Archive for the ‘facebook’ Category

Doing your own advertising? Some tips

There’s a pattern that computers and technology have made apparent over and over.

  • Pre-computers: music was recorded in expensive studios, controlled and distributed by labels. Post-computers: Computers come pre-loaded with free music recording software, and some of the music has gone on to great success.
  • Pre-computers: books were bought by publishing companies, printed on giant presses, distributed to bookstores. Post-computers: anyone (like my friend Sue, for example) can write an e-book (Produce: The Art of Creating Digital Content Using Professional Production Techniques)and take charge of distribution.
  • Pre-computers: making video required hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and highly-professional staff. A few television networks distributed programs and sold advertising. If you didn’t make it on those networks, you didn’t make it on TV. Post-computers: People with consumer-grade technology make videos and upload them to Youtube and other sites, making money from advertising and sometimes getting millions of hits.

Another example of this pattern is advertising. When your media choices were (more or less) daily newspapers, radio, and television, most businesses didn’t do their own advertising. That was done by agencies, or by the media outlet. And it was expensive!

Then, pay-per-click came along. Google AdWords, Facebook, etc. etc. Suddenly anyone could advertise, even with just a few dollars a day to spend. Which is great! Except… sometimes it isn’t.

I saw a sponsored post in my Facebook feed earlier this week. Somebody did something right, because it was for a new microbrewery in my hometown. Except … the ad copy said “opening Spring 2014.”  Problem #1: the brewery  was already open. Problem #2: It was July.

I don’t want to call out the business in question — they’re a small startup, and there’s no doubt they have a million things that they’re trying to do. What happened isn’t a capital crime. But it did point out something that I think happens quite a bit with small businesses and new businesses — their online advertising just gets a little bit out of control.

So I thought I’d give you a quick checklist for your online advertising.

  1. Just because you’re not spending thousands of dollars (unless you are!) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be serious about it.
  2. It’s not like traditional media — you don’t want ot run one ad or a couple into the ground. Have multiple ads running.
  3. Response on online advertising drops off like a rock off a cliff. That’s part of the reason to have multiple ads running at any one time, and also a reason to have an inventory of ads that you can swap in and out.
  4. If you use a calendar, or a whiteboard, or whatever to keep a schedule, use it to note when your ads should be staritng and stopping. Also use whatever scheduling options you have in the advertising platform to “set and forget” ads, but have a backup.
  5. Most online advertising gives you a limited amount of wording to play with, and an image. Work hard on those words and images, because they’re your only chance at getting people’s attention. Because you can create many ads, you can play with images and copy.
  6. Regularly review the performance of your ads. Be strategic — and by that I mean ensure that your ads are pushing the viewer to some ACTION.

If you’re doing online ads and want to do a little more education, I’m happy to help as much as I can — although I am not an online advertising expert. If you want to go deeper into this, there’s a ton of great resources out there. For example, e-commerce company Shopify (an Ottawa success story, yay us!) has this great guide up on line.

And Brian Carter has two great books out that can help anyone use online advertising to their advantage:

The Like Economy,

and Facebook Marketing:

If you get through all that, you’d likely know more about this stuff than I would!

(Photo credit: cc-licenced image by Flickr user Marcin Wichary)

SMB 101 Post #9: Using free tools for measurement

Ad Budget

Hopefully, you know more about your advertising effectiveness than John Wanamaker did.

One of the classic quotes from the world of business is attributed to John Wanamaker:

 Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

I’m guessing this is a familiar refrain for many business owners. It’s easy to spend money on advertising, whether it’s in the community paper, the local daily, radio, or online. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gauge that you could use to measure the effectiveness of that advertising?

But before I give you a few tips, a couple of theoretical points to address. First, it can take multiple exposures to a message before people will act on it — or even notice it. This is called, in the business, “effective frequency.” So don’t think that you can simply run an ad, and based on that one exposure, people will flock to your business.

Second, advertising plays a different role for businesses at different stages of their lives. Al Ries, a renowned brand strategist, characterizes it this way: “PR creates brands; advertising defends brands.” So if you’re a new business, you might be focusing your efforts more on the PR side. If you’re an established, mature business, advertising may be taking a more prominent role.

