seeing the brand’s posts. As with the “likes” tab, you can see the gender, age and country, city and language of those who actually saw content from your page within their news feed. Facebook delivers content to each user’s news feed based on an algorithm; not every fan will see every post that is made by the brand. Reach can be improved by improving the rate at which consumers interact with the brand’s posts; as they become more valuable to the fan base, they will be delivered more frequently to a wider number of fans. This tab also allows the marketer to see the sources of reach(organic, paid or viral) and the frequency (how many times a unique person viewed the content).

The Reach tab also provides information about the number of page views and unique visitors, so you can judge whether visitors are going deeper into the page once they land there. You can see the number of visits to each tab within the brand page, and the top external referrals to the page.

The final table is the Talking about This tab, which provides the the gender, age and country, city and language of those who interacted with the brand’s page and created a “story” that posted to their own News Feed. By comparing the demographics of the people who were reached by the content with the demographics of the people who interacted with it, a marketer can determine if their content is resonating with the target consumer. By using the drop down menu available, you can see the relative strength of your own posts compared to posts by others in generating “talk” and viral reach among your fan base.

All of the data is just that – data – and it can be very easy to waste a lot of time looking at all the statistics and results. Each brand manager must define what they are seeking to accomplish with their Facebook page, and then determine which data points will provide the insights to determine whether those objectives are being met, and which tactics are most effective in generating the desired behaviors. Narrow down the important statistics and results, and create a monthly report that provides a consistent measure of results, and how they are changing over time.

Facebook and Branded Social Actions

Mark Zuckerburg has articulated the mission of Facebook thus: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. The core of Facebook is that power to share. For marketers that seek to connect with Facebook’s over 800 million users, that means creating something worth sharing, and making sure they find it. In the guide for marketers, Facebook recommended that 20% of your budget goes to building an app and 80% on promoting it. While that may seem self-serving for Facebook, the fact is that it is the same principle that has always been the case with marketing messaging: whether creating a television ad, sponsoring a concert tour, or building a web site, content distribution has always formed a larger part of the promotional pie compared to the content creation.

Brands have to figure it out: in the US, Facebook accounts for 16% of total time online, and that percentage continues to increase at steep rate. The folks from 360i put it this way: marketers must become part of consumer’s personal stories in a shareable way.

The most important place for a brand to be within a consumer’s Facebook page, is in the Timeline. It’s also the most difficult place to be: the Timeline is controlled by the consumers, and represents what that person sees as the most important parts of their lives; those things that define them and that they want to share with others. One big change for brands: if a brand fan clicks “like” on a brand status update, this action will no longer show up in the fan’s news feed – the fan must take some action, such as “share” the content, before it will show up to their network.

Brands that provide something fun or useful will become part of the Timeline as they provide applications that cause a consumer to “do” something with their brand. The new emphasis on verbs: reading, watching, etc. will allow consumers to talk about real interactions with brands – IF the brand provides something that’s worth doing. 360i’s report calls these “branded social actions”.

With Facebook’s new Ticker functions, brands will want to learn more about when their consumers are using Facebook, and test to learn what timing and frequency of posts generates the most interaction.

As a brand rolls out a new application intended to generate these branded social actions, the distribution strategy will likely need include the purchase of media to be sure that enough folks see it to get the social ball rolling. The guidance to marketers distributed by Facebook places a lot of emphasis on the use of Sponsored Stories, and that’s no surprise. While it certainly drives revenue for Facebook, these Sponsored Stories units have proven to be successful in generating traffic to brand content – and the better the content, the more Sponsored Stories will be generated. It’s a logical step for marketers to include these units in their campaign plan. It will also be important to connect all other media placements to the Open Graph, so that every traffic driver your brand uses will generate a branded social action to bring more consumers to the great content you have created.

Don’t Neglect the Digital Marketing Basics

A recent report from Pew Research is a good reminder that brands should not forget the importance of email and search in consumer communications. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Search-and-email/Report.aspx?src=prc-headline

Highlights:

According to the study, 92% of internet users in the United States use search engines and send email. The number using social networking services? 65%.

  • 96% of those ages 18 through 29 use search engines.
  • 90% of those making under $30,000/year use search engines; that’s not substantially less than the 98% usage rate seen amongst those making $75,000/year and up.
  • 94% of internet users in the 18-29 category use email while 87% of those in the 65+ group use email.

All told, well over half of U.S. internet users (59%) use search engines on a daily basis, and an even higher percentage (61%) use email daily.