October 03, 2012
As of today, I'm back to blogging as the epicentre of my social media plan.
For the last few months, my Facebook Page has been my go to for posting updates related to my business, writings and my outreach. Why not? It was easier than a blog post, and once you figured out what Edgerank likes (hint, visually based content), you could garner significant reach.
I started to buy FB's "Promoted Posts" when one of my missives was working. And by working, I mean that it had a 10% viral co-efficient or better. By that, I mean that if the organic traffic was 500, then the viral traffic was 50 or better. When I paid to promote it, say for $10 or $20 dollars, the post would catch on fire. That proved that you only promote content that works, which is a win/win for me and my followers.
It was a bonanza for marketers that understood how to create content that works. I set aside a reasonable budget, a few hundred dollars a month, and was satisfied with the service.
But all of that changed when FB got greedy, and expanded Promoted Posts' range from $30 to $300. With that little change, EdgeRank's goal (promote quality in your feed) was shoved aside for gold-old-fashioned campaign delivery requirements. If I plunk down $300, I get over 80,000 reach with little little old 5000 base.
Starting last week, I noticed something: Unless I promote a post, my traffic is down significantly. I can post the same quality of content, getting the same initial reactions from my following, and the post still decays quickly...unless I triple or quadruple my spend on promoted posts. Because I didn't spend more, even though I maintained the same editorial calendar, my traffic dipped a whopping 75%. (According to this WSJ Online post, I'm not alone in this finding.)
Here's my theory, and likely I'm not alone in this. Remember when United and Continental merged? If you had status on either airline, you stopped getting upgrades as often. Why? Because there were too many Elites in the system, crowding the scarce upgrade slots. This is what happened at FB. Deep pocketed or spend thrift Page owners were buying traffic-to-the-moon and FB's EdgeRank gave way to what I now call Paid-Rank. To fill all the Promoted Post offers, FB now distributes content regardless of whether it had Weight, Affinity, etc. (the quality algorithm they built to deliver users quality content in their Top Feed).
What does this all mean? For users, expect more commercial noise in your stream, less quality and visual content - and an increasingly irrelevent platform to discover your world. Unless you want to think of FB as a digital zine of sorts.
For Page owners, it's a subtle reminder that you should NEVER build your business on a free platform. (I talked about this last year in this post.) Sure, FB might be a good referral source of traffic for your blog, but don't let it be your online HQ. If you put a hard ROI against Promoted Posts, you'll be very disappointed with their value because there's very little way to measure what you get for your money. Google's Ad Words, on the other hand, demonstrates value via it's pay per click model. If you fall for the 'you got mega-reach for $300' argument, remember, that's not an advertising impression, it is a post impression which is much weaker in it's call to action, creative and execution.
Typepad (my blog provider) cannot and will not choke off my traffic unless I pay them more. I pay a monthly service fee to ensure that. So expect to see me blogging more and provisioning my FB Pages to drive traffic to it.
It's natural that FB, desperate to prove itself to Wall Street, would resort to tactics that undermine the user experience for the share price. Apparently, Yelp has been doing this too. When I worked at Yahoo, I saw this phenomenon back in 2001 with pop-unders, front page takeovers and suspicious user targeting programs. What's dissapointing in FB's case is that they should have known better, or at least learned from Yahoo's decline that in the end ... you need to create marketing solutions that are user focused.
(Note: This blog post refutes my claim of reduced traffic, but frankly, the data isn't fresh enough. Check back on his analysis in a month, and I suspect I'll be vindicated. This Indie-Wire post from Monday supports my POV.)Tweet
August 31, 2012
Markets are conversations, and these days, they are often led by the crowd. Be it your customers or your employees, they are uniquely empowered to spread the good or bad word about you. Question is, how closely are you listening?
More than ever, internet users have two things going for them: Transparency and Tools. They know a lot about you because of Google, their social stream, and all the review sites. They also have publishing tools to share their experiences their friends. For any business owner or manager it is imperative that you monitor the conversation about your company.
