Jerry Daykin
Jerry Daykin 18 December 2015

Marketing on Facebook: Complete DigitalSense Guide

Facebook as a platform has been on a journey to work out how it best functions as a brand marketing tool, without putting off its users in the process.

Facebook as a platform has been on a journey to work out how it best functions as a brand marketing tool, without putting off its users in the process. From initial banner ad trials, through a period of testing out engagement & conversation theories, and now back to a more ’traditional’ view of content & reach that even extends to using TV-esque terminology.

Trouble is a lot of marketers (and certainly a micro industry of experts, tools & complexities) got off at a station somewhere along that journey - Facebook themselves haven’t talked about engagement, conversation or any of those buzz words for at least 3 years now. Here’s the Complete #DigitalSense guide to realising Facebook’s full potential for brand marketing:

Like any marketing channel or activity it’s important to approach Facebook with clear objectives and purpose - and the good news is these can almost certainly be the same objectives your wider brand/campaign has. I know it’s tempting to invent some new challenges about needing to drive engagement, interaction and dialogue with consumers but let’s stick to the facts: a marketer’s job is to drive mental & physical availability of their products (as argued far better than me byByron Sharp & co) and engagement rates don’t correlate with either.

Can Facebook keep your product front of mind to your audience? Almost certainly if you reach enough of them, enough of the time, with something that’s actually memorable and tangibly linked to your brand. Can it help you get space in store or open up new channels to sell your product? Potentially  if you’re selling to some open minded retail buyers, or if fCommerce does begin to properly take off.

If you think the role of Facebook is just to drive engagement, conversation and interaction then you’re missing out and you should probably look in the mirror - when was the last time you wanted to have a casual chat with your washing powder? 

Facebook is the world’s daily newspaper, with over 1 billion people checking out their personalised copy every day. Each newsfeed is a unique blend of friends & family, passion points and some of the biggest stories of the day, all brought to life through not just powerful imagery but also video and animation which leaps right off the page. For marketers it offers a rich creative platform, in a personal & emotive setting, with interesting opportunities for targeting and of course that all important scale.

The promoted newsfeed post was a quiet revolution in the value marketers could tap into, with us no longer limited to trying to painfully build up fan audiences and speak to them. We like to bemoan how the newsfeed algorithm hides our content and lowers ’organic reach’ but this is actually a completely misunderstood fallacy, and it’s actually the sheer weight of content that drowns us out. 

The true power of Facebook lies in our ability to take any piece of content and blast it out into up to a billion of those personal newspapers, and be right there amongst their other interests of the day. On mobile promoted posts are nearly a full screen take over and innovations like autoplaying videos and swipe able slideshows give marketers the tools they need to stand out.

The need to reach enough of the right people, at the right time, with the right message and enough frequency might sound old school, but it’s more important than ever. Reach is a limiting factor to your success and to put it bluntly is 99% defined by your media investment, if you aren’t willing to put your money where your mouth is... Well then you’re not really willing to do marketing at all are you? Facebook is an effective way of achieving some key media goals, but if you’re not willing to commit to those then stop wasting your time with it, no brand ’HAS’ to be on the platform, whatever you might be told.

Big brands approaching the platform should seriously consider high level ’continuity’ approaches where they reach as much as 60% of the total ’Reach & Frequency Planner’ audience (it hits expensive CPMs above that point) once or even twice every single week. It’s far more important to think of how much of the total available audience you need to reach than any calculation involving your own follower numbers, though you’ll also find that this approach starts eating up a serious chunk of even the largest marketing budgets. Even around key campaigns reach remains more important than frequency, so push that up before you start churning out dozens of creative executions.

Facebook’s R&F planner lets us spread that scale evenly across users without driving up frequency in a way TV planners would die for. Speaking of which it’s no coincidence Facebook has launched TRPs (their equivalent to TV ratings) to help land the point they can compete with the broadcast big boys.

The reality is that few brands are able (or certainly yet willing) to invest this heavily. Scale down by reducing frequency first until it’s just one or two times a month, only then continue to scale down reach until it’s affordable for you. Even really small brands need to start acknowledging that there’s no point pumping out content which disappears into a vacuum without media support and either find some budget or quit wasting their precious time altogether.

You probably think of very niche targeting as a strength of digital, but again the evidence shows that it’s often the unexpected, light, category buyers you need to convert and so focussing in on an overly specific demographic can actually become inefficient navel gazing. The ’wastage’ when traditional media is seen by unexpected targets turns out to be quite valuable after all!

