FB Content Strategy and the statistician that drowned while crossing a stream that was on average 6 inches deep

What does this old statistician joke have to do with your Facebook content strategy? Simple enough. I am frequently reminded of this old joke when I see advice directed to people that are trying to make the most out of their content strategy on Facebook. You have heard them before for sure:

  • “Photos on Facebook Pages receive 53% more Likes than the average post”
  • “Posts between 100 and 250 characters get 60% more Likes, comments and shares than ones that are more than 250 characters”
  • “Highest engagement occurs on Thursdays and Fridays”
  • “You must have apps built for your page in addition to the standard apps provided by Facebook”
  • “Videos are a  must”
  • You must post 2 times a day

What is wrong with this advice? nothing in particular if your page behaves absolutely like the average page.  But what happens when your page does not follow the average behavior?  At Dashlytics we use data from our clients’ Facebook pages, and our analytics engine determines what is the right facebook posting strategy for their own pages.  We provide recommendations that are specific to them, not to the average page on Facebook.  Sometimes the findings are in agreement with the statements above. But sometimes the findings are in complete disagreement.  That is how some of our clients have found that specifically for their page: (these are findings from different clients)

  • Client X found that for their page, Status Updates had 2 times the engagement of photos, and 4 times the engagement of videos.  They were able to optimize their marketing spend by shifting part of the focus to status updates (low cost) vs. photos or videos (high cost)
  • Client Y found that their highest engagement occurred on Mondays and Tuesdays
  • Client Z found that the top five tabs visited on their page did not include any of the apps they had paid to have built.  Their followers were using the apps provided by Facebook such as Photos, Likes, etc
  • Client ABC found that to engage women who were between the ages of 25 and 34, they needed to post on Wednesdays and that links had greatest engagement when posted on Mondays at 7 am PST.
  • Client CDE found that they achieved highest engagement when posting 1 time a day

So it is very possible that when it comes to your own facebook content strategy, you may find yourself drowning if you are trying to emulate what defines success for the average page which may or may not be what will drive success for your own page.

What is your experience?

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Facebook announces changes to Facebook Ads

Facebook announced today that they will be simplifying Facebook Ads. The goal will be to get to a point where advertisers will come to Facebook and tell them what they are trying to achieve, and the tools will automatically suggest the right combination of products to help them achieve it.  Changes will be implemented in the next 6 months, and the number of ad units (27 now) will be reduced to map the business objectives marketers have: online conversions, app installs, etc.

We will get more details as the changes are being implemented, but a couple of the most important changes announced are:

  • Including the best of sponsored stories in all ads. Previously, advertisers had to purchase sponsored stories in addition to ads. In the future, social context will be automatically added eliminating the extra step of creating sponsored stories.
  • The look for ad units will be made more consistent, which will make the ad creation process much simpler, and will help optimize campaigns across desktop and mobile.
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Twitter joining Facebook in the ability to target custom audiences. Great for marketers. But is it great for users?

It seems Twitter is planning to release a tool to make it easier for advertisers to find their customers on Twitter. Advertisers will be able to bring in emails from their clients into twitter and will be able to run ads that will be served specifically to this audience.  Facebook has had this tool available since 2012.

As a marketer I think this is a wonderful development.  If my clients are spending a good amount of their time on Facebook or twitter, it is a wonderful opportunity for me to reach them via these additional channels.  Now as a user of these channels I have a completely different perspective.  First of all, when I give a company my email or my phone number I don’t expect they will be using it to target me on the social networks via ads.  Second of all, companies are currently using these emails to spam their clients with the next 10% or 50% or whatever discount they may think of.  If they feel this will be an extension of those efforts they will not be successful.    Advertisers will have to ensure that what they are promoting is not their business, or the next sale, but  valuable content.  I would personally find it inconvenient to start getting in my newsfeed or twitterfeed information about the next 10% sale.

If you are creating social ads using custom audiences on Facebook now, or if you have plans to use custom audiences on twitter when it is released, keep in mind that traditional “email” content may not be what your users on these channels want.  You will have to put focus on the content your audience values and test what messaging truly works.

How are Social Media Ads Similar to Plane Crashes?

If I had a penny for every time someone says… “Facebook Ads don’t work” or  “Social Ads don’t work”….

And every single time  I think…  social ads failure  is similar to plane crashes.  Why do planes crash? sometimes they crash because of a mechanic problem. But most of the time they crash because of  human error of some kind.  So why do a lot of social ads fail? I would dare to say that lots of them fail because of human error.

What are the most typical human errors?

1- Failure to choose the right channel for your social media ads.  Part of Social Media Strategy is selecting the right social channels for your business.  While an ecommerce business most likely will do well with a presence on facebook and pinterest, a B2B business may do better focusing their efforts on Linkedin and twitter.  But beyond this step, selecting the right platform for your social media ads is a critical step. Why? because the targeting capabilities from each platform are different.  Before allocating a budget for social ads on any of the platforms, make sure you are able to target your campaign audience as closely as possible to the audience you target in your marketing efforts overall  For example, if you have a business selling wedding gowns, your ability to target engaged women in a campaign is invaluable.  So will you do better running an ad on facebook showing your ads to engaged women ages 22 to 35? or running an ad on twitter targeting women in general?

2- Failure to understand that your social media ads need to be supported by your social media strategy overall.  