So once you have a strategy in place and understand the role advertising plays in it… how can you tell if you’re wasting your money? There are some simple things you can do:

  1. Track online. QR (Quick Response) codes are those square barcodes you see on ads, posters, and the like. If you use QR codes in your advertising, you can track how many times those codes are scanned. Even if you don’t use the QR codes, utilities like offer similar abilities to track clicks (By the way, will generate QR codes that you can use too). And plan out what your call to action will be. Don’t just send people to your website — create a specific page to point them to. Then you will know by traffic if your message is getting through.
  2. A/B testing is your friend. This may sound a bit intimidating. But the concept is simple. Don’t just run one ad. Run two, with a variation in imagery, copy, and the like. Then use the tracking tools mentioned in tip 1 to look at which one is performing better. The easiest place to do this is online, using platforms like Facebook Adverts or Google Adwords, but you can do similar things with other forms of media, like print or direct mail. And it’s particularly important to do this when using Facebook ads, which according to online marketing smart guy Brian Carter, “burn out” far more quickly than other forms of advertising.
  3. USE YOUR KNOWLEDGE. All of this stuff is only cool if you use it. Tracking the impact of your ads, measuring A/B results — you need to dedicate the time necessary to understand what the numbers are telling you.
If you are out of your depth on this, think about hiring someone to help build or run a monitoring system for you. But it is possible to do this on your own. Every step you take along this path is an improvement over doing nothing.
(This is post number nine in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

SMB 101 Post #7: Thinking about shelf-life

There are as many different social media tools out there as you can imagine. If you don’t believe me, check out the “conversation prism” that Brian Solis created:

The Conversation prism (Brian Solis)

Confused yet? Good. That’s what keeps people like me in business!

When you’re engaging with your audiences using one or more of these tools, one thing to keep in mind is the timeframe for your message. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to a podcast (WTF with Marc Maron, if you must know). The podcast was great, but there was a sponsor who was pushing a  Christmas special. (I’m writing this in June).

Different social media have different shelf lives. Twitter is (arguably) ephemeral. It’s here, then it’s gone. Facebook pages, less so. Blogs, semi-permanent. Things like podcasts live on forever; despite the fact that my Stephen King podcast is currently on hiatus, I still see thousands of downloads each month.

So when you’re working out strategies for social media, keep in mind that each tool will have its own sense of time. Why advertise for Mother’s Day when people will still be hitting that note in November? Key your messages to take into account the shelf life of the medium.

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY

Dick's country store, Churubusco, NY. I would have taken some pictures inside, but I was afraid someone would shoot me.

(This is post number seven in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

(PS: Sorry for the late post; I should have pre-written for the Friday, but I didn’t, and I was driving to Boston yesterday. With a quick stop here.)

Social Merlot? Where wineries sit with social media.

I got pointed to an interesting slide deck yesterday from a company called ABLE. ABLE is a NYC based company doing social media marketing for food and wine clients. They did a survey of French and US wineries about how they used social media.

The short version of this? More wineries are active on social media platforms in the US than in France. And the US wineries are reporting that Facebook is a particularly powerful tool to generate sales.

Part of this is boosterism. ABLE quite naturally wants its potential clients to believe that social media is a must for them, and that they need to devote more time, money, and resources to it.

But there are some surprising numbers in here. What do you think of these?

  • 4 in 5 French wineries don’t have a dedicated marketing manager creating content on social networks.
  • Fewer than 1 in 13 use FB advertising.

Now, the report does suggest that France’s wineries are jumping into the social media vat of grapes with both feet. But there will be challenges ahead for French wine. How will they prioritize markets? What will they do to ensure they’re creating content that matches the culture and languages of their markets? And how will they ensure that they’re doing their social media work strategically, rather than just hopping onto Twitter or Facebook?

I wonder if Vaynermedia has been watching this happen. Would seem a natural place for them to excel.

And I wonder if there were any indications of how wineries are measuring what they do against goals they set for themselves.

SMB 101 Post #4: SEO, analytics, and content

One of the things I love more than anything about social media is the testability and measurability of social media campaigns and tools.

From Google Analytics to SocialMention to Bitly to Facebook Page Insights and onward, there are a host of great tools out there that let you do everything from finetune your online ad copy and images to make the search engine bots happy and welcome on your page to understand who’s coming to your site and how they get there.

Of course, the next step in understanding how people are coming to your site is to start thinking about whether you can fine-tune the content you’re producing — whether that’s blog posts, videos, images, infographics, or whatever — to attract more of the people you want and increase the spreadability of your stuff.

SEO is hard. So is making great content for your website

CC licenced image from:

However… don’t get so focused on the mechanics of what you’re doing that you forget the humanity.

Some people hire search engine optimization (SEO) consultants or SEO companies that do some questionable things. Some companies hide links back to their own companies in the websites they work on, they use link farms, they will fill a sub-page on a website with links back to the home page… all of these things are bad.

