Friending Facebook for Fun and Profit!

...if your content is crap it doesn't matter how much you spend on social media, unless people find your content amusing, useful or thought provoking, NO ONE WANTS TO READ IT!

With all the negative feelings about Facebook in the marketing communications industry, I gotta say: Facebook has been doing great by me.

The big meme blasting the social network recently has been the video purporting that if you pay to boost likes they are probably fake. Then came the fashion magazine magnate who spent tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook advertising and got zero return.  Finally, marketers are pissed that Facebook is downgrading organic feeds. Facebook slashes

The problem with all of these complaints is the fact that if your content is crap it doesn't matter how much you spend on social media, unless people find your content amusing, useful or thought provoking, NO ONE WANTS TO READ IT! 

What marketers forget is, before all this failure of their social efforts, was an uprising of users who said they were tired off getting spammed by all the crappy content marketers were forcing on them. Facebook, realizes that their bread and butter is based on positive user experience, and changed their algorithm to bring only the content the users showed interest in. But the marketers figured out how to game that change and the flood of crap content continued.  Marketers didn't learn the lesson and, in fact, refuse to change.

 So Facebook decided to tell them, "If you insist on filling feeds with crap, you are going to have to pay for the right."  What's more, they gave users new filter tools to make sure that those who refused to pay the toll got cut out of the herd.

There is a very easy fix for marketers and corporations who refuse to invest in real marketing: Make better content.  The problem, content is neither easy, nor free to create.  Someone who has spent decades honing the ability to crank out repetitive, self-serving content can't suddenly switch styles and become interesting and engaging.  That's why marketers, politicians (especially politicians), CEOs and venture capitalists need to swallow their pride and hire someone who can teach them how to communicate in the 21st Century, or do it or them.

And that's why Facebook has been doing Footwasher Media a solid.

Footwasher Media helps companies communicate effectively. What we do comes before marketing communications, public relations, advertising and sales collateral and makes it ALL more effective. We find the story that makes you unique and interesting. Find out more here.

Advertising: Still not working in the 21st Century

Buy our product bill board ad
Five years ago I threw out a statement in a blog about how Facebook gets content, that caused a bit of a stir.  I said, “Advertising doesn't work the way you think it does.”  No one commented on the focus of the post, just on that statement.  They didn’t like it.  They were mostly advertising people and a few B2B marketers.  A few things have happened in 2014 that makes me want to restate my position (not change it) and get a little deeper.

Advertising does not work the way you think it does, especially in the 21st Century.  

In the “Facebook Fraud” video, by Derek Muller of the science blog Veritasium, Muller makes the claim that pretty much all the business engagement you get from Facebook is bogus.  For the most part, he’s right because most people use Facebook as though it were a magic marketing box.  They believe that all they have to do is plug in pictures and content about their product and services and the world will be beating down they doors. 

Then came the story late in February of a fashion magazine publisher who spent the equivalent of the GDP of an African nation on Facebook advertising only to get virtually zero return in sales.  So Muller was right?  Nope.

Muller accurately states that Facebook advertising based on likes doesn’t worki, but he makes they wrong assumption that it’s the fault of Facebook.  It isn’t, though.  It’s the fault of the user.  

There was a time that you could flood a media channel with advertising messages and create a significant return on your investment if that investment was in the 100s of millions of dollars.  When the ‘net and social media arrived, the cost dropped to the 10s of thousands of dollars and the marketing/advertising world thought they had found a gold mine.  It hasn’t panned out and everyone wants to blame the medium and the agencies who helped you develop and disseminate content

When you could hammer your message into the skulls of the customers through a relatively few media channels, all of which were owned by a small group of corporations, you would be right.  Today, however, those customers have more opportunity to ignore those messages than ever before.  They hate advertising and they avoid it whenever possible.  If they liked your messages, they wouldn't buy streaming media devices, DVRs and initiate polo-up blockers on their browsers.  You can’t pound the message into their heads anymore.  You have to get them to ask for it.

