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.

How to Measure Engagement using Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights for Brands provides a TON of information about what is happening on the brand’s page; to avoid wasting time looking at everything that’s available, a marketer  must pick and choose what matters. Many marketers use Facebook as a tool for generating consumer engagement with their brand, with the objective of building an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. When the brand creates something that is meaningful to the brand’s fans, the fans are likely to share that content with others, which will expand the brand’s reach and deepen the impact of each interaction.

If your Facebook strategy focuses on consumer engagement, I recommend two levels of reporting: one is at the “page” level, and the second is at the “post” level.

For Page Level reporting, I suggest the following metrics. The report  should include columns for the current month and the prior month; the current version of Facebook Insights only goes back to July of 2011, so we are not yet able to add a third column for the same month in the previous year. Although daily and weekly numbers are available in the Insights reports, I focus on the “28 days” metrics to smooth out the daily fluctuations.

  • Lifetime total likes
  • New likes in the month (number and % growth)
  • New unlikes in the month (number and % change)
  • 28 day page engagement, which is the number of unique users who engaged with your page in any way during the past 28 days. This includes page “likes”, along with any clicks on content, any stories created through likes, comments, shares, and posts or recommendations created by users. I show this both as a number, and as a percentage of total lifetime likes.
  • 28 day total reach, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the number of unique users.
  • 28 day total impressions, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the total count, so may include multiple impressions for a given user.
    • I include a percentage for the viral reach and impressions number, so we can see if we are getting better at creating content that our fans want to share.

For Post Level reporting, the percentages are more important than the actual numbers, because we are trying to create posts that generate engagement. The Insights reports provided by Facebook don’t include percentages, so we download the file and add columns to get us to the data we need.  For each post, our spreadsheet includes the columns listed below, allowing us to sort the results in all sorts of ways. I’m not as interested in reach numbers here – the number of impressions and the interaction rates they generate is the focus.

  • Post date and time
  • Targeting used (if any)
  • Post copy
  • Category (we have several topic / content categories that we use in our editorial calendar; this column allows us to identify any variations in interactions by category)
  • Total impressions
  • % of viral impressions (as a percentage of total impressions, how many impressions were in a story generated by a friend)
  • % engaged users (as a percentage of total impressions, the number of people who click anywhere in the post)
  • % likes
  • % comments
  • % shares
  • % other clicks
  • % negative feedback

Analysis of these results over time can guide the development of individual posts. If I want to maximize the reach of a given post, I will focus on the sorts of posts that generate the most post likes or the highest number of engaged users. If my goal is to generate click-through to an app or other content, I will use these results to determine what tactics are best suited to encouraging click-through – and that is usually different from the tactics that will generate the highest number of likes.

Social Marketing for Non-Profits – Part 2: Content

In Part 1 of Social Marketing for Non-Profits, I wrote about the first steps for using social marketing for a non-profit organization. One of the critical elements of those first steps is to develop the content that you will share with others, so let’s talk a bit more about how to develop content and what you will want to include, specifically for Facebook.

1. Create content. “Content” includes words, photos, videos, and links, created by you or created by others. On a Facebook page, the “content” is all the posts you create, plus the comments and posts that other people make to your page. The content of your page needs to reflect the objective you are seeking to accomplish, so that it will be more likely to resonate with the people to which you are already connected and the people you are hoping to add to the community. Remember: the goal is to give them content that they will want to respond to with a “like” or by sharing with others, to expand the reach of your message.

And don’t forget your “info” page in Facebook. Make sure folks have an easy way to contact you directly for more information. Include a link to your website if you have one.

2. Establish an editorial calendar. Think about the objectives you established in Part 1, and the content that you can develop that will help you achieve that objective. If your goal is to build community awareness about the activities of your organization, you will want to create photos, stories, and videos that show your organization in action. Interview volunteers. Interview the people who are being affected by the work you do. Edit everything you collect into bite-sized pieces, and create your editorial calendar. Think about your calendar as a story that you are going to tell in chapters. Use all the forms of status updates (Status, Photo, Link, Video, Poll Question) to tell your story in different ways.

3. Monitor. Schedule time every day to read comments to your posts, and to check any photo or video uploads that others have made to your page. If you see a negative comment, think twice before commenting on it or deleting it. Others on your page will often do the work for you of correcting errors or helping people see a different point of view. Being willing to hear ideas, even if they are negative or critical of the organization, helps you to establish trust with the friends of your organization. If a comment makes you angry, wait until you have had a little time to think about it before you write a response. But if someone posts offensive or lewd content, of course you will want to delete it, and consider blocking that person from your page.