But sometimes the temptation to use what we can learn from the Google Keyword Tool, CompeteGoogle Insights, and the like can overpower the basic truth. What is that basic truth? Brace yourself. It’s going to ROCK YOUR WORLD:

If you do the basic stuff (metatags, add title text, use categories and tags on blog posts, put alt text on images) right, if you engage with the community you want to be part of, if you are generous in sharing links, praising, discussing, and advancing discussions, and you write or produce great content… that’s easily as important as feverishly reading every SEO book, blog, and white paper out there. 

Keep it simple. Build a strong foundation, then do good work. Good things will happen.

(This is post number four in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)

Your business isn’t every business

Hat shop, from Flickr user Slimmer_Jimmer

Just 3 more and I get one free!

The Consumerist is one of my must-read blogs. But I don’t necessarily read it for solid marketing and communications advice. Until this morning, when I opened up my feed reader and found a post called “The Silly Hat Shop.”

It reminded me of a cool furniture store in my neighbourhood in Ottawa. They sell the sort of furniture that funky condos would have, as well as custom design services for furniture.

On their door, they trumpet that they’re on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. What’s that mean? For Twitter, they’ve posted 76 tweets in two years, with less than 50 followers. Most of those tweets are for sales on their products. On Facebook, a page with 133 friends and an unending series of sales. And on LinkedIn? Well, they have some employees there.

What does their online presence say to me? I’m NEVER buying full price from them, and they aren’t that different from a Leon’s, a “The Brick”, or other furniture stores.  In short, Ben Popken needed a hat and bought one at a new hat store. They then subjected him to a variety of marketing and loyalty techniques that, in his opinion and mine, don’t fit a hat shop. A frequent buyer card? Really?

I’d also wager that neither the hat shop nor the furniture store have put a second of thought into how they are going to evaluate the success of their frequent buyer club or their Twitter account.

Being a great buyer / retailer of hats, of furniture, of whatever, does not make you a great communicator of what you’re REALLY all about. If you sell great funky furniture that deserves premium treatment — and prices — why not treat it that way? And act as if you’re a trusted advisor rather than a salesman? If you sell hats, don’t treat them like they’re a cappuccino.

And if you can’t think this through because you’re too close to your store, too much in love with what you do — hire someone with a clear vision and trust their insights to do it for you.

(Photo CC licenced from Flickr user Slimmer_Jimmer)

New data on Facebook use in Canada

Last month I blogged about my frustration with a lack of solid Canadian data on Internet use.

That frustration has by no means abated. Since I wrote that post in mid-December, I’ve been trying to get information about the seemingly moribund Canadian Internet Project, but so far to no avail. The good news is that sometime between December 16 and early January, their site went back online. However, the last content added seems to be a 2008 report titled “Canada online!” based on 2007 data.

There was a glimmer or two of light on the horizon though. I learned that Industry Canada has a team working to refresh its Digital Economy site. That’s good. And then yesterday, my friend Lydia pointed me to a report from new research firm Abacus Data that’s just come out this morning.

“What’s the big deal with Facebook” is a 10-page report based on a public opinion survey that explored who’s using Facebook up here in Canada and what they’re using it for. There’s some fascinating data here. Some of it is confirmatory of hunches that most of us have — that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to use tools such as Facebook and the less likely they are to see sharing information as risky. But just having confirmation of this is useful.

But here’s the big story in the data for me:

graph describing how various age groups receive information from their friends

Graph from page 10 of the Abacus Data report

The fact that the number of people identifying Facebook as the most likely source of information about their friends goes from 8% for 60+ folks to 46% for 18-29 year-olds is information. But look at that text messaging bar. That’s 1 in 5 young people getting friend information via text.

That’s an amazing shift in carrying information. It requires incredibly condensed language; it also requires incredible virality — that text needs to push the receipient to pass the information on to another person. And that means that within the incredibly condensed language, there has to be attention and time to pushing on information — the texts have to have “hooks”. I’m not suggesting that 18-29 year-olds are taking marketing classes — I’m suggesting that unconsciously they’re practicing a version of SEO for texts and interpersonal communication. What is that? Would you call it TFO — text forwarding optimization? I’m not sure.

I’m really excited that Abacus Data is doing this work. Perhaps eventually, we’ll have a lively and productive Canadian Internet Project doing the same thing.

And in the meantime, I’m still hoping that people will ask  – or answer — themselves why we have so little native data on such an important phenomenon.

