Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

Facebook’s recent newsfeed algorithm changes might feel like yet another twist of the ear for brands. The changes mean that brands’ purely promotional updates won’t be seen by as many consumers. Although Facebook is doing this to improve the consumer experience, it’s actually a good thing for brands. Facebook is taxing these “brand cigarettes” out of your reach, saving your brand’s vital organs from a slow and painful death. All this while making the marketing world a nicer place to live.

The rationale for metering these posts is a nanny state done right, in my opinion, and would have been welcome early in my career.

I had this crazy idea: include voice minutes for free in a bundled plan. My boss, a slight, quietly competent guy about my age, asked me to develop the market and product requirements with help from people throughout our $2 billion telecom.

It was a complete bust. You see, this was 1996 and the market hadn’t heard of bundled products. My boss offered me some solace:

“It’s not a bad idea. It’s just that no one is ready for it.”

There’s a clinical reason why you hate such posts at some times, while at other times you’ll happily click.

Mini Case Study

Let’s see how this story fits Facebook’s latest change by analyzing a recent cancerous post. This advert disguised as a status update from Gilt was in my newsfeed a few days ago. If you’re the project lead who coordinated this post with the relevant departments would you be happy with one share? I hope not.

 
It’s nice looking content and is probably a compelling offer, like my free voice minutes idea. It just didn’t pop. Because I just wasn’t ready for it.

So what would have made me click? There is a formula which Facebook is now forcing you to adhere to that can significantly improve your engagement and conversion rates. Read on.

Mind the Buying Decision Formula

Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella talk about the consumer buying cycle in their best-selling how-to for influencer marketing, Influence Marketing.

The context is influencer marketing but the concept for all marketing is the same in abstract: 1) the audience needs to know you exist; 2) they need to react to your message and ask questions; and, 3) only then do you give them the call to action.

In traditional marketing you might hear these three steps as:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration, i.e., “the Story”
  • Conversion

Armed with this context, think about your brand and its content marketing. If your posts commonly draw an unsatisfying point-zero-something percent engagement, ask yourself the following set of questions:

1. Does your target audience know you exist? If so, do they really know what you offer and why they should pay attention to you? In the Gilt example, I just know that they appear to have swanky men’s clothes and gear. Not much else.

2. Do they have enough information about the benefits of your product and how your competitors compare? I have only a vague knowledge of Ghurka bags but no idea if they last longer, feel better, or how their status level compares with others. With a name like Ghurka there’s probably an interesting story to be told that I’m not hearing, like they’re made from leather that Nepalese Gurkhas used as a strop to hone their battle blades razor sharp. Last, I have no idea why I should buy from Gilt instead of Amazon or my local men’s shop.

3. Does your content have a trigger?

A trigger would be something like Thanksgiving, Throwback Thursday, Happy Hour, Humpday, etc. To quote Jonah Berger, it’s the “jelly” that goes with “peanut butter”. I see no trigger here other than an attempt with the mystifying #ComeTogether hashtag.

Getting the Ratio Right

One brand making us look really bad on Facebook is Williams Sonoma. Their ratio of conversion posts to “story” posts is 9:50 (scrolling through their page today). Notably, their conversion posts are very topically pointed and suggestive, transitioning seamlessly from their lifestyle posts.


You hardly realize some of their calls to action are actually conversion posts. Bravo to Williams Sonoma. Gilt, in contrast, was at 100% conversion or calls to action. No stories, no background, no value, no see.

You may not want Facebook filtering off your promotional “updates”. And they may even prevent some of your non-promo content from being seen by your audience. But until your audience is ready for a call to action, they’re saving you from yourself.

Sports Fans: The Ultimate Social Influencers

sporting events are perhaps the perfect opportunity for marketers to reach their core audience and create buzz around new products and events through popular and influential fans or celebrities.

It’s well-known that sports fans are some of the most dedicated, passionate, and — dare we say — shameless fans out there. Any group of people with members who will make a pitcher want to cry or pay $8,000 for used dentures deserves the honor of being called the most passionate, don’t you think?

