Facebook marketing strategy -- automate it and forget it

I sometimes wonder why people make a big deal out of getting Facebook fans. I’ve seen sites with 500,000 unique visitors a month and 5,000 Facebook fans that generate about 1% of their total traffic, and they think Facebook is a big deal.

I’ve seen numbers for many sites because of what I do for a living, and I have not yet seen a single site that got much out of fans other than an ego boost for their popularity.

After a lot of effort, I’m more likely to send an automated RSS feed into Facebook accounts and not put anymore manual labor into it, because it’s not just worth it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but can anyone out there claim they are getting substantial traffic from Facebook? And I mean 10-20% or more of their total traffic and thousands of visits a month.

It’s not always so much about the volume on your fanpage but what you do with it. For the most part, businesses that constantly engage their FB fans with exclusive info, tips, discounts, etc. on their page will confirm that it is a lucrative traffic source for them. And if this engagement is shallow and dry, fans will pick up on it and you’ll quickly lose their attention.

Once you’ve got the engagement strategy down to a science (or at least impactful) scaling it up with some FB PPC will serve useful as well.

Well said. But even sites I know that dedicate a lot of effort to great engagement still don’t seem to get enough results to justify the time and energy.

I’m not disagreeing with you. Just trying to find a site that can prove it’s worthwhile and back it up with actual hard numbers.

I would argue that you are dead wrong. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are about engagement. You can’t automate building customer relationships, not in a social sense and you don’t want too.

You are correct that Facebook drives a small amount of traffic relative to say search for most sites [although that’s relative… I’ve had it drive a small amount at 7-10% equating to over a quarter million visitors] but you seem to be inferring that the goal is simply that – clicks back to your site – social is much more.

There are many ways to approach social, from reach in impressions to building up advocates to spread things out on your behalf. Either way when you have an audience of over 600 million people ignoring it or setting the auto-timer is missing opportunity.

Social is not as direct a channel as search but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hard value. You just have to look deeper. Companies like Dell and Comcast have found great returns in reducing support inquiries and improving their consumer experience. Dell has quantified this back to direct value.

And it’s not just social support. Today’s customer uses social channels more than well, just about anything else, and they rely on the advice of others far more than the remarks of the brand to determine what to buy and what to avoid. Again Dell is a great example having quantified millions in sales through social driven promotions. Even brands without promotions are seeing hard returns… turning reviews and stories, wall comments and likes into navigation and endorsements. The more you integrate social aspects into your site, the more they bring benefits.

For a content site the ROI is even simpler – more eyeballs. Growing direct traffic is wonderful but it’s a fraction of the potential audience. Most people are not going to visit your site on a regular basis, if at all just because you rank well on Google – they aren’t looking for you – with social you have the opportunity to have a much smaller group network out and expose you to a far larger network. I’ve personally been involved in a new brand that relied heavily on peer to peer knowledge to grow and as they close in on a half million fans I can tell you, it’s not the fact that they had a nice number, but what we did at 10,000 - 50,000 and 100,000 that grew that business by leaps and bounds. People are talking. You’re missing out if you miss that.

Don’t put 90% of your time into something that creates 10% of your value but realize that if you’re not finding ways to “fish where the fish are swimming” because you don’t get the value, you’re simply putting yourself further behind in the race.

You need a plan and a way to benefit and measure said benefit but your mission should be about how you find that; not how you avoid the channel or automate it to the point that your users simply walk off to the next page, which is exactly what they will do if the content is stale, simple self promotional and lacks any sort of dialogue or response.

One more item to share that I just tweeted out as I was posting this message…

Disney launched a new campaign for runDisney and is promoting it via facebook as an early teaser. The idea seems simple: gather buzz about an event that they have not even announced and spread it out without major media spends. Disney may only see a few thousand visitors but their return isn’t traffic to their site; it’s filling their event and getting the word out. As of my last load, 60,000 fans have joined and growing fast.

