Friday, August 17, 2012

Facebook Funny Business

Surely you've heard the disappointment many advertisers are voicing about Facebook ads (and likely investors are voicing as stocks plummet). In case you haven't here are a few examples:

After GM pulled their ads, I defended Facebook—but really all social media marketing—in that it should be used for engagement and not necessarily assessed by how it affects ROI. As one blogger put it,“Social media is very much like an executive: It has unquestionable value, but it's neither easy to measure nor perfectly measurable.” Plus I had really great success with a Facebook ad campaign back in 2010. You know back when they were still Facebook FAN pages.

I was working as a marketing manager for a shopping center. The page had only 159 fans (cut it a break, it's a local business) when I started at the end of November 2009.  By reaching out to my network (all people close proximity to the center) and promoting the page on other advertising, the website and within the center, the fans had increased to over 500 in May 2010. 

Since I was teeing off our big summer event series, I decided to try Facebook ads to get more fans. In one month’s time we more than doubled our fans to 1,300 and all for about $100. With the influx of fans, engagement increased by 450 percent!

Sure, sure. That was then and this is now, but the way I see it is that targeting may be the problem for these other brands. I had it a little easy working for a local business; I geo-targeted my ads and focused only on friends of current fans. For a global company, like the so-called Virtual Bagels, it is not quite the same.

I work for a global B2B company now (it’s been quite a change) and have been managing our Facebook  content for about two months, since it was finally decided by upper management that social media won’t really work as just a promotional platform.  I hadn’t managed a brand page for over a year and a LOT changed. (For the lack of change Zuckerberg has in his wardrobe, he makes up for it in privacy, timeline, etc updates).  Yet, I still— begrudgingly considering the funny business others have had and the whole crap about having to pay to reach people who already like the page—find myself pleased with the results of a recent Facebook ad purchase.

Now I may be comparing apples to oranges, but I just recently launched a promoted post for the page. Promoted posts don’t allow targeting, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know exactly how they worked. According to Facebook, “When you promote a post, it will be shown in the news feeds of more of the people who like your Page than you would reach normally. Friends of the people who have interacted with your post will also be more likely to see the story in their news feeds for up to 3 days from when the post was first created.” NOTE: On the same Help page Facebook also mentions that when you DON’T promote that nothing has changed about how your posts are shared with the people who like your Page. Mary, Mary—quite contrary! But I digress ...

While I checked the post throughout the promotion, it seemed like I was running into the same trouble described in the BBC News articles. The reach was 5x that of our usual post, but the people liking the post seemed odd. Many were from India, not working in my company’s industry. One commented with just a link back to a Facebook page for some childhood star out of India, which I hid as spam. However, I checked the names against our company directory and found that one was a current employee. And looking at the pages I could, I saw the same spam comment was placed on another person who had liked the posts page.  All just a matter of linking one person who engaged with one of their friends and then one of their friends and so on.

I had postponed the promotion when I thought I was only reaching fake accounts. By that time, I received a comment (aside from the spam), which—sorry to say—is a big deal since we only tend to get likes, from someone legitimately interested in the organization, some more page likes from others in the industry and a much wider reach than the usual post. All of that for about $6.50? I’ll take it. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe bots or fake accounts don’t exist, but it does mean it doesn't have to happen to everyone.

My advice to others questioning Facebook ads: target, target, target! And as for promoted posts, if you are a global company, promote the content that is universal.

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