How often do you use demographics and stats when creating social media content? Me? I love data and use information like this all the time. Why? I use it to make better business and marketing decisions. It makes my content and content strategy more effective.
Demographics and Social Media Content Creation
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that a simple list of statistics will guarantee the success of my content, but it definitely helps. Combined with the profiles of my target audience, and what’s popular on my chosen social networks, I use demographic details to:
- Choose the right social network for my business, my target audience and the content I’m creating.
- Find topics users will be most interested in.
- Determine the appropriate readability level.
- Identify what kind of tone, voice and style will make the audience most receptive to what I have to say.
- Discover which examples and imagery readers will best understand.
- Learn what kind of pain points and problems my target audience may have.
A Comprehensive Report on Social Media Users
If you’d like to download a copy of the social media report and statistics, you can do so over at the Pew Internet & American Life Project website. Have you found any useful statistics that you could share with us? How do you use them?
Why I Don’t Use Posterous Like Sites
I guess I just don’t see much point to these sorts of sites. Sure, they have a few benefits (I’ll get to that in a minute), but if you’ve got your own website, what’s the point?
Publishing to third-party sites drives traffic to third-party sites. Sure, some of it will filter through to your site, but a good portion of those visitors will get distracted and wander off. Then, there are the search engines to consider. Many times, they’ll rank posts on these third-party services lower than they would if they were on your own site. If you publish to both, you run the risk of having the post on the third-party site outranking your own domain, particularly if it’s new or has had very little optimisation.
When you build your business around other peoples’ sites, you’re completely at their mercy. So, when something happens and they die (and they will eventually), you’ll lose everything. Posterous’ death throes are just further proof of this. If you do decide to use third-party sites, your best option is diversification. I never let one service, business, or client to command more than 20% of my business resources.
Formatting is another of my pet peeves with Posterous, Instapaper, Tumblr and other similar services. You usually have to follow their layouts and styles. Or worse, you’re forced to keep their branding. So, when someone visits your space, they get into the content and forget who shared it with them. They forget whose space they’re looking at and that’s the whole point! When I’m on my own blog, these things are taken care of and I can present each post to the reader in a way that works best for everyone. AND, I’m the only one publishing, so there’s no confusion.
I don’t like these Posterous-like sites as a user, either. Nothing irritates me more than clicking a link to read a story only to get nothing more than a quick description or short excerpt. If I want to read the rest of the article, I have to locate the one I wanted on the page and click through to the original source. Why make me hunt for the article? That’s why I clicked the link in the first place! (And just so you know: I won’t share these sorts of links, either. If I really want to share the story, I replace the link with one to the original source.)
Where Posterous and Posterous-Like Services Shine
There are three instances where I am happy to sing the praises of these content curation type sites:
- Growing Your Target Audience — If you’ve tapped out your target audience, curation sites like these can often help you find members of your target audience that you haven’t reached yet. You can also use them to test new audiences, products/services, or ideas.
- Finding New Target Audience Groups — By watching who visits and interacts with your posts, you can often find new segments and target audiences that you haven’t thought about before.
- Sharing Links and Content With Your Mailing List — If you publish a newsletter or email your clients to catch them up on the latest news, linking to one of these sites can make things easier. Instead of creating huge messy link lists, you just have one link to your dedicated space.
All this aside, Crunchbase reports that Posterous has more than 15 million monthly users, so obviously some people see it as a worthwhile investment.
How to Create Your Own Posterous
There are a ton of Posterous alternatives out there, but if you’d like to use your own blog, there are several options:
- Plugins such as NextScripts Social Network Auto-Posts automatically posts your content to various social sites. You can even customize how and when those updates appear.
- Publishing blog posts by email is a core function. If you manage more than one site, or like the convenience of posting from your browser, try tools like ScribeFire.
- You can migrate your Posterous content by getting a backup zip file.
- Add microblogging capabilities to your WordPress site or into a post.
How are you dealing with the loss of Posterous? Or, do you prefer to publish on your own site?
So, GM pulled its $10 million Facebook ad campaign because their marketing team feels the ad platform is ineffective. This is an interesting move, considering Facebook’s IPO is due out on Friday, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m wondering if this really was a wise decision. (On a slightly unrelated note, the Business Insider’s headline is a fantastic example of a link bait headline. Anyway, back to my rant… er, I mean post.)
This is from the WSJ article:
“GM marketing executives, including Mr. Ewanick, met with Facebook managers to address concerns about the site’s effectiveness and left unconvinced advertising on the website made sense, according to people familiar with GM’s thinking…”
Given that I don’t know GM’s campaign particulars, I can only guess why the ads weren’t performing. That being said, I can’t help but think GM’s marketing agency got it seriously wrong somewhere along the line. This has left me with a number of questions and quite a bit of confusion.
Are GM’s Low Click-Throughs Really an Indication of an Ineffective Platform?
First of all, Business Insider reports GM’s $10 million Facebook ad campaign suffered from a low click-through rate (CTR). Business Insider suggests part of the problem could be the fact that Facebook ads have a lower than expected ROI in general. I’m not so sure you can make this assumption, or lay the blame on Facebook’s ineffectiveness.
With a budget of that size, I think it’s fair to assume that the company was paying for a huge number of ads. Combine that with a low CTR, and I can’t help but think targeting and segmentation were significant factors here. It suggests to me (keep in mind that I’m purely guessing at this point) that one (or more) of three things happened:
- They targeted far too wide of an audience.
- They targeted the wrong audience.
- They approached the right audience, in the wrong way.
Can You Really Compare Facebook Ads to Other Platforms?
I also question the comparison of Facebook and Google AdWords. (Before I go any further, I want to say that I have a huge amount of respect for Wordstream. I will happily recommend them to anyone, and I do so regularly. This is not critiquing the company, their report, their quality, or their work. I’m merely exploring the topic and questioning BI’s use of the study in this context. With a bit of luck, I’ll maybe even inspire a bit of healthy debate that I can learn something from.)
With no way to see the data, how it was collected, or where it came from, I don’t feel I could confidently make the assumption that Facebook ads are less effective than Google ads. (Not that I’m 100% confident with any of my other assumptions in this
big rant little post, either.)
Another reason why I don’t think it was an appropriate use of the study in this instance is because Google AdWords and Facebook ads are far too different. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
I enjoy these kinds of studies and find them helpful, but at the same time, I don’t think the Wordstream team intended the study to be used in this manner. I think it was merely intended to make people think about where their money is going and make sure they consider all the options. I think it was also a great way for them to publish their findings and encourage discussion.
To put this another way: The scientific or healthcare communities don’t make major decisions based on a single study. They subject the study to a peer review and perform multiple studies on the same subject before making a broad, definitive decision like cutting a $10M ad campaign.
So, do I think Facebook ads are less effective that Google’s paid ads? Not yet. I think they’re two very different systems, with different users, different advertisers, and as a result, the two systems are worlds apart.
And while we’re on the topic, let me present this idea: When users search Google, they’re actively searching for a solution to a particular problem. When users are on Facebook, I don’t think their sole reason for being there is to research a product. So, the idea of measuring the ROI of your Facebook ad campaign by the number of sales and click-throughs you get is a bit flawed.
(According to one Oracle study (Word Doc), “24 percent of consumers say they incorporate their online purchasing activities on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, nearly the same number of people said they didn’t even know this is a possibility.”)
The Buying Process, Yardsticks, and How Facebook Ads Fit Into It
Now, I don’t know about you, but the buