Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Facebook Sponsored Stories How are they doing?

Back in the depths of winter Facebook announced that it was going to launch Facebook Sponsored Stories.  This sparked a lot of noise around intrusion of privacy, turning users/friends in to spammers and a number of other hysterical responses.  After the dust settled, the marketeers took to the web and initial views were quite positive, with many saying it was the natural evolution of Facebook Ads.  A recent review by industry mag NMA claim that Sponsored Stries are 46% more effctive than standard Facebook ads

Just in case you aren’t sure quite what Facebook Sponsored Stories are then here is my brief summary.  Sponsored stories are linked to friends timelines and they show a brand when that brand is mentioned by your friend on your news feed.  For example, if Starbucks were utilising sponsored stories and your friend mentioned Starbucks in their activity the ad (sponsored story) would appear.  The rule states that brands cannot control the story they can only associate with actions.  Here is an example unashamedly stolen from Mashable.  This news feed example is just that, advertisers can choose what actiosn they want to associate, e.g. specific actions in an app

Starbucks News Feed Story

How a story would look, followed by an example of a sponsored story

Starbucks Sponsored Story

As this demonstrates the sponsor (in this case) Starbucks doesn’t really interfere with the original message, which has meant user feedback to Facebook hasn’t been as negative as first feared.  The other positive behind Facebook Stories compared to Twitter‘s sponsored Tweets is that Stories is user-generated providing a lower feeling of intrusion, whereas Twitter’s version is Advertiser generated and in theory could and often has no relevance to the user.

The key point behind sponsored stories if you are considering them for your brand or clients is that they cannot link out of Facebook.  Consequently this isn’t a direct traffic driver to a latest offer you may have on your site.  However it can increase fans and engagement with your brand on Facebook.

The other benefit to page owners, is that not all your fans have the same privacy settings.  Just because somebody ‘Likes’ your page it doesn’t mean they will see all of your content.  Using the Starbucks example above if the user had put on their settings they didn’t want to see your photos, sponsored stories can associate those photos with that user, which means they will see them.

Perhaps the biggest issue users may have as more advertisers jump on Sponsored Stories is the fact that they can’t opt out and prevent their image being used.   The ony option is to click the X button and remvoe the story.

To clarify there are seven types of sponsored stories, we have detailed the type of Sponsored story – Story Content – Who sees the story:

1. Page Like – Somebody Likes Your Page – Friends of Your Fans

2. Page Post – Published a post from your page to your fans – Your Fans

3.  Page Post Like – One of your fans liked your post in last 7 days – Friends of the Fan who liked your post

4. App Used and Game Played – Somebody used your app or played your game twice in last month – User friends

5. App Shared – Somebody shared a story from your app in last 7 days – The sharers friends

6. Check-in – Somebody checked in and claimed a deal in last 7 days in your Facebook Places – The claimers friends

7. Domain – Somebody liked, shared or pasted a link to content on your site in past 7 days – The sharer’s friends

Based on the current reaction and the reported increase in effectiveness I would definitely consider using this as a tool.  Potentially at present to increase the Facebook following of a brand, however I’m sure as thigns evolve more options will present themselves.  This is obviously a personal view but it seems to be one that supports Facebook’s desire of not wanting to be seen purely as a DR advertising platform.  Their goal is to get their hands on some of that lucrative brand marketing cash that is still pretty much firmly locked in to established agencies and TV advertising.  Who knows this may help to break some of that stranglehold.


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Measuring Return On Social Media

Measuring Return on Social Media Presence

This has been the fear/worry/challenge/competitive edge of almost every company that has any form of social media presence.  From a simple company Facebook page to a fully integrated Social Media strategy.  Speak to a number of agencies or many online marketers and they will tell you it can’t be measured beyond the simple metrics such as number of fans or followers.  Perhaps at the incubation stage and to a degree the baby stage that was correct.  However now social media has grown up a little, into a healthy little toddler things have changed.

In theory you can’t directly measure the impact of a brand TV commercial, but companies do.  It is the same for social media.

Remember the strategy

A lot of talk is around the utopian idea of getting an ROI from your social media spend or presence.  However for some brands this isn’t just a case of pounds in the till Vs pounds handed out to agencies or media owners such as MySpace.  As with any channel development or Marketing activity, you need to understand what you want to get out of your social media presence.  Your strategy may be a simple one that only looks at your impact within the channel, therefore a basic upwards trending number of fans may suffice.  Your strategy maybe to increase UVs to your core website, as such you need to measure the referrals from your social media presence.  Like a TV ad you maye be trying to influence brand perception so you would look at traditional brand metrics such as awareness and consideration.  Some strategies require an emphasis on loyalty or ROI, these can be much more difficult to prove, however not impossible.

