STORYTELL on FACEBOOK
Founded: February 2004 The platform was called Thefacebook.com until August 2005. In a 2006 survey of the top five “in” things on college campuses, Facebook tied with beer but scored lower than iPods. The “Like” button was originally supposed to be called the “Awesome” button. Mark Zuckerberg initially rejected photo sharing; he had to be persuaded that it was a good idea by then-president Sean Parker. There were more than a billion monthly active users as of December 2012. There were 680 million monthly active users of Facebook mobile products as of December 2012. One out of every five page views in the United States is on Facebook. Let me say that again: ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE PAGE VIEWS IN THE UNITED STATES IS ON FACEBOOK! What more could possibly be said about Facebook? We all know what it is and what it does. We all know it’s the biggest, baddest social network, the one that changed our culture as monumentally as television. While still skeptical about most other social media platforms, small business owners, marketers, and brand managers consider Facebook a legitimate marketing tool, though, strangely enough, not because it has the most sophisticated analytics available. Rather, they trust it because it’s hard to dismiss a platform as skewing too young, or too experimental, or too trendy, when your niece, your brother, your seventy-two-year-old dad, and more than a billion other people are on it. Familiarity breeds acceptance. Only the most stubborn holdouts, mostly from companies working B2B or just contrarians, question whether their customer is actually on Facebook and whether it’s worth maintaining a presence there.
It stands to reason that if this is the platform with which most people are familiar, it’s the one that requires the least explanation. Yet this chapter ended up being the longest in this book, because although most marketers think they understand Facebook, they obviously don’t. If they did, consumers would be seeing much different content, not just on Facebook, but across all platforms. For now, however, the majority of brands and businesses still haven’t realized the unprecedented insight Facebook gives us into people’s lives and psychology, insight that allows marketers to optimize every jab, every piece of micro-content, and every right hook. Think about why people go to Facebook: to connect, socialize, and catch up on what the people they know and presumably care about are doing. In the process, they also find out what their friends and acquaintances are reading, listening to, wearing, and eating; what causes they are championing; what ideas they’re hatching; what jobs they’re hunting; and where they are going. Facebook wants users to see things that they find relevant, fun, and useful, not annoying and pointless, or else they’ll abandon the site. Which means you’d better create content that’s relevant, fun, and useful, too. Now, if it were that easy, this really would be a short chapter. Hire better creatives, make better content, and you’d be good to go. The problem is that there are three forces that have made it more difficult than it used to be for even the most talented creatives to organically deliver awesome content on Facebook: the masses, the evolution of the masses, and Facebook’s response to the evolution of the masses. The very thing that makes marketers want to have a presence on Facebook—the sheer number of users—makes the platform a marketing challenge. A billion users, and all the content they generate, creates a conundrum: with so many pieces of content streaming into consumers’ News Feeds and competing for attention, it’s unlikely they will see any content you post, even the good stuff. In addition, users are human. They age and mature. They grow up, break up, have kids, quit the guitar, take up fencing, or go vegetarian. The user who became your fan in 2010 will not be the same fan in 2014. But even though he’s changed, he probably hasn’t thought to go back and remove outdated information about his tastes and preferences on Facebook. We’re always going to follow more people and brands than we need to. We may not be watching this TV show anymore nor following that actor, but we don’t unfollow their pages as we move on in life. As those bygone interests fade from our consciousness, we expect them to fade from our pages and News Feeds, too. Facebook knows this. Long ago, when college students were the biggest population on
Facebook and the user pool was relatively small, people’s News Feeds were organized chronologically. But as the user base grew—and grew and grew—Facebook had to figure out how to prevent users’ streams from getting clogged up with posts they weren’t interested in. It didn’t want to be Twitter, with its waterfall of content from every person, organization, brand, and business in which users ever expressed interest; it wanted to curate our News Feed and make sure the majority of what we saw was always important and relevant to us. To help mitigate the consequences of literal TMI, Facebook finally settled on an algorithm called EdgeRank. Every interaction a person has with Facebook, from posting a status update or a photo, to liking, sharing, or commenting, is called an “edge,” and theoretically, every edge channels into the news stream. But not everyone who could see these edges actually does, because EdgeRank is constantly reading algorithmic tea leaves to determine which edges are most interesting to the most number of people. It tracks all the engagement a user’s own content receives, as well as the engagement a user has with other people’s or brands’ content. The more engagement a user has with a piece of content, the stronger EdgeRank believes that user’s interest will be in similar content, and it filters that person’s news stream accordingly (a randomizer ensures that occasionally we’ll see a post from someone we haven’t talked to in years, thus keeping Facebook fresh and surprising). For example, EdgeRank makes sure that a user who often likes or comments on a friend’s photos, but who ignores that friend’s plain-text status updates, will see more of that friend’s photos and fewer of his status updates. Every engagement, whether between friends or between users and brands, strengthens their connection and the likelihood that EdgeRank will push appropriate content from those friends and brands to the top of a user’s News Feed. That’s of course where you, the marketer, want to see your brand or business. That’s why it’s never been more important to produce quality content that people want to actually interact with—a brand’s future visibility on the platform depends on its current customer engagement levels (and soon this trend will spread to all the other platforms, as well). Unfortunately, the engagement that marketers most want to see—purchases—is not the engagement that Facebook’s algorithm measures, and therefore not the engagement that ultimately affects visibility. More than anything else, marketers want users to respond to their right hooks. That’s why they put so many out there. What they don’t realize, however, is that on Facebook, it’s the user’s response to a jab that matters most. Here’s why: Through EdgeRank, Facebook weighs likes, comments, and shares, but it currently does not give greater weight to click-throughs or any other action that leads to sales. EdgeRank doesn’t care, actually, whether you sell anything, ever. Facebook’s greatest priority is making the platform valuable to the consumer, not to you, the marketer. What it cares about is whether people are interested in the content they see on Facebook, because if they’re interested, they’ll come back. What proves interest? Likes, comments, shares, and clicks—not purchases. You could put out a piece of content with a hyperlink to your product page that garners $2 million in sales in thirty minutes. Facebook would take note of the heightened interest, and the algorithm would push you to the forefront of your current fans’ News Feeds. But link clicks do not create stories, so if no one shares that piece of content, or even likes or comments on it, the content will reach your current community, but Facebook will not deem it interesting enough to show it to a wide number of people outside that. If you want to maximize your eyeballs, it’s not enough to get people to read your article or buy your product—you have to get them to engage with it so that it spreads. On Facebook, the definition of great content is not the content that makes the most sales, but the content that people most want to share with others. Unfortunately for marketers, as with all platforms that you can’t test in a controlled environment, it is still difficult to make a direct correlation between high levels of engagement and sales. However, it stands to reason that the only way you can make any sales is if as many consumers as possible see your content (and if customers are seeing it, it had better be what you want them to see). Consumers’ eyes are on Facebook. If the only way to reach those consumers is to get them to engage, then it’s up to you to create not just great content, but content that’s so great they want to engage with it. To put it in boxing terms, you have to jab enough times to build huge visibility, so that the day you do throw a right hook—the day you do try to make a sale, say, with a post that’s not particularly shareable but where the link takes people to your product—it will show up in the maximum number of News Feeds. Unfortunately, while it tries hard to guess what is important to users, Facebook still can’t determine their intent. Which action, or edge, indicates more interest—commenting on a post or liking a post? If a person actually clicks on a picture, is she showing more interest than if she shares it? Is a picture more valuable than a video? Does liking a video post show equal interest as watching the entire video? Facebook doesn’t know, but it desperately wants to, so it keeps tweaking the algorithm to figure the mystery out. This is why even though most of your content might get seen today, you can’t trust that it will tomorrow. One minute your brand could be popping up at the top of a user’s page; the next it could be buried six pages down. For