4. Listen and Respond. As you read comments made by others, you will learn what interests them. Really listen – it will give you ideas about what they will be likely to share with others, and what tone of voice they are expecting from you. Re-post comments from others; publicly thank folks for sharing their comments and photos. Highlight a “friend of the week” (with their permission). Treat those who have “liked” your page as you treat your personal friends. Don’t talk like an “entity” – let your personality and passion show through your posts. Before you post, ask yourself if you would “like” or comment on the post yourself. If the answer is no, rewrite it.

As you build a library of content, you will able to use much of it over and over. Photos and videos can be gathered into albums; frequently asked questions can be gathered into one discussion page or a separate FAQ tab. So now you are ready: go tell your story!

Building A Facebook Fan Base

So you want to build your brand’s Facebook fan base? Before I get there, a few disclaimers: 1. Size doesn’t matter. It is more important to have a few very engaged fans than a thousand who “like” your page once and never return. 2. Size does matter. The more like-minded people you have in your fan base, the more likely they are to engage in conversation and develop a living, breathing community in the context of the brand. 3. Facebook doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Facebook publishing and advertising tactics are only part of what a brand should be doing to build connections with their consumers. I can’t express this any better than John Jantsch already did on his blog: Facebook is Not the House.

As John points out, Facebook can be a “front porch”, an effective place to begin a relationship with a consumer, a place where they can get to know the brand. So if you have decided to start inviting people to come over to your front porch for a glass of lemonade, here are a few pointers to maximize the number of RSVPs:

1. Target cost-efficient Facebook Marketplace ads to consumers most likely to like your brand. The most obvious group of these prospects is the friends of those who are already friends of your brand. Use key words that are directly related to your product, category, or usage occasion to increase your chances of delivering a relevant ad to the right person.

2. Concentrate on the simple “Page Like” ad format. A Video Like unit or a Poll unit gives the consumer something else to do, which is great if you want to drive engagement. But if you want to build your fan base, keep a single-minded focus in your ad formats, and stick to “Page Like” units.

3. Start your campaign using multiple variations of image, copy and title, and eliminate lower performing units as the campaign proceeds. High contrast, simple images tend to work the best, given the white background of Facebook pages. Keep the text short and witty.

4. Start your campaign by using multiple, narrowly defined targets. Monitor the results from each target, and eliminate those groups that don’t respond.

5. Support the Page Like ad units with Page Like and Page Post Sponsored Story units, targeted to friends of your existing fans. For more detail, have a look at my previous post about Sponsored Stories.

6. Not everyone will click on the “like” button in the ad; some will click on the title and land on your brand page. Make sure that the landing page gives them an idea of what to expect from your brand, and why should “like” your page. You could have them simply land on the your brand’s news feed. If that’s your choice, take time to think about the default setting for your page: would it be better for them to see just the brand status updates, or is seeing recent posts made by all your existing fans more compelling?  As an alternative, you could develop a custom landing page, to allow you more control about the “first impression” your brand makes. Think about which approach will help them decide whether they do indeed “like” your brand.

Building your fan base is a continual process; Facebook is so widely adopted that it’s unlikely that a single campaign will reach all the potential fans for your brand. Maintaining a steady rate of fan growth provides a solid base that can be leveraged to support campaigns focused on fan engagement and  deeper brand experiences online and offline.

A Brief Guide to Facebook Sponsored Stories

Facebook advertising is one of the most easy and accessible advertising platforms ever developed, and according to EMarketer and  ComScore, advertisers have made Facebook the #1 publisher of display advertising on the internet. By providing a self-service platform, Facebook allows businesses small and large to develop and monitor highly targeted ad campaigns within minutes. And by creating Sponsored Stories ad formats, Facebook has created a way for brands to increase the likelihood that a brand’s content will be seen by their target audience. And by providing a “social” layer to the ad, the chances of engagement go up, since a consumer is more likely to notice the action of their friends. When combined with standard Facebook display advertising, sponsored stories can drive brand awareness and engagement beyond your existing fan base.

