Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Social media

Facebook has quickly changed from the brand that could do no wrong to the business that spreads fake news. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the company is de-valuing publisher content on users’ news feeds caused a notable drop in its stock value and inspired a CNN article with a once unthinkable headline, “Mark Zuckerberg Is Fighting to Save Facebook.” Facebook isn’t going away. But with the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users.

Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. “Reach” (the number of people who saw an ad) is a metric commonly monitored by advertisers, and when the pool of potential audience members declines, so does the effectiveness of their branding efforts.

The most obvious expected drop-off would be among younger members as parents may begin to heed the addiction warning and implement usage restrictions for their children. Currently, advertisers cannot specifically target people under the age of 13 — so there should be minimal effect on paid ad performance if Facebook sees a decline in users age 12 and under.  However, if parents or older siblings start following suit (perhaps by means of setting an example or simply choosing to spend their time elsewhere) the impact could be significant to marketers who have become accustomed to reaching millions of people.

As the Facebook audience narrows, marketers may need to adjust their strategy and opt for conversion-based campaigns versus brand awareness. Measuring the overall effectiveness of a brand awareness campaign is difficult to quantify. But as advertisers start tracking actual results from their conversion campaigns, they may find the cost far outweighs the return and may choose to pull back on their overall Facebook investment.

My advice: keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. Take advantage of the tools we have blogged about (such as Collection ads), but make sure you complement your advertising spend across multiple platforms where it makes sense for your business to be, ranging from Google to Instagram. Get ready for tough sledding on Facebook. For more insight into how to build your brand with digital, contact Keyword First. We’re here to help.

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social media

Let’s face it: YouTube will never be free of controversy. Neither will Facebook. Or Twitter. Or even LinkedIn. Social media is, and will always be, a messy and imperfect place for brands to live. The major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube continue to roll out more programs to police user activity on their sites in an effort to protect their integrity for advertisers. Recently we saw YouTube do just that by committing to hiring more people to teach computers to police its site, which YouTube hopes will prevent advertisers’ content from appearing next to inappropriate content.

But despite these efforts, we also continue to see signs of how ugly and messy social media can be. The latest reminder is the controversy surrounding the filming of a suicide victim by YouTube personality Logan Paul. Not only was the action itself alarming, but so were the reactions of others on social media, who created a cycle of content that extended the story and sensationalized the news. In addition, the incident drew attention to how difficult it is for YouTube to police its own content.

Of course, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (the lightning rods for social media critics) need to do everything they can to make their platforms as respectable and safe as possible. But as my colleague Tim Colucci argued recently, YouTube’s ad problems aren’t going away, and neither are Facebook’s and Twitter’s. If you advertise on social media, understand the appeal of social media will always be its openness. On social media, anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always creep its way on to the major platforms no matter how hard Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube work to contain offensive material.

In 2018, advertisers will need to come to terms with the imperfect nature of social while capitalizing on its many advantages, of which there are many. Let’s remember:

  • Facebook continues to roll out products that make it possible for advertisers to target audiences more effectively than ever before.
  • Twitter remains a strong platform for companies to announce news and support product roll-outs.
  • YouTube continues to be the premier video platform and search tool.

The question, is, how much imperfection and messiness are advertisers willing to accept? The answer depends on how tightly you control your brand’s image. Command-and-control brands will always have a difficult time living on social media. Brands that are comfortable rolling with the punches will flourish. What’s your strategy? Contact KeywordFirst. We can help you manage your digital brand.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/film-filmstrip-you-tube-you-tube-589491/

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

Social media

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all recently faced backlash ranging from Russian meddling to antitrust violations, video censoring and more. While recent polls have shown that most Americans still have a very favorable view of these tech companies, the recent negative reporting may have marketers looking for other avenues to reach their target market. If you are in the higher education vertical, you might be looking for alternatives, too. I suggest taking a closer look at LinkedIn, which is starting to catch up with Facebook and Google to offer audience targeting tools.