Advertising can establish brand awareness… unless you don’t understand branding then it fails and most marketers, especially in B2B niches, don’t. Advertising also reinforces a decision a customer has already made, which is a double-edged sword.  If a customer has decided to buy your product it speeds up their action.  If the customer has already purchased the product and is happy about it, advertising makes them feel good about their decision and builds a desire to continue doing business with you.  But if the customer has had a bad opinion of you at the start of the decision process, advertising only serves to piss the customer off and makes them actively campaign against you.

The thing marketers want advertising to really do, produce sales, it doesn’t do very well at all, unless you are trying to sell boner pills or “natural” cures for obesity, and that only works on impotent fat people.  

Social media is not advertising.  It isn’t marketing.  It is communication.  It is conversation.  And no one truly likes to talk to someone who only talks about themselves.  That was the mistake the fashion designer made when he tried to run an ad campaign through Facebook. He only talked about himself and his product.  He paid anonymous people, unwittingly, in third-world click farms, to boost his profile on Facebook and then provided nothing but advertising messages that no one wanted to listen to about products they had no interest in.

Muller was right because social media is filled with narcissists who want to talk about themselves.  Some of them will actually pay people to boost their content, and when you pay people to listen to you, they will and smile.  But if you really want attention from your customers, you have to pay attention to what they say.  Tell them what they want to hear.  And if you do it well, maybe that might be willing to listen to what you have to say.

Advertising doesn’t work… the way you think it does.  Don’t change the medium you use.  Change the way you think.

A fatal flaw in your content marketing: You're boring

There's a change coming to your news feed on Facebook.  Boring content will be relegated to social media purgatory. Users should be happy about this, but companies using the social network to promote their company may be seeing failure in their content marketing.

It's been a poorly kept secret that Facebook games its Edgerank algorithm to favor companies that pay to promote content, but some companies have been able to get around paying for play by swamping their feeds with a constant flow of content, that is not only self serving but boring.  Now Facebook is saying if everyone is ignoring your spam, then they aren't going to let it rise in users newsfeed to any level of visibility.

That's not just true of companies, though.  The biggest criticism of Facebook is that people posting pictures of what they are eating or thinking is useless.  I've been seeing complaints lately of people saying they aren't seeing posts by friends and family anymore.  The change in the feed is the reason.  if you want to see a particular person's posts, you may actually have to go to their page on occasion and "like" some of what they are doing.  Whoever and whatever you ignore on a regular basis will be relegated to the bottom of the feed.  Conversely, whatever you pay attention to, comment on, share, etc. will begin to climb in your feed.

How do you get around relegation without being interesting? Pay for play, baby.

I have a company I'm working with that has decided to go a bit crazy with their promoted posts and are doing it two or three times a day.  They were crowing about the reach they get until the other day I pointed out that the complaints about spam are rising and showed them how many people are starting to "unlike" their page.

Facebook, however, is not alone in this movement.  Google is doing the same thing, only much more quietly, and Twitter is starting to make the same move.

So be advised: DON"T BE BORING.

If you have a problem with that, contact us.

Mark Cuban wrong. Facebook doing the right thing

Just read an interesting post in ReadWrite about Mark Cuban deciding to abandon Facebook because of the algorithm change forcing corporations to pay exorbitant fees to get play on the social network.  Frankly, I think he's wrong to do it, but Facebook is finally doing something right.

The great thing about Facebook, as opposed to Google, was that companies could get a lot of good exposure if they could get their customers to talk about what they thought about products.That's why I was an initial FB booster rather than press releases on Google as a means to reach an audience. It was true public relations, not companies gaming the SEO of Google for a higher page rank.

 In the beginning, it worked well.  Then companies got lazy, and so did Facebook, by creating corporate pages and finding ways to game the community attraction, just like Google allowed.  I was really getting sick of having to completely reorder my FB feed to keep the crappy fake Facebookers from filling it with corporate spam.  Now Facebook is charging corporations, like all those owned by Mark Cuban, for the right to spam the community and charging up the wazoo for it.

Well Cuban doesn't like the ROI (in other words he doesn't want to pay for anything) and he's switching to MySpace, Tumblr and Twitter to reach his fan base.  That very well may work for the penurious Cuban... for a while.  Pretty soon, though, networks will also have to figure out how to monetize all this spam traffic.

