Tag Archives: facebook

John Ritter Facebook Marketing Fail

Does Social Marketing Reward the Wrong Behaviors?

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

When The New Yorker published that cartoon by Peter Steiner in 1993, they were commenting on the anonymity of Internet users. 20 years later, social networks have greatly eroded our anonymity, but the joke is still on us. Because while we’re all demonstrably ourselves on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the advertisers on these networks seem convinced that we’re actually all dogs.

What’s worse is that we’re proving them right.

“LIKE this Photo if You Have a Pulse!”

Social networks were built for people, not brands. But wherever large groups of people congregate, salespeople are sure to follow. As “social media” became “social marketing,” the needs of advertisers fueled a push for measurable data, resulting in the endless drumbeat of “ROI” to help us measure which of our marketing messages are “working.”

Unfortunately, we have a problem: we reward activity instead of impact.

For example, take this recent Facebook trend:

Radio station Facebook update asking people to LIKE if they're a fan of Three's Company, a TV show from the 1980s.

Majic 95.5 is a radio station in Austin, Texas.  To stay in business, Majic 95.5 needs to get people to listen to their radio station. The more people who listen to the station, the more money the station can charge for advertising.

How does asking people if they liked Three’s Company make Majic 95.5 money?

Directly, it doesn’t.

Indirectly, you could make an argument that widespread sharing of a popular image that was originally posted by the radio station increases the station’s brand awareness… except most people don’t live in Austin, Texas. So unless Majic 95.5 is trying to raise national awareness for its digital radio feed (which would allow it to court national advertisers instead of local) getting the attention of people outside of Austin doesn’t even have an indirect impact on its bottom line.

So why post this image at all?

Because a picture of John Ritter is much easier to “like” than an infographic of Majic 95.5’s ad rates would be. And so we’ll continue to see pointless pop culture references shared by brands all across social media, not because they’re directly (or even indirectly) effective, but because they trigger activity.

Ring the Bell and Watch Us Drool

A funny, touching or incendiary image is an easy thing to “like” or share on Facebook. That action requires no thought. It’s a reflex. And when you “like” or share that image, your friends also have a chance to see it, where they might also “like” or share it, and on, and on…

And because activity creates sticky repeat usage of these social networks (so that the networks themselves can sell ads), “activity” is grossly overemphasized regardless of whether or not it’s actually good for the businesses (and advertisers) themselves.

What kinds of Facebook posts generate the most activity?

  • Simple questions, like “fill-in-the-blank” sentences
  • Inspirational quotes
  • “Caption This” pictures

Of course these kinds of posts generate the most activity.  They require the least amount of effort on the part of the audience.  So now we’re creating a social marketing ecosystem built not upon valuable customer engagement but on triggering Pavlovian reflexes in our audience (“I love John Ritter!”), which tells us nothing useful about them or in any way elevates their interest in our brand or increases actual sales.

But, by God, we can tell our CMO that we had 100,000 likes last month on Facebook.

You Can’t Eat Compliments

“Even if a tweet can’t directly cause a sale,” we tell ourselves, “at least it can trigger a retweet, a response, a follow or a click-through.”

Well, sure. But that’s a bit like saying, “I’m in the business of selling pies,” and then measuring your success at the pie festival by how many people complimented your packaging.  Yes, compliments are an indicator that you’re doing something right, but they don’t sell pies.

Unfortunately, social marketing has become a business of compliments.  We spend time and money developing content intended to trigger the only actions we can measure, rather than content that moves our potential customers further along the path toward purchase.

This isn’t [entirely] the marketers’ fault, because they’re doing the best they can to measure what’s made available by the networks. And it’s not [entirely] the networks’ fault either, because they’re doing their best to provide any data that can be measured.

The rest of the fault lies with us, for rewarding brands that provide distraction, not value.

Think about that the next time a brand wants to know if you remember a certain ’80s TV show, or if you know the name of the unboxed vintage toy in their shared photograph. And then resist that urge to “LIKE us if you know what this is!!!”

Let the Internet know you’re not a dog.

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Twitter vs. Facebook: Which One Would YOU Give Up?

Yesterday, for my daily #1004question, I asked my Twitter followers:

If you had to give up Twitter or Facebook, which one could you live without?

The results surprised me.

Of the 26 people who responded on Twitter:

  • 20 said they’d give up Facebook.
  • 3 said they’d give up Twitter.
  • 3 said they’d give up both.