Google and Facebook Set the Pace

The robust targeting measures offered by Google and Facebook have long been attractive to higher education. Google continues to add to its demographic targeting with the addition of household income along with age and gender. Audience targeting is clearly a primary focus as demonstrated by Google’s addition of in-market audiences, which are generated by tracking the online behavior of searchers and classifying them based on their demonstrated in-market behavior and purchase intent. Although in-market audiences are currently only available for display campaigns, they will be coming to search in the near future. Soon, Google will be able to categorize searchers who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education based on their online search behavior.

While Facebook and Google have made audience targeting a strong feature in their platforms, LinkedIn has been slower to make advancements in this area. However, earlier this year, LinkedIn took a significant step forward when the platform rolled out Matched Audiences.

LinkedIn Matched Audiences

LinkedIn’s rollout of Matched Audiences is welcome news to higher education marketers who understand the importance of tailoring their message to specific audience segments. The LinkedIn Matched Audiences include three new tools to reach audiences that matter most to your organization. These include Website Retargeting, Contact Targeting, and Account Targeting.

LinkedIn Website Retargeting

Website Retargeting requires the placement of a lightweight JavaScript code on your website. Once the tag is installed, you can define specific audiences based on pages they’ve visited on your website.

This feature is particularly useful for helping to identify potential students and their program interests.  For example, if a LinkedIn member visits a college website and researches communication degrees, they would become a member of an audience of people who have visited that specific web page, which allows marketers for that college to serve ads specifically tailored around communication degrees.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn has seen much success with this type of retargeting. Over a period of six months, LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting.

Contact Targeting

Contact Targeting offers the ability to market to prospects and known contacts by uploading email addresses or connecting to your contact management platform. Most colleges have extensive lists of prospective students who have requested information, attended open houses, or otherwise demonstrated an interest in the institution. These lists can then be matched through the LinkedIn platform and be used to deliver tailored content and convert prospects.

Account Targeting

Through Account Targeting, A list of company names are uploaded and matched against the nearly 12 million company pages on LinkedIn, which lets you support account-based marketing programs by reaching decision makers at your target companies. Although there might be cases for incorporating Account Targeting for marketing in the higher education vertical, Website Retargeting and Contact Targeting seem to be the better fit for reaching prospective students.

Dynamic Ads

In addition to the new forms of targeting discussed above, LinkedIn also offers Dynamic Ads, which dynamically populate with LinkedIn member profile images and relevant content based on skills, interests, and career history of the individual member viewing the ad.

LinkedIn points to a recent successful use of Dynamic Ads by ESCP Europe, the self-described World’s First Business School with a variety of campuses in different countries.  ESCP Europe was looking to generate high-quality leads for a Master in European Business (MEB) program.  The institution incorporated dynamic ads, pulling in LinkedIn member profile pictures, and invited prospective students to connect. This strategy allowed ESCP Europe to deliver more than two million impressions to potential students and resulted in more than 40 enrollments in less than a month at a conversion rate that was two times higher than its average.

It is important to continually evaluate your marketing strategies to maintain a strong presence in the highly competitive field of higher education. Check out the new features in LinkedIn to see how they can help you reach your marketing goals in the new year. And contact KeywordFirst to help you manage your online marketing – it’s what we do 24/7.

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

4 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

Social media

Your biggest social media advocates might be hiding in plain sight: your employees.

Compelling content, influencer outreach, and paid media are important elements of any social media strategy. But too often, businesses overlook or undervalue the role of their own people in building brand advocacy through social media.

Your employees should be your biggest fans. Employees live and breathe the brand every day. Businesses should encourage their employees to be advocates. When you encourage your employees to speak on behalf of your brand, you demonstrate trust in them. And doing so is just smart marketing. Employees probably have a larger presence than your business does – most certainly collectively and sometimes even individually if you employ high-profile people who blog actively and post often on their socials.

