Can you get Facebook to work for you, or is it all a waste of time and money?

I read this blogpost today, over on Queer Ideas: “If Facebook isn’t the future of social marketing, what is?“. Now – the author of the post, Mark Phillips, is a brilliant, brilliant man, and normally I agree with everything he says – as should you. On this one however, I have to somewhat disagree.

Mark references a report from Forrester, that says most organisations (also companies, I believe?) do not get much engagement back from social networks such as Facebook and twitter. The report (as I understand from Marks words), sort of suggests that this is a waste of time.

I have no doubt that the research is correct and that most businesses do indeed not get much back from their social channels. It is the conclusions – that this is the fault of the channel – I absolutely disagree with.

You see, most organisations and businesses are completely doing it wrong.

How many organisations do you know, who work with a comprehensive publishing plan where each and every Facebook post has a goal that is then measured and analysed?

How many organisations do you know who re-write each and every Facebook post 5 times, and put as much care into these words as words in an ad?

How many organisations do you know, who has a defined personality of who they are in social channels, that makes them recognizeable?

Not that many I will presume. And that is why they are not getting much back from their social channels.

Shit in, shit out.

As Facebook grows, it is only going to get harder to get organic reach. With 500 friends and 1-200 pages people follow, there are tens of thousands of posts Facebook could choose to show in your newsfeed. It’s only going to choose the best stuff. The stuff you usually interact with and find interesting. How do you expect to be one of those top 1-2% of posts, if you are not putting in the time and effort? You are not the pictures of the very cute babies in their lives. So you have to work harder.

You have to take the time to reply to those who do something for you. Even if there are 20.000 of them over a two week-period. You have to make sure you don’t talk like a robot. Like a press release. You have to make sure you don’t bore people to death. You have to become a personality. You have to plan, and work on it, and for the love of [insert your deity], you have to send people to good landing pages! Most landing pages are not prioritised, they are not user friendly, and they are not adapted for mobile. And from Facebook, most of your visitors are mobile. You have to do the work.

If you do, Facebook is one of the most rewarding channels. The Norwegian Cancer Society regularly gets a return on investment of about 8 when they advertise on Facebook. Most of that from donors who are new to the database. Those results are possible because they have done the ground work. I have worked with clients where we have increased organic reach tenfold just by paying closer attention to what is put out there.

I’m fairly certain that if you sent out a piece of direct mail that was a first draft, with a return form made of toilet paper, without a return envelope, where half the text was hidden behind another piece of paper – to people who do not know a single thing about what you do – that wouldn’t work so well either.

So that’s it. Fix your website, and put in the time and work to the social channels. Realise that just like not everyone opens the envelope you send them in the mail, not everyone is going to see your every facebook post. That’s okay. That doesn’t stop you from trying.

Do that, and I’m sure Forrester will have different results later on. 

Let your supporters advertise for you

This is a cool project that we have done in the Pink Ribbon campaign the past two years. Rather than spending money on traditional advertising, we wanted to see if bloggers and websites would share their space with us. And yes, they would 🙂

The core of the idea – providing banners for those who want them – is nothing new, of course. But I like to think we took it one step further. By using some simple mechanics like personalisation and a touch of game mechanics, we were able to get more banners displayed than before, and more importantly – more clicks from those banners.

(Note: a small Swedish charity has done something quite similar, and their concept video is worth a look – it has some impressive results http://vimeo.com/22939489)

We made a simple campaign site where you could easily create your own personalised banner. This banner included data on how many clicks to the pink ribbon website your banner had generated. These numbers are pulled in to a leaderboard where you can see who has generated the most clicks and views. The widget on the front page of the pink ribbon website also pulled in the names of the different blogs who participated, in order to show them off and say thank you. Here’s a step-by-step of the application, and how it works:

This is the widget on the Pink Ribbon website. The first line says “Thank you”, and the second line is the name of the website / blog. The dark box by the ribbon is the call to action to put a ribbon on your own site. Finally, the three number boxes show respecably the number of banners shown, clicked and made

Banner-widget on the front page

Banner-widget on the front page

Clicking that “I want one too”-box, takes you to the leaderboard, showing off all others who have made banners for their blog / website. From here, you click on to get your own banner.

The "leaderboard"

The “leaderboard”, showing the number of views, clicks and banners made

A simple page, where you can enter the name and adress of your blog, let’s you create your own banner and choose the size of it.

Banner generator

Banner generator

Lastly, clicking on your chosen banner gives you a snippet of code that inserts an iframe on your site, containing your banner.

We are really happy with the results so far – we’ve already beaten last years campaign with more clicks and more banners registered. There are fewer views, but we have spent less time pitching the banners to traditionall media sites, so that is not surprising.

We’ve found this is a great way to let your supporters show that they care. Most bloggers who put this banner up, also took the time to write a post about it, often linking to our webshop as well. This has led to some very valuable traffic, much more valuable than traditional advertising.

(Click my ad. Go on. Watch the number go up. Dooooo it!)