New words to live by: ‘Everything you’ve done in your life is public’ (UPDATED)

While Canadians are (I hope) aware that there’s a federal election campaign on, those of you outside of Canada may not be aware of that fact.

And one of the things that has characterized this campaign — a fight between the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, who was Prime Minister of a minority government for the last 958 days, and four main opposition parties — has been candidate resignations and embarrassments.

Cases in point:

  • A Conservative candidate whose cached blog entries included: arguments for debate on the right to carry a concealed weapon, an end to abortion and official multiculturalism, an elected Senate, and closing the CBC because of its “far left-wing bias.” He said gay advocates in the Toronto Centre riding, which includes the city’s gay village, tolerate the promotion of “promiscuity, drug usage and prostitution.” (His site’s gone down, so I won’t link.)
  • A BC Liberal candidate who once dressed — so to speak — as Lady Godiva at an anti-logging protest (right)
  • A Liberal candidate who had argued in 1990 that the Canadian Forces should have been used to end a native occupation, even at the cost of 150 native lives, and upheld those views now;
  • A Conservative cabinet minister who, on a conference call discussing a food safety crisis that has killed dozens of Canadians, talked about “death of a thousand cuts. I mean a thousand cold-cuts…”
  • A BC NDP candidate who apparently went skinny-dipping in front of a group of teenagers in the past, and, it is alleged, engaged in some inappropriate activity;
  • The suspension of a Conservative communications advisor after he accused the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan of criticising the government’s Afghanistan policy because he was a Liber
  • A Conservative candidate who resigned after it was revealed she had been convicted of uttering death threats and of breaching an undertaking, and charged with several other offences, and was being investigated by the charity which employed her;
  • A Green Party candidate who made anti-Semitic remarks in an online forum;
  • A NDP candidate who was a former campaign director for the Marijuana Party who resigned after “events of the previous few days,” which probably referred to revelations about:
  • …Another New Democratic Party candidate who appeared on videos (including the one below) smoking pot, taking LSD, and driving while smoking pot…

And even this morning, a new blog scandal has been unearthed, with a Conservative candidate named Ryan Warawa’s cached postings including

“It appears that Keith Martin will be at home with other Liberal political whores in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.”

“I wonder how many Liberal memberships [disgraced provincial Liberal staffer David] Basi offered to buy Martin with the Basi Boys’ drug money.”

“[fellow Conservative and Canada's Defence Minister Peter] MacKay fails miserably in my integrity and honesty litmus test, and I’ve yet to hear any true conservative vision to come out of MacKay’s mouth.”

A story in the Toronto Star this morning uses a quote from a New Democratic Party official as its headline: ‘Everything you’ve done in your life is public’.

And he’s right. I’ve been saying for a long time that many aspiring politicians who are growing up in the age of Google and Facebook are going to see their aspirations burn up or fall apart when their online personas come back to haunt them.

We all have weaknesses. We all have failings. But the more public we choose to be, and the more ignorant you are of the permanence of what you do and say publicly, the more those failings can and will be exposed in a painful and public way. And what seems to be an increasingly toxic political culture both here and in the US means that the intensity of the exposure is ratcheted up.

UPDATE: Kady O’Malley reports that the skinny-dipping candidate has dropped out of the election.


FaceBook spam. It was inevitable, right?

Separate Facebook messages today from two friends, with the identical text:

My friend catched you on hidden cam. LOL:

I suppose it was inevitable. I don’t think there’s any news about this on the Facebook blog, but I can’t search it, so I can’t say for sure.


The social network horse race gets ranked

There’s tons of information to think about in the Top 10 US Social-Network and Blog-Site Rankings. These are the February stats, issued by Nielsen, and the big surprise, to me, is the nearly tripling of unque audience numbers from LinkedIn — before the big changes of last week to the site.

The bad news? AOL and Bebo. Bebo isn’t even on this list, and despite their status in the UK, Information Week notes that they’re flat in the US… In Canada? Who cares, say the raters, I suppose. And when it comes to AOL… Hometown and Communities down 33 and 28 per cent? Ew.

The surprise? The odious Classmates. A more useless network I’ve never seen. Must be people trying to get out of the freakin’ thing.

But you know, there’s a lot more to this than the horse race. There’s big business at stake, and you have to wonder what AOL has got up its sleeve to try to shake out its now three social network properties and figure out what, if anything, they can do to develop a social networking strategy.

Oh yeah — and Myspace is STILL way out in front of everyone else. Gotta love inertia.
Good luck to ‘em.