If you are tuned in to them, these review sites are actually a service to your business, even when the news is bad. You can now immediately discover when something is broken in your service chain, because you’ll find the review, tweet or posting on your facebook page wall.
There are several easy ways to monitor social media for the Tom’s and Shane’s your company may upset. First, be aware of the major review sites that impact your bottom line: Yelp (consumer services, like eateries or retailers), Angie’s List (services, like contracting or auto repair), Trip Advisor (hotels, destinations) and Jobitorial (the top site where employees review their employers.)
Do these reviews matter? Does anyone read them? According to a Harvard research project in 2011, a one star (poor) review for a local or an independent, can lead to a five to nine percent drop in sales initially, and a nagging drag on the bottom line for months. For users of the popular restaurant booking site OpenTable, the reviews help them avoid bad experiences. It’s likely a recently posted one star review there has even more negative impact on the restaurant being scrutinized.
According to staffing professionals I’ve met in my travels, Jobitorial is a must-monitor site, as the word has gotten out to job candidates that this is the “Yelp” of the job hunting space. Bad reviews there can undo a mountain of recruiting efforts.
While most review sites allow anonymity, almost all of them offer users a shortcut to the registration process: signing in via facebook or Twitter. That will enable you or your staff to locate them, message them and try and resolve the issue. You can also use Google to find a reviewer that uses their real name. That’s the key to success: Interaction!
When you connect with the writer of a negative review, don’t arrive guns a blazing, threatening them with legal recourse. Don’t bicker with them in pubic (by debating them in the comments area of the review sites.) Converse in a positive way, as a business owner or leader as to express, “I want to make things right.” In a significant number of cases, negative reviews have been modified or taken down by their authors after a successful resolution of their complaint. In some cases, these detractors were knocked out by the responsiveness of the business, and became raving fans through the process.
August 08, 2012
I have this conversation weekly with very smart people, who are still stumped by the social media phenom in our culture. They feel a strong sense of urgency if they aren't fishing in the social stream, but at the same time, it feels like a fad to them. They can offer up #fail stories right and left, and sometimes, they even talk about a failed experiment they've tried on Twitter or with Yelp.
When I hear it, it's like Deja Vu...all over again.
When I joined the interactive industry in 1997, the web was just going mainstream due to email, Netscape and search. Businesses were immediately under pressure to show up with websites, and ultimately, e-Commerce capabilities. That was before cloud, mind you. Tough stuff. They thought web was a shiny object, not a business objective. And my, they were wrong.
When the penny dropped, and a company got it (like Victoria's Secret), it was always the result of a paradigm shift on their part. They realized that the web phenom was just an extension of the Producer/Consumer economy that's existed since the Yellow Pages, trolley car ads and direct mail. It's a way to broadcast, incentivize and capture value. The web is small now, and harder to monetize. No mystery, just a challenge to be on the bleeding edge without draining your budgets.
For modern day doubters and haters, the same solution is prescribed. Re-think social, casting off your negative connotations. It's not just goofing around on the user's part. It's not just playing around when a company is real-time on Twitter or posts compelling content on their FB page. It's not social, like playing golf or going to lunch.
In fact, forget the phrase social-networking altogether. That's a marketing term used by early social media platforms to sex-it-up for the end user. It evoked party lines, chat rooms...except highly filtered. But that word, social, is befuddling to many CEOs I've counseled over the last few years.
What's really going on here is a shift in the model of commerce. Instead of Producer/Consumer, where the industrial revolution met the birth of advertising, think User/Solution. In this new realm, we are all users, empowered by transperancy and publishing tools. We swim to platforms or providers that solve our problem, and there's social proof to gain our trust.