So… that’s interesting.  And incredibly lopsided.  I figured the results would be mixed, with a slight favoritism shown for one service over the other… but not a 7 to 1 differential.

(By that rationale, maybe Twitter is the service that should have filed for a $5 billion IPO last week, not Facebook…)

But wait…

What if my Twitter audience is biased towards Twitter simply because they’re on Twitter?

Curious to see if Twitter was really that much more beloved of a service than Facebook, I asked the same question on Facebook.  And, of the 11 people who responded on Facebook:

  • 8 said they’d give up Twitter.
  • 2 said they’d give up Facebook.
  • 1 said they’d give up both.

Or, in other words…

  • 77% of Twitter respondents said they’d prefer to give up Facebook.
  • 73% of Facebook respondents said they’d prefer to give up Twitter.

Granted, these are small sample sizes, so it’s impossible to draw sweeping conclusions.  But in both cases, the trend seems pretty consistent: people tend to love the service they’re on more than the service they’re not on at the moment.

But notice something about the response data:

  • I have 6300 Twitter followers, and 26 of them responded to this question.
  • I have 402 Facebook followers, and 11 of them responded.*

That’s means only 0.4% of my Twitter followers responded to me (even though I asked twice), versus 2.7% of my Facebook friends responding to me (even though I only asked once).  You can chalk that up to Facebook being a far more efficient way to communicate among a smaller group of people, or having a better information-sharing design, but either way you slice it, Facebook was 7 times more effective in generating a response to this question, even though the sampling pool was smaller to begin with.

For me, the real interesting info is the reasons why people would quit each service.

The people who say they’d prefer to quit Facebook said things like…

  • “Twitter gives you the unexpected”
  • “Twitter, for me, is about having reach.”
  • “Twitter has a good 30 IQ points on Facebook.”
  • “There are other ways to see photos of people, which is why I use FB at all.”
  • “Quality of connections I made on Twitter are far, far better than on FB.”
  • “Some people I’m ‘friends’ with on FB are [only] out of obligation.”
  • “Facebook is a cesspool, the Mos Eisley of social media.”

… whereas the people who say they’d prefer to quit Twitter said things like…

  • “I’ve had more relationships built via FB than Twitter.”
  • “Too many IRL friends here on Facebook to walk away.”
  • “Most of my Twitter followers really add nothing to my business.”
  • “The quality of conversation is much better on FB; Twitter is nothing more than a time-suck.”

All of which means that the Twitter lovers think they find smarter and more interesting / relevant conversations on Twitter, while the Facebook lovers believe the exact same thing about Facebook.

Or, as my friend Anthony summarized it from the available responses:

“If I leave Twitter, I’ll miss something!” vs. “If I leave Facebook, I’ll be missed!”

Ultimately, it seems that your love of each service boils down to your reason for using it: do you yearn to learn, or ache to be loved?

(And, how does this affect the way companies may want to tailor their social marketing to each audience?  Should they be more informative on Twitter but more emotional on Facebook, perhaps?  And do either of those options seem like an unwanted invasion of your online experience?)

Maybe in five years someone will have done a comprehensive study that proves Twitter is from Mars and Facebook is from Venus.  Or vice versa.  Or maybe both of these services will cease to exist in five years, and we’ll all be anachronistically calling each other on rotary phones to meet for drinks.

Either way, one thing’s certain: no matter what series of tubes we use to talk to each other, we’re all still desperate for ever more meaningful conversations.

And hugs.

* Actually, 13 of my Facebook friends responded to this question, not 11.  But my friend Sarah only responded to say “If you take away Pinterest, I’ll kick you,” to which another friend added, “I’d take away Pinterest just to watch Sarah kick you.”  So, Pinterest investors, take note: you, too, are well on your way to your own $5 billion IPO someday… one withdrawal-fueled shin-kick at a time.

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Business Insider Fumbles Their Facebook Chart of the Day

On Friday, The Business Insider‘s latest Chart of the Day portrayed Facebook’s unbelievable effect on the rest of the web.  Unfortunately, the key word here is “unbelievable,” but not in the way The Business Insider intended.

But why is this report so unbelievable, and why do we keep falling for all these not-so-thinly-veiled advertisements that masquerade as news?

Let’s take a closer look.

