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Keeping Us On Our Toes: 3 New Changes to Facebook Ads in the last Month

While we’re fortunate to have a close relationship with Facebook and sometimes hear of new changes before it’s widely announced, I think we can all agree that the site keeps us on our toes. Changes to the newsfeed, updates to the ad platform, profile redesigns, algorithm tweaks – it’s a lot to juggle.

In the last month alone, there have been three new announcements regarding Facebook advertising. If you’re not up to speed, we break it down for you:

Larger Ads in the Right Rail

Larger right-rail ads

Image credit: Facebook

Domain ads will be getting a makeover in the coming weeks (for some) and through the rest of the year (for others).

  • Right-hand-side ads will be larger.
  • The proportions of these ads will mimic those in the newsfeed.
  • As a user, you’ll see fewer ads on the right hand side.

Facebook expects this rollout will mean improved performance for advertisers; early tests showed up to 3X more engagement from folks who experienced the new design.

Another benefit for advertisers? You won’t have to select new images specifically for the right hand placement; your images there mirror the shape of those in the newsfeed, so the same creative can be used in both.

Auto-Play Video Ads

Video ads are on their way. For advertisers, this gives you another avenue to execute creativity and even more opportunity to connect directly with users. For users, Facebook is working on executing video ads so that they will not be an annoying disruption to the experience. Let us be clear: auto play does not ≠ auto sound. These ads will be muted until a user clicks on them.

Another level of quality Facebook is adding to the offering:

  • Measurement of ad delivery will be conducted by Nielsen
  • Ace Metrics reviews all video ads for quality and potential engagement level

Video ads won’t be available to just anyone on their self-service platform (or through Nanigans) anytime soon, however. Mashable reports the ad units cost between $1-2.5 million, though other reports report the bargain price of $600,000. As soon as we know more information, we’ll update you.

Expanded Language Preferences for Hispanic Audiences

Hispanic targeting on Facebook

Image credit: MarketingPilgrim

Facebook added three language preferences to its ad targeting for brands marketing to U.S.-based Hispanics: Spanish-dominant, bilingual, and English-dominant. These are an extension of the US Hispanic affinity segment, which gives marketers the ability to reach more than 23 million people in the US interested in Hispanic content. Now your messages can be made even more relevant in the languages hat matter to their audiences.

From Facebook, regarding a test campaign they did with a national CPG brand: “Compared to its general marketing efforts, the Spanish-dominant and bilingual targets helped the company see up to 40% increases in engagement.”

How Facebook is Changing the Role of Social Media Marketer

The role of the social media marketer is one that faces constant change. New social networks emerging, new content platforms to consider, new changes to existing social media standards – there’s little relief from the challenging barrage of best practices to keep up with as you develop and manage a solid social media strategy.

Juggling Facebook's latest changesFacebook is often a significant player in these strategies; it’s pretty tough to ignore the fact that the site is nearing 1.5 billion users. As we’ve learned year over year, those behind the curtain are always striving to provide the best experience to users while uncovering more opportunities to make money from advertisers, and are never shy to make significant changes to get it juuust riiiiight. As a result, social media marketers who are responsible for managing their business’ presence on Facebook are constantly juggling the site’s requirements, the latest suggestions on how businesses can (or should) engage, their brands’ identity, and the effort behind developing the content and offers that engage their customers and audiences.

Phew. It’s a lot.

The role of the social media marketer continues to be influenced by Facebook. Here’s the latest skill set a marketer must have in order to play nicely with the social giant:

Social media purists will need to embrace Facebook advertising.

With Facebook’s recent algorithm change, which shows your page’s posts organically to just 1-2% of people who like your Facebook page, social media managers and community managers will need to invest time and money into understanding the role of paid Facebook advertising and promoted posts in their strategy. Ignore at your own peril, but the free ride on Facebook is over, and it’s time to find some budget to spend to help you build on the momentum you’ve already started there. Perhaps you move some other under-performing marketing budget to Facebook advertising, or you come up with enough of a test budget to start getting familiar with the dashboard.

The targeting available through Facebook is light years ahead of some other advertising options – we’re talking limitless number of combinations to ensure you reach the exact profile of customer who will engage with your business. Think about all the organic efforts you’re working on and use this as an opportunity to augment and complement those efforts. Use Facebook’s unbelievable targeting to put your message, your offer, your most important content in front of the exact people that need to see it to activate them in a way that organic efforts haven’t been able to.

Marketers need to know the right way to reach fans organically

To maximize that organic reach – and to keep some level of freshness with your brand identity for people who check out your Facebook page unprompted – you’ll need to keep new, interesting, fun, relevant content posted to your page’s feed. The question is, which content is that?

