Social Media Marketing Is Not Free (From the Archives of the Old AdTex Interactive Blog)

A business associate and I recently discussed the challenges of “monetizing” Social Media Marketing Services. We exchanged theories about why paying professionals to handle Social Media is such a tough sell to many small-to-medium-size business decision makers.

It all boiled down to the cost of the mediums (alternate plural for media) or the lack thereof. A Twitter profile, a YouTube membership, a Facebook personal profile and even a Facebook Business page all cost the user absolutely nothing.

So, the reasoning goes, “Why pay someone to do something that’s free?”

My answer is “Because Social Media is about ‘socializing’ but Social Media ‘Marketing” is about making money…and we have always been about our clients making more money!” That’s why we provide interactive advertising that engages your customers to entice them to buy your product or service.

Times are still tough and unfortunately, marketing is often where the first and deepest budgetary cuts are made. Maybe many managers think that employees are burning enough company time on Social Media sites that they can’t justify paying a full-time employee and certainly not an outside agency to do it. “Working” the Facebook page often becomes the part-time, “side” job for a staffer.

Those much-appreciated returning readers of this space are familiar with my oft-repeated “blog bites”, like “Social Media Marketing is a full-time job.”, “Many websites and Facebook pages are no more than ‘digital pamphlets’, lying on the receptionist’s desk, undistributed.”, “An unattended Facebook page is just a virtual wall covered with graffiti.” and “An effective Facebook page should be more of a ‘virtual hangout’, where the portion of Facebook’s 800 million users who have an interest in your company hang out.”

Take a look at a good selection of small-to-medium-size business Facebook pages and you’ll find loads of apathetic, occasional, text-only, one-way conversation about the company’s products or services. By now, even marginal do-it-yourself Social Media marketers know that effective work involves constant contact, two-way engagement and strong content (the visual and aural digital elements that used to be called “media”). Many of those pages aren’t even Facebook Business Pages (or still sometimes called “Fan Pages”), but are personal profiles, created by an employee who uses it as their company’s digital “message board”. Personal profiles are designed for individuals and fall way short of the inherent marketing functionality of “pages”. The practice is so pervasive that Facebook recently introduced a new tool to allow those using a personal profile for business to convert it to a Business Page.

Another common foible in the SM DIYers’ marketing plan is the belief that all of their Facebook wall posts are being seen by every “Liker” (or personal profile “friend”). They just keep writing those sometimes witty posts, sure their PC-addicted audience is soaking it all in.

It just isn’t so!

Facebook uses a powerful software solution to limit the users that see your posts. Ever notice that you don’t see all the wall posts (actually called a “newsfeed”) from all your “friends?” If you did, imagine the wall clutter with which you would be dealing.

Each item (text, photos, videos, links) you put in your newsfeed is called an “object”. Each FB user’s interaction (virtually “touching”) with that object is called an “Edge”. Your “EdgeRank” is what determines how many users see your newsfeed. Certain factors (called “algorithms”) raise your EdgeRank. Maximum object interaction is key to higher EdgeRank and those text-only “announcement” wall posts are big EdgeRank downers.

We know what kind of content raises EdgeRank. We are constantly learning more about SM technology and advise our “3M” clients of our Best Practices for maximum results.

So, my point is that although Social Media sites are free, effective full-time professional Social Media marketing, though economical, is not free. Frankly, bottom-line sales results from Social Media Marketing are sometimes incremental and often nigh impossible to measure. But the modern marketing business model has shifted to full-time, relationship-based customer contact, via Social Media. Customers are on sites, discussing your industry, product or services. You need to be in on those conversations.

Whether you hire full-time staffers or use an affordable, seasoned advertising company is up to you. If you choose the latter, I know a great little company that will help with that.

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A Client Lost to Lethargy (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive blog)

We lost a client last week. We’re devastated about it.

In this economy, you would think our largest lament would be the subsequent loss of income. But truth be told, the monthly revenue from this particular client was miniscule. What is most crushing are the dashed hopes of parading this client’s success as a benchmark for Social Media Marketing done right.

We hoped to showcase their results as proof positive of our Social Media Marketing strategy’s effectiveness. But alas, ‘twas not to be.

Here’s what happened. Last year, we partnered with a friend who has an agency that does email marketing for a coalition of independent specialty stores. Many of the stores’ owners expressed interest in Social Media Marketing. With the hope of adding at least half of the 200-plus stores as SM clients, we offered our services at a deeply discounted monthly rate. We traveled to their industry’s annual trade show to present our SM plan in a “breakout” session. We left with two or three commitments to the program. Neither panned out.

