Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Use your common sense

Earlier this week Forrester analyst Nate Elliott released another one of his bi-annual “Facebook is failing marketers” reports that takes aim squarely at Twitter and Facebook when it comes to marketing tactics. In our experience, these so-called reports have been overly broad generalizations with questionable advice and based on sampling, statistical and analytical foibles, according to statisticians.

Last week, Facebook announced that beginning in January of 2015, it will be cracking down on purely promotional content coming from brands; with limited real estate in the News Feed, Facebook realizes that people want meaningful content, not sales-y product pushing.

In an incendiary blog post (not their first - see Commentary section here), Forrester falsely claimed that “Facebook has finally killed organic reach,” in an effort to gain publicity for its report. It worked, as a number of outlets – including the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company – picked up on it. The report noted the flagging organic reach of Facebook posts, which has been a real concern, but the latest move by Facebook certainly does not "kill" organic reach. If you read about the changes closely, it simply penalizes brands that are using Facebook incorrectly.

While this may seem extreme, it's been required because of so many brands posting promotional content; i.e. Facebook isn't failing marketers - marketers have been failing Facebook.

When content aligns with what consumers want to see, organic reach can go through the roof. And then, material that is proven to be contextually relevant organically can be promoted with paid media to expose it to an even wider audience - something we recommend and help execute for our clients at SHIFT.

Forrester's report, "Social Relationship Strategies That Work," warns brands away from Facebook and Twitter, based partly on its survey results in which Forrester asked 4,529 online adults, “In which of the following ways to you keep in touch with brands that you like or that you purchase from regularly?”

While the report suggests putting more effort into your own website and email (owned media), it also suggests giving up Facebook (rented media) - or at least not making Facebook the center of your marketing efforts. Looking at the above numbers and using Forrester's logic, one might wonder why a brand would want a mailing list, mobile app or SMS.

At SHIFT, we're fully committed to an integrated approach that includes multiple aspects of communications and marketing and the digital and social media that connect them. To completely ignore any segment - particularly a significant one - is to have an incomplete strategy.

We share Forrester's notion that a web presence must have more social integration to make it effective and that you should exert as much control as you can over your own properties. Here are our recommendations:

Understand your audience

It's absolutely critical to know who you're reaching or who you want to reach, as well as the platforms on which they spend their time. Having a fine-tuned analytics backend (such as Google Analytics or Omniture) baked into your site is a first step to understanding where they're coming from. It's equally as important to be up to speed with the various changes that Google makes that affect search results to your site as well.

The Forrester report notes that a branded community is a better solution because a Sony Playstation microsite gained 4.5 million pageviews (an outdated metric, perhaps?). However, they don't manage to explain exactly where those views came from. A quick glance shows that Sony Playstation's Facebook page has over 4.7 million likes. Were those Facebook fans partially responsible for the eyeballs on the site? Perhaps. But a comprehensive audit would be more telling.

Focus on quality content

You're not going to get eyeballs (if that indeed is your metric of choice) if you don't know what people want. Whether you're posting on Facebook, your website or a branded community, content matters. Storytelling, emotional connection with your readers or viewers and the ability to develop relationships with them over time are the hallmarks of the progressive marketer. Yes, you'll want to customize that content for the unique audiences on each platform, but without a story that matters to them, you'll be dissatisfied with every platform you're on.

This whole "dump Facebook" mantra is a red herring. It's a tendency to throw Facebook under the bus because of poor quality content created by marketers. Facebook is constantly developing products and tweaking the News Feed to benefit users, and marketers hold some accountability in that formula as well. If the lazy brands want to reuse content from other sites, post it and run away without engaging or gleaning insights from the data, then they deserve the paltry results they get.

Know your goals

No single site or platform is a panacea; each has its own purpose, just as a press release, launch event and Sunday circular have their uses. The tools and platforms you select should match your needs, whether it's brand building, awareness, reputation, lead generation or sales. For most companies, social networks have been much better at assisting with the upper funnel - awareness and brand communications. But if done correctly with the right content and other integrated owned properties, they can be shown to work.

Integration counts

In our experience, using each platform in a silo will yield limited results. If you know what you're doing and can derive insights from your data, you can achieve a greater outcome. For example, combining your email database with Facebook or Twitter for more targeted audience opportunities will result in fewer wasted marketing dollars. An audit of all of your activities - online and offline, paid, earned and owned media - is a powerful way to glean data and develop insights that can lead to more intelligent ways to assign your resources.

As with everything, moderation is key. Knowing what you're trying to achieve and who you need to reach is a first step in developing a comprehensive and integrated strategy in paid, earned, owned and rented media.

This post originally appeared on the SHIFT Communications blog.

Image source: Hillary (Flickr)

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