But many people do not post about their employer on their personal social media pages. Oftentimes, the impediment is not a reluctance to talk about their employers but rather a lack of understanding of the ground rules for doing so. Still others just need to be prompted with compelling content. In either case, the brand itself can encourage social sharing by playing an active role. Employees need education, motivation, and inspiration from the company to be active brand advocates on social media.

Here are some ways to get started.

Listen to Your Staff

The first step to cultivating employees as brand ambassadors is listening to them.

Employees provide a valuable source of social listening. Their input shared on public social sites such as Glassdoor, as well as their own socials, will make you more aware of how they feel about the brand. Moreover, their input on social channels (including internal ones such as Slack) can provide valuable feedback on your products and services. This information should help you gain insight on what to educate your staff on and if there are any problems. You need your people to be happy and satisfied at work, not only to perform well but to also be brand ambassadors.

Educate Your Staff

Employees want and need ground rules for talking about you on social media. Ground rules are more than a list of dos and don’ts. They empower employees by giving them examples of how to (and how not to) discuss your company. Ground rules are especially critical for publicly traded companies, where disclosing the wrong information at the wrong time can put a business at risk for disciplinary action from the government.

So, create a plan for social media – a plan with guidelines – and educate everyone in the company, not just people in HR and Legal.

You might find it useful to involve an outside perspective, such as a social media expert who takes charge of educating your entire staff on social media guidelines, content, and brand storytelling. Outside voices can provide ideas and lessons learned from a wide variety of businesses, not just yours.

Give Your Employees Something to Share

When you share great content with employees, they’ll share it publicly. But you have to share it rather than expect them to find it. For instance:

  • Do all your employees know about what you post on your own corporate socials, such as your Facebook and Instagram accounts? Do they know you have accounts and where to find them?
  • When an employee achieves something to celebrate, do you let your employees know and link to your own social spaces where you’ve noted the achievement?
  • Do you keep your employees abreast of when your company is in the news?
  • How well do you share your corporate thought leadership with all your employees, such as blog posts and white papers?

Employees are especially willing to talk up your thought leadership when they realize that sharing your branded content will uplift other employees.

Inspire Your Staff

Employees don’t always have time to be brand ambassadors – until you make the process easy. They sometimes feel like sharing content about your brand is a chore – until you make the process fun.

Making content-sharing easy means getting little things right, such as sharing a short link and hashtag for the information you want people to share, as well as links to your socials in every communication (rather than assuming employees remember where to find your socials).

Making content easy to share also means going so far as to explain why the content matters and the value of sharing it. If you want employees to tweet about a company accomplishment, give them tweet-worthy headlines.

You can also make social sharing fun by giving shout-outs to employees who are active brand ambassadors – and by linking to their socials on your corporate socials when appropriate. In both instances, you’re doing what comes natural in social media: rewarding through recognition.

Next Steps

If you’re inspired to do a better job cultivating your employees as brand ambassadors, I would suggest doing the following;

  • Do an audit of your own social media program. Make sure you have your own house in order before you ask your employees to put their socials to work for you.
  • Enlist the help of your employees. Consider creating a small team of highly influential employees and ask them for ideas and oversight of a brand ambassador program.
  • Create a strategy for how you’ll operate. A strategy should include everything from goals to sources of content and approaches for getting employees involved.
  • Have an ongoing mechanism in place to share and get feedback from employees about your program. Learn from them and adjust as you go along.

Developing an employee brand ambassador program can be exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling. When done right, employee brand ambassador programs generate more buzz and excitement for your brand than you could accomplish through your corporate socials. For more insight, contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-chill-computer-connection-450271/

Advertiser Q&A: Snapchat Context Cards

Advertiser Q&A: Snapchat Context Cards

Social media

Snap Inc. is finding allies in its ongoing war with Facebook. The latest battlefield is location-based marketing.

Last week, Snap announced the launch of Snapchat Context Cards, a new feature that injects more information into the content that Snapchatters share on the app. The launch has raised questions from businesses, ranging from “What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?” to “What the heck are Context Cards?” Here are some answers to popular questions:

What are Context Cards?