Business Insider Chart of the Day: Facebook Growth vs. the Web

Business Insider‘s main takeaway from the original AllThingsD article by the chart’s primary author, Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint, was this:

He says the rest of the web is quickly becoming “irrelevant,” and argues that in the future companies will need to spend less time on SEO, and more time on optimizing for Facebook.

Uh oh.

So now the web is “irrelevant”?  There goes your entire business model, right?  “Screw our website! We need to invest all our money on Facebook!  Business Insider said so!!!

Well… not really.  For a number of reasons.

First, if you read Elowitz’s original article, he repeatedly cites mobile usage (which is primarily app-driven, as opposed to web-driven) as another big reason why web usage is down.  WIRED made this same argument last year.  This isn’t new.

But crediting the web’s shrinkage entirely to Facebook is.

And while that’s not what Elowitz did, per se, it is what’s implied in his graphic.  And when Business Insider highlighted his graphic, their mini-summary of his article shrunk the focus to the implication made by his graphic.

Maybe they did this while hoping that people would glance at their infographic, form an opinion and retweet it frequently without bothering to examine the bigger picture.  And, apparently, that’s exactly what happened.

Chart of the Day Tweet

And that’s the real problem.

Because this isn’t really a news story at all.  This is just data and opinion from a biased source.

Why biased?

Because Ben Elowitz the is CEO of Wetpaint, a self-declared “next-generation media company that uses its proprietary state-of-the-art technologies and expertise in social media to drive and monetize audiences.”

And, interestingly (unless you’re The Business Insider), “Wetpaint is backed by Accel Partners, the investors behind Facebook and Groupon.”

So, to recap, The Business Insider chose to present a pro-Facebook infographic made by the CEO of a company which specializes in monetizing social media audiences — and which is backed by the same investors as Facebook itself — as news.

This really shouldn’t be surprising, since the Twitter bio of Chart of the Day producer Jay Yarow proclaims, “I write the words that make the Internet go blog.”  In that context, should Yarow’s charts be seen less as information and more as provocative conversation-starters?

Unfortunately, this kind of faux-journalism, in which clearly biased “research” is passed off as news, is something we can’t avoid.  From drug research funded by the drug companies to Facebook research funded by companies that profit from Facebook, news outlets have always been desperate to publish content that gets people talking (and reading, watching, subscribing, and generating ad revenue).

So, let’s step back and remind ourselves of two basic truths:

Correlation is not causation. Just because people are using Facebook more and the rest of the web less, that doesn’t mean people are choosing Facebook instead of the web in an either-or comparison.  It just means one site is growing while the majority of sites are diminishing.  Why?  That requires actual research, not biased presumptions.

Just because I stayed at a hotel, that doesn’t mean I slept there. Sure, Facebook usage may be up 69% over a single year-to-year window.  But what were those users spending all their time doing on Facebook?  Maybe they were playing Farmville, or commenting on photos, or changing their privacy settings (again).  But a usage increase in no way indicates that any of that usage involves brands or ecommerce.

The chart above fails to empirically support the presumption that brands should spend more time and money on Facebook, except to imply that because your potential customers are spending more time on Facebook, you should too.  (And if your potential customers all jumped off a bridge, what would a chart for that look like?)

And, of course, here’s the rub:

Elowitz might be right.  I’m not even saying he isn’t.  I’m just saying we can’t know whether or not he’s right based on one chart, and we shouldn’t be creating headlines and infographics that oversell one part of the story without reporting on the story in full.

Or, to put it another way: if the people who live in one city were outliving the people who live in every other city, would you really drop everything and move to that city tomorrow without stopping to ask… why?

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Why I’m Changing the Way I Use Facebook and LinkedIn

Since I’ve been blogging a lot lately about the power of professional networks, I’ve decided to do something drastic: I’m changing the way I’ve traditionally used my own social networks, so I can better understand how they work.

Until now, I’ve tried to curate my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn networks according to the following criteria:

  • Facebook was for people I’d actually met in real life.
  • LinkedIn was for people I’d actually worked with, or met at live events.
  • Twitter was for people who filled my day with interesting commentary.

But now?

Screw it: let’s connect!

Open the Floodgates!

Go ahead and friend me on Facebook, and / or add me on LinkedIn.

For the next 3-6 months, I’m completely unbuckling my Facebook and LinkedIn usage.

During this time, I no longer need to know you personally (or have ever even talked to you before) in order to accept your friend request.  In fact, during this experiment, the only requests I’ll turn down are obvious spam (or what I think is obvious spam).