What Cuban, GM and all the other companies bitching about Facebook advertising fail to comprehend is that one happy, vocal customer is more valuable than a post spammed out to 10,000 who once pressed a like button.  Especially on Facebook.  Sociology studies have shown over the years that the average person exchanges opinions with 6 people every day in the natural world.  So in a company of 100 people, 600 others will receive information about that company in a day.  Social media changes that, however because the average social media user actively exchanges opinions with 165 people every day, who exchange those same opinions with another 165 people each that same day.  So an average fan will reach more than 27,000 people every day... for free.  The trick is you have to give them something they might actually want to share and it has to be more than, "Hey! buy my crap!"

That's the lesson Ford learned over GM.  GM put ads on Facebook that said "Buy our cars," and the effort failed horribly.  Ford put up ads that said "Here's how to take care of your car," which directed them to a site that gave them valuable information, which included, "While you're at it, have you considered a new car?"  Facebook advertising worked for Ford.  Didn't work for GM.  Do you see why?

Based on what I've seen coming out of Cuban's companies, he hasn't figured that out yet, which is why he doesn't see the value in Facebook.

But let's move from that to why Facebook is doing the right thing.  I once had a friend (who I met on Facebook) say, wryly, "Oh no! 10 million people are upset at Facebook's latest change and are threatening to leave.  What will the other 990 million of us do without them?"  Facebook has maintained dominance because it has gathered more users than any other online service faster than any other.  A very big deal was made about them passing the 1 billionth account.  But what they are doing now could very well cut that number by half very fast.  And they are doing it intentionally.

Social media has never been about reaching the most people.  It has always been about reaching the right people.  For the past couple of years, Facebook has become bloated with a lot of "non-people," which means they are not right.  Therefore, they need to go away or pay for the privilege of being in the worldwide community.  That means Facebook has decided to do the right thing and cull that community.  We may very well see Facebook drop to 500 million users in the next two years, which everyone will consider to be the death of Facebook.  Really.  500 million users is a failure.

No.  It is not.  It is the right thing.


My day in social media

 Today I...

  • Helped a young entrepreneur in Qatar refine his executive summary on a social media app designed to help charities raise money. (Linkedin)

  • Conducted a staff meeting (Skype) and reviewed documents and reports with the team in Boston and Austin (Dropbox)

  • Encouraged a young friend in Washington state who was in a sudden moment of crisis. (Facebook)

  • Finished editing a series of videos to help local voters work their way through the California ballot without using divisive campaign rhetoric. (Youtube)

  • Helped someone adjust their security settings on Facebook so she wasn’t blasting everything about her life to everyone on the web. (Facebook)

  • Suggested several candidates for a senior communications executive to a major semiconductor company identify. (Talent.me)

  • Put the early workings together for a fund raising project to help teacher take care of their cars. (Causes.com)

  • Set up a video channel to broadcast my daughter’s wedding to people who cannot attend. (Ustream)

This is pretty much a normal day for me.  I do it all from my home office.

Now, you were telling me that social media is just superficial and a waste of time and that you can operate much more efficiently without it.

(Oh yeah.  I wrote a blog post, too) 

The filters of good content

Continuing on with our discussion about good content, I've come across some fascinating data regarding how customers in the world of semiconductor design are consuming it and what it means for social media.  Let's start with a poll taken by a company I've been consulting to in recent weeks.

The company wanted to get some attention from a select segment of customers.  The company estimates that their entire customer base consists of a few thousand people worldwide and they only need to reach a small part of that to be successful.  So they were looking into ways to best reach them.  Good content was a given in their estimation, but how to create that content and how to deliver it most efficiently was the question.  They had an assumption on what would be the best path that I questioned so I asked them to do something: talk to your current and potential customer about where they get their information.

I've asked my clients to do this for many years, but no one has ever done it.  They prefer to stick with assumptions.  I was stunned when this new company took me up on the idea.  And they went about it with a scientifically significant sampling.  What they discovered verified what I was telling them about the media, but also came up with some surprising results even for me.