Context Cards consist of optional “more” buttons that Snapchat has embedded into the Snaps that Snapchat users post on their accounts. When you click on the “more” button, the Snap reveals location-based information about a user’s Snap.

For example, let’s say Snapchatter Marcia posts a photo of herself enjoying a breakfast burrito at her favorite café. Her photo, of course, is the Snap, or content that she posts on Snapchat. A Context Card, or “more” button, which appears on Marcia’s Snap, reveals a treasure trove of information about the café, such as its address, map location, and user reviews. In addition, Marcia’s Snapchat friends who receive the Snap can click on ride-sharing services embedded in the Context Card if they want to visit her at the café.

This video gives you more insight into how Context Cards work:

Context Cards have generated a lot of curiosity because Snaps are the language of Snapchat. Context Cards enrich that language with information about the places where Snapchatters share information with each other – sort of like turning Snaps into Swarm check-ins loaded with information about where Snapchatters are and what they’re doing.

The term “context card” is not unique to Snapchat. Facebook uses them, too. As Facebook explained in 2016: “A context card is an added (and optional) tile that pops up after someone clicks on a lead ad but before they get to the form, giving businesses a place to offer more details on the information people are signing up for. So, if a business is using lead ads to find new email subscribers, they may use a context card to explain what type of content they offer in their emails. Context cards help businesses ensure that the leads they receive are high-quality.”

But Snapchat has branded the term within a specific context of location-based information.

Does every Snap now contain a Context Card?

No. According to TechCrunch, “[Context Cards won’t appear in every Snap, however, lest you were worried that Snapchat was turning every single post on its platform into a marketing tool. Instead, it’ll include those that have been tagged with the company’s venue-specific Geofilters, or with any Snap that’s been submitted to the public ‘Our Story’ feed and that appears in Snap Map or Search.”

Where does Snapchat get all location information needed to create Context Cards?

Snapchat is not mining all the data on its own. To retrieve and publish location-based information, Snapchat is partnering with companies that collect this kind of information already. As reported in Adweek: “The messaging application teamed up with launch partners TripAdvisorFoursquareMichelinGoopUberLyftOpenTableResy and BookTable to supply information including reviews (from critics and customers), tips, reservations, booking rides, directions, hours of operation, phone numbers, websites and other Snaps from around the area.”

Foursquare provided more insight into how Foursquare partners with Snapchat on Context Cards here.

What does Snapchat get out of Context Cards?

Context Cards could make Snapchat more attractive to businesses, which it must do in order to compete as a revenue-generating advertising platform. Just how Snapchat will benefit remains to be seen, but here are a few ways the company may become more valuable to advertisers:

  • User engagement: If Context Cards cause Snapchat users to spend more time on the app by digging deeper into each other’s Snaps and interacting with the location-based data, Snapchat will be able to report stronger user engagement numbers to advertisers. For instance, conceivably a user could tap into a Context Card, check out customer reviews of a restaurant pictured in a Snap, and use Uber to visit the restaurant all within Snapchat. More time spent on Snapchat means more opportunities for advertisers to interact with users.
  • Data: Snapchat can collect more data about user activity, such as what they are searching for and where they are spending their time, which would make Snapchat a source of more targeted advertising. And targeted ads mean more relevant interactions with users, which is Facebook’s stated competitive advantage.
  • Revenue generation: the Context Cards could create ways for Snapchat to collect more revenue from transactions and advertising. As discussed in Forbes, “The feature could also open up a new revenue stream for Snap, as it could charge its partners a commission for each booking or transaction carried out via its platform. If Snap is able to scale up this opportunity, it could be quite lucrative given the company’s relatively young and affluent user base, which is located primarily in developed markets.”

But Snapchat will have to tread carefully. People won’t use Context Cards that create unwanted advertising popping up on their screens.

What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?

