Testing Out Facebook’s New Ad Product: Promoting Posts

As Social Media Specialist at Curry College in Milton, MA, I manage a bunch of Facebook Pages and was recently presented with a cool opportunity from Facebook to participate in a product research study (applicable to just one of the college’s pages – the main, institutional one.) I have dabbled in using ads (mainly ‘Sponsored Stories) on the site, and have experienced solid results driving page likes, and by participating we would receieve a $250 ad credit – a no brainer. Plus I was curious to use the new ad product.

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The ad product we would be testing out and providing comments on is called “Promoting Posts.”

Full Promoting Posts PDF Guide.

We had Commencement coming up fast, so I worked with our graphic design department to create a jpg. announcing how our community could use social to interact with each other, friends, family and staff during the ceremony and that we could then post and “promote.” At that time we had been reaching on average 600 people per post (I just created the page in September 2011).  So, I promoted the post for $5.00 and monitored closely (you can promote a post that you’ve created within the past 3 days just by clicking “Promote” under the post.) The promotion runs for 3 days automatically and you can pause or stop the promotion of the post (which can be photos, status updates, offers, videos and questions) before the 3 days are up. From what I saw and was told the promoted post is pushed into more newsfeeds than normal of a pages’ fans and for people interacting with the post (liking it, commenting, sharing etc.), into more of their friends newsfeeds – thereby increasing awareness and hopefully, Actions.

Importantly, when being served up in the newsfeed it’s fairly subtle that it’s a promoted post, as the only sign is the word “Sponsored” displayed under the post.

Also, the post becomes a “Sponsored Story” being displayed in the right hand column with your friend’s names who liked it, commented on it or shared it attached.

Here are the results of the 3-day campaign to promote our “pre-commencement social graphic:” (Note the 19 Actions are just for the post being displayed in newsfeeds, when it was simultaneously served up as a Sponsored Story it received 14 more Actions. You can see these results in the same Campaigns and Ads section in Facebook, and under the first screenshot below.)

So, as you can see we reached more people than average (although, this bump might be explained by Commencement being our biggest event of the year, and the social media call to action) – but Facebook also provides a couple other cool metrics by which to judge the campaign’s success – Click Through Rate (CTR) and Actions. I was happy with the 9.555% CTR and can see promoting an interesting post that points to your website working quite well. In terms of the 33 Actions, I wasn’t as happy, as we’ve experienced many more than that organically on a similar photo post.

At the end of week two I was emailed a brief survey, completed it and was indeed sent the ad coupon code. So, all-in-all I was happy to have participated and if/once this ad product is available for all, I would try it again (especially to see how successfully it works driving folks to our website or a landing page). What do you think? Are there negative implications for a brand paying to promote one of their posts?

Note: I posted the pre-commencement social graphic normally (not using the ad product) one day before promoting it, so the slight discrepancy in likes, comments and 1 share shown in the screen shot above is due to this fact. The total 33 Actions is just for the campaign.

Information Vegetables and Information Desert: The Personalization Era

As we continue to barrel toward a world operated almost completely by digital technologies – and the very real possibility of a collective future that offers untold possibilities for “social, economic, practical, artistic and even spiritual progress,” as Douglas Rushkoff recently wrote, many academics, sociologists, marketers and technologists are offering their take of what this all means for humanity (and therefore business) and what avenues we should or shouldn’t then take.

And of course, the Internet, and how we interact with it (and how it interacts with us), resides in the center of this discussion/debate. For a quick rundown see: Sherry Turkle, the Director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology & Self; author and journalist Nicholas Carr; author, teacher and consultant Clay Shirky, and media theorist and author Neil Postman.

This whole debate fascinates me and as citizens living through this transformative era I think that we should be absorbing and thinking about ALL views – not just the ones we are apt agree with.

On a related note, and the impetus for this post, I was recently listening to an audio interview with MoveOn.org’s former executive director Eli Pariser on the daily tv/radio news program Democracy Now! and I heard something quite interesting that I will mention in a minute.

What is the Internet Hiding From You?