Just consider before developing any tactics or implementation, what your objectives and goals are.  Then measure.

Understanding the basics

When measuring against any goals you need to understand what is your norm or otherwise known as the baseline.  You need to look at any pre-strategy figures and work out your norm, or the contribution you can expect without implementing your strategy.  This baseline should be measured over a long period of time to take into account one-off fluctuations, seasonality and peaks – you should then use a trend line and determine your norm.

Once you have claculated your norm, it is easier to determine what the goals from your objectives should be.  If for instance your site has 10,000 UVs a week then to expect a 100% uplift from a strong social media strategy may not be impossible.  However if your site gets 100,000 UVs a week, it may be more difficult to gain a 100% uplift, although not impossible.  This seems really basic stuff but it is often forgotten. I have spoken to Managing Directors and Marketing Directors that think because there are millions of people on social network they should be talking telephone numbers in terms of traffic uplift, sadly it doesn’t work like that.  It may be easier to get a massive groundswell if your activity is in the channel the people use, you could get a massive following on Twitter as the people are already there and its their environment, rather than expecting them to come to you.

Anyway, once you know the norm of whatever metric you want to track you can more easily identify any uplift from your activity.  However it may not be all down to the new strategy, other factors might be in play, that is why it is advisable to implement a good web analytics tool.  Omniture is widely regarded as one of the better packages along with Coremetrics, however if you have your own site or limited budget then Google Analytics may suffice.

OK, but now what?

So you know what you want to get out of your strategy and you have worked out the basics, but now what?  Sit back and watch everything work away and drive you towards your goals or personal bonus.  Not eaxactly.  Sometimes people expect immediate results.  Stick it on Facebook and they will come.  If they don’t see an uplift straight away, the strategy has failed.  Wrong.  Well potentially wrong.  Remember when working in social channels you are entering the end users territory.  You have to earn the right to be there.  Give them something to talk about, make yourself interesting, but don’t make things up.

So what do I do?

Don’t look at things with immediacy in mind.  When you create a coupon for your affiliate network or raise your bid caps in Google you can often see an immediate (or quick) effect.  However you need a longer view with Social and you need to look at things outside of your specific influence.  A great area to explore is Social Media Influence or Buzz Metrics.  There are various tools and service with varying levels of robustness and credibility.  In the UK there are market leaders such as Market Sentinel and Nielsen Buzz Metrics.  There are also some freebie or cheaper tools such as Viral Heat and PostRank Analytics.  These cheaper tools are sometimes less robust or feature on a specific platform such as Twendz.  What all of these tools have in common is that to varying degrees they track what is being said about your brand or site on other platforms rather than just looking at core measures such as visits or upstream and downstream traffic.

The majority measure trends and SoV, some measure snetiment and others rank influence on brands and/or topics.  All of these are important as although your activity may not imemdiately increse traffic, it may improve the sentiment towards your brand, increasing peoples’ perception of your brand and in turn increase their potential to engage or buy.  These tools can also aid your search activity.  As product or brand experts you might think you know what people type in about your brand, however more comprehensive tools help you identify what people are typing or saying about your product.  Giving you more insight into which words you you optimise or focus on in paid search.

But can I make money from it?

Well as I wrote at the beginning of the piece remember what your objectives are.  The short answer is yes, you can make money from social media and yes social media can increase users propensity to buy, however your activity may not lend itself to that.  But various surveys have taken place that demonstrate you can specifically get an ROI from your social media presence.  According to a recent survey by eMarketer, c. 51% of US internet users are likely buy from at least one brand since becoming a fan on Facebook.   When it comes to would they recommend to a friend the number increases to 60%.  That is one indication of an increased propensity to buy.

Before you all clamber out and create or refresh your Facebook page, Forrester outlined a stark statistic.  More than one third of online users visit at least one brands social media presence, yet less than half rated the experience rated their experience as having a positive influence.  One method that the likes of Starbucks and Dell use within their social media presence is exclusive offers and promotions.  It is this sense of providing something special for fans that makes the experience positive and influence future buying behaviour.