example, Facebook may decide that sharing is a much stronger call to action and brand endorsement than liking, so it will give sharing more weight than a like. If your content happens to elicit many shares, you’re golden. But then Facebook could change its mind and decide that likes are actually as valuable if not more so than shares. Your content doesn’t usually get that many likes. Now what? The speed with which we have to keep up with these changes, and create matching content, is enough to give even the most seasoned marketer a case of whiplash. How are we supposed to jump through the hoops to reach our consumers if Facebook keeps moving the hoops around? By staying vigilant. By accepting that you’re going to reinvent your content every day, if not more. And by getting to know your community like your own family. How do you do that? You tell them stories they want to hear. You give openly and generously. You jab, jab, jab, jab, jab. JABS IN ACTION The key to great marketing is remembering that even though you’re all about your brand, your customer is not. As with any first date, getting a second date depends on you doing your best to learn more about what the other person is interested in, and directing the conversation in that direction. In the end, boxing and dating are really not that different. After all, the goal is to score. Sometimes the score is measured in points, and sometimes in a marriage proposal (or something else), but in either case you won’t win if you play your most aggressive move first. Let’s say your company sells boots. It would make a lot of sense for you to talk about weather. It would make a lot of sense to talk about rock climbing. It would even make sense to talk about hunting or maybe even something like how the boots protect people’s feet during rowdy concerts. These are all topics that are directly related to boots, or at least only about one mental step away. So for your first jab, you put out the following status update: “So long, 30 Rock! Thanks for seven hilarious years!” If the CMO of this boot company knows only as much about social media as the average businessperson, as soon as she sees that first status update she’s going to storm up to you and question the living crap out of it. What does 30 Rock have to do with our boot company? How off-brand can you get? Why are we doing this? How does this sell more boots? And your answer will be, it doesn’t. Yet. As the CMO of the boot company stands there looking, at best, curious and, at worst, furious, you will calmly point to the analytics (called Page Insights), which will reveal that that particular post is getting higher than usual engagement over more traditional boot-centered posts, just as you thought it would. Why? Because through previous jabs asking things like “What’s your favorite TV show?” you had already gathered the consumer insight that 80 percent of your fans were crazy about 30 Rock. And you knew that the series finale was approaching. So by putting out a “Good-bye, 30 Rock” piece, you are connecting with your community and showing them that not only do you get them, but you are one of them. All of a sudden your brand is talking like a human being, not a boot company. And as the overindexing (meaning a post performs above normal for that brand) reveals, people like that. They respond. This is good for you, because the uptick in engagement tells Facebook that this brand matters to people. So when you put out your next piece of content, a fifteen-second user-generated video of people showing off their boots, Facebook makes sure your customers see it in their News Feed. Again, the piece isn’t selling anything. Nor is the next one, a Valentine’s Day card that doesn’t show a single boot. Then you put out another three or four pieces of content that don’t sell anything, either, like this: Third jab: Post—A fifteen-second video about rock climbing. Fourth jab: Poll—“Would you rather wear your boots in the summer or the winter?” The point is to give and give and give, for no other reason than to entertain your customers and make them feel like you get them. And the more you give, the more you really will get them. Before, every piece of content had to be a right hook because all we knew about customers who bought boots was that they needed protective footwear. But if we jab wisely, Facebook can give a detailed and nuanced understanding of the people who buy our products. By testing and jabbing and giving, we learn what they find entertaining. Content that entertains sees engagement. Content that sees engagement tells Facebook and the rest of the world that your customers care about your brand, so that when you finally do put out something that would directly benefit your bottom line—a coupon, a free-shipping offer, or some other call to action—4 percent of your community sees it instead of a half percent, which gives you a much better chance at making a sale. TARGET YOUR JABS AND RIGHT HOOKS Sometimes, though, you don’t want everyone to see the same information. On any other
platform, where your posts are entirely public, every jab hits everyone in the face. On Facebook, however, you can be extremely selective, customizing your jabs and targeting subsets of your fan base. Want to target a post for thirty-two- to forty-five-year-old married women with college degrees who speak French and live in California, and post it on New Year’s Eve? When you know how to use Facebook properly, you can (and I imagine the largest liquor store in California would). Targeting your posts is a strategy to keep in mind when you’re jabbing; it’s flat-out essential when you’re throwing a right hook. Let’s say you’re a national fashion retailer, and today is Black Friday. You’ve created a piece that highlights one of your most coveted purses. You know that the buyers of that purse are generally twenty-five-year-old females. Does it make any sense to send that content about a purse to your fifty-five-year-old male customers who primarily come to you for belts? Of course not. So when you post the announcement about tonight’s Black Friday sale, with a picture of the purse, you post it only to fans of your page who are twenty-five- to thirty-five-year-old women. By speaking directly to the right demographic, you’ve increased the probability that people will engage with that content, which keeps your EdgeRank numbers up, instead of giving Facebook the impression that people don’t care about your brand anymore by posting it to men who are never going to click or engage with a post about a purse. Now, you could post the piece to your fifty-five-year-old male customers if you change the content so that it resonates with them. Maybe it reads, “Hey Dad, it’s never too late to remind her that she’s still your best girl. Our Black Friday sale starts tonight, 6:00 P .M.” You go even further and design the content so that it goes out to consumers in Texas in the shape of Texas, and the content that goes to New Jersey is in the shape of New Jersey, and so on and so forth for any of the states whose residents have a particularly strong streak of state pride. For any jab or right hook to have impact, it has to speak to the consumer and hit his or her emotional center. SMART SPENDING It’s worth taking a step back and examining the cost-effectiveness of this scenario. With very little lead time, a retailer can create two distinct pieces of content, send it directly to two separate demographics, and watch in real time to see how the recipients respond. If the excited comments start to pile up, or the content starts getting shared, that retailer knows the right hook made its mark. Its consumers engage, thus kicking up the retailer’s EdgeRank, which shows Facebook that its users value the retailer. It makes sure the content shows up in more people’s stream, which therefore allows the retailer to show its content over and over again to an ever-larger audience without having to pay any more for it. To accomplish the same thing on television, a national retailer might create two different TV spots targeting different demographics. For example, it would launch one mainstream targeted ad that would run on CNN during primetime, and a multiculturally targeted ad that would run on UPN channels during the local 10 P.M. news. The creative team would have to develop the ads weeks before they ran. Typically, the spot would need to run enough times so that the retailer’s desired reach population would have seen the spot three times—about a two-week flight of spots. It would cost the retailer between $7,000 and $13,000 to reach this audience. Then, once the pieces had run, it would have to sit and cross its fingers that people had actually watched the ad even though they had just forgotten to turn the TV off while streaming a movie on their second screen. And if it wanted to run more content, it would have to pay all over again. Which scenario sounds more time- and cost-efficient to you? Now, there’s nothing wrong with spending money when you’re spending it smartly. All along you’ve probably been buying the Facebook ads that line up along the right side of the site. Those ads have until now been one of the most efficient ways to spend dollars for any brand or business, big or small. On average, the cost of running an ad on the right side of the page on Facebook runs the gamut between $.50 to $1.50 per like, though depending on the specificity of your targeting, the length of your campaign, and your budget it’s possible to acquire likes for as low as $.10 and as high as several dollars. That’s a steal, even when you compare it to the cost of email acquisition, which can run as low as $0.49. How can a dollar spent acquiring a Facebook fan be worth more than forty-nine cents anywhere else? Because a social user on your fan page has more potential reach than anywhere else. I should know. Back in 1998, I was using email marketing, as well as search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click ads, to build WineLibrary.com. People loved my product and my business and were happy to subscribe to my emails and to buy from me. My business model then was no different from that of any of the successful email marketing companies of the last half decade like Fab.com, Groupon, or Gilt. The difference is that their fans aren’t as beholden to their email as mine were in 1998. If my fans wanted to talk to or share information with