There are several formats for Sponsored Stories, but they boil down to two basic types: one format (the Page Post) is targeted to your current fans, and all the others are targeted to the friends of those who have interacted with your brand’s content. For the latter type, this added layer of “social endorsement” can result in higher ad performance; for the campaigns with which I have been involved, this extra endorsement provided more strength to ads for a more well-known brand compared to a less-well-known brand.

When running Sponsored Stories ads using the self-service platform, there are three formats to choose from: The Page Post, the Page Like, and the Page Post Like, with variations of each for Applications or Domains.

  • The Page Post Sponsored Story is directed to your current fans. It takes the brand’s post and delivers in an ad format to existing fans. It may seem strange to use a format like this: you may be saying to yourself: “why wouldn’t my fans just read my post in their news feed – why would I spend money to deliver my post as an ad to them?” There are two reasons: (1) Your post won’t be published at the same time that all of your fans are online, so your post will move down in their news feed as time passes. (2) Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content is displayed in the Top News feed of each Facebook member. If a fan is interacting with your brand less often that with their other connections on Facebook, they may not see your post in their news feed at all. The Page Post Sponsored Story is a way to be sure they see your post.
  • The Page Like and the Page Post Like is directed to the friends of your fans. A Page Like story lets friends of current brand fans know that one of their connections “liked” your brand page. This story can be published when they like your page directly from Facebook and also when they use the Like box on your brand’s web site. A Page Post Like story lets them know that one of their connections “liked” on one of your brand posts.  As with the Page Post sponsored story, you may wonder why you need to pay to create an ad for this: a “like” action will show up in the news feed of their friends. The answer is the same: these ad increase the likelihood that the action will be noticed.
You can use these formats to promote a brand Page, a Place, and Application, or even a website that is external to Facebook. Ads can be generated when a friend plays a game, uses or shares an application, checked in at a brand place, liked or shared a piece of content on your web site, or pasted a link from your site into their status update. Sponsored stories only happen when a consumer takes an action, so it makes sense to run standard Facebook display ads to increase the rate of consumer activity at the same time you are running sponsored stories.
Facebook’s own guide to sponsored stories provides more detail and links to additional content for developers and analysts.

Is EMail Marketing Dead?

Brands have used email marketing for years as part of their marketing communications. For brands that don’t sell directly to consumers, email can provide a channel to establish a dialogue with consumers, and to provide content that could be shared with others, so it was “social” before social networks came along. With the rapid growth of Facebook, brand marketers sometimes ask whether they investments in building an email database and creating email content still make sense. My answer is a hearty YES! Email continues to be an important part of a brand’s social marketing strategy. Here’s why:

1. Email is still growing; consumers still choose to receive it. While many consumers are increasing using social networks for connecting with friends and families, permission-based email subscriptions continue to grow. This implies that consumers are looking for relevant information from brands. By carefully segmenting content and monitoring consumer response, brands can provide real value and information that consumers are seeking.

2. Email is a hub for brand communications. Email provides the brand a unique ability to connect the consumer to all elements of the marketing plan: the brand can send consumers to a Facebook app, share a YouTube video, invite them to an event in the “real” world. Mike Bloxham from the Center for Media Design at Ball State University calls email “the connective tissue in the media mix based on the ubiquity of its use, the amount of time people use email throughout the day, and the ability for marketers to proactively communicate with their customers through the medium.”

3. Email is relevant to the consumer. Because the marketer controls the database and can track the behavior and interests of email subscribers, the brand is able to create different email content for various consumer groups, providing the opportunity to be more relevant to each consumer. At present, Facebook messages on the news feed can only be segmented by geography and language. Facebook can now function as a “reception room” for potential consumers; it’s an easy and light format that allows consumers to easily get to know the brand. Once the consumer has decided that they want deeper, more personal contact with the brand, links between social they can sign up to receive email messages that will include personalized content that is right for them.

4. Email remains important to users of social channels and mobile devices. Nielsen studies indicate that users of social channels are also heavy users of email. ExactTarget found that 58 percent of online consumers check their email first, compared to the 11 percent who start their day by checking Facebook. ComScore reported that mail dominates time spent on mobile devices and computers.

Email is alive and well, and an important part of the social marketing strategy for consumer brands. Email is one part of the social CRM toolkit, allowing brands to build strong and enduring relationships with consumers.