It's a user's world. Forget them, or their desire to have a positive experience, and your business will die. No ads will overcome the rath of the disspointed user. For the last decade, innovators have improved the user's publishing tools to give them a voice, a connection with their timeline and a far greater pallate of content experiences than Producers gave them in the past.
In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirkey predicts that there will come a tipping point when the users have equal or better publishing tools than the publishers/producers...and when it happens, the business landscape changes dramatically. Here's a canary: A Harvard research paper suggested that a single one star review on Yelp, shared, can reduce your revenue by 5-9%. Try to get that back with a full page ad or a radio blitz!
The Social Realm (FB, Twitter, FourSqaure, LI, etc.) is by and for the users. Period. They can kick out, bury or flame any unwelcome voice. The users only like to talk to people. They expect marketing to fit Sergio Zyman's classic definition, "to add value when the product is purchased, consumed or owned." In other words, businesses must earn their way back into their target's mindspace -- one good update or post at a time.
The nice thing about the User/Solution economy is that transperancy works both ways. Not do the users know a lot about your business, they are sharing their thoughts publicly about your market and adjacent issues. Zuckerberg's rule suggests they are doubling the amount of information they share with you every year. And if you listen closely, the biggest focus group in the history of man is out there ... waiting for you to package all their insights and build the perfect mousetrap.
To get in this new game, it's not really as hard as it looks. In the Producer/Consumer economy, you succeeded because you had Creativity, Measurement Skills and Guts. In the User/Solution economy, businesses will win via Listening Skills, Communication Skills and Time Management. It's not about the platform or the current hot social trend, it's about those three fundamental skills.
The way I usually finish my conversations with my biz-mates that are still on the fence is to prescribe step one: Go Yelp yourself. Search fun in your town on Twitter. Dig around for dirt on your competitor at Jobvite. Once they get embroiled in the chatter, they never look back. They have a new way of seeing the world. And I'll bet on their success using new media over the coming years.
July 09, 2012
If we can focus our attention on the others we are meeting with, much more can be accomplished. That's why I like to turn my smart phone to non-vibrate silent when I'm having meetings. I don't want to know about the outside world, because it can wait.
Unfortunately, for many of us, the smart phone is tethered to our psyche -- going with us everywhere and invading our limited attention span with mindless streams of information. I see smart phone users in their own world, relentlessly checking to see if something has happened, while ignoring all the life around them.
At conferences, the smart phone is the equivalent of a Barney Video for adults...giving them a way to escape the intellectual stimulation and instead, suck down some drivel to pass the time. When people are either mobile-surfing or talking, we can't approach them to network or collaborate. When they break away from a conversation to answer their phone or respond to an email alert, your talk with them is over or hopelessly derailed.
Sure, we can Instagram, tweet and post on our smartphone. But what % of the time are we sharing VS just grazing? The device is a tyrannical one, and most of us can't escape its lure. There's not much of a solution for this malady other than to go phoneless whenever possible. Don't take it to the meeting. Don't take it with you when you go out, and if you do, leave it in your glovebox.
It doesn't want you to hang out with others, because it's programmed to give you everything you need. And that's not very social at all!
May 23, 2012
I assume that most of you who read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter are those who have something to say or sell, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. We’re all trying to be seen or heard and that’s increasingly complicated in a noisy world.
Wouldn’t you agree?
The problem is that to be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform.
Platform is key.
Most of us know it and it’s why we spend time networking, developing social media, writing emails and blogs, speaking, trying to connect with potential customers, etc.
But here’s the issue, simply being on Facebook or Twitter, simply writing a book or newsletter, simply opening the doors of your business… doesn’t matter (unless others know about you and follow).
That’s why I am excited about a new book from my good friend Michael Hyatt, one of the top bloggers in the world and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It’s called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the waters so that you can do what works in order to be seen and heard.