friends, they had to use email. Today’s fans don’t. So today’s email marketers have had to offer huge rewards for sharing, such as $10 off a first order if the customer can get five friends to subscribe to the site. Without that incentive, people won’t spread content or invite friends to join them on your site via email—it feels too much like spreading spam. Social media, however, is built for sharing, so those targeted Facebook ads, though costing $.50 to $1.50 per fan, are actually worth much more because those fans are more likely inspired to share your content for free, and possibly more than once—if you give them what they want in terms of content and service. THE CHANGING FACE OF SMART SPENDING Unfortunately, Facebook ads in their current incarnation are going the way of the dinosaur, and the days of cheap fan acquisitions are coming to an end. With the substantial growth of mobile for Facebook and the increase in people abandoning their laptops, the ads on the right side of Facebook’s desktop are becoming obsolete. You could hope that consumers will think to go directly to your fan page for a steady stream of your content, but honestly, unless you’re doing research, do you go to that many fan pages just for kicks? Probably not. And we’re all going to do it even less now that we’re spending more time on Facebook’s mobile app than we do on the website itself. There is no substitute for the real estate of a desktop on a mobile device—there’s no room. This means that until the next great technological revolution, like Google glasses or tattooed screens in the palms of our hands, all of your Facebook stories, content, and marketing must be developed for the mobile experience. This is why in January 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook should now be considered a mobile company.* And just six months later, Facebook reported 41 percent of its ad revenue came from mobile, equaling $1.6 billion in the second quarter of 2013. But if marketers are limited to smartphone screens, where are marketers supposed to put their ads? Some brands have decided that the answer is: right on top of the page the consumer is trying to read. It has surely happened to you—you head to your favorite site to check the news, and instead of seeing your content, a big intrusive box overtakes the screen, pitching electronics or software or something that you did not come to the site to see. Why do marketers think this is a great way to get people to do business with them? All is does is piss people off and elicit negative feelings toward your brand. It is the antithesis of jabbing. All impressions are not good impressions. Quality, relevance, good timing—these things matter far more than many marketers realize. Once again, we have to keep in mind why people gravitate to Facebook, or any site, for that matter. It’s not to see ads. So what’s a marketer to do? We need to rethink what an ad looks like, and what it accomplishes. We need to go native. We need to bring value. From now on, the difference between your content and your ads on Facebook will be . . . nothing. Your content, or rather, your micro-content, has to be the ad. Fortunately, Facebook has been perfecting a tool that allows you to create ads out of content that has already been vetted by your fans, which will not only help you improve your content’s reach, but will actually protect you from putting out content that is simply a waste of your and your customer’s time. It’s called a sponsored story. And unlike a TV ad or magazine spread, this spending strategy is worth every penny. SPONSORED STORIES Sponsored stories were launched in early 2011, but it was in the fall of 2012 that they came into their own, mostly because Facebook announced that it was finally making an algorithmic adjustment that would purposely limit how many people would organically see a brand’s posts, even if they had already become fans by liking the brand’s page. Until recently, though the algorithm was calibrated to limit spam or uninteresting content, good content could still organically reach a large percentage of fans. As of September 2013, however, Facebook’s algorithm will only allow your content to reach about 3–5 percent of your fans. To reach more, you have to post some extremely engaging content. Or, you have to pay. In this way, Facebook is able to protect the consumer’s experience by raising the barrier to entry to the News Feed. A lot of the marketing community didn’t see it that way. They were livid. How could Facebook force them to pay more to take advantage of its billion users? How disloyal. How conniving. How capitalist. Did anyone really think that Facebook wasn’t going to figure out a way to make more money? Besides, what else was it supposed to do when the right-side-of-the-page real estate for Facebook ads was disappearing faster than curse words in my keynote speeches as people ditched the wide screens of their PCs for their mobile devices? I didn’t understand people’s fury. Marketers and business owners who would never get mad about paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to a network to get their ad on TV, even when they’d never
know whether the ad had gotten anyone’s attention, were having coronaries over having to pay for the same kind of distribution. Unlike TV, your content’s reach increases only when you’ve put out content that people actually want to see and think others do, too. The more people who interact with your content, the more you can amplify the word-of-mouth amplification it receives as their actions are shared with other people. Create great content that gets people to engage and Facebook will let you show that content to more and more people. Create content no one cares about and Facebook will make it as difficult as possible for you put more of it out on its site. Sponsored stories is a superior ad platform because it rewards nimbleness and quick reaction. When it shows us that a piece of content is resonating, we know to spend money on it. It’s so clear. When I think of what I could have done with a service like this back when I was in email marketing, I could just cry for the amount of wine that we could have sold. Let’s say that on average about 20 percent of the people who received my emails back then actually opened them, and one day I sent out an email that saw a 21 percent open rate. Then I saw that the wine mentioned in that email was suddenly selling extremely well. Clearly something about that email had made it extra valuable to my audience. How much would that knowledge have been worth? I would have happily paid Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail a premium to make sure that the next time I sent out that email, as many people as possible saw it, whether it was by working around spam filters or finding a way for the emails to automatically open when people went to their email accounts. A service like that would have been the greatest marketing tool in the world—heck, are you listening, Google?—and it’s close to what you can achieve through Facebook sponsored stories. Facebook is shockingly bad at explaining sponsored stories, so let me try here. There are two types. One simply extends your chosen piece of content to the news streams of a larger number of your fans than the regular 3–5 percent that would normally see it. That’s called a Page Post. The other extends your reach the same way, but it allows you to highlight the fact that a fan has engaged with your content and tell that fan’s friends about it. You can choose to create this kind of sponsored story around a check-in, a like, and several other actions such as when someone shares a story from your app or your website. For example, if a fan checked in to a hotel, or claimed an offer from a T-shirt company, the hotel or T-shirt company could pay to make sure that friends of that fan knew about it, not with an ad lingering on the periphery of the Facebook page that no one but PC users will see, but within the actual newsfeed. That’s the big breakthrough for marketers. Before, when we created ads around a post, as soon as it migrated to the right side of the page the format of the post would change. This transformation compromised the impact of the creative work because it no longer looked like an organic piece of content created by someone you knew, but like an ad created by some stranger. But now marketers can keep the creative that we already know works organically, and enhance its power simply by paying to have more people see it, offering us an unparalleled opportunity to connect with active fans as well as reinvigorate relationships with fans that might have gone dormant over time.