While these fans are already extremely invested in their favorite teams and athletes in real life, they’re becoming more and more passionate online, too. Research indicates that social media users are most active during sporting events, and 45 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds follow sports teams or athletes online. They engage with and look up to influencers within the sporting world — both journalists and players alike — to inform their brand relationships and purchases.

That being said, sporting events are perhaps the perfect opportunity for marketers to reach their core audience and create buzz around new products and events through popular and influential fans or celebrities. But be careful: The average fan’s fanaticism also translates into suspicion toward branded content. And if you’re disingenuous or choose the wrong sports figure endorser, they won’t think twice before kicking your brand to the curb.

Influence vs. Popularity in Sports Marketing

Influence is one of the hottest trends in social media marketing. But its effectiveness isn’t a simple equation of content or crowds, and fortunately, it isn’t a popularity game, either. The number of followers someone has on Twitter or Facebook isn’t indicative of his influence over the public in general or a particular group. You can put your checkbook away — you don’t have to hire one of the top 10 influencers in the sports business to see results.

Instead, you must connect your content with lesser-known pockets of influence (think micro- to mid-level folks) to actually spread your ideas. To do that, you need to identify and connect with the right influencers for your target audience. Here’s how:

1.) Search for relevance, reach, and resonance. The best fit for your fan base will be the influencer who hits three important criteria: relevance, reach, and resonance. That means this influencer talks the most about your industry, has the most followers listening and being influenced by what he says, and inspires the most discussion around published posts.

These could well be the more popular macro influencers (celebrities, for instance) with loads of followers, but more than likely, you will discover lesser-known influencers who can do just as well or better when it comes to convincing their audience to take note of your brand.

A snapshot of 'car racing' influencers- including those mid-level and micro influencers who aren't as well-known as celebrities.

A snapshot of ‘car racing’ influencers- including those mid-level and micro influencers who aren’t as well-known as celebrities.

2.) Nurture an authentic relationship. When you’ve identified an influencer with the relevance, reach, and resonance you’re looking for, it’s time to foster a genuine relationship. Build trust by promoting the influencer’s companies, books, and brands. Engage with the person on social media to see whether the water is warm. Then, make contact about partnering for a particular campaign or promotion. If you nurture the relationship in the right way, you might not have to ask for anything, and he’ll organically promote your brand on his own (but not before a lot of hard work on your end).

Budweiser pulled off this kind of campaign when it sent two soccer fan influencers to a World Cup match to join the celebration and snap pictures for Instagram. The influencers created a real-life experience for every single one of their Instagram followers (and they had a lot!), generating great exposure for the beer brand.

3.) Look outside your core vertical. Sports fans are complex and have many competing interests and tastes. An interest in Formula 1 might easily lead to an interest in NASCAR, or an interest in rock climbing might cross over into CrossFit. If you try to permanently segment your audience into one vertical, you might inadvertently limit your potential.

For example, the F1 core vertical is car racing. However, the F1 marketing team could look beyond the car vertical and explore other types of racing, such as MotoGP. You could also identify fans who are obsessed with the bands that will be playing during the F1 weekend and offer them a meet-and-greet with the band members, along with front-row seats to the concert. There are many influencers in many verticals. As a marketer, it’s your job to find and nurture them.

4.) Choose your metrics carefully. Rather than taking your social media metrics at face value, do a little digging. Compare tallies of followers and “likes” with more business-related metrics and objectives. Are you getting more blog followers or web traffic since you launched your influencer campaign? Are more people downloading your videos? Is sentiment up or down? Companies like ours are developing algorithms to help standardize social influence by gauging individual social activity and reactions, rather than just likes and follows.