One of the beauties of the Social Media Platforms is that they offer business users the opportunity to execute their social media marketing as a 2-prong effort.  You can execute your own community engagement strategy directly by posting to your pages and by tweeting your content, but you can also leverage the ads platform to grow your user base by acquiring new followers, and to ensure delivery of relevant messages to your existing community.  It is not necessarily an either/or proposition. In fact,  leveraging both the direct contact and the reaching out through ads can probably give you an optimized scenario where you use both approaches to increase your user acquisition, and to improve your engagement in a targeted way.   For example, you realize that although 25% of your followers are based in California.  When you look at the people interacting with your page, the users in California represent only 5% of your total engaged users.  You can try increasing the interaction with your followers in California by promoting a post designed to resonate more with clients in that state.

3- Monitor the right metrics. This should be an easy one. Except when it isn’t.  Monitoring campaign performance on the social platforms is a challenging endeavor. The analytics provided are limited and require time and effort to understand what is really working.  But assuming you are using a tool (even if it’s just excel) to analyze your performance data, I have seen time and time again the focus on the wrong metrics.  For example, some people focus all their efforts on tracking the Click-through-Rate (CTR) for each ad. The CTR basically tells you the percentage of users that are clicking on your ad as a ratio to the impressions.  In other words, it tells you who liked your ads.  But here is a little problem. The people who like your ads are not necessarily the people that will result in a conversion. They may click on it because they liked the image used, or because the text on your ad sounded intriguing. But if they don’t convert (independent of your definition of a conversion), that was a click wasted.  Bottom line…. focus on conversion metrics. A good example of this may be a game company driving traffic to their facebook game. People click on their ad because it has really cool images but once they do, they may have no interest in installing or playing that game. If you are only looking at the CTR for that ad, you don’t know you are wasting money. CTR by itself is not a great metric.  Combined with Install rates in this example you get the information that you need, which is not only whether your ad is driving people to click on the ad, but whether those are the users interested in installing your game.

4- Use the right tools.  I doubt anyone can run successful social media ad campaigns by just looking at the analytics dashboards provided by the social media platforms. They are very basic and do not provide an easy way to get the information you need, to visualize trends, and to better understand your demographics.  So if you are going into battle by running social media ads, make sure you are bringing the right equipment to fight that battle.

In summary, to minimize the human error contribution to social ads failure:

1- Choose your social media ads platform carefully. They maybe a subset of the platforms where you have a social media presence

2- Leverage your social media assets and support your efforts selectively with execution of carefuly targeted ads

3- Monitor the right metrics. Hint: it’s usually not separate metrics but a combination of metrics what tells you a real story

4- Use the right tools. Do not try to spend significant money on ads if you are not also investing on the tools to support your efforts


Social Media does it again. Facebook responds to the #FBrape campaign

Once again Social Media demonstrates its power to generate change in a rapid manner.  In response to the #FBrape campaign, which asked the social media network to end gender-based hate speech on its site, they have finally switched from stating they were not responsible as content on Facebook is people’s content, not their content. The campaign started last week, with an open letter demanding ‘swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook’.

In a statement on its site, Marne Levine, VP of global public policy at Facebook said: “Facebook’s mission has always been to make the world more open and connected. We seek to provide a platform where people can share and surface content, messages and ideas freely, while still respecting the rights of others. When people can engage in meaningful conversations and exchanges with their friends, family and communities online, amazingly positive things can happen”.

“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.”

Facebook announced steps that it will take, including updating its policies and soliciting feedback from representatives of the women’s coalition and other groups; increasing the accountability of the creators of content; and establishing more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups.

Facebook as a platform for change in society is even getting Facebook to change.

Major Brands pulling ads from Facebook #fbrape

It is always interesting to see how brands have embraced – or not -, living in a new world where advertising is no longer a one-way communication street but a 2-way conversation where the consumer has a louder voice than the brand itself. You can clearly see which brands have truly embraced social media, – versus those that have social media as a check mark-, not by the amount of money they invest in social ads, but by how well they respond to controversial situations that are bound to happen when they no longer are 100% owners of their message.

By now you may be familiar with the #fbrape campaign. An open letter has been published asking Facebook to address the representation of rape and domestic violence on its ads. They are also calling for Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until they take action to ban gender-based hate speech on their site.

Now you may think this is overreach. How can Facebook try to control this? well…. the interesting thing is that they have moderators that frequently remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies.  So if a picture of a woman breastfeeding is considered offensive by Facebook standards, why aren’t images of violence against women held to the same standard?

To date, brands including Nissan, J Street, WestHost, Candypolis, Capturing Childhood and Grow Your Own Theatre have pulled their ads from the social networking giant.  Other brands like Procter&Gamble and Dove have responded poorly by replying with some version of “We can’t control what facebook does”.

So if you are a brand using Facebook ads, what you have right now is not a challenge. What you have is an amazing opportunity to engage Facebook and your users in a positive conversation about this topic. The real value of any action taken (even more relevant than pulling the ads) is your opportunity to drive change in our society as it relates to women violence.

Linkedin is dealing with the cleanup of sex ads

It did not take long before people decided that linkedin ads could be leveraged for the commercialization of sex. It is commendable for Linkedin to be taking a proactive approach, modifying their user agreement, and taking action when they find violations of the user agreement. But are they going far enough? It seems like there is an opportunity to do additional work in the review process for ads either by manual review or by automated flagging of keywords in the ad copy. Is linkedin doing enough?