Sponsored stories work like this: When I sponsor the story, a higher number of people than normally follow my page will see it in their News Feed. Now they are reminded about me. If the content is actually good enough to compel them to act on that piece of content—liking, sharing, or commenting on it—they get brought back into my orbit, and Facebook believes I am
relevant once again: “Facebook users like GaryVee, so I’m going to give them more GaryVee.” Now the next time I post a new piece of content, many more of those people will be likely to see it. Yet I won’t have had to pay any additional money to get those impressions. And if the engagement continues, my initial costs will continue to diminish as my impressions rise. It could trigger a snowball effect that could last well into the next month, and all for the price of one small sponsored story. It’s important to realize that when you sponsor a story, you don’t buy additional data. What you get is extended reach and an additional layer of targeting above and beyond that of an ordinary post or targeted post, both of which are free. Put money behind a well-performing targeted post and turn it into a sponsored story, and you’ll increase the specificity with which you can target your audience. You could target a post for women, but your sponsored story can target women who enjoy arts and crafts, and women who listen to country music. If you find out you’ve got a large swath of consumers in your base who love dubstep, you might want to reference Skrillex in your content and send it their way. If you’ve created a piece of content with a hip-hop theme, you can check to see which of your fans consistently listens to A$AP Rocky and other hip-hop artists, and only send your content to them. Knowing this kind of detail and using it to tailor content to match your fans’ tastes allows you to create pulverizing right hooks. GREAT BANG FOR YOUR BUCK The sponsored story is one of the great ad opportunities of all time because it won’t let you spend more than your content is worth. Facebook calculates the initial value of your sponsored story based on the competition you face for your targeted audience, and how much that competition is willing to pay. From there, you then tell Facebook how much you’re willing to pay for each click or impression you want. But you won’t necessarily pay that amount. If you create a great ad that compels people to engage with you, Facebook will decide that your ad deserves priority over a competitor’s ad that isn’t as engaging. Facebook will let you buy your impressions for cheaper than your competitors if it sees that your ads are performing well, that people like them and are acting on them. In addition, when Facebook sees that people are interacting with your content, it will show that content to more people, because it is obviously enhancing the quality and entertainment value of the News Feed. The second people stop clicking, though, Facebook will stop running the ad as a sponsored story. It will still be visible to a core group of people, but it will be allowed to die a natural death, fading into irrelevance. Unless, of course, you insist on throwing more money behind it. But why would you? This time around, the sponsored story will cost you a lot more, and the results will be the same. Essentially, Facebook purposely makes it cost-inefficient to distribute bad creative. How cool is that? If you make a stupid television commercial, the network is going to run it as many times as you pay it to. No billboard owner is going to look at your art and say, “Dude, I can’t take your money. You won’t get a dime of business with that.” But Facebook will, not because it’s nice enough to protect you from yourself, but because it’s savvy enough to protect itself from you. It’s in Facebook’s best interest for you to put out great content. It wants to monetize, but if users start feeling like they’re being spammed every time they go to the site, Facebook will suffer. If networks could show marketers data that proved that every time they showed the consumer a bad commercial, consumers turned off their TV, TV commercials would be better. That’s what Facebook, and all social media, can do for us. Ideally, when Facebook informs you that no one is interacting with your sponsored story, that’s your cue to stop and rework the piece, or chuck it altogether. Facebook can’t tell you why it’s not working—you have to use the data it gives you to figure that out for yourself. Social media gives us real-time feedback from the consumer, which forces us to be better marketers, strategists, and service providers. And it’s still ridiculously cheap. Maybe not as cheap as it used to be, but still a hell of a lot cheaper than a TV ad. And find a television network, radio station, newspaper, magazine, or banner ad provider that lets you test-drive your content for free in the form of organic or targeted posts the way Facebook does. Ultimately, the changes implemented to Facebook ads only changed how much it costs you to work with Facebook, not how you tell your story. If you’re a brand that understands how to jab in ways that bring value to your customers—giving them a moment of levity with a cartoon, or a game to play, or any other escapist content, which then primes them to be open to giving you business when you finally ask with a right hook—you’ll win. If you’re not, you won’t. No matter what Facebook does, ultimately, it’s the content that matters. You can sponsor crap, and it won’t do anything for your sales. But you don’t ever have to sponsor crap. Your Facebook community provides you with an automatic crap filter every time you send out your content for free. Your organic reach may only be 3–5 percent or so, but if a large percent of that organic reach is engaging with your content, you know you’ve got something good. That’s
the piece you sponsor. If you put out content and it doesn’t get any attention, you know you need to rework it or try something new. Facebook gives you a risk-free method to ensure that you only invest in what’s going to improve your business. Things could change in the future. It’s possible that the platform will decide to start using actual purchases as indicators of fan interest more than the engagement of comments, likes, or shares. Obviously, making a purchase is a huge indicator that people want to see your content. That could mean that Facebook becomes as much of a right hook platform as it is a jab platform. If that happens, I predict that Facebook will come up with a way to control right hooks as strictly as it does sponsored stories. The last thing Facebook wants to become is a right hook platform, because it will die. My advice to marketers is to quit complaining and start creating micro-content worth the money it will take you to successfully reach the customers Facebook is now guarding so carefully. Get more entrepreneurial. Figure out how to work the system and get the most bang for your buck. You can afford to be innovative on Facebook in a way that you can’t on almost any other platform that exists. Let’s see how. In the following pages, we’ll see some examples of perfect Facebook plays, as well as some almost comical misses. Please note, the critiques of the following case studies are my opinion only, based on years of experience. I cannot claim any knowledge of any business’s agenda or original intent. I’m just calling it as I see it.
COLOR COMMENTARY AIR CANADA: Ruining a Good Idea
When Air Canada’s very first flight attendant, who worked for the airline from 1938 to 1943, died at the age of 102, Air Canada paid her tribute by posting her photograph and a link to an interview their in-flight magazine conducted with her about six months before her death. It should have been a successful jab that engaged a large number of their 400,000 fans. Unfortunately, they blew it. Here’s why: It’s not visually compelling. It’s burdened with too much text. It’s a link post when it should have been a picture post.
It would have made all the difference had Air Canada just taken a little extra time to make this post more visually compelling. Most of us would be thrilled to look as good at 102 as Mrs. Lucile Garner Grant does in her head shot. Yet the two big blocks of text surrounding it water down the impact of the photo. It’s too much to expect people to read all that when they’re scrolling through their mobile devices at warp speed. By uploading the photograph as a picture post instead of a link post, however, and overlaying the lines announcing Mrs. Garner Grant’s death onto the picture itself, Air Canada could have emphasized the photo and simultaneously explained why it was relevant. Next to the photo, they should have included nothing but the subhead of the interview (and maybe a
photo, they should have included nothing but the subhead of the interview (and maybe a mention of the dogsled), along with a link to the article. Like this:
That’s micro-content right there—compact, intriguing, of-the-moment, and native to the platform. The layout is big and eye-catching enough to make a person scrolling through her Facebook News Feed stop and say, “Damn, 102? Their very first flight attendant? What?” and maybe click through to read the whole interview, which really does offer a fascinating glimpse back in time and would be something many people would be compelled to share with friends. Had Air Canada simply made a few small visual and textual adjustments, they would have had more time to honor one of their employees, and also more time to tell a compelling story about their brand.
JEEP: Evoking the Right Emotions This picture perfectly encapsulates the Jeep brand. Jeep could not have chosen a better model than the pretty young woman in this photo, with her shades, her flying hair, and her huge smile evoking summer, fun, and freedom. What’s cool is that she’s not a model— she’s someone a fan named Megan Bryant photographed and posted on Facebook. The movement and mood of this picture are striking enough to be worth checking out more closely. One look, and you start to wish you had a Jeep, too. The only thing that could slightly improve this piece would have been to make sure that the copy, “It’s a Jeep Thing,” was more visible, perhaps by placing it onto the photo itself. With that small adjustment, Jeep would have delivered a powerful image, its logo, and its terrific tagline all in one shot. Otherwise, kudos to Jeep for such a beautiful, humanizing, and well-executed jab.
MERCEDES-BENZ: A Great Product Deserved Better Another car company took a more traditional route than Jeep by posting a photo of their product. And what a product—that is one beautiful, luxurious car. The picture says it all, which is why it’s too bad that Mercedes-Benz turned what should have been a solid jab, bordering on a right hook, into a limp poke. Here’s how: Too much text: It’s a shame Mercedes-Benz thought it needed to bog their stylish photo down with a load of description that few people will to read. All they had to do was include one line of text about the car’s sumptuous interior, and then link out to the excellent Forbes article that told readers everything else they needed to know. Poorly placed call to action: In addition, they placed their call to action—the link to the article—at the bottom of that big paragraph of text. Why would they? Less text would have highlighted the fact that Forbes wrote such a complimentary article instead of burying it. No logo: As gorgeous as the car is, there’s no way to know who made it unless you think to look at the post’s profile picture. It wouldn’t have sacrificed any class or sophistication to make sure the Mercedes-Benz logo was tastefully inserted somewhere on the photo itself.
SUBARU: Amateur Night There is so much to dislike about this piece of content it’s hard to know where to start. Boring text: Like Mercedes-Benz, Subaru posted this piece to share a great review of their new car. But whereas Mercedes-Benz talked too much, Subaru has said too little. The copy length is ideal, but there was no reason to skip the opportunity to hint that the review was a positive one. What’s the big secret? They’ve missed a chance to get the fans excited and make them want to read more. Terrible photo: Unless Subaru intended to sell pavement along with its cars, there is no reason why a wet road should dominate the entire lower half of the photograph. The Subaru is so far away it’s almost reduced to the same size as the little sailboats bobbing in the background. No logo: There’s no reason for anyone to take notice of this photograph, but even if it did somehow register, without a logo there is nothing to explain to people why this car deserves attention. While nothing could turn this pig’s ear into a silk purse, simply adding the Consumer Reports headline, a logo, and cropping the photo differently might turn this wasted opportunity into a serviceable jab.