Pariser was on the show to be interviewed about his new book, “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You.” His thesis, in a nutshell, is that the Internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which sites tailor info according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. As an example he talks about two of his friends who both google “Egypt” from their respective computers and get two vastly different results – one about the protests and revolution and the other receives travel-related search results.

He posits that Google uses accumulated data from these two friends to deliver the results on Egypt it thinks they will click on – with the reason being more page views and ad dollars. Therefore not everyone receives the same results and a case can be (and is) made that Google is diverting from their original philosophy and algorithm that users and their pointed links to sites are the arbitrators of authority and therefore, determine the best, most useful search results.

A Facebook “Important Button.”

But what really caught my attention is what Pariser begins to discus about 38:30 into the show in relation to this perceived echo chamber (conformational bias) phenomenon and the social networking giant Facebook. He talks about the fact that the way info is passed around Facebook, and therefore consumed by the community, is through the “Like” button.

“The “Like” button has a very particular valence. It is easy to click like on ‘I just ran a marathon,’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake,’ but its very hard to click “Like” on ‘war in Afghanistan enters its tenth year,'” says Pariser

Therefore, “Info that is “Likable” gets transmitted, information that is not “Likable” falls out” he adds. His suggestions to begin to remedy this and take back some control?

1). We need to be aware of whats happening, in terms of these filters operating invisibly a.k.a. “Use Your Head.” 2). And the idea that inspired this post – a grassroots campaign to develop an “Important Button.” This would be a way to signal that something is not only “Likable” but also important.

And consequently, and most important, different, more varied information/stories would then began to be viewed and consumed by more people.

“This [campaign/idea] can start to remind these companies that there are ways that they can begin to build in more civic value into what they’re doing”

So, what do you think about an “Important Button?” I think its certainly an interesting and viable idea and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Here is the link to the video interview

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When it Comes to Digital Literacy, “The Window of Opportunity Is Being Lost”


I was recently turned on to Douglas Rushkoff by a tweet sent out by Mitch Joel, of the highly regarded blog Six Pixels of Separation. Being a recent graduate student in communications and new media, and an ardent admirer of Marshall McLuhan, I was thrilled to find his work.

Rushkoff, an “author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values,” is a brilliant speaker and a master when it comes to making media theory accessible. His ideas on digital technology and our resulting ability to be participant human beings in a digital age are striking.

Therefore, I decided to re-post his November 10th, 2010 talk that he gave at Google. I highly recommend watching the whole thing.

But if you feel you can’t watch it all at once, skip to about 17:25 in the video when Rushkoff discusses the fact digital technology has a “bias” towards time. You’ll be glad you did!

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All Meaningful Communication is a Form of Storytelling

Solitary Man

Narration is “a conceptional framework for understanding human decision, discourse and action”-(Walter Fisher, 1989)

The Setup

My friend of 10 years Richard, a 45 year-old hard-working, loving father and auto mechanic from Charlestown strode across the street to his car, leaving early for a 8:00am meeting with his lawyer. This was to be their first meeting.

Once at the office Richard and his lawyer, a 27 year-old just out of law school, began to hash out an intricate legal strategy, one with the ultimate goal of receiving full custody of Richard’s two children from his alcoholic-gambling ex-wife Linda. Linda hasn’t worked in years and leaves the children, aged 10 and 12, home alone frequently while going to Foxwoods with her boyfriends to gamble away her child support check. Richard loves his children dearly and works 60 hours a week at the garage just to make ends meet and to provide for them. He does this even though he knows the money goes to liquor stores and into the casino safe instead of into his two kids’ bellies.

The Conflict

So, Richard and his lawyer meet every Tuesday at 8:00am for the next 6 months. During this time Richard gets up at 6:00am and goes to work at the garage for a hour or so before heading to his lawyer’s office in Jamaica Plains to plan out next steps. Linda stays in bed until noon, letting her kids get themselves ready for school and consequently, wait for the bus alone on the corner. While they get on the bus in the rain Linda is puffing on her third cigarette of the morning.

Linda also has a lawyer (subsidized by Richard’s child-support check) who is the typical pony-tailed, expensive-suited litigator with an office on State Street, who pulls out all the stops and plays nasty just to win. He has 25 years experience though with numerous investigators working for him. And he wins his cases.