  • If you operate brick-and-mortar storefronts, make sure your location-based data and content are accurately reported to Snapchat’s partners such as Foursquare. A Context Card isn’t going to be very valuable if it sends users to the wrong address of that café where Snapchatter Marcia is enjoying her breakfast burrito. Now, more than ever, you need to manage your data and content closely.
  • Keep your eyes on Snapchat especially if you advertise to a millennial audience. Watch how Context Cards evolve and be ready to capitalize on advertising opportunities as they arise.
  • If you advertise on Facebook, keep an eye on how Facebook responds. Facebook has not capitalized on location-based marketing beyond giving brands real estate to create their own pages. Look for Facebook to answer Snapchat with more effective ways for businesses to embed location-based information into the world’s largest social media platform.

Bottom line: Context Cards give Snapchat a way to combat Facebook in location-based marketing. Facebook offers something akin to Context Cards when users check into places on Facebook and reveal information about the location of the check-in. But they are not very and interesting and useful. Context Cards embed a lot more information. Snapchat has an advantage – for now.

To make your marketing more effective across the digital world, contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Keep Advertising on Facebook — Carefully

Keep Advertising on Facebook — Carefully

Social media

How concerned should advertisers be about Facebook in light of the credibility problems that the world’s largest social network has been facing lately? The answer depends on how you use Facebook to advertise.

If you rely on Facebook solely to achieve visibility, you should be especially concerned about the recent news concerning Facebook being manipulated with political advertising through the creation of phony accounts. Even if you don’t do political advertising, you have good reason to ask, “How can I be sure I’m not paying for phony accounts to view my advertisement?”

But for businesses that employ Facebook advertising with a cost-per-click (CPC) model, the existence of phony accounts is less concerning because fake accounts are not going to click on your ad.

But however you advertise on Facebook or any other social media, Facebook’s recent woes are a reminder that you should not take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to advertising on social. At a minimum, monitor the performance of your advertising and the integrity of the engagement you are getting from your ads, an example being the inevitability that people will troll your ads with inappropriate comments on social.

Mark Zuckerberg in the Hot Seat

The ongoing news about Facebook being used to spread bogus news during the 2016 presidential race has caused Mark Zuckerberg to vow to improve the integrity of Facebook as an advertising platform, but his actions have been met with skepticism. Big brands have been expressing their concerns about Facebook’s reliability.

The concerns are understandable. At the same time, I think it’s useful to take a step back and look at the big picture:

  • Facebook has 2 billion members. Its ability to create engagement and brand activation remains strong. In a sense, the platform is too big for brands to ignore. For all its problems, Facebook brings incredible scale and shareabilty to any advertising roll-out. For example, with Facebook’s targeting tools, media/entertainment companies can create effective 15-second video spots to promote upcoming events in order to boost awareness. Put another way, it would be foolish for Warner Brothers to react to Facebook’s problems by dropping the platform from its media mix for promoting Justice League with clickable trailers.
  • As noted, a CPC model, while not perfect, helps a brand hold a platform like Facebook more accountable for performance, as click-throughs separate the real people from fake accounts. Yes, click fraud happens. And yes, Facebook has been stung by periodic criticism about click fraud in the past, but Facebook has a way of learning and improving in response. (At KeywordFirst, we’ve not received any complaints about click fraud on Facebook recently.)

The bigger problem is trolls commenting on your ad. You have to brace yourself for the reality that the more you advertise on a social site, the greater the risk you run of attracting trolls who disrupt the conversation occurring about ad after you post it on Facebook. This risk is especially great on Facebook.

I suggest Facebook advertisers:

  • Keep your Facebook advertising focused on a CPC model.
  • Manage your account closely. Don’t go on autopilot. If your ad is getting trolled, you want to be the first to learn about it on your own.
  • Avoid clickbait or ads, which will act as troll magnets.
  • Keep advertising on Facebook, but be smart about it. Use tools at your disposal such as retargeting and audience segmentation.

You should definitely advertise on Facebook depending on your objectives. But if recent news has taught us anything, it’s this: manage your presence on Facebook. Closely.