VICTORIA’S SECRET: Fluent in the Platform’s Language With this powerful right hook, Victoria’s Secret shows that they are fluent in native content–ese: Dramatic photo: Obviously it’s not just the wings this model is sporting that are going to get people—men who love what she’s showing, and women who wish they had what she’s showing—to screech to a halt in midscroll. But Victoria’s Secret made sure that the design of the photo was as captivating as its subject. The image is big and bold enough to swallow up both a PC screen and a mobile screen; the minimalist black-and-white adds drama; the hot pink script overlaid against the model’s wings is as eye-popping as her cleavage and the lingerie enhancing it. They did everything they could to make sure that no one could miss this picture if it came into their News Feed. Good use of copy: The text in the photo was placed close to the center, so that even if the picture were cropped because of a small mobile screen, the text would remain visible. The voice of the status update is pitch perfect, as is the length. The copy is short and direct, but that line in parentheses delivers it with a little wink, which adds the dollop of personality and humor that is so necessary to any brand’s social efforts. Appropriate links: After the words “Apply here,” Victoria’s Secret attaches a link that takes you directly to the page where you can register for an Angel Card, making it easy and fast to make the sale. Is such a self-evident move really worth praise? You’d be amazed at how many brands set up a beautiful right hook, and then link to their general website, leaving customers fumbling around as they hunt for the appropriate tab so they can make their purchase. For an example, see the Lacoste tweet on page 96.
MINI COOPER: Inspiring a Spirit of Adventure
Great voice: I love the voice in this piece. In two lines, the status update promises that if you stick with Mini, you’ll find adventure. You could be in Switzerland! Driving through the snow! In a convertible! The idea of driving with the top down through snow is so absurd, it’s almost impossible to resist clicking on the attached link to find out how Mini could act like this drive was the trip of a lifetime. And the line “Wrap up warm” adds to our curiosity by hinting that whatever lies behind that link will put to rest any doubts we might have as to how comfortable the experience could be. Once you go to the blog post, which documents how all it takes is a pair of snow goggles and Mini’s heated leather seats to make an open-air alpine drive as comfortable as a road trip down California’s Highway 1, you’re sold. Lacks a logo: I’ll forgive Mini for neglecting to include a logo on the photograph it used for this Facebook piece because the Mini is an iconic car, recognizable even when photographed from the back, as in this image. Still, I hope someone at the company reads this book and picks up the tip about including the logo on your micro-content, because if they start doing that their jabs will leave little to criticize.
Well played, Mini.
ZARA: Bait and Switch
With 19 million fans, Zara is a Facebook powerhouse. Why it chose to fail those fans so badly with this useless post is incomprehensible. Let’s dissect why it is a complete waste of the brand’s and its fans’ time.
Poor mobile optimization: I had to literally squint to read the fine print underneath the headline accompanying the photos. And what the hell are those two little squiggles under the iPhone? It’s even hard to make out that that yellow square is a sticky-note pad without bending your face closer to your screen. And that’s when the post is viewed on a laptop! The image would have been almost impossible to see on a mobile device. Good copy: At least they got the copy right. “Just Apps” is short and sweet and tells you everything you need to know, which is that Zara has apps. Great. Where do I get me some? Ah, a link! I’m going to click on it. Now I can . . . shop on the Zara official home page. But I wanted to download an app! Isn’t that what you just announced, your apps? What the hell, Zara?
The more a brand posts links to sites that don’t bring value to their customers, the more hesitant fans are going to be to click any links they see from that brand in the future. This Facebook post is a short-term fail for letting its fans down with a bait-and-switch post, and a potentially long-term fail for jeopardizing the respect and equity Zara has earned within its community.
REGAL CINEMAS: Leveraging Their Brand No industry has a better stable of iconic images with which to leverage their brand than the film industry. Yet not long ago I was analyzing a lot of movie theaters’ Facebook pages because I was considering some social media marketing opportunities, and at the time it was almost impossible to find a movie theater that used their status updates for anything other than pushing ticket purchases on Fandango. Regal Cinemas, however, bucked the trend with this successful jab that pits two movie characters against each other.
The picture: The theater’s marketing creatives probably sifted through thousands of pictures of each of these movie characters before deciding which ones to use, and they chose well. Even though Thornton Melon and Frank the Tank went back to school in films made almost twenty years apart, they’re clearly steeped in the same frat DNA. The copy: For once, the status update for this content doesn’t repeat the copy in the artwork. Instead, the headline of the picture sets up the question, and the status update reminds us of the characters’ names, just in case someone out there isn’t familiar with them. And yet, at the risk of repeating itself, the company could have seen even better engagement had they listed the names of each character under their photo, or at worst simply labeled them “A” or “B.” Rule of thumb: Make it as easy as possible for your fans to engage! Why take the risk that someone won’t be able to come up with the characters’ names right away and therefore lose the opportunity to engage with them? Yet again, no logo: Good for Regal Cinemas for remembering to build brand equity, but they would have been better off using a logo than a banner across the bottom of the art. Few people are going to type out the movie theater’s URL, so a better use of their limited space would have been to include a sizable logo in the corner. But that’s a minor criticism.
Very on point, Regal Cinemas. I’m happy with you.
PHILIPPINE AIRLINES: Totally Unappetizing People love to talk about food, so Philippine Airlines, which flies to lots of exotic destinations, had a good idea when it decided to ask its fans to describe their most exotic meal. But after having such a good idea, why did the company waste it? Poor use of the platform: It should go without saying that if you’re going to talk about food, and you have the option to post a photograph, you should post the damn photograph. Philippine Airlines could have posted a gorgeous photo of a sublime Asian dish, or approached the concept with humor by photographing a plate of testicles or some other exotic dish—to Western palates, anyway—on an airline tray. It would have taken little effort to turn this content into something beautiful or fun. Toneless: With airplane food the butt of so many jokes, they couldn’t come up with a way to imply that Philippine Airlines knows a little bit about great food? This status update is so bland and vacuous, any company in the world could have posted it. The company simply made no attempt to make the question relevant to Philippine Airlines or its customers. Too many call-to-actions: Finally, Philippine Airlines needs to remember that less is more. Doubling the number of calls to action made it more challenging to
get people to answer the questions. It seems crazy, but when people are moving through the stream as fast as they do now, two questions are too much. They should have been listed as two separate posts.
SELENA GOMEZ: A Golden Touch Your phone and your fingers are together all the time, so why shouldn’t they complement each other? No wonder the hot new women’s fashion trend is to match your manicure to your phone case. Here Selena Gomez laughs at herself for jumping on the fad in this savvy jab (the phone and the manicure reflect the same warm gold as Selena’s promotional poster for her Stars Dance world tour), all while proving that she can carry it off to literally dazzling effect.
The photo: It’s big and bold, very native to the Facebook platform. With Selena’s glittery hand and phone swallowing up the camera, the picture would have been unmissable as fans scrolled through their news streams. The copy: Celebrities are some of the worst social media abusers, and one of their biggest offenses is that they usually talk too much. Selena doesn’t, and with this status update she was smart enough to keep her text short and playful.
Shared more than 6,000 times and earning more than 220,000 likes, this sponsored
story with Selena Gomez shows how far fans are willing to carry a brand’s content when you make them feel like everything you do is just for them.