Special: To celebrate the launch of the book this week, Michael is giving away $375.98 worth of free Platform bonus content for those who purchase the book between May 21 and May 25. Complete details are available at http://michaelhyatt.com/platform
As I was chatting with Mike he mentioned something that really stood out to me about building a platform. He said…
“Accept Personal Responsibility - If you’re thinking of hiring a babysitter for your platform, think again. It is critical that you be 100% committed and the driving force behind its creation and growth. Think about it. Does anyone know your mission, product or service better than you do? Is anyone more passionate about it than you are? Does anyone have as much skin in the game as you do? Expertise, passion, and, frankly, the fate of your career will drive you to create something greater than anything a hired-out marketing team could imagine.”
Basically he’s saying don’t phone it in and try to pass it off to someone else. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up and be the driver.
In my years of being an author and speaker I have found that to be very true. Yes, you need to hire a great team and utilize great resources but don’t expect someone else to do all of the work that you too must be active in doing.
If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.
I have two three copies of the book to give away - all you have to do is hit the retweet button and make a comment to this post.
December 07, 2011
Today's article (Facebook: Zynga's #1 Frenemie) prompted this blog post.
While Zynga stands as a multi-billion dollar example of the dangers of platform squatting, many of you might be doing in a smaller but still deadly way. Examples: you don't have a website anymore, you build a big Facebook Page following instead. You don't build a web property to sell your products (see this a lot now in books), you rely on Facebook instead - thinking, "everyone is here, why not build it into their stream? You base your real estate, insurance or home repair sales on your Page, leaving your older properties abandoned to wither.
Startups from Color to Spotify bet-the-farm on a long and cozy relationship with Facebook - who could turn all of them off with the flip of a switch. Retailers, small business owners and even public figures are all provisioning the Facebook closed platform (emphasis on closed) to reduce costs and presumably fish where the fish are hooked.
But here's the rub: Facebook will eventually have to eat their babies to grow into their valuation. Still private, Zuckerberg gets to report vanity numbers only, playing with Eric Ries calls "success theatre" with it's investors and employees. Time spent, number of active users, etc., all dominate the Facebook story. That will change quickly when they go public and New York analysts descend on them to question their revenue-valuation multiple. If the social-bubble breaks (and it's being poked right now in the cases of LinkedIn and Groupon), who knows what Facebook's leadership team will resort to?
Look at Google, seven years post-IPO. Steve Jobs can testify: You can't trust a company that's on fire to triple their top line quickly. Thus andriod. Now, Google+ is tied to employee compensation and the sacred search algorithm, protected for users, is now biased to reward websites that include +, Places or Circles. Anyone in the valley will warn to avoid getting close to them early, because big and hungry companies "may accidently kill you."
Back to Facebook. If you are using a Page to market your products or services, it's pretty clunky to say the least. You can't conduct giveaways or polls, lest they shut down your account (which is based on your personal account, which also goes away). The apps they require you to use require too many steps and in our privacy-centric world, result in less conversion. So now, you lose all the web-innovations that power super sites like Zappos, Amazon, etc.
At Yahoo, I've seen this first hand. When I joined, we had dozens of dotcom partners in areas where eventually we decided to 'get into their space' to justify our lofty valuation. We were, by 2004, competitors with everyone who made money. Facebook will be the same.
I understand the business logic of being in the app business, making your ultimate bet on Apple. As a mature company, they aren't likely to flip a swtich and get into the app development game, killing all the Fred-In-the-Sheds to make a few more bucks. But, Facebook is likely doing skunkworkss right now to build their own social games, daily deals redux, publicity services, banking and loan services, mobile devices and for all we now VOIP telco services. If you currently make money via them, exclusively, you want want to diversify your business web outreach. What if they turn on a pay-for service for Page owners who want to have ANY links to purchase or generate leads?