Influencers build excitement and, most importantly, action in people who have not yet been convinced of how great your brand might be, and there’s great potential to yield amazing brand benefits. Simply align your marketing efforts with the most targeted, authentic influencers possible to earn the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Personalized Grassroots Fans Versus Old-Fashioned Celebrity Endorsers

(Originally posted in Social Media Today)

It’s 11 p.m., and you’re in your local big-box store. You’ve got a package of white sports socks in each hand, and you’re trying to figure out which one to buy. One brand has your childhood sports hero smiling on the package, and the other comes highly recommended by your best friend.

Which do you choose?

Oddly enough, the same question torments marketing professionals as they try to figure out which approach will resonate with their target market: the highly personalized grassroots campaign or the good old-fashioned celebrity endorsement. And the answer isn’t easy.

Grassroots Campaign or Celebrity Endorsement: Which Strategy Is Best for Your Brand’s Story?
Image provided by We Are Social Media.

Which Approach Will Ignite Your Audience?

Celebrity endorsements have long been embraced as the go-to marketing strategy for brands looking to establish trust and build excitement with new customers. But consumers have developed a distaste for in-your-face advertising tactics, and new studies suggest that grassroots advocate campaigns might have just as powerful an effect on customers as celebrity endorsements.

There’s no single factor that determines whether a grassroots campaign or celebrity endorsement is best for your target audience. However, there are clues that can help you discover which option is best for you. Here are three considerations that can help you select the right approach:

1. Analyze your budget for the best ROI. Don’t think that a small budget makes your decision easier; a budget of any size can secure a less obvious, but still powerful, celebrity influencer — regardless of whether it’s the best choice for your brand.

What matters most, though, is that you choose an approach that will resonate with your audience for the most powerful ROI.

Taco Bell’s “Burner Phone Breakfast” grassroots heist is a great example of using a minimal budget for maximum impact. After sending phones to 1,000 of its 1.1 million Twitter followers, the brand texted and called each phone with different challenges to complete, then rewarded these fans with Taco Bell prizes and gear.

This effort created a lot of engagement and awareness via social media and targeted its Millennial audience perfectly — all at a fraction of the cost of contracting a popular celebrity.

2. Track target audience conversations. You can’t confidently predict which trends will appeal to your audience unless you’re tracking their social media conversations in real time.

Gather data and try to incorporate celebrities, events, or topics your audience mentions into your current marketing strategy. Listen to what your audience cares about (their friends’ opinions, a hot TV star’s endorsement, etc.), and redistribute that information in creative ways.

Telemundo is a great example of a company in tune with its audience’s interests. In partnership with Latin World Entertainment, the TV channel invited 100 of its top social media influencers to come on screen and judge its new talent competition, “Yo Soy el Artista.” This approach strengthened the show’s relationship with its social media influencers, who, in turn, promoted the show and the experience to millions of followers.

3. Read into every audience detail. Go a step beyond tracking conversations to uncover your audience’s deeper motivations. Use a social media segmentation tool to identify unique characteristics that describe your audience and popular, but less obvious, influencers.

Every trait you can uncover — from being eco-friendly to price-sensitive — is an important indicator of what will warrant a response from your audience. And if you’re going the celebrity route, this will uncover the people they really care about, not just the hot celebrities of the moment.

Under Armour did a great job of incorporating its knowledge of its audience into its celebrity promotions with the current “I Will What I Want” campaign featuring Gisele Bündchen and Lindsey Vonn. By featuring real women celebrities who have overcome criticism, injuries, and more, each powerful promotion connected with the everyday athletic woman and created buzz around the brand.

It’d be a lot easier if marketing campaigns came in a one-size-fits-all package, but that’s not how you make a genuine connection with your target consumer. Put in the work to determine what resonates with your audience, and use that information to develop an effective grassroots campaign or secure a compelling celebrity endorsement.

Use Social Influence to Boost Brand Beliefs

(Originally posted in The Business Journals)

Did you know that chocolate milk is a better post-workout drink than a protein drink?

Did you know that chocolate milk is a better post-workout drink than a protein drink?
Image provided by Getty Images

A brand belief like this doesn’t exist in direct-to-consumer advertising — have you ever seen a commercial featuring an athlete furiously chugging chocolate milk? Yet it still exists (See Weber Shandwick’s influencer campaign for “Got Chocolate Milk?”). So where does it come from?