SHAKIRA: Falling Flat
Shakira rolls deep with 63 million fans, and with this post does each and every one of them, as well as herself, a disservice. Wrong type of post: Remember how Selena’s photo exploded into your line of vision? This one you have to squint to see, because it’s a link post, not a photo post. When you attach YouTube links, the fill-out—the headline, link, and text— share as much space as the photo, minimizing the photo’s effectiveness. Poor photo: Not that this photo would have been particularly effective had it been any larger. The point of the post is to promote Shakira’s new perfume. So why are we seeing an image of her posing with a fan and a signed soccer jersey at a podium? It’s great to show how comfortable and generous Shakira is with her fans, but this is the wrong image for the purpose of this content. The copy: First there’s the copy in English. Then there’s the copy in Spanish. And then there’s the description in the YouTube fill-out. This isn’t a novel, it’s a status update, and it’s supposed to be short. Brands have always been able to post according to language and location, so there was no need to double up on languages in this post. Especially when the content is so uninspiring. It’s strange that a woman with such a sizzling hot brand would post text with so little pizzazz. No engagement: In addition, with the exception of one shout-out to her fans to thank them for liking her new Facebook page, there’s no engagement between the star and her fans. That seems like a strange choice for someone who wants people to buy her perfume. The video: It’s six minutes long. No one in a Facebook mobile world has time to watch a six-minute video about your new perfume, no matter how much we like you.
The whole package, if you can stand to sit through the entire length of it, is supposed to give us a peek into the whirlwind life of a star, while revealing her humanity. There are many ways that Shakira’s team could have accomplished this while bringing value to her fans.
LIL WAYNE: Welcome to Spam City, USA There is no other way to start this review than to congratulate Lil Wayne for becoming the first person to successfully turn Facebook into Myspace.
Poor page management: Allowing people to use your fan page to build up their own businesses and Facebook pages is an insult to all the core fans who come here to be a part of your community. In addition, you risk turning those fans into antifans, as evidenced by the comments speaking up in irritation “Ok, Lil Wayne, we get it, you posted this eight times. . . .” That individual is in for a long wait if he’s hoping for a direct reply, though—Weezy doesn’t come here. Ever. His neglect in managing his page, cleaning out the spam, and engaging with people implies that he really doesn’t care about his fans, and creates little reason for his fans to care in return, or to come back to his Facebook page.
It’s tough for me to make fun of Weezy because I love his music, but honestly, when you put this little effort into your social media promotion, you’re no better than the amateurs sticking promo fliers under people’s windshield wipers.
MOSCOT: Possibly the Most Confusing Facebook Post Ever Normally, this small American business puts in a solid performance on Facebook, but this post, highlighting a positive review of the brand on an Israeli website, reveals a number of key mistakes. Text, text, and more problems with text: First, there’s the double copy supporting the photograph of Johnny Depp, in Hebrew and in English (though it takes some effort to find the English text). Facebook is not the place to be flooding fans with text. Indecipherable text: Second, the copy that does hit us in the face is in Hebrew. It’s kind of arresting, and when combined with the photo of Johnny Depp may be enough to make readers stop in their tracks. But not for long. As soon as most fans realize that they can’t read anything on the page—this is an American company, and most fans will be American—they’re going to move on. Few will hunt beneath the brand’s tiny profile picture and click on “See More,” where they will be rewarded with the English translation of the article. Last, whether in Hebrew or in English, no one should ever post copy more than a thousand words long on Facebook.
One more thing. Here and all over their Facebook page, Moscot likes its own posts. That’s lamezor, Moscot. Please stop.
UNICEF: Giving Away Too Much, Too Soon This celebrity-based post is another example of how ignoring the small nuances of a platform can make or break your content. Good imagery: UNICEF did a lot right here. They had their finger on the pop culture pulse and chose the right celebrity with the ever-popular Katy Perry. The picture of a smiling Katy jumping rope with some village girls in her UNICEF T-shirt is spot-on, and should work well to bring awareness to the brand. Botched copy: Where they goofed is in the copy. The first line is “Want to know what Katy Perry has been up to?” Good question. Provocative. Engaging. And UNICEF blew it by offering the answer.
The post should have ended with that first line, punctuated with a link. Leaving the question hanging would have whetted visitors’ appetites for more, and kept them intrigued enough to follow UNICEF’s digital bread crumbs to their website, where they could have elaborated on their humanitarian work in Madagascar and other countries. Serving up the answer right away robbed the post of all its energy and style. It’s a near miss—just one little tweak and this jab would have hit its mark.
LAND ROVER: Going Nowhere I wanted to destroy this Land Rover post the first time I saw it, but as I looked under the hood, I started to wonder whether the problems plaguing this content were caused by a lack of corporate support for a creative team’s honest efforts.
No brand ID: Don’t get me wrong, the execution is weird. Imagine this coming through your stream. You see a woman peering through a telescope at you, but with no logo and no prominently overlaid text, there’s no way to know what it’s about unless you pause to squint at the text below. Wrong URL: There, we see the post is from Land Rover, and that they’ve got something special planned and they’d like us to send in a passport-style photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. They did a good job of keeping the text short and to the point, but then they made a surprisingly ghetto choice. Why didn’t Land Rover secure a .landrover email address instead of a Gmail address? In addition, one can only hope that they aren’t strict with their definition of “passport-style,” because the photo they used, with half the woman’s head blocked by a telescope, is not passport-style. Maybe that doesn’t matter, though, because when we click through the link that takes us to a page where we can read more about the project, they don’t reiterate the passport-style requirement. Go-nowhere link: This error in consistency is minor, however, compared with the fact that the link takes us from the company’s Facebook post . . . straight to another company Facebook post. This tells me that the creative team wasn’t given the proper financial or managerial support to execute this project correctly with a proper website.
Showing off scrappy entrepreneurial spirit and making do with the resources you’ve got is admirable for a start-up, but not for a company like Land Rover, which sells a fairly expensive product.
STEVE NASH: A Disappointing Departure It is entirely possible that this post was chosen for no other reason than that my dear friend Nate is a bitter Steve Nash hater for leaving his beloved Phoenix Suns, and I was only too happy to have an excuse to give Nash a negative review. That said, objectively speaking, this is one horrible piece of content.
Until now, Nash has cultivated a solid social media presence that respects the platforms and engages his fans. This piece is such a departure that it makes me wonder if he might have been surrounded by some strong social media advisers back in Phoenix, and then lost them when he moved to Los Angeles. The post was meant to promote the Steve Nash Foundation Showdown, a charity soccer match featuring NBA stars going against top futbol players from around the world. Nonnative design: Anyone who visited Nash’s fan page directly was invited to the Steve Nash Foundation “HOWDOW.” If they consumed this on their phone they saw it as an “OWDOW.” You’ve got to be smart about your status update art, and someone on Nash’s media team was not. Broken link: The URL attached to the update doesn’t link out, which means Nash is counting on fans cutting and pasting the link into their URL if they want to go to the Showdown website. I assure you all of zero people did that, which is too bad because it’s a beautiful website, not to mention an extremely cool and worthy cause. No spam control: Finally, here we go again with the spam. The comment thread is littered with it. There’s a plague of people who use popular fan pages to promote themselves or their businesses, and the managers of these pages need to do a better job of weeding them out.
All of these mistakes can only be a result of carelessness or laziness. Nash fans deserve better.
AMTRAK: Using Sawdust to Its Advantage I ride Amtrak all the time, and this Facebook post made me glad that I do. I love this post— it’s one of the best jabs I’ve seen in a long time. Best of all, it allows me to dispel some confusion about what social media can and cannot do.
Great use of sawdust: You’ve got to be damn smart to figure out how to take an image of something quite boring, even forgettable, like two train seats, and turn it into a fun, energizing piece of content. I call material like those train seats “sawdust”—assets that you have just lying around, maybe something you totally take for granted. Gamification: Not only did Amtrak take advantage of their sawdust, they gamified it. Tag who you’d like to travel with—that’s a fun, clever challenge that strikes an emotional punch (although it’s a fairly big ask that could give you unreliable results). And what a great way to take advantage of the platform. Every person who receives a notification that they’ve been tagged will immediately register the Amtrak brand. It’s a great way to build awareness even among people who may not already be fans. Authenticity: There’s a real person behind this post, too. You can tell because when one fan suggested Justin Bieber as his preferred seatmate, Amtrak replied
with “But where would Selena Gomez go?” With one sentence, Amtrak reveals that its employees are our contemporaries, people just like us, with their fingers on the pop culture pulse, a sense of humor, and a real interest in their customers.