By giving fans clues, Disney has upped the engagement level, has people talking and sharing. Now they have a prebuilt audience to fill their event, and many more events. I’d take that over a one time visitor any day.

Run Disney | Facebook

Then maybe Facebook for Web sites is about brand engagement rather than audience development. In other words, it’s useful for big companies a lot more than us regular folk.

Then maybe Facebook for Web sites is about brand engagement rather than audience development. In other words, it’s useful for big companies a lot more than us regular folk.

Not really, social engagement is a viable alternative to in-your-face, high-pressure sales.

Disney generated an audience. Disney is only interested in guarding the brand so they can hoover wheelbarrows of money out of the wallets of that audience.

Any business can generate an audience for products or services they sell through, for instance, speaking engagements and seminars. Such venues do well with long-cycle consultative selling situations; typically big ticket, custom configuration products and services.

When brand awareness is the be-all, end-all, you get a bankrupt company …that people regard very well. Awareness must actually lead to brand preference, against competition. Disney is well aware of this.

The people using the term brand …not so much.

Actually I’d argue that SMBs have more to gain from social and are able to leverage it quicker.

In most of marketing the field is uneven – a larger company can outspend you, undermine your product margins, get a nicer store [or site] and put it across the street. While resources remain an issue for a smaller business and there’s certainly less organic knowledge, social media doesn’t care if you have a larger brand, it’s about how you use it.

The bigger the brand the more cooks there are in the kitchen. The more rules and laws. The more is going on that has to compete for the same space.

As a smaller business you can be more agile, engage quickly, tweak your updates and your business based on what feedback you get and use social as a true dialogue channel much better than you may believe.

I’m not suggesting that a small bottling company would take on coke in a month but if you’ve got similar sites 2 or 3x your size there’s no reason why you can’t outdo them in engagement and begin to build a better reputation to their audience leading to an eventual switch – leverage your agility and chaos to create success.

That’s the beauty of creating “wild fires”. I’ve always loved the example of the gourmet food trucks that tweet their location for the day (which is linked with facebook) and that was the only way to find them. Not sure if they still do that…

You can’t dispute that repeat engagement with loyal followers helped their business. Not just because of the product they were selling but the method they used to keep their audience reminded of their presence via creative communication.

Friends, I’m not wrong about the numbers I see on quite a few Web sites. Numbers are facts and not opinions.

That doesn’t mean you all haven’t had good experiences or I’m arguing you shouldn’t be doing social media. It just means that most of the sites I know – and some of them are pretty big – don’t have good results. And I have access to numbers for a lot of sites.

Companies that survive have a ruthless dedication to ROI for their resources – time, people and money. If a site gets a higher ROI by dedicating X time to something other than social media, they are better off spending that extra time elsewhere.

I hear all the time about numbers in isolation – 10,000 this or 50,000 that. Those numbers don’t mean anything if they don’t translate into something of value. That value is brand, audience or revenue.

I have to say that Disney, which is one of the most famous brands on the planet, is not a fair choice compared to the majority of businesses. Tell me about about a regular, everyday company that used social media, tracked the amount of resources they put into it and can show some discernable value they got out of it.

Then, if they got a positive ROI and are doing it again, I’d like to know how they did it and have someone show that it wasn’t just luck, a one-time thing, etc. I’ve been doing this line of work for a really long time (including responsibility for achieving large budgets), and I have to tell you that the great majority of “success stories” I hear in the digital environment are sorely lacking in evidence backing up the claims.

Given the infancy of the medium, direct ROI is not something most companies have a handle on with social media although you can find a number of case studies. Those that report numbers are logically bigger companies that have the resources to do deep analysis, and report on it. But high level numbers are everywhere – almost every business using Yelp or that has added User Reviews can tell you that it increased their sales, average order, or other KPIs.