The answer is social influence. In an increasingly advertising-saturated environment, brands are shifting from direct advertising to social influence-based tactics to reach their target audiences.

This practice isn’t new. It’s been around since the 1960s, when Daniel Edelman had a simple idea: Use celebrities to endorse products. You can imagine (and maybe even remember!) how effective those sponsorships were.

But today, consumers are born with devices in their hands. They no longer naïvely believe that Jean-Claude Van Damme actually uses the Total Flex home gym or that Bill Cosby‘s favorite food is Jell-O. Pile on the avalanche of content consumers encounter daily, and it’s clear why the old way of doing things is losing steam.

To the rescue come the influencers — those real people who give your branded content authenticity.

Enter the early adopters

Many large-scale consumer brands already leverage this approach through bloggers and thought leaders. It’s a commitment — recruiting, managing, nurturing and sometimes paying influencers — but in terms of engagement and sales, the ROI can be exponential.

Walmart froze its paid promotions in favor of organic, owned content in an ambitious effort to bolster its brand reputation through influencers. As a result, it garnered an engagement rate of more than 4.5 percent — well above the average.

So, how can you use influencers to boost your brand’s reputation? Start with these steps:

1. Segment your audience

Thanks to social listening and customer insight tools, it’s easy to acquire consumer data. Telling a story with that data is the hard part. Identify your audience’s social media profiles then curate them down to your target markets.

2. Find people who can influence your target segments

This is not as hard as you’d think. If you monitor your audience’s social activity, you can see whom each segment interacts with. Monitoring those social streams will net you their upstream influence path.

3. Tailor your content

A celebrity tweet about your brand may garner thousands of likes, but will it really close a sale? A brand advocate, on the other hand, might talk to 10 friends and convert eight into customers.

Segment your influencers by where they are in the buying cycle — awareness, consideration or open to conversion — then channel the right content to them at the right time, through the person your target market trusts.

With a constant flow of branded content bombarding consumers from every direction, it’s difficult to cut through the noise and highlight your brand. But with the help of influencer marketing, you can build positive brand awareness, connect with customers on an authentic level and strengthen your content overall.

iPhone versus Windows Phone – How Are Their Influencers Different?

You probably know by now that Mattr is big on personality (not ours; your brand’s). Our latest platform extension features influencer marketing and you can filter for values.

This solves the problem of you digging through millions of profiles to look for the 1000 people who are both conservative and early tech adopters – think of launching a new mobile app for Hobby Lobby.

In any event, here’s the quick analysis for people influential about the iPhone and those who impact the conversation around the Windows Phone(s).

Influencer Marketing Values

 

 

How We Did It

We looked at micro and mid-level influencers for both phones in our influencer application, looking at their last 10,000 tweets and Instagram posts. We left out the macro influencers, who are primarily media and large verified accounts like young Master Bieber. Mid-level influencers are not Twitter verified and usually have hundreds of thousands of followers. Micro influencers have minimal followers but are real people who post on Instagram or Twitter with some frequency. We like to say that everyone matters at Mattr – so if you’re looking for the people who influence your target audience, you want to see your next door neighbor who only has 100 followers, but a lot of influence over you.

 

What it Means

The political party affiliation surprised us a bit, as did the environmental analysis. Just goes to show you that stereotypes are often dangerous–but always sloppy and rarely good enough in these days of big data.

For Microsoft, it tells us that they’re close to on par with Apple’s sense of non-conformism, even though 5% of the dataset represents a significant enough difference to call out.

I would definitely play off of the environmental analysis, and appeal to phone and electronics recycling programs. To date, few campaigns come to mind with this message. Certainly, Microsoft should heed the advice of avoiding trying to appeal to conflicting value sets such as Self-Indulgence versus Conservation / Conformity.

Want to Learn More?

Drop us a message at contact@mattr.co.