The only criticism worth lobbing at Amtrak is that they chose a picture of some pretty worn-out seats. The last time these seats saw some fresh upholstery was probably in 1964, when they were probably made. This brings me to the misconception a lot of marketers have about social media. It’s not lipstick. No matter how brilliant, clever, or authentic you are, nothing will cover up the flaws in your content. Some people will appreciate the retro look of the seats, but a lot of people won’t find them very appealing. Amtrak would have been wise to choose some less worn-out seats, or cleaned these up a little better before posting a picture of them. This poor sense of aesthetic is the only detail marring what is otherwise a perfectly executed jab.
BLACKBERRY: Missed Details Matter My team and I struggled for several minutes to understand the story behind this post. We liked a lot about it, but then we realized that if it was that challenging to figure out what BlackBerry was trying to say, the story couldn’t have registered much with an audience that probably spent less than a second thinking about it. Poor storytelling technique: I understand the story that BlackBerry was trying to tell—the BlackBerry Z10 is two phones in one—one for work, one for play. And if you click on the link below the picture, you’re taken to a pretty cool YouTube video that illustrates exactly what’s special about the phone. In addition, you’ll find another link that takes you to the product’s retail site. But though the brand correctly chose to make its photo the star of the update, the image does not do enough of the storytelling for us. Why not show someone attending a kid’s soccer game juxtaposed with a shot of that same person at the office? You have to look extremely closely to recognize the difference between the two screens. In addition, the text talks about work-life harmony, but the screens are reversed, in life-work order. That’s sloppy. And finally, people live their whole lives looking at screens—now they have to look at screens on their screens? It’s a little meta for a mobile device company.
BlackBerry was right to make a big push for this product and tell their story in social, but they should have paid more attention to the details of their execution.
MICROSOFT: Riding the Waves
It’s nice to see a stodgy, unsexy company show its creative, fun side as it rides the zeitgeist.
Good use of links: In this exciting jab, Microsoft is promoting a product called Fresh Paint, an app that allows you to use a palette of colors to “paint” in templates or even on your own pictures and photographs. Fans can read all about it in the blog Microsoft posted two months before this status update, easily accessible via the link beneath the picture of Dory and Nemo. It tells us how Microsoft partnered with Disney-Pixar to create a Fresh Paint “Finding Nemo pack,” a collection of original coloring pages and their appropriate palette of colors. They wisely took advantage of the announcement that there would be a sequel to Finding Nemo to showcase their product. Offers quality, value, and authenticity: The post shows that the creative team at Microsoft is doing some smart thinking about where the cultural conversation is going, and how they can find ways to be a part of it. The brand receives more high marks for the quality of the image, the fact that the voice of the text isn’t too corporate, and the way they brought something of value to their community. In this status update and on the blog, Microsoft really does sound excited about both the movie and their product. If only more companies would use Facebook this well.
ZEITGEIST: Missing Its Inner Hipster This post is stunningly bad. Hipsters have told me that Zeitgeist is the ultimate hipster bar in San Francisco. Ironically, everything that’s wrong with this jab could have been easily avoided if someone with a modicum of stereotypically hipster skills had created the post.
Low Facebook value: First, the post in and of itself has zero value but to divert fans to Twitter. There’s no copy, just a mess of hashtags. Hashtags have infiltrated our culture so much that people are starting to use them as an ironic coda to status updates and even regular conversations. They have long been a huge part of Twitter and Instagram’s appeal, where they overindex, and recently Facebook introduced them to the platform as well. It’s possible that Zeitgeist was trying to incorporate hashtags into their voice, but they don’t work here. Incorrect post format: Next, it’s a link post, and at the time this post was created, link posts underperformed compared with picture posts that link out (though that could change in the future). In this case, though, a picture post
wouldn’t have saved the status update. It might have even made it worse. Sorry photography: The link takes us to a Twitter account where we see that Zeitgeist tweeted out a picture of what must be a Russian River Brewing beer tasting, showing a group of people sitting around a flight of beers. But the picture is so dark and blurry you really have to work to see what it is. That defies reason. Zeitgeist is a hip brand whose demo is all about modern technology. Photography has become a kind of social currency. This is not a great photo. It’s not even good. It’s the kind of picture you delete and take again. By allowing this subpar art to get posted, Zeitgeist implies that it’s actually not very good at tech, and not as hip and cool as its customers. It’s the kind of subliminal message that can kill a company.
TARTINE BAKERY: One Hot Mess Tartine Bakery, a hugely popular café and pastry shop in San Francisco, has published two gorgeous illustrated cookbooks that received national attention and praise. Their Facebook post, however, indicates that like many entrepreneurs, businesses, and Fortune 500 companies, they are willing to invest energy, effort, and dollars into familiar platforms, but they have yet to put that same creative and strategic energy into the contemporary platforms where their fans actually spend more of their time. This post has so much wrong with it I have to edit my comments for the sake of space.
Unclear messaging: This post on the Tartine Bakery fan page is actually promoting an event at the bakery’s sister restaurant, Bar Tartine. It’s fine to cross-promote among communities, but they should have made it explicitly clear that this isn’t a bakery event, since most fans are coming to this fan page looking for bakery news. Awkward text: They write: “Bar Tartine (with Link!) hosts . . .” What an awkward, poorly written phrase. Plus, it shows that someone at Tartine actually believes that fans are too stupid to know what that little blue URL is for at the end of the post. Irrelevant hashtag: What’s up with the hashtag? The post doesn’t direct us to Twitter, so what purpose does it serve here? No photo: This is as visually unfriendly as it gets. Tartine is promoting a foodcentered charitable event, and they couldn’t whet our appetites with a little teaser of food porn or some other cool image to get us excited about it?
The fourth error might explain mistake number three. Not only did Tartine not include an image to accompany its charitable event, but it looks like they actually deleted one. When you attach a URL to a status update, a thumbnail image automatically appears beneath your post. But there is none here. The only way that can happen is if someone chose not to include an image. If you type the URL into your browser and head over to the fundraising event’s page, you might see why. There you’ll find the most god-awful picture of a deconstructed burger ever drawn. The lettuce is vaguely dinosaur-shaped and fluorescent green; the meat, which actually looks like strips of radicchio glued together, glows red from the inside like some kind of nuclear accident about to happen, topped with fluorescent green caterpillars that are probably supposed to be pickles. It is a nightmare. No wonder Tartine Bakery didn’t want that thing showing up on its fan page. Which then raises the question, why didn’t they step in and provide better art to the organization that created the fund-raising Web page? Insufficient page management: Finally, back on the fan page, the four spam comments—the only comments anyone bothered to make—are the cherries on top of this crap sundae.
TWIX: Having Fun Twix threw a good jab here. They left their logo off the photograph, which is too bad, because as I have repeatedly pointed out, these images go through consumers’ mobile streams so quickly it’s easy for them to see a picture but not register who posted it. That said, Twix is such an iconic candy bar that most people will probably recognize what they’re seeing right away, so in this case the omission isn’t that big a deal.
Clever storytelling, strong voice, good use of pop culture: In the past, Twix has run television ads that played on the crisp sound of a Twix snapping in two, and in this post they’re reinforcing that story by playing off the well-known “tree in the forest” philosophical riddle. It’s a cute idea. The text shows that the writer has a strong feel for the brand’s quirky, playful voice. The nice level of engagement the post received proves how appealing it is to customers when a brand skillfully inserts itself into the pop culture conversation to tell its story. They should be primed to respond whenever Twix gets ready to throw a right hook down the line.
