1.5 billion monthly active users all over the globe, average 21 minutes spent daily, detailed information about your person, your job, your hobbies, your friends, your location, your apps, interest groups, events and more. No wonder it is the fastest growing media giant worldwide. It’s time to talk about marketing on Facebook.
There are many ways to get a voice on Facebook. Yet as time goes by, it is getting harder and harder to get top ROI out of it. You better hurry up!
Facebook started it’s paid advertising programs already in 2004, making “flyer” deals with companies who were advertising to students. 10 years later Facebook is making $12.5bn in revenues (annual result 2014), that is $8.3 revenue and $3.3 profit per user. Interestingly Facebook’s capitalization is $210bn, which makes your profile worth $140 on the market. Yes, you are valued at a multiple of 42, not bad, huh? Now what does that tell you? You’re going to be seeing a hell lot more advertising in the future!
What that also tells is that for you advertisers, Facebook will be squeezing as much out of you as it can. The times of large organic reach on Facebook seem to be over. 7:12 of this video tells the story best.
Organic is healthy for you
Organic Facebook advertising is when you reach people because a) you are awesome and b) what you share is awesome too. News mags such as Upworthy have up to 8 million followers. Top brands like Nike reach 23 million followers. And Rihanna, well Rihanna’s got 89 million. Facebook has an algorithm called EdgeRank deciding which post is shown to which profile and Zuck can play with it however he feels like.
If you see an organic post it means that a page your follow or a friend of yours was engaging posting or engaging with a post. This is what Facebook was originally all about and this is what was promised to us: seeing what your social environment is doing and sharing. This is not how Facebook makes it’s billions.
The good news is that great content by great creators goes viral. A study by IPSOS shows that 71% of all Facebook users share content. If you look at Upworthy for example. Their weakest post in March 2015 got 750 likes and 275 shares, whereas their best post got got over 40’000 likes and 20’000 shares. Bad content doesn’t get engagement and disappears. The Facebook algorithm will decide to show this post to less people leading to less engagement and less virality. Good content on the other hand goes up the ranks in the Facebook algorithm and gets a lot of likes, shares and re-shares, hence a lot of visibility. The bad news is that it is getting harder and harder to do so.
Here are a few insights I came across to boost the organic reach of your posts.
- Content is still number one
The content of your post, meaning your image, words, video or whatever you post, still makes the largest difference in performance. You can optimize all the technicalities of organic Facebook marketing but if your content sucks then nobody will see it (cheers to Facebook!). Sadly there’s nobody who can help you here. It’s all up to you. Know your target, be creative and make beautiful productions. Brands and agencies are trying this since the beginning of advertising. It’s an old art, it’s still important and that’s the beauty of it.
- Format matters
Even though Facebook is favoring status updates over photos in EdgeRank, it is proven that photos get far more engagement. 43% of Facebook users share images, it is the top ranking format on Facebook. It’s no wonder that Instagram is one of the fastest growing social platforms in the world. An image tells more than a 1’000 words. The same counts for videos. Videos on Facebook are shared 12x more than text formats.
Net net each format has it’s perks. If you just want to reach your fans with a simple message you might consider text. If you want to engage your fans, you’re better off with photo or video.
Further think about how much time your fans have for your posts. Facebook is consumed on the go and nobody has time to watch a 15min video or read 2’000 words. Interestingly a study has shown that users love to share high quality content e.g. long articles and videos, yet it is not the way to post in on Facebook. Try to share content with depth, but when you bring it to Facebook make it a one-liner with an image. It will do you better.
- More technicalities
There are a couple more tricks to improve your reach and engagement. They’re based on basic user behaviour.
First, list posts are super popular on Facebook and second, number 10 is the magic number. I’m sure you’ve seen posts like “10 things you can do to keep your boss happy” or “10 things your don’t know about your girlfriend”. It may seem silly to you but it’s the brutal truth, this works! Facebook is consumed on the go. There are 186 million mobile-only Facebook users. Hence we are in “go do” mode and lists are the perfect way to consume facts fast and actionable.
Further if you ever wondered that your great holiday picture didn’t get any likes, it could be that you posted it on Saturday midnight. Your friends consume Facebook at very specific times, which has a significant impact on your engagement rate. Studies have shown that posting between 1pm and 4pm gets the best click-through. I personally experienced 4pm to be the best time. You will get your post circulating by 6pm, when everybody leaves the office to go home. That’s when you will drive engagement. Also, Thursday and Friday are said to be the best days to post.
These were my top of mind tricks to improve organic reach. There are many theories out there. I recommend you start trying out what works for you. At the bottom of the article you find links to the articles covering all the above mentioned points in more depth.
As organic advertising is becoming less and less fun, we should prepare for the future and look into paid Facebook advertising.
Just like Google, Facebook has it’s own advertising tools, allowing customers to show content the various interfaces they own. There are a handful of tools Facebook is offering you to target and reach your customers as well as analyze campaign metrics.