Images

Images account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. Images have become much larger in the newsfeed, with Facebook’s latest redesign clearly promoting the more eye-catching and interesting image posts that span the width of your mobile newsfeed and are prominently displayed on computer newsfeeds. What’s more, you’d do well to share albums, as collections of images give users even more opportunity to engage.

Links

Facebook recently reported that when links are shared (the full URL, by the way, not a shortened link), and are accompanied by the preview that shows an image, link title, and description, they perform better for page administrators than a text status that includes the URL. Why does Facebook want you to click links that drive you off their platform? Facebook wants to be known as a hub for good information, which is why they’re starting to show more link updates than before.

Not Text-Only Updates

Gone are the days of text-only updates that end with a question, prompting your fans to like, comment, and answer (and drive up your engagement numbers). No longer should you post an inspired quote, capitalizing on a famous author’s birthday, or borrowing our forefathers’ words to describe your company’s view on current events. Facebook dialed back these types of posts from the newsfeed because, while they may be engaging, they didn’t inspire users themselves to contribute more status updates on their own pages.

Facebook’s mobile stickiness changes the game for social strategists.

296 million people access Facebook from their phone ONLY. No laptop, no desktop, but rather a 4 X 2+ inch screen from which to consume all of the information they get from Facebook. This should not be new advice, but marketers have to consider how their content displays on mobile devices. This means keeping mobile in mind at the time of content creation (are your images sized properly? is your website responsive? does it load quickly?), all the way through posting it and formatting it for optimized rendering – properly sized images, truncated titles and descriptions, and succinct but powerful copy to accompany your posts are all needed to grab the attention of the quick-scrolling mobile user.

Mobile use generates 30% of the site’s ad revenue as well. Facebook made nearly as much in Q4 2013 as it did with mobile AND desktop in Q4 2012. If social media marketers haven’t yet figured it out, advertising to Facebook’s mobile users provides an unparalleled opportunity to build your brand and acquire customers.

In what other ways has Facebook had you reconsider what’s important as a social media marketer?

3 Reasons Facebook Restricting Organic Reach for Pages is Good for Your Business

Over the last few years, many companies have been challenged to optimize their brand’s presence in Facebook’s newsfeed which, to date, had only been showing their business page’s updates organically to about 16% of their Facebook fans. That number can be pretty insignificant if you don’t have a lot of ‘likes’ to begin with. If few people are seeing your content on Facebook now, getting that number to grow is about to become a bit more expensive.

Over the course of the coming months, Facebook’s throttling their algorithm to show business page updates to a mere to 1-2% TOTAL of your Facebook fans. The “why?” is easy to answer: because they have stockholders to answer to. Because it means there’s a direct way to make money from businesses who, until now, had been getting a free ride to promote their businesses to customers.

At first, you may be thinking one of two things:

  1. See ya, Facebook.
  2. Crap, this is not something I budgeted for. How much is this gonna cost me?

But the truth is, this is a good thing. A lot of businesses have been phoning it in on Facebook, posting only content and things that matter to their business and don’t necessarily bring value to their customers. They’ve been focusing only on how many likes their page has because they think that’s the true measure of success for a company on Facebook. (It’s not.)

Why should you feel pleased about this change? It’ll take some work, but your company has everything to gain.

Reason #1: You’ll think about how to get others to share your content.

If you hadn’t already been concerned with this, Facebook slashing your page’s organic reach should have you thinking, “hmm, then how can I get my customers and other people to share my stuff on their own feeds?” There’s the simple answer that the marketing industry loves to defer to: “create really good content!” and then the complex (but more accurate) answer that we provide: Create really interesting, engaging, hilarious, memorable, educational, helpful content that serves as a utility for customers, and then get that content in the hands of people who will do business with you.

“Create really good content!” is fluffy and sounds easy, but it takes a lot of work. That second part – get your content in the hands of people who need it – is where the magic happens. What good is creating good content if nobody’s there to read it and take action on it?

Also, make it stupidly easy to share your content. Put share buttons throughout your site, maybe even give your audience incentives to tell their friends (coupons, discounts, entries into a giveaway perhaps), and make your content worth sharing! If you have to pull teeth to get people to take action, something’s not clicking.

Oh – and it’s worth mentioning – the content and “good stuff” you’re creating? It should be housed on your website. A website you own and control and can track. If all the stuff you’re putting out there is solely on Facebook, you’re back to square one and will be forced to pay to have people see it in the first place.

Reason #2: You’ll be smarter about your Facebook ad spend.