Consider what happens when you rely on Google, yet somehow are in their business development plans. When they tweak their search formulas, big changes happen to your business. What if they tweak search to devalue links to Facebook pages, like they've toyed with in the case of Wikipedia and Flickr? Ask LA startup Mahalo, where they had to layoff employees after a regular Google update. First they were a human-search company, then after the Google thrashing of their business, they settled into a video-help resrouce. They didn't have an option. Keep your options open begins to make sense again - instead of cozying up exclusively with a cub company that's got paws bigger than Alaska.
November 09, 2011
But that picture is worth a thousand posts. Instead, I direct you to an analysis of the Dutch Tulip Bubble and Crash. Full a longer read, download Dutch Tulip Mania: The Social Politics Of A Financial Bubble. After you read it, ask yourself, should Facebook really be 50% of all the time we spend on the Internet? In light of all the other things we could be doing to research, fund raise, advocate, communicate....? Should Groupon really be worth over ten billion dollars in light of what happened to Blockbuster, Etoys.com and Enron? Is Zynga really going to scale or will we grow tired (exhausted) of social gaming?
I'm not advocated quitting Facebook or Tweeting. But I am suggesting you put the following throttle on your zeal for the unfiltered: If social media went away tomorrow, will your ability to help others decline? That's the acid test for what you should invest your time in when it comes to social media.
Unless you haven't reconnected with old friends, high school mates and other such Classmates.com-ish type hookups. If that's the case, you have a few hours of productive work ahead of you. And if you check your status/profile every ten minutes to see if someone responded to your last post, I'm aiming this missive squarely at you. PS: If you bought secondary market shares of Facebook, I've got some land I'd like to sell you. #JustSayin
November 04, 2011
Over the last few months, I've researched the changes to Facebook, with an emphasis on their EdgeRank algorithm, which is always evolving. Facebook uses this to ensure that we see relevant updates in our Top Feed. Unfortunately, for many Pages, the changes have likely reduced your impressions and your growth in followers (Likers).
I've conducted several experiments over the last month with my Page as well as my corporate client's pages. The result is a dramatic increase in impressions, even more than before all the Facebook changes were implemented. First of all, the EdgeRank formula is important to understand. Your posts will be distributed to your followers based on three things: Affinity, Weight and Time Decay. The most recent EdgeRank changes have emphasized Time Decay (how recently have you posted? Are people still interacting with it?) and Affinity tweaks (major bonus for deriving visits to your Page or marketing your posts as "Top Story"). With that in mind, here are six ways to boost your EdgeRank score and drive more impressions:
1 - Post Directly To Facebook. EdgeRank frowns on third party postings such as HootSuite, Tweetdeck etc.
2 - Post Frequently To Ensure Freshness. This is tricky, because if you post too often, you'll either get Unliked or hidden from your follower's feed. The traditional thinking is once every two days or so, but with the new tweaks, that could really cost you. Here's a good article on the science behind how often you should post. As a rule of thumb, when you see the Likes or engagement trail off on a post (usually 10-12 hours), that's when you need a fresh one.
3 - Post Heavy Content. EdgeRank's Weight component of the algorithm will reward the weight of your posts, usually in this order: Uploaded video (not links to YouTube video), Pictures, Links, and Text. Sure, a text update with a ton of interaction will get impressions, but a picture or video update with engagement will get exponentially more. Here's a tip that makes this whole post worth reading: When you post a quote by a famous person ALWAYS upload a picture of that person! I've found that a quote with a picture gets 2 to 3 times more impressions!!!
4 - Post During Prime Time. Remember, when the engagement trails off, EdgeRank considers that decay and you lose impressions. Most Facebook traffic occurs during working hours, so that's the best time to launch your updates. Here's a good article on when to post.
5 - Convert Statements Into Questions. Instead of saying, my fave new CD of the year is X, put it this way. "What's the best CD of 2011? I think it's The King Is Dead by Decemberists." This way, you'll likely get more comments (which boosts your weight & affinity score) and maybe Likes (for Decemberists fans).