We understand that offering to do someone’s Social Media Marketing is a tough sell in tight times. I covered my theory on it in the “Social Media Marketing is Not Free” blog post. Anyway, a store that didn’t attend the show contracted us. As a show of good faith, we still offered the drastically discounted group rate for our already-low-cost service. They chose to have us create their SM sites and use our “3M” service. But they declined our affordable content-creation options, choosing to try doing it themselves (with lots of free consultation from us).

Hours were spent on the phone, discussing the retailer’s Social Media Marketing strategy, goals, plans and challenges. They were encouraged to call our offices or wireless phones with even the slightest questions or concerns. We communicated frequently. If not by phone, always at least by email. We started by telling them how Social Media marketing takes time, planning and effort. We worked the program as planned. We spent hours educating two employees on SM best practices. We showed them how Facebook isn’t their company’s “digital message board” to talk “at” customers and tell them what’s for sale. We taught them about engagement, interaction, Facebook as a “hangout”, blah, blah, blah… (much of the stuff that was covered in my “Don’t tell your “Likers…Anything” and “Your Company is On Facebook….” posts).

We set up their first three SM sites (after explaining how this would raise their website’s Search Ranking). They got a “tricked out” FB page with a custom canvas, “incentivized” landing page and apps. We built them a customized YouTube channel and Twitter profile. We had our friend do an “incentivized” email to introduce their list subscribers to their new Facebook page and grow their “likerbase”.

But our best efforts were put forth providing creative ideas for them to develop engaging, customer-capturing, EdgeRank-driving content. We suggested they buy a cheap digital video camera and do short (1-2 min. max.) videos at least weekly. We created a strategy for posting photos, helpful tips, using surveys, developing contests, asking “likers”/followers/subscribers questions, adding links back to their website, “liking” local pages and posting positive, non-promotional info on their FB walls, etc. We gave them a lengthy list of obscure holidays and suggested promotions they can create around them. We researched their local (we’re in Texas and they are in the Midwest) events and happenings that they could integrate with their SM programs. We came up with numerous creative ideas for them to manufacture “buzz”.

This retailer specializes in party supplies and is mostly staffed by women. We suggested they create a short weekly webisode series called Women on “Men”. It would be just 1-2 minutes of the women at the store, sitting around talking about the latest episode of TNT’s Ray Romano hit, Men of a Certain Age. Why this show? Because Ray Romano’s character runs an independent PARTY STORE! It would have been just a “hook” for novelty’s sake. It would be their Social Media version of ABC’s “The View” or CBS’ “The Talk”. The idea was to create low-cost web content that would develop incremental interest. Likers, followers and fans would watch to see what real, party-store-working women thought of those three whiny, middle-age men and their exploits.

About three months in, “Women on Men” and dozens of our other ideas soon were met with virtual silence. The company’s Facebook page suffered from the same malady. In the early goings, the two or three page administrators at the store would at least post a newsfeed or two weekly. There was the occasional photo of products in the store, a special promotion around a holiday or photos of employees participating in a local event. But those became few and far between.

Once, after noticing they had gone about two weeks with no activity, I left a phone message to let them know we would be sending an email with ideas for content creation and FB newsfeeds. We proposed that if they could spare just two hours weekly, creating content (videos, photos, links, finding relative articles, etc.), we would schedule and upload their content at no additional cost. We even offered some more, mostly free, strategies.

Again, silence. What more could we have done?

Last week, I received an email with the subject line” “Discontinuing your services”. The email’s body read “[we] have decided that we don’t have the time to invest in developing our Facebook page and while you have tried to give us ideas, it is just not going anywhere. We appreciate your help in getting it going, but for now, we want to discontinue your services and we plan on letting it grow organically till we have some time to devote to its growth. Just FYI – I just found the invoice for June and gave that to our accountant to pay.”

The June invoice was only about 10 days late and was the third late one in as many months. But, that’s another issue that companies like ours face.

The sad fact is many companies know they need to get involved with Social Media Marketing. Their customers and competitors are out there on the sites. But they fail to embrace the reality of the need for a dedicated staffer or an economical, experienced agency to handle it. For those that are ready to step up to the plate and who choose the latter option, I know a great little company that will handle it all for you.

Facebook®. Starbucks®. Same Difference. (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Both Are Free Hangouts, Both Are There to Sell You Something.