This is a two-part benefit:

  1. You may consider moving some other non-performing marketing budget to a high-return medium like Facebook advertising. There is no doubt that the targeting available through Facebook is light years ahead of some other paid media offerings. To be able to target based on age, location, gender, interests & likes, employer, device, purchasing habits, likeness to your current customers (via lookalike audiences), their status in your CRM database (via custom audiences), and other highly efficient targeting options puts so much power in your hands. You can deliver extremely relevant and profitable communications to exactly the type of person you want. How in control do you feel running banner ads based on traffic numbers and a general audience profile? Our guess is not very.
  2. You’ll stop buying Facebook likes. (Please tell me you’ll stop buying Facebook likes.) Hopefully this throttle that Facebook’s doing will break people of the belief that they need to have a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook to show they’re being successful. Instead, you should pay for exposure in other ways that actually have a direct impact on your business. Pay to expose your awesome content (see Reason #1) to the kind of people that will directly benefit from it. Pay to acquire new leads and customers and send them directly into your funnel (or directly to a product purchase page). Pay for installations of your app. Pay to drive eyeballs and participants to an important cause or event. Use your spend wisely to reach the numbers and metrics you need in order to move your business forward. Since only 1-2% of your Facebook fans will organically see your content moving forward, paying for likes still leaves you to pay for promoted posts in order to activate those new eyeballs you just acquired.

Reason #3: You’re forced to think holistically about your social media efforts.

If you’ve put all your eggs in the Facebook basket, it’s time to diversify. You don’t want Facebook to have control over your entire social media strategy (because, if that’s been the case so far, your strategy has now become pay-to-play). There are so many other ways to connect with your customers. Don’t know which channels to participate in? Survey your customers, find out where they spend time. Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, niche forums and message boards, YouTube? Lots of opportunity there. Using these channels will expose you to new audiences and will force you to be a bit more creative and transparent in your communications, two things that your customers will appreciate.

Repeat after us: Everything will be okay. There are many ways to play nicely with this move from Facebook, and your business will be better for it.

What were your initial reactions when you heard of Facebook’s plan to charge pages? Are you changing your strategy, and plan to spend some money to get visibility, or will you look to other channels to get your message out to customers? 

 

Why It’s Time to Dip a Toe in Mobile Marketing

If it seems like every other day, some report comes out announcing the growth of mobile, it’s because it’s really happening.

In the last week alone, there were three that we came across.

Mobile E-Commerce Trends

Custora’s data says that mobile accounted for a third of January’s online transactions. The company’s data revealed 20% of online orders occurred on an Android device, up 6% from last January. 20% may not seem like a lot but remember  it’s the Average Order Value (AOV) that matters more than total number of transactions from either device. Any efforts to drive sales should consider audience and device so you can see clearly see how that channel performs for your business.

E-commerce Transactions for January 2014 by Mobile Device

Global Mobile Usage

The Pew Research Center looked at 24 emerging markets and found that, while mobile phone ownership is nearly ubiquitous in the markets studied, smartphone penetration is well below 50% of mobile users in most of these countries.

InMobi asserts that, in emerging and less affluent markets, mobile media time exceeds the PC internet (this also applies to the US, though TV trumps both PC & mobile still as primary screen for our media consumption). This report also found that, in the same emerging markets, 83% of consumers plan to conduct mobile commerce in the next year.

Average Media Consumption per Day

If your audience is global, get ready for huge opportunities as mobile internet access numbers grow.

Time to Get Mobile

Mobile can’t be an afterthought anymore. There are too many giant, flashing arrows pointing toward mobile as the place where people are doing business, buying goods, sharing content, and conducting research.

So how can you optimize your brand’s marketing for mobile? Here are two ways you can dive into mobile marketing:

  • Facebook advertising targeted toward mobile handsets. Nearly one-half of Facebook’s mobile users access the site from their mobile device exclusively. Mobile-optimized Facebook ads are huge (as in, giant in size, since they take up nearly the whole cell phone screen). Coupled with the advanced targeting options available through the Facebook ads, average industry click-through rates and lower CPCs are all the proof you need that there’s a ripe opportunity for every kind of business.
  • Mobile Search/PPC. Mobile optimized targeted campaigns see 11.5% higher click throughs than non-optimized efforts, and mobile searches themselves have quadrupled in the last 3 months. Jump on this effort if you’re a local business in particular, as Click-To-Call actions could be a huge driver of customers for you.

Now, depending on your objectives and your audience, you may not need an entirely mobile optimized site right this very moment, but for most companies, you should put it on your “must have” list for this year. A responsive website ensures that your site renders in the best possible format for the device your customer is on; it also enables a seamless experience for customers who interact with your mobile marketing and want to take that next step on your site.

As consumer engagement continues to shift toward mobile devices, many companies have already started to put their strategies into action. Mobile marketing was once a “nice to have”, but it’s quickly become an crucial part of successful marketing programs.