The conflict between Richard and Linda continues, both in court and when Richard goes to pick the kids up every other weekend.

The Resolution

At the end of the 6 months, and after much hard work and scrapping together (through borrowing and pleading for overtime) money to pay his less experienced, but ethically stout lawyer, Richard wins full custody of his kids. The more experienced lawyer is beaten down and Linda is remiss for the loss of the child support check. The children love their father and are happy to finally be able to live with him full-time.

Installing new engine mounts in the Chev.

A Credible Story?

You know this little account that I just relayed to you? Well it’s pure fiction. Sorry! I have no friend named Richard who has just won a hard-fought battle for his kids. I told you this story to illustrate the power of Walter Fisher’s Narrative paradigm theory and to hopefully show you why storytelling is effective in marketing communications.  To quickly summarize, Fisher believed that

all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling or giving a reporting of events and so human beings experience and comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives each with their own conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles, and ends.

And the way in which people explain and/or justify their behavior, whether past or future, “has more to do with telling a credible story than it does with producing evidence or constructing a logical argument.” And to believe in other people’s “stories” the same must hold true. Where credibility = a coherent narrative structure (e.g. the story tells us that Richard loves his children, and then depicts him fighting for them at great personal sacrifice), and also the story has to resonate with the listeners’ values, beliefs and experiences (e.g. ethics and morality will win over immorality and playing nasty).

Instead of mainly basing our decisions on logical, rational arguments (e.g. because Linda’s lawyer is more experienced than Richard’s, Linda will surely win the custody battle), Fisher posited that we humans make decisions based on history, culture and perceptions about the status and character of the other people involved in the narrative.

So, while reading the account above, thinking about your experiences and picturing hard-working Richard and lazy Linda with her immoral lawyer, did you happen to forsee the ending? You probably did. You’re smart like that. Plus storytelling is engrained in your DNA.

What The Heck Does This Have To Do With Marketing Communications?

Well I’ll tell you. “Audiences are interested in the real stories, experiences, dilemmas and issues confronting us in 2011. It has to feel relevant to them,” says Charlotte Moore, the commissioning editor for documentaries at the BBC. Telling true stories well, as alluded to by Moore and discussed in the book Content Rules, powerfully connects a brand to its customers/community/prospects –  in a meaningful way. And telling true brand stories well entails everything I mentioned above – including conflict, resolution and of course the hero who comes to the rescue and solves the problem(s).

For example, narrative coherence would begin with a city-based university’s message to prospective applicants and their parents that they are there to solve all concerns students and their folks may have related to moving in and living on a “campus” in the city, and that ultimately the university cares about the student. Then they would cement the narrative coherence by offering a social channel like Twitter in which to provide insights and relevant info to students/their families and provide video/pictures that vividly illustrates what the dorms look like and where incoming freshman will indeed live.

Telling true stories well also entails communicating a brand story that resonates, for example, with the students and their parent’s values and experiences. Of course to make this all jive marketers and communicators have to first hear (listening as action) the people they are attempting to connect with and then weave these insights into their communication(s) and story.

Mechanic photo credit: Edward Wingate

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Creating an Interactive Customer/Fan Experience Wins


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Wow, the interactive marketing space is getting cooler day-by-day. If you turn your head just for a split second, you’re bound to miss some new combination of digital media and deep community listening that spawns an awesome customer experience. I just came across a post by lostremote.com, a site dedicated to social TV coverage, that illustrates just such an example of how to go about creating an impressive and interactive customer event.

Trending Topics Powered by Facebook

All-Star Pulse, launched by NBA.com, is a Facebook-powered experience that was created for the All-Star game this past weekend. The site tracked “real-time conversations about the players, stars and brands associated with the annual event” writes Lost Remote. One interesting fact about the site is that it is powered by Facebook, not Twitter. The NBA told Mashable, according to the piece, that because the NBA is a global brand, Facebook (with its huge reach) was a natural choice. The league itself has “7.4 million Facebook fans and another 2.3 million Twitter followers,” so I would offer that this was a smart choice as it illustrates a solid grasp of its audience (and ensures copious amounts of fuel for the engine and subsequently, a better experience for all.)