90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. (Econsultancy, July 2009)

67% of shoppers spend more online after recommendations from online community of friends. (Internet Retailer, September 2009)

83% of all holiday shoppers are influenced by customer reviews. (ChannelAdvisor “Consumer Shopping Habits Survey”, August 2010)

Rubbermaid found that, when they added reviews to their free-standing inserts (ads included in newspapers), conversion for the coupons increased by 10%. (Rubbermaid Case Study, April 2010.)

Social breaks down into two real areas: Response Driven and Engagement Driven.
The first (response) is most ascertainable. Brands that are using social to push out offers (Dell, JetBlue, etc) have proven return with millions of sales. The plus side is that if you have a following it’s fast and easier to track [coupons & links].

However offer based promotions are less social than they are simply using a social channel as a broadcast tool. They also lack in scale; people won’t act on an offer every day simply because it comes via Twitter any more so than they would if it came via email.

Somewhere in the middle is validation content like user reviews which have very direct benefits but do not come overnight. Testing has shown brands that implement reviews increase metrics across the board (goes back to those quotes I put up above).

Then you have the soft, and newest, forms of social where the real opportunity lies and that’s in engagement to both talk to and hear from customers & prospects: dialoguing. This can be with the brand or between users. ROI is much harder here as there’s no immediate call to action that’s sales related most of the time. No link has to be clicked.

Of course many of these issues exist in other mediums too. TV and Print advertising is tracked based on the lift to the business knowing that most people won’t call an 800 # or fill out a survey marking their originating source. Even web advertising has evolved rapidly as studies show that banner ads can lead to clicks or searches hours, even days, later causing an indirect but still very important impression.

People are more likely to buy from brands they recognize and even more so ones they trust. If you only marked via DR (and are not selling a commodity for one day and one day only) you would have a tough time growing. Even the big DR shops will admit that buying enough media under any name comes with a branding and awareness benefit on the side.

The issue we run into is when people try to use social engagement to have a typical DR conversion. Social Media is not all about DR, it is not an overnight, scale it up on a dime, explode it because you want it channel and that’s something many marketing executives and business owners have a hard time to grasp. Then you go back to that Yelp example, something which almost everyone on the web has done themselves, and it becomes clear – the opinion of a stranger is more influential than any single ad or coupon – and when they go together what you get is true power… a brand you know, an offer you want, and a company you’re willing to trust.

In a different world I’d share some of my own specific stories with you, but as the companies I have had the fortune of working for wish to keep making a profit [as you said, doing it again and again]. But sufficient to say, while I don’t foresee giving up my paid media channels, I look at social as an opportunity cost more than an additional ROI point. If you are not well represented in this world I’m not buying from you and the numbers prove that.

Here’s a good article on SMB social case studies. Not all are positive but that’s probably more useful in this discussion. 30 Social Media Business Case Studies | Penn Olson

I get quite some traffic from Facebook.
Still you are right: Fans is for boosting ego. That’s it. So people run after illusion:
If I have 1 million fans I will sure make …
But the truth is that they run for the 1 million fans … just to say to their friends:

  • Hey I have 1 million fans!

So you’re saying that none of the businesses with 1 million+ fans are finding roi that justifies that investment? Strange conclusion to draw given many of the case studies and anecdotal comments out there on larger pages… what goes into your analysis?

Yes it is actually a very useful for companies not only big companies but a small business firm or company can take advantage from this.

For the TC, I would suggest taking a look at Social Media Examiner’s 2011 report on social media. The study they did finds that small businesses, in general, benefited more from social media than large businesses.

On companies that have used social media effectively, look at Starbucks. Their new software for smart phones literally got millions of downloads within the first day due to its exposure on Facebook.

You note that the numbers don’t lie, but I don’t believe you’re looking at the right ones. Facebook is primarily an engagement platform, not a traffic re directer. It exists more for your current customers than potential ones. It’s difficult to put an ROI on it due to its newness, and the fact that it’s a customer service aspect. You can’t measure the exact value of McDonald’s employees smiling at customers, but you know it’s significant.