The term 'Relationship' Engine is certainly not a new term. It is one that is possibly underused when considering the importance of social media in business, especially where advertising plays out. The key take aways from this article will be the following:
- Think relationship engine, not a sales engine
- Put authenticity before authority
- Socialize rather than advertise
- Separate social goals from sales goals
- Use social metrics for social goals
- Use conversion metrics for sales goals.
Authenticity before Authority
Not many businesses on-line have the luxury of being order takers; Meaning they sell stuff you either want or don't want – no big decision involved or real concern other than the validity of the business and its reputation. Most businesses though have to jump through plenty of hoops to get visitors to their site and engage with them, ultimately buying something.
For these businesses, building on-line relationships with potential customers has become an essential part of internet business life. Just expecting people to turn up on your site and purchase isn't realistic anymore. You may have an authoritative site and expect people to buy from you, but people expect you to prove authenticity too.
Using paid advertising in social media venues such as Facebook yields very mixed results. Expecting social media users to click on ads in the same way they might on paid ads in search engines pages, is likely to be met with disappointment. Social venues require trust and authenticity to be validated first. Focus first on building an authentic relationship with your target market rather than espousing details of your product. Once people 'know' you, they will more likely listen to you.
Social media helps build authenticity by building relationships others can see and trust. However, is there 'trouble at mill' looming?
Brands Rejecting Facebook Advertising?
News about big brands adopting social media is not new. News about big brands ditching certain forms of social media advertising is big news. This is because this type of advertising is still relatively new. So when a car manufacturer like GM says it's done with Facebook advertising, one's ears prick up.
Ironically, some brands, like Ford, choose to launch the entire product lines on Facebook before even engaging 'above-the-line' advertising. Ford Explorer is an example. By all accounts it was quite successful with visits to their Pages increasing by over 100% and Ford's share of the SUV shoppers market increasing by 52% – you can 'Google that.'
What is wrong with Facebook advertising then? What is so wrong with the potential of getting your message out to close on 1 / 7th of the planet's population 'For Free?'
Actually, nothing at all. There are two distinct approaches being made. One leverages the power of 'targeted advertising' and the other 'relationship marketing.' Each is measured differently and therefore use different metrics. 'Social goals' have been separated from 'sales goals.' Brands that complain that their ads don't generate enough sales might want to consider whether their ads are misplaced, change their expectations and consider switching to relationship marketing instead. After all relationships are what Facebook is all about. Try using ads to 'socialize your message' rather than 'advertise your product.'
Paid advertising campaigns such as Facebook ads also fall prey to that old phrase "People love to buy, but hate to be sold to." It's not so bad using Google AdWords, a bit expensive maybe, but at least people using Google are already searching for something and expect to be sold to. Their tolerance for ads is usually higher, and they can just ignore them.
With Facebook however, the ads appear on a user's own profile pages. Somehow this always felt a little more intrusive. They can also be uncannily accurate, a bit like opening the refrigerator for some milk to find the man from the Milk Marketing Board handing you your milk; all testimony to the information Facebook pulls from your interactions.
Combine that with what seems a growing mistrust for Facebook's regard to your privacy and what tidbits or personal habit information they choose to provide advertisers with and you wind up with users doing their best to ignore the ads altogether.
The numbers seem to bear this out; Impressions with Facebook ads can be enormous, often hundreds of millions in quite a short period if you have a broad reaching product campaign. Click throughs' though are very low, often way less than 0.1%. It does improve with more targeted campaigns. Google AdWords though, often achieves between 0.5% and 2% depending on your campaign. Much more like direct mail.
Facebook Advertising and TV Advertising
Even when people are watching TV, they probably have one eye on their mobile Facebook app. Ironically, because people may not be clicking on the ads perhaps we should look at Facebook ads a bit more like ads on TV; They can be really annoying and we tend to do something else while they are on, but they do register somewhere in the brain subconsciously. You may wonder why when walking down a supermarket isle a product seems familiar to you even though you have never used it? Better still, Facebook ads don't stop us from watching something unlike TV ads, plus, we can track them way better.
A better strategy for Facebook is focusing on creating relationships, not selling via ads. If you want to use ads, change your goal and use ads as a social messenger, offering information rather than deals. Develop long relationships with a fan base, who may eventually buy something from you, or recommend your business to somebody else.
Turn Your Campaign Focus Back To Relationship Building
Use Facebook as a 'Relationship Engine', not a 'Sales Engine' and don't expect the same type of ROI you might expect from a paid 'Search Engine' campaign. Modify your metrics to monitor the spread of your message – how it is socialized, where your business is 'mentioned', the general 'buzz' in the market place about you. Use the analytics data to measure 'social metrics' where social goals are concerned. Identify correlations between surges in Social Media campaigns and customer growth, particularly for seasonal products. Then use 'conversion metrics' to measure sales goals. Trying to relate social visits directly to products sold, may work for some businesses, but may not be the best performance measure for your business. If you do, set your expectations accordingly.
Lastly, your message takes time to propagate. This often means that for seasonal campaigns you may not see a huge uptick in traffic or sales the first time round, it may come later, perhaps in the next season's campaign.
Companies like Ford know that deals are inked on the forecourt, not online. They use social media to get people to the forecourt, you should too.