COLGATE: Good Copy Gone Bad Catchy text: “Did You Know?” in all caps works for me. Maybe I like the copy in this Colgate post because I grew up an ESPN SportsCenter fan. Regardless, this is an appropriately short, tight, positive reinforcement of the brand’s interest in being important to a community that values a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. Unfortunately, the excellent text is attached to a picture that screams stock photo. Its generic personality zaps away any brand reinforcement the company could have engendered with its strong setup. Interestingly, the post did receive some strong engagement. I credit the good copy. The brand could have seen even more response had it just overlaid the Colgate logo and the text directly onto the picture. That might have even gone viral. As it stands, though, this post is a yawn.
KIT KAT: Timed Out This is as good as a status update gets, except for one teeny, tiny mistake that makes a huge difference in the reach and influence of any post. Art, tone, logo, text—it’s all good: Posted the Friday before the 2013 Super Bowl Sunday, the art in Kit Kat’s status update is fun and creative, and with pitch-perfect tone the picture and art lend an entertaining voice to the global conversation. In the right-hand corner, they included their slogan, which is an excellent alternative to a company logo. More brands should use their slogan and consistently incorporate it into their social media efforts. The product is prominent and cleverly used; the text, the tagline, and the brand slogan echo each other; the cultural reference is universal. The only misstep is in the timing of the post. Thoughtless timing: The Super Bowl in 2013 featured the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Kit Kat launched this post at 6 A.M. Eastern Standard Time. In general, a 6 A.M. post is going to underindex because it only hits the early risers. Now, there were probably plenty of Ravens fans checking Facebook as they muddled through their early-morning routines, so it surely wasn’t a complete loss. But what about the 49ers fans in San Francisco? It was 3 A.M. in their time zone when this post went live. Three o’clock in the morning has to be the single worst time you could post anything on social media. Even the people working two jobs to make ends meet are sleeping at 3 A.M. Hell, I’m sleeping at 3 A.M. (when my infant son lets me). No one on the West Coast was watching when Kit Kat posted this status update. This is a great example of how a brand’s poor understanding of the psychology and behaviors of social media users can weaken their best efforts. In this case, it’s a real shame, because Kit Kat’s performance is so strong in this arena, other companies should be modeling their jabs after it.
LUKE’S LOBSTER: Logoless I love this place. Only my wife, Lizzie, knows how much—we once ate here four days in a row. On this post, Luke’s Lobster did a nice job on their copy. But since the company’s timeline is filled with pictures of lobster rolls pretty much 365 days a week, it would have been a nice twist to show some mother flair on their Mother’s Day post. That’s the missed opportunity. The real problem, though, is that it would be easy for the speedy and casual observer to think that Cape Cod Potato Chips put out this post. Lots of brands post Facebook and Instagram shots that incorporate products from companies other than their own, and that’s fine—so long as you have prominently branded your photo with your company logo in a highly noticeable corner. Which you really should do. Every time.
DONORS CHOOSE: A Solid Try Many nonprofits litter the social media universe with such spammy content they make the likes of Lil Wayne look good (see page 59). This piece of content doesn’t have the branding elements or many of the important details I’ve demanded from other businesses, but so few nonprofits do anything on Facebook but throw right hooks asking for money or inviting people to fund-raising galas that I wanted to give some love to Donors Choose for throwing this jab. In fact, they generally post a lot of status updates that show they’re committed to jabs. I know nothing about this NGO or how it is run, but this quote seems thematically appropriate and tied to their mission. Sure, it’s generic, but who knows, maybe they’ll read this book and learn how to take their content up a notch. While they’re at it, they can put some additional effort into their community management, which is currently
almost nonexistent. If there’s any place where people need to feel a strong sense of humanity, it’s from the nonprofit world.
INSTAGRAM: A Textbook Case, and Not in a Good Way As you’d expect, Instagram’s Facebook page is filled with stunning visuals, and this one accompanying a list of Instagrammers exhibiting their work at the Venice Biennale is gorgeous. The announcement itself, though, shows that when Facebook bought Instagram, they didn’t give their new employees a tutorial on how to properly storytell on their own platform. How could a subsidiary of Facebook post such copy-heavy images? There’s not even a punch line or pitch. Instagram may as well have thrown up a textbook on their timeline for all the excitement that post inspires.
CONE PALACE: Yum I need to thank Cone Palace for giving me a chance to offer an in-depth commentary at what spot-on micro-content strategy looks like. Cone Palace is an institution in Kokomo, Indiana. I can’t speak about the food from experience, but if its owners pay as much attention to the quality and taste of their food as they do to their Facebook marketing strategy, it’s no doubt a good reason why they’ve stayed in business since 1966. Cone Palace earned about two thousand fans as soon as they launched their Facebook page by promoting a big event and offering a 10 percent discount. But though people joined to become part of the community, they probably stayed because of the good content. Their standards are high and exacting. Before posting anything, they ask themselves, “If I saw this picture, would I share it?” If the answer is no, they don’t post. That’s an example many marketers should follow. Don’t expect your consumers’ expectations and standards to be any lower than your own.
Their posts aren’t complicated, and they only put out two kinds—photographs of their food, and text posts announcing specials and new menu items, or that use local events (including people’s birthdays), the weather, and holidays to provide context for their business. Hard-core analytical types might not trust Cone Palace’s sometimes anecdotal, unscientific methods for measuring ROI, but when they post a picture of a hamburger and fries, and fans post comments that they’re drooling and coming in for lunch, it seems safe to say that the content effectively increases sales. And what content! Originally, staff took iPhone pictures of the food. But then they noticed that on the occasion when they had a particularly great quality photo, their engagements and interactions shot up. So they invested in a professional photographer who takes all of their food shots. I would never have had the audacity to recommend to every business, especially a small mom-and-pop shop, that they should hire a professional photographer to take pictures of
their product for social media content, because of the tremendous overhead it would represent, but secretly that’s exactly what I wish every business would do. And you know, if you’ve got the will, there is always a way. Ever heard of bartering? That’s an idea we need to take more seriously. When I think back, I could have bartered wine in exchange for professional shots of wine labels in a heartbeat if I had wanted to. If you’re a small business—a shoe salesperson, a lawyer, an electrician, or maybe a real estate agent—you can provide a service or product in exchange for another service or product that you need, like professional photographs. It would be such a worthwhile investment. A beautiful photo of your product makes all the difference in the world. Flip ahead to the picture of the apple turnover on Arby’s Pinterest board on page 128—would you rather eat there, or at Cone Palace? There is one thing Cone Palace could have done better: When that generic photo of a banana split whizzed through people’s newsfeed, it would have been smart for consumers to see a Cone Palace logo in the bottom of the picture or at the top left. Have I beaten that horse to death yet? INCLUDE YOUR LOGO IN YOUR PICTURE! Kudos to a business that has figured out how to innovate and evolve for a half century, and shows no signs of stopping.
REGGIE BUSH: Being Human Let it be said straight up that if Reggie Bush were still playing for the Dolphins, instead of the Lions, there’s no way he would have made it into this book. I hate the Dolphins. But now that he’s a Lion, I can give him daps. He deserves them.
Every celebrity page should be infused with this much humanity and empathy. I love what Reggie Bush has done with his Facebook timeline, offering a terrific mix of inspirational quotes, family photos, shout-outs to people he admires (both celebrity and non), and personal reflections and anecdotes. The way he tripled down on content allows him to come across as extraordinarily human. This particular photo is not perfect—the glare covers up one of the numbers. But he’s using it properly to engage with his community, making it a perfect jab that will support any right hook he throws in the future. A little Easter egg for any early readers of this book: Reggie Bush plays a Monday night game on December 16, 2013. If you read this before then, please mark the game on your calendar. After you watch, @reply me @garyvee with the hashtag #JJJRHreggiebush and give me your thoughts on the content that Reggie has been posting on his Facebook page. I will randomly pick three or four people who write to me and send them a replica of their favorite player’s jersey.
Questions to Ask When Creating Facebook Micro-Content
Is the text too long?
Is it provocative, entertaining, or surprising?
Is the photo striking and high-quality?
Is the logo visible?
Have we chosen the right format for the post?
Is the call to action in the right place?
Is this interesting in any way, to anyone? For real?
Are we asking too much of the person consuming the content?