Why Guest Blogging is Still Valuable

Matt Cutts has been keeping us busy lately.

As he frequently does, Google’s head of search spam has come out with a number of statements lately that answer questions about what the search engine values, now and in the future.

Guest Blogging for SEO

Last week, Cutts posted on his personal blog, advising webmasters (does anyone actually have that title anymore?) to no longer use guest blogging as a way to gain links. We thought this was common sense, but it’s clear that marketers are still submitting crappy, low-quality content to crappy, low-quality sites (or high-authority sites with seemingly low standards) to simply to get that link back to their site, otherwise the announcement wouldn’t have to be made.

But here’s the thing: we’d argue that guest blogging is still incredibly valuable. We’re not saying Matt Cutts disagrees – in fact, he clarifies toward the end of his post he does still see value in guest blogging – but it seems that his big statement overshadowed the fact that contributing content to other sites is done for a number of reasons.

Contributed content is still valuable, just not for link juice.

Contributed Content for Brand Awareness & Thought Leadership

Public relations professionals have long used bylines as a way of getting exposure for their clients, particularly in high-profile publications that have strong, targeted readership. Positioning executives as thought leaders (as long as the contributed piece is written thoughtfully, intelligently) builds clout for that client, builds exposure for the brand, and extends a brand’s reach by puts your ideas and products in front of a new, captivated audience.

Contributed Content to Drive Traffic

When done right, contributed posts can also be a good source of traffic. The formula for traffic from a contributed blog post is this:

3 parts insightful, funny, educational, inspiring content + 3 parts targeted, relevant (and fairly sizeable) audience + 1 part kick ass call to action = quality traffic back to your site.

Ok, that’s not a scientific statement or a slam-dunk approach, but you get what we’re saying. In general, having all three of those items SHOULD send some quality traffic your way.

Guest blogging is something that we will still build into our process for clients because there are still tangible benefits to spending the time doing it. We don’t view it as just a tactic, but rather a viable way to help clients get found online.

What’s your take? How does contributed content fit into your strategy in light of Cutts’ latest recommendations?

PPC vs. SEO: Which One is Better?

The answer: Neither. Both PPC and SEO accomplish different things for different companies, but one approach is not better than the other. Luckily, PPC and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive efforts. In fact, using both together makes your site pretty attractive to Google.

Found this great analogy below from David McBee: SEO is like a diet; PPC is like plastic surgery. Perfect theme, this being January and folks are working on their New Years’ Resolutions and all.

So which one will you be working on this year – the diet or the quick fix? Or, are you doing a little of both? 

SEO vs PPC Infographic: SEO is like a diet, PPC is like plastic surgery.

Top Ranking Factors: 5 Things You Have to Do in 2014 To Rank Well in Search Engines

Climbing to the Top: Ranking Factors for 2014The end of the year is approaching, and it’s only appropriate that we review the top ranking factors of 2013. Earlier this fall, Searchmetrics released the findings from a study of 300,000 URLs to find out what high ranking webpages had in common over the last year. From here, it’s easy to determine what you’ll need to focus on in 2014 in order to rank high in Google and Bing. These things are non-optional:

1. Social Sharing Matters

You have to enable your customers, fans, and other audiences to share your content across social networks (particularly Google+ and Facebook). Social signals closely linked to higher rankings in Searchmetrics report. Here’s the rub: unless you’re Apple, you won’t be able to build an army of vocal advocates without participating in social media yourself. Time to get active.

2. Build Backlinks

You have to get other sites to link to your website. The key here is quality. Build links organically, from a variety of sources over time. Purchasing links from low-quality sites and link farms will not only not improve your search rankings, it will harm your ability to rank high.

3. Content Development

You must develop quality content, which includes images and video. Hire someone in house, or contract the writing externally (we know some folks). It’s no longer an option. No quality content = no high rankings.

4. Get the Lead Out

You must sweat your site speed. Work on improving it. Of all the technical factors that go into running a high-ranking website, this isn’t the most important one (technically), but it’s an absolute requirement. Even more importantly, as users try to access your site on mobile devices, they’re likely to bail if your site takes forever to load properly. (Bonus tip for great user experience: Adopt a responsive design for your website).

5. Back to the Basics

Get SEO technical basics down pat. This won’t necessarily make you rank high, but it won’t negatively impact you. You must have these basics in place if you want to have any chance of ranking high for targeted keyword phrases. Using proper keywords, optimized formatting, shorter URLs, quick load times, clean up broken links, improve crawl errors, etc. Get these right, or all the time you’ll spend working hard to rank high will be for naught.

Image source: 1000lifelessons.com