The most recent “Facebook to charge users” hoax created even more opportunities to tout my interminable “Content is Key” Social Media strategy. So many of my Facebook “friends” shared that ridiculous post about the gigantic (now over 800,000, mostly active, users) social network becoming a user-pay service (if they didn’t post a paragraph on their newsfeeds before midnight) that I felt the rare need to explain (via a brief newsfeed post on my personal profile) Facebook’s moneymaking strategy.

Here’s what I said: “For those of you seeing that newsfeed about Facebook becoming a “for-pay” service, note that IT IS A HOAX! It is highly unlikely that FB will ever need user funding. What most fail to grasp is that Facebook is about ADVERTISING! Those ads you see on the right of the page more than monetize operations. Notice that the ads seem to be for stuff in which you are interested? They are targeted specifically to you by the info YOU put in your profile. You made it public when you accepted the user agreement (that most of us don’t read). With over 800 million (mostly active) users to have advertising targeting to them, FB will never have to charge for users to “socialize”. While you are, you’re being bombarded…if only subliminally, by paid-for advertising.”

I’ve found that the easiest way to convey Facebook’s money model to many prospective small-to-midsize business clients is to liken FB to the “800-lb. gorilla” of coffee retailing, Starbucks. Both Starbucks and Facebook are FREE HANGOUTS. But make no mistake, the content with which you’re constantly bombarded at both, are craftily designed to separate you from some hard-earned bucks. You can park your tuckus in Starbucks and use the free wireless internet connection and soak up their climate control all day long. I don’t believe the employees are ever going to come over and insist you drop a couple of ducats for a cup of joe.

Well, why are they providing the free, unlimited wi-fi and letting you hang out at their establishment? In a word, CONTENT!

While “socializing”, checking emails or playing Angry Birds at Starbucks, you’re consistently being exposed to visual, aural and even olfactory media. “Media” is the old, “analog” word for the new, digital “CONTENT.” The marketing principle holds that you will eventually be overcome by the enticing aroma of Starbucks’ beverages, the ever-present logo, the consistent green-colored branding graphics and even the sounds of the in-store “radio” ads and those beverage machines. “Just keep sitting there, pal. You’ll soon give in and buy a delectable Pumpkin Spice Latte, scrumptious Panini or mouthwatering butter croissant.”

The same holds true with Facebook marketing. You can post, chat, “like”, “friend” and play CityVille 24 hours a day (and I believe there are people who do). Facebook will never need to charge you a cent. Those ads are reaching someone…maybe not you today, but someone, somewhere, sometimes. What keeps you on Facebook for so long? CONTENT!

Who is creating most of that content? You and your friends are! It’s a brilliant marketing scheme! The shared videos, links and not-as-effective textual newsfeeds keep you engaged with Facebook. The more content that captures your attention, the longer you linger on Facebook pages. The longer you’re there, the more you’re subjected to targeted ads. It’s the proverbial “Win-Win” for advertisers and especially Facebook.

GOOD CONTENT CREATION IS STILL A TOUGH SELL TO SMALL/MIDSIZE BUSINESSES

I marvel at marketing decision-makers’ reluctance or sheer inability to grasp the importance of effective content and the relationship-building nature of Social Media marketing. I know many businesses don’t want to pay someone to handle it for them. I covered that in my Social Media Marketing is Not Free” blog post. In my “A Client Lost…” post, I told how we lost a client who was, unwilling to work at it. Many of our prospective (I keep using “prospective”, because our few current clients are committed to the effective strategy we offer) clients know they need to utilize Social Media Marketing. But, even some who are seasoned traditional marketers, don’t know how or why (except for the staggering numbers, like the aforementioned 800,000,000 Facebook users). I always ask them “Are you considering Social Media Marketing to tell more people what you’re selling?” The answer is invariably “Yes”. My subsequent assertion that they are about to make a common and expensive mistake is met with emotional responses ranging from shock to indignation. I hope I effectively explained it in my “Don’t Tell…Them Anything” blog post.

Constantly telling your Facebook “likers”, Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers what you’re peddling is akin to the Starbucks employee frequently coming to your table to interrupt your socializing with annoying reminders about the stuff they’re selling. Such behavior in a “hangout” tends to run people away. That goes for Social Media, too. Modern interactive marketing requires a new way of thinking. Thought time consuming and sometime labor intensive, it’s relatively easy. Plus good guys like me give away loads of info about it in blog posts like this.

But, when you’re ready for the critical application of these strategies to grow your business, I know a great little interactive marketing agency that will save you some money.