6 - Engage With All Engagement. EdgeRank will count your interaction just like any other interaction (so long as it's in line). Meaning: When someone shares, thank them on their wall or in comments. Answer comments, and encourage even more. The number of comments to an update keeps it fresh (think affinity plus time decay).
Post your tips and techniques in comments, I'll likely thank you on my Facebook Page!
September 12, 2011
They are trying to harness it's listening and engagement power, and distribute it around their companies (from customer service to investor relations). To a person, they tell me the biggest task isn't figuring out how to use social tools, surprisingly.
Their biggest challenge is selling their senior leaders and CEOs on the concept. To the average (older or non-tech) exec, social media is a fad that's led by propellerheads and amateur mavens. In their view, it's a fad (like CB Radios) that they hope will soon pass. Sure, they've heard the United Breaks Guitars story, but it likely doesn't apply to them - and when you use words like Twitter, they scrunch up their face in disbelief.
For several of my consulting clients, though, we've found a breakthrough - the secret sauce to selling social into the enterprise. Stop using words that sound silly (Twitter) or irrelevent to business (social). Stop calling this social media!
Instead, call it 'Interactive Media'. It's the online conversation, to be paired with the offline one, for better business intelligence, marketing and service. That's a familiar and business centric way to talk about it, and likely no CEO will tell you that "interactive is a pssing fad."
At one company, the re-branding efforts has led a huge turnaround, and now the CEO has his own Hoot Suite account, to watch the "interactive conversation" as it unfolds. He isn't writing blank checks against the opportunity, but he no longer has the noise in his head.
Many internet startups like to use cute, irreverent and fun names: Yahoo!, Twitter, Google, etc. They are likely offputting, though, when it's time to sell stuff to the dinosaurs. When I was at Yahoo, in several situations, our ad agency partners stopped telling their Fortune 100 clients about the ad opportunity on Yahoo - instead, they just called it 'online marketing' - and it worked then too!
April 11, 2011
When I starting writing Today We Are Rich, I had one goal: Share my story to validate and encourage others to be bold, live positive and cultivate confidence.
I’ve been talking about Abundance versus Scarcity my entire career on the lecture circuit, and with this book, I’ve finally hatched some contemporary ideas for a new generation – based on the classics of the 30’s and 40’s.
Right about the time I started the formal writing process, I created by first Facebook (fan) page. After inviting my friends my regular account, newsletter group and Twitter followers, I had about 800 people ‘liking’ my page. I used it to put out unedited ideas as I wrote them – sort of a proving ground for my book’s concepts. I’d post short pithy things my grandmother says, then note which ones resonated and which ones didn’t. Same went with my advice points. I found out pretty quickly that people are much more interactive on Facebook than they are with a blog – or Twitter for that matter.
One of my Facebook Like Friends contributed a saying her grandmother had, another offered a tweak to one of my ideas and soon, I began to rely heavily on this focus group for the evolution of Today We Are Rich. Sure, I was still telling Billye’s story, and mine too, but by making room for others it was much easier to achieve my goal as an author – validate, encourage and empower.
This isn’t typical crowd sourcing, where a group of people are aggregated then polled – with their answers being tallied up into a group-point-of-view. This was different, because my Facebook community was comprised of long time friends, colleagues and supporters of my work. When I called for some personal stories to help drive home some points, I received great ones from people I’ve known for years such as Jay Beckley (Myles Dad), Paula Cooper (Gratitude Exercise) and Stacey B. (The Quitter). They help this book become your book as well.
Maybe Mark Zuckerberg’s right: Facebook may be the way we find, buy, research or communicate things in the future. Think of crowd sourcing as a Google approach to writing (search, funnel, select from a pile) and Friend sourcing as a way of opening up your work to people that know you and care about your work – the Facebook approach to creating content that resonates.
This is a concept that's included in my next book, Today We Are Rich. Visit the book page and you can order a copy and receive a free eBook excerpt with an entire principle! You can also visit its facebook page too.