Contact KeywordFirst to maximize the effectiveness of your digital advertising. We’re here to help.

What to Do When You Commit a Social Media Blunder

What to Do When You Commit a Social Media Blunder

Social media

Even superstars commit social media blunders.

Recently, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant found himself in a lot of hot water for committing a few embarrassing social media gaffes:

  • First, he exercised poor judgment on Twitter by trash-talking his former employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, including calling out his coach – an action that brought the wrath of the internet down on him.
  • At about the same time, he was caught using multiple fake Internet accounts to defend himself against his critics.

His actions also embarrassed the Warriors somewhat, whose name was inevitably mentioned alongside the negative blowback even though the team had nothing to do with his actions.

But Kevin Durant is not the only one committing gaffes, which seemingly happen to brands every day somewhere. In fact, if your brand has an active social media presence, you should assume that someday your name will get dragged through the social media mud:

  • A video of one of your employees acting rudely might go viral.
  • Someone on your own social media team might publish poorly timed or questionable content.
  • An employee might leak an internal email that probably should not have been written in the first place.

You’ve seen it all and more. So have we. How do you respond? Here are a few tips:

Act Quickly

The moment you see something going wrong (you do have someone on your team actively monitoring your brand name, right?), convene a team charged with taking quick action. A social media crisis is all-hands-on-deck time. Your response team should do many things quickly and simultaneously, such as:

  • Contacting parties involved with the gaffe to get their account of what happened.
  • Involving your legal team to assess your legal vulnerability depending on the problem,
  • Having a PR expert appointed to be your official voice to communicate your response.

Too often, big brands make bad situation even worse by coming across as non-caring and inattentive – problems that could have been avoided had the company responded rapidly.

Communicate Yesterday

As you respond to the problem, let the public know in a very social way that you’re on the case. Even if you are still gathering the facts and are unprepared to make an official statement, at least let your social followers know you are aware a problem has occurred and that you’re getting to the bottom of the issue. If a problem is patently outrageous – say, an employee is caught on camera acting in an unacceptable way – you’re probably going to need to speak out even before you’ve had a chance to get the employee’s side of the story and to verify the facts (“We are disturbed by what we saw on this video. Rest assured we are getting to the bottom of what happened and will follow up immediately. Stay tuned.”

Contain the Issue

If you represent a large brand with a very public executive team, you should assume that they’ll be asked to comment on an unfolding social media gaffe. Coach them to avoid commenting other than to acknowledge that your company is taking action and cares deeply about its customers and its reputation. Seeing your name dragged through the mud can be excruciating, and it’s tempting to take the gaffe personally as you see customers on Twitter, Facebook, or other socials attacking your company name. Coach your executives to exercise calm and discretion, especially if they have high-profile, popular social accounts.

Take Accountability

Kevin Durant took accountability for his mistakes at a TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, where he was coincidentally scheduled to appear in the wake of his social media firestorm. At the event he owned up to his boorish behavior and apologized. He did not utter one of those half-hearted “If I offended someone” or “Sorry if you were offended” remarks. He acknowledged his actions were wrong, period.

Also, it’s interesting to note that the Golden State Warriors themselves did not comment. Good move. Durant’s mistakes, while embarrassing, resulted from poor management of his personal social accounts. Yes, the Warriors name did get associated with the problem, and yes, he does represent the team. But in this case, the team commenting might have escalated a fairly petty issue that will become yesterday’s news quickly.

On the other hand, an employee doing something truly egregious, such as violating the law or the company’s code of conduct, will more than likely demand the employer to get involved.

Plan for the Future

Assess how you responded to the problem, note what you did well and not so well, and make sure you have a game plan for future gaffes – because they will happen. Make sure you have a well-documented escalation plan and that it covers the fast-changing social landscape. (Does your plan cover Snapchat and other rapidly evolving platforms?)

How do you address social media gaffes? What do you avoid doing? Meanwhile, contact KeywordFirst to discuss how to buid your social media reputation. We’re here to help.