Any marketers goal is to bring the right message to the exact right person at the right time. This will drive sales conversion. Given that Facebook knows pretty much anything about its users, it makes a good candidate help advertisers target ads.
Still Facebook advertising can be quite expensive if you don’t know how to use it. Costs per click are ever increasing and given the growing demand for advertising this trend is not going to turn around.
There are 2 different ways to target ads on Facebook: a) Facebook’s by criteria targeting and b) custom audiences. Which one sounds better to you? 🙂
Facebook by criteria targeting
I’m going to make this one quick. If you use standard Facebook “filters” you can achieve pretty good targeting. I had ads targeted like that running with 6% CTR. So it can work (industry average is 2%).
What is almost self-understood is that you should really know your target and narrow down gender, age, location, languages spoken etc. to match your exact audience.
Then I highly recommend to work with interest groups. Facebook only offers a limited list of those, but when it comes to local advertising this is usually a great filter. Try to search for magazines your customers read or what topics they are interested in. This worked for me.
What I recommend further is to make small audiences of 1’000-2’000 people. This will help you isolate certain insights e.g. you can target two identical groups, changing only the interest filter. You will immediately see what works and what doesn’t.
Now let’s move to the more spicy techniques. Let’s build custom audiences.
There are 2 ways to build such audiences. Either you upload a specific list of contacts you have or you build an audience based on your website traffic or app interaction. For the first one you need to have ready-cooked list of Facebook UIDs, email addresses (used on Facebook) or phone numbers. This could be a list from your CRM management tool.
The age of UID scrapping
Before September 2014 there was a pretty ninja trick to laser-target your ads. “Facebook Scrappers” are software tools you can use to extract user lists out of Facebook itself. These programs find Facebook User IDs (UIDs) and Facebook email addresses, which you can export to your excel sheet and use to build custom audiences. Yes you understood correctly, before September 2015 you could have extracted UIDs of your most hated competitor’s fan page and show a special discount to exactly this audience. You could also advertise a soccer fan t-shirt to only those people, who are followers of that soccer club on Facebook.
Sadly for many marketers, this approach which drove top notch ROI is banned now. You can now only make UID custom audiences, if those UIDs are part of your groups or apps.
Email on the other hand is technically still possible. Anyhow scrapping in general goes again Facebooks TOC and can lead to a ban of your account. Be careful.
Your legal options (they are pretty neat too)
There’s another way you can make very well targeted custom audiences. It’s called audience cloning. But first we need to quickly go through the basics.
Facebook allows you to fix a “pixel” on your website. A pixel is a snippet of code that tracks when a Facebook user is visiting your website. Once dropped in the header of your website, you will find your custom audience growing as people visit your page. This is already great for retargeting visitors. Maybe a user got hinted to your product. But before she pressed “buy” dinner was ready and the browser was closed. This is where retargeting comes into play and you can continuously show content to users. Large retailers even do this on a product basis i.e. when you look at a jacket on Asos you will likely see that exact same jacket again in a Facebook ad.
That’s not the end of the story. Facebook allows you to do “cloned” audiences. This means that they take a base audience, analyze the characteristics of it’s members (gender, age, interests …) and apply those findings to build a completely new interest group for a specific region. A quick example to make it clear: You have a website that sells shoes. You have 2’000 visitors a week, mostly coming from your home country. Now you can make the list of your website visitors via the pixel and clone it into a very similar group for your neighbouring country. This way you will have high chances for a great sales conversion with this new group.
Now you have gained some good insights on how to target ads on Facebook or maybe even achieve a little viral success. I wish you good luck hunting those customers!
To conclude this essay I want to go back to the beginning. Even though Facebook is known as a huge success, it actually still needs to prove that it is worth 210 billion dollars. There are good reasons why some companies who are known to be marketing geniuses are not advertising on Facebook (ever seen an official Apple page on Facebook?). Facebook is in some way built on a lie. While they are building great social tools (and acquiring even better ones i.e. Instagram & Whatsapp) which are known to be free, they are under high pressure to deliver advertising sales to their investors. What already happened is that after brands were told to build their audiences, they now need to pay to talk to them. Facebook is playing with brands and they can go pretty far with this as brands are desperate to make digital media investments.
What will further happen is that users will pay a higher price too. Not because Facebook as a social tool is worth it but because it was promised to investors. Facebook is forced to sell more ads and ask for higher prices. More ads means simply that you will see more advertising content vs. your organic content (i.e. your friends and your pages). Asking for higher prices means that Facebook has to deliver a better product i.e. better targeting. There is only one way to do this. It’s to find out more about you as a user. Facebook is collecting more and more data about you to turn it into better targeting and better advertising dollars. What you will see is updates in the privacy statements, what Facebook will see is everything about you and your habits. You maybe think Facebook is a free tool, but in fact you are paying a high price for it.
In my next essay I will cover data privacy, the value of your personal data and what you can do about it.
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