Marketing on Facebook means some new options around content & creativity, but so many rules of traditional advertising still apply and focussing on those still leads to the best results. For starters there’s no point creating content you’re not going to put media support behind, and you can definitely show the same creative more than once even then - creative frequency isn’t something that’s been well explored on Facebook, but certainly you can show a post at least twice, probably more if it’s high quality video and spread out over a good period of time.

There’s a common misconception then that you need an awful lot of content for Facebook, but churning out daily posts in the hope a few more people will see them achieves very little. As above, reach is much more of a priority than frequency and even the biggest brands would be lucky to afford two posts a week (or 8 a month). Most smaller brands realistically will afford just a couple of impressions a month and given that we can show the same creative more than once we’re looking at between 1 and 4 posts per month, at most.

To many of you that will sound shockingly low, but before you go slashing your production budgets accordingly the key thing is to elevate the quality of these posts so they’re something you’re proud to show to a few million people. Consider the wider creative opportunities of video for instance, though remember Facebook’s Autoplay approach is better at getting a few seconds of movement in front of someone than getting them to follow a much longer story. Plan for how your brand appears up front, how videos work without sound or even whether you just use the video format as a way of bringing some movement and animation to the feed. 

Make great & consistent content and tell powerful stories that people will remember. Don’t needlessly chase ’engagement’ by pandering to the latest trends, posting cute pictures with little brand relevance or jumping on every calendar event going - in fact optimising for engagement is often a short cut to completely forgetting about your marketing challenges & real communication objectives.

For the most part great content on Facebook is just great creative content, but it’s always been a uniquely personal platform and that’s even more true as it becomes more mobile. We’re not surprised to see adverts clearly aimed at very different people on TV, but in our newsfeed, surrounded by personally tailored content, they instantly feel out of place.

Facebook has famously said that people don’t complain about too many adverts in their news feeds, they compare about bad & irrelevant adverts. Using data to better understand your target audience’s passion points and then that same data to reach people with the most relevant content you create shifts Facebook from purely broadcast to a place where you can drive personal connections at scale. The scale bit remains key, and most brands who start to test out more targeted creative need to ensure they don’t lose sight of communicating with a much broader audience too.

Entire conferences, agencies & swathes of social media experts actively appose most of what I’ve laid out above and find the view of Facebook as a broadcast platform to be incredibly reductive. Sadly I’m yet to truly see a credible summary of that side of the debate but I always welcome it... I can find data (& anecdotes) that shows at a micro level interaction & engagement is persuasive, but the argument falls down when scaled up and the reality of attainable engagement levels is factored in. At a macro level meta analysis of engagement rates on Facebook campaigns vs actual sales impacts & brand results shows essentially no correlation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the interactive opportunities that Facebook offers to build connections with the few that do want it, though invest proportionally in doing so. Extending customer service operations into social platforms makes sense (and might even cut costs), and doing so with a positive tone of voice can be a powerful tool in itself. Similarly it doesn’t hurt to offer interested consumers opportunities to click through for more information, or even to directly buy, as long as you’ve got reasonable (ie low) expectations of how many will do it.

Facebook’s data can at time be overwhelming and distracting, especially when you consider how much of it is devoted to tracking the types of engagement & digital action that they would themselves argue don’t link to results. I suggest taking a step back and again layering on a traditional view of marketing success built on Reach, Resonance & Reaction.

It’s important to understand how many people you’ve reached, who they are and how often. Facebook’s native tools do a pretty good job at this, but you can also run 3rd party verification through partners like Neilssen, who can often also compare the unique reach vs other media types.

Rather than looking at the visible engagement & digital actions you need to truly understand how your content is shifting opinions around your brand, and also whether it’s standing out and is memorable. Unfortunately the weekly or monthly social media reports that we’ve grown used to rarely give a read on this. Facebook does offer survey based measurement approaches for large campaigns, though take any single source measure with a pinch of salt. You may find whatever normal brand tracking or measurement you carry out can capture your Facebook activity once it’s happening at scale, and if you include example creatives in any research.

Understanding if all that has had a direct reaction on your sales is the holy grail, and remains a tricky thing to do even in this digital world. As people shift towards eCommerce and mobile payments this loop gets easier to measure but there are some ways to do this already. Facebook for instance offers its biggest FMCG advertisers measurement methodologies which use loyalty card or panel data to capture the impact of the platform.

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