CRM: the Love Story

So many movies are based on the same classic story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, all  is well with the world. At some point in the story there usually a scene that involves some version of the dreaded phrase “you just don’t understand me”. As a viewer, you know these two are meant for each other and they will find their way back together. And therein lies the tale: they will figure out what is important to themselves and to each other, and the relationship will emerge stronger than ever.

OK,  maybe I watch too many chick flicks, but I do think that all this has some bearing on the work I do with my brand team partners as we develop our  CRM strategies. (CRM is our shorthand for Consumer Relationship Marketing. Sometimes the same acronym is used for Customer Relationship Management, and that’s not what I’m talking about here.)  Because of the inherently social nature of beverage alcohol brands, we have been integrating relationship marketing into our strategies for many years, and the internet has helped us not only be more cost efficient, but to be more real and relevant in our conversations. This enables us to truly build a relationship.

Today, it’s not enough for a brand to just send “love letters”. The consumers that raise their hand and tell us they want to hear from us expect us to listen, to know who they are, to understand them. And a relationship is a two-way street: there are times that our friends might reach out to use with a question or a comment, and they expect a response that recognizes the existing relationship. A brand needs to have a personality that is almost tangible, and our efforts should always seek to know them our friends better, so that they never get the feeling that “they just don’t understand me”.

So how can we do this?  I would bet that you have friends that would rather text you instead of phoning, or who prefers to let folks know what’s going on with them using Facebook instead of Twitter. We expect our “brand friends” to know that too. Brands need provide a way for our friends to tell us how they would like to talk with us: postal mail, email, SMS, our web sites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. I see articles talking about “social CRM”, but I think that misses the point: to the consumer, it’s the same brand regardless of channel, and it’s all “social” even if we are referring to an email or a web site.  We want to inspire conversation in whatever way the consumer wants to engage in that conversation, and in a way that brings others into the conversation too.

Now that most brands have defined the role of the various tools and channels, we can develop strategies that allow them to all work together. A brand should define objectives in terms of what we seek to accomplish in the relationship, and only then define how or where we will seek to accomplish those objectives. Much like the classic romantic comedy, we can think about the relationship in four stages.  

1. They meet. Acquisition strategies: inviting, recruiting, bringing new people into a relationship with the brand. Where are your consumers, how will they meet you, what will attract their attention, how are you going to get them to “give you their phone number”? Maybe they would be more comfortable just giving you an email address. Or maybe they just want to say hello, and might come back again another day. Regardless, try to figure out a way to remember their name so that the next time you see them, you can say hello. But for every brand, some consumers may always stay in the “acquaintances” category.

2. They get interested in each other. As two people get acquainted, they start to identify things they have in common. A brand wants to have the same opportunity with each consumer: how can we engage new and existing consumers in ways that express the brand’s personality, to help them to get to know us and include us in their lives. For some of these consumers, this will hopefully blossom into “more than a romance” – we are hoping for a “committment” of brand loyalty, we want they consumer to have a sense that “this is a brand for me”. I always assume that an 80/20 rule will apply, and 20% of the acquaintances will become “interested”.

3. They have a fight over something, and some one else is there to help them feel better. Which consumers have “broken up” with us, and more importantly, why? What other suitors does our consumer have? How do we demonstrate that we are more attractive, and why would they choose us instead of the others? What mechanics does the brand have in place to identify consumers who are unhappy or dissatisfied? How can we follow up with those we haven’t heard from in a while, or identify they have left and earn a chance to “win them back”?

4. They make up, fade to black.. and live happily every after. But of course we all know that this is just the beginning. In a real relationship, the hard work begins once the two have made the committment. And only a few of the consumers who are “interested” in the brand will become an advocate, but these most loyal consumers are the ones from which we can learn the most. Brands must continue to seek to understand the wants and needs of those who are truly “in love” with the brand. We can give them tools that enable them to express their passion for the brand. We can help them participate as stewards of the brand by asking for their opinions and ideas. And we can let them know we recognize that they are an important part of what makes the brand successful.

In any good relationship, success depends on communication. A brand must develop ways to understand what the consumer thinks about the relationship: what’s working, what’s not, what’s missing.  The brand must have techniques in place to measure, learn, and refine our tactics based on what we learn. The measurements should track back to the objectives we are seeking to accomplish in the relationship. We will certainly continue to track open rates, “likes” and “comments”, the number of people at each of the stages I’ve noted above. It is even more important that we establish measures to help us understand the relationship: do our consumers feel valued and included. Would they say “you really DO understand me”?