What was not surprising (to me) was that the publications they thought about targeting with their content barely registered or did not register at all with their audience.  What was also not surprising was that EE Times and EDN were a virtual tie for first. I generally lump these two together since they are both UBM products and generally serve the same audience though for different purposes (more on that later).

What was mildly surprising was that Chip Design and Design-Reuse.com came in tied for third and that John Cooley's DeepChip did not register at all.  I actually thought that the three would be much closer, but as I thought about it, what Chip Design and D&R focus on is generally a much higher level in semiconductor design.  That's a significant bit of information (more on that later, too.)

What knocked me out of my seat, however, was what came in a solid second.  


I've been following Linkedin for quite a while.  In fact, it was the first social media platform I ever got involved with.  However, until the past couple of years, it just kinda sat there in my browser bookmarks.  That changed in 2010 when I was able to help a client make a contact with a significant potential customer using my Linkedin contacts.  In that process I discovered groups and now belong to and, in some instances, moderate 31.  Some people have called my involvement scattered and can't imagine being able to follow that much, but the results of this survey showed my Linkedin involvement is not that remarkable.  The respondents stated they get their dose of news and opinion from 20 or more different groups.

But none of that information is actually original content.  It's based on content that group members have screened and found valuable... from places like EE Times, EDN and Chip Design.  

In my last post I said that readers are using social media to filter content.  This is a perfect example of how they are doing it.  They are relying on peers and trusted sources to scan through the content and then endorse it.  Most of the groups have moderation filters in place (people like me) who look at suggested content first before allowing it to be disseminated.  The content comes from other trusted sources (like Chip Design and EE Times) and then can be commented upon by members.

And because Linkedin has carefully adopted the image of a businesslike site, you don't get a lot of socio/political spam.

Linkedin was, at one time, the realm of HR managers and job seekers.  It still is very much that, but it has morphed into much more.  It has become a curation site for business information and, as a result, has become an increasingly important channel for  organizations that develop trusted content.  

There have been a few articles recently talking about the fiscal value of Linkedin over Twitter and Facebook.  Part of it is that Linkedin doesn't just get revenue from advertising, but also from subscriptions and job listings, keeping the overall cash flow positive. But the fact that it has proven valuable to business more than developing casual acquaintances has also kept it's stock value high (106 for LI vs 21 Facebook at this writing).  It has kept is focus much narrower and is therefore more broadly valued.  In that point let's go back to the issues of EETimes/EDN and Chip Design.

Fractured vs Focused Readership

The survey showed, as I said, that EE Times and ECN were in a dead heat for readers, which doesn't bother UBM at all, but the respondents said something interesting about EE Times: they approach the massive amounts of content in many different ways.  Some read the newsletters only, some just one or two DesignLine pages, some the weekly digital version, some the videos, some the online front page.  One even mentioned EE Times Confidential.  The audience for EE Times is highly fractured.  They can claim total readership in the millions but with so many channels, the chance that the content about your company will reach the eyeballs of your target audience is just a crap shoot.  Not so much for EDN, however.  The driving number of EDN readers say they go directly to EDN.com for their content and move from there.  So getting front and center there means you get more potential readers for your material.  The downside is it is tougher to get through the editorial filter of EDN than it is for the multiple channels of EE Times.

That being said, channels like Chip Design and D&R give access to a much more select audience focused on issues more specific than EE Times and EDN, and the name of the game in media for high tech is not quantitative but qualitative (Point of order, the survey showed that everyone who reads Chip Design and D&R also read UBM content).

Companies need to look at media non-exclusively. You can't rule out the big media names and you can't assume that just because you like a style of writing that everyone else feels the same way.  My consultee was considering putting all their eggs in a single media bucket because they assumed that the bucket was the best possible choice.  A careful consideration can demonstrate that obvious choices are not necessarily good choices and the best choices are those that take time and effort to foster.  Social media can help, in a big way.