Real-Time Topic Pages

The picture directly above corresponds with clicking on the “2011 NBA All-Star Game” tab, which pulls up a topic page, and gives you the total mentions of the phrase, Facebook user mentions and it even drills down to provide mentions of the game per hour and per minute. Besides this, you can watch keyword-related videos, check out pictures of the game and read the latest articles and blog posts – (categorized by each.) Pretty sweet huh?

Each page is also decked out with “social bling,” promoting cross-channel sharing/integration and therefore, furthering the branded experience that much more. For example, there are “share this” options if you want to post the Lebron James stats (e.g. mentions per hour) and video content to Twitter, as well prompts to “follow the NBA” and “like the NBA.”

I can see other organizations harnessing Facebook’s massive people-powered engine to create more of these branded experiences. How about a “pulse” for a new Victoria’s Secret product launch? Or perhaps a Facebook powered, real-time site for the Apple iPad 2 announcement?

I would also offer that besides digital marketers, journalists can get in on the action by using/visiting these sites after and during an event/campaign to pull real-time stats and get context and media for their related articles. What do you think are some future uses?

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Top photo credit: mrdrebzee

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Moving Past Twitters’ Gate-Keepers


Gatekeeper
More and more it seems that Twitter is becoming an integral part of/player in the news of the world. Whether it be breaking the news, for example, the 2009 US Airways flight ditching in the Hudson river, or actually being the news, as it has been most recently concerning the role it played in the Egyptian revolution, “Twitter” and “News” are becoming synonymous.

A recent article on Paul Sutton’s blog The Social Web, and the report by HP found below, got me thinking about the topic of media gatekeepers, Twitter, news and how digital marketers can engage with Twitter to make it (news) and get results.

First, Paul’s piece asks some great questions concerning PR and the fact that Twitter now is the news and breaks it many times even before the mainstream media sites do. He writes,

“As for PR, our job used to be to provide newspapers, magazines and broadcast media with stories; facts and comments about client projects that managed or created reputation and demand. But is our job now to feed Twitter? Do we try to create news ‘breaks’ through seeding news to Twitter sources and journalists?”

This study by HP, which collected its data through Twitter’s own search API over 40 days in the fall of 2010, states that mainstream media brands such as CNN and the NY Times drive a “disproportionate” number of Twitter trending topics – by being the source of most RT’s while a topic is trending. Therefore, taking this into consideration and attempting to answer Paul’s question, I would offer that first I am a bit disappointed that this may illustrate, quite predictably, the saliency of traditional gate-keepers like the MSM on social channels. Although, the study also reports that

“Even though mainstream media sources tend to be extremely well-represented within social media discussions, a significant percentage of trending topics do stem from non-mainstream sources.”

So, in regard to the question of should we as PR professionals and digital marketers seed news to mainstream Twitter sources and their journos, I would posit that yes we should. Going by this report, this is “one” way to create and sustain buzz. But as a guy inspired by citizen journalism and emerging media I am more hopeful that we can find equally-powerful and mutually beneficial ways of creating and sustaining “buzz” on Twitter and other channels, in effect bypassing these conventional sources.

I would love to hear your ideas! Please share below.

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Photo credit: Joshin Yamada

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#Brandbowl 2011: A Focus Group

HPIM1413.JPG

The Social Construction of Ads

The real-time web offers some very cool and very tangible advantages for smart marketers today. As I was watching the Superbowl ads this past Sunday I was simultaneously tweeting and reading others’ tweets, all organized around the hashtag #brandbowl. Folks who had spent the millions of dollars for a 30 second-spot could gauge reactions to their ads immediately. Even those who just enjoy being a part of the special night and watching what creative minds have to offer could derive some value from following the hashtag. I personally enjoy taking in the different opinions – and the wide range of them – that people have when it comes to advertisements, even though we all watch the same spots.

A Quick Collection of Twitter Reactions

Unfortunately, I decided to put together this deck of people’s Twitter reactions a day later, and trying to wade through 30+ pages to get to the real-time reactions was a feat I was not prepared for. This quick collection of reactions still provide a good glimpse into people’s opinions and hopefully next year I’ll smarten up and put together something in “real-time!”

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Photo credit: Trenton Schulz

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