You can also follow me on Twitter, but that’s the channel I’m not changing my follow-back habits on.  I need a control group for this experiment, and Twitter is it.

Why Am I Doing This?

Because I’d like to learn more about how my own life works.

Until now, I’ve tried to limit my usage of these three networks in order to manage my own communications in a way that I’d find useful, meaningful and not overwhelming.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I could be getting more out of these tools.  So I’m switching it up and tracking the results.

Here’s what I think will probably happen over the next 3 months:

  • I’ll meet a LOT of interesting people.
  • I’ll interact a bit less with most of my prior connections.
  • I’ll connect strangers who need each other but don’t know it (yet).
  • I’ll get a lot more freelance work.
  • Traffic to my personal channels will nearly double.

I’ll revisit these channels in August and see what’s changed and what I’ve learned (if anything), and how those changes compare with my own predictions.

If the process has been mostly positive, I’ll keep it up through October.  If not, I’ll switch things up again — maybe back to my old criteria, or maybe to something entirely new.

But that’s the future.  This is now.  So let’s connect.

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What Mashable Isn’t Telling You About Facebook

Oh, half-truths…

Yesterday, Mashable published an article on HOW TO: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page.  The post summarized a report from Buddy Media, conducted over 14 days, involving data from over 200 of its clients’ branded Facebook pages (though the exact names of the brands involved were withheld).

If you don’t already see something wrong with this picture, keep reading.

The article went on to highlight the study’s “key findings,” which amounted to the time of day most of its clients’ Facebook updates were being posted vs. the time(s) of day that Facebook’s users are actually most active.  The results?  Brands are flooding Facebook with branded messaging at all the wrong times!

(Oh noes!)

Or… are they?

Reeling in the Linkbait

I don’t work at Buddy Media, or at Mashable.  But even from here, I can guess why this article is extremely popular:

  • Brands are desperate for measurable results
  • Buddy Media needs to constantly validate its existence
  • Mashable is a page view juggernaut with expert headline optimizers

Add that all up and what you have is an “oh, that’s nice” masquerading as a “how-to.”

If you’ve read my review of Socialnomics, you already know that I’m skeptical of numbers — especially when they’re fabricated.  And I’m not saying Buddy Media’s report is.  But I am saying this report, and Mashable’s coverage of it, is laughably incomplete.

Engagement Isn’t an Alarm Clock Setting

Sure, the report implies that brands are highly active at the wrong times of day.  Fair enough.  But this doesn’t mean being more active at other times of day would be any more beneficial for any brand.  Why not?  Well, because…

  • Maybe the content in your branded updates sucks, or is irrelevant.
  • Maybe your audience wants video and you’re giving them text, or vice versa.
  • Maybe Facebook users are specifically more active at odd times BECAUSE they’re less likely to get assaulted by unwanted marketing.

Did Buddy Media (or Mashable) run a comparison study showing the impact of updating their brands’ pages at the newfound optimal times?  No.  (Though they still may.)

Did they conduct additional studies over different periods of time — say, three weeks, or six months, or a year — and see if those new findings matched the original findings?  No.  (Though they still may.)

But did Buddy Media and Mashable jump all over the results of an arbitrary two week data dredge and call it a how-to?

Yup.  (And you probably retweeted it.)

And who can blame them?  After all, why wait for long-term analysis when social media is all about now?  So, Buddy Media wisely (shrewdly?) compiled a report based on 14 days’ worth of numbers, and Mashable headlined it in such a way as to make it definitive.

Except it isn’t.

And that’s what really pisses me off about social media in general: the mad dash for validation and benchmarks based on handfuls of data rather than long-term investigation.

Reports like these are the equivalent of finding a shinbone in the woods and telling the police you found a body.

No, you found a shinbone.

Keep digging.

Meanwhile, I’m sure the following has happened:

  • Buddy Media is getting new clients because they’ve proven themselves to be a proactive business that helps their clients understand social media.
  • Mashable has received raftloads of traffic to this post, primarily from desperate gurus and project managers who need something to show the people who sign the checks.
  • These numbers are now being quoted around boardrooms (and on Slideshare) as gospel truths.  (“As reported on Mashable…”)

Meanwhile, somewhere out there, deep in the woods, the rest of the story lays buried under the surface data.

But hey, that’s not what gets clicks, right?  Because long-form analysis takes time, and we don’t have time.

We’re gurus.

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