Does Facebook actually work? Depends...on you

There was a significant kerfuffle last week as General Motors' pulled their advertising from Facebook, with prognosticators pointing to the failure of Facebook as a marketing tools.  Having been recently in the market for a new car, and having bought a GM car in the end, I can say with certainty that GM's use of Facebook advertising really sucked.  And Ford's was much better.

Once I started online research for my car I started noticing ads for car manufacturers popping up on FB.  I noticed that GM ads were pretty standard.  Essentially, they said, "buy our car."  I was not impressed.  Then there was this one ad I found that didn't even mention who it was from.  It was a link to an article about the raw materials that go into electric vehicles.  I was considering EVs so I clicked on it.  It took me to a another manufacturers site, but not an ad. it was actually an article about the raw materials used in EVs.  And that gave me and opportunity to go check the specs of an EV for that manufacturer.

The bottom line was I was engaged in what the other manufacturer offered as content and I considered their offering for an EV.  Now, in the end, I chose a GM car because of other reasons, but I was not helped by what GM tried to sell me through Facebook.

That's the issue with social media.  Using it like a typical advertising platform will end in failure. Using it as a promotional tool alone will end in failure.  Offering real content that helps people make a decision succeeds.

If your social platform is not delivering results for you, don't blame the platform.  Get someone in with some perspective and look at your content

The social web is not what you think it is. It probably never was.

My Brit pal and partner in "crime," Peter van der Sluijs just did a brief post on whether "old web is dying."  His post was actually referencing a similar piece by his social media consultant Brendan Cooper waxing wistful over the death of the freewheeling (and free) social web.

There have been several much more hyperbolic articles on this over the past few months (and I've been waiting for the right push.  This was it.) about how Google and Facebook are doomed; about the corporational takeover of the web; about how it's all falling apart, blah, blah, blah.  It was actually nice to read a couple of reasonable view about how things are changing.  I especially liked Peter's pithy assessment:

"It’s easy to hyperventilate about the next big thing and whether or not Blogs / Twitter / Facebook are too yesterday for words.  If you do that, you miss the big picture."

That, in a nutshell, has been the problem with most social web approaches.  The frustration about the web for too many marketers and communicators is that it doesn't seem to return the same kind of results as traditional mass marketing.  They want hundreds of thousands of new customers to buy their stuff.  In some cases, when the company pours a bunch of money into a full fledged marketing program, they do get results.  The promise of the social web, however, was that it would cost much, if anything to get the kind of results a million-dollar ad campaign would get.

The problem is -- and I keep saying this -- is that the social web is not a mass marketing platform.  Some people get lots of readers on their blogs.  Those people are actually really good communicators that have an expertise in an area that a lot of people care about.  But if you don't get the same kind of following that Robert Scoble gets it doesn't mean blogging is dead.  It means either you don't write well and/or you are writing about something that not a lot of people care about. It can also mean that the few people that read what you write don't know how or don't like to share content.

The social web is, primarily, a tool to reach people that matter in your world with information that matters to them.  If you don't know what matters to them, you are not going to be successful.  That applies not just to blogging but to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest and every other platform.  There are people and companies out there being very successful with all of the "old web" stuff.  There just aren't that many.  That so many are unsuccessful is not an indication that the social web has failed.

To do it right requires getting out of your comfort zone and letting other people talk about you, then listening to what they say and making adjustments as necessary.

Here's an example of an experiment I did in blogging.  I built a free site to write about local politics.  I sent a link to three or four influential people who started following what I wrote.  They, in turn told a few others.  Within a year I had 12 regular readers.

Big deal, you say?  The readers included three members of the city council, two county supervisors, 4 senior executives of major corporations in town and my original group.  At the end of that first year, I would regularly get invited to functions that I've never been invited to and the movers and shakers in town started asking my opinion on policy.  Last year, I was asked to move my blog to a media site and was recently told that my posts are one of the most read and most engaged sections of the site.

I have never tried to get a large audience because my experiment was not about "how many" but "who". That's a big part of the big picture Peter was talking about.  Engagement and dialog with the right people the keys to successful social media.  Whether Google and Facebook survive is absolutely irrelevant.  You can be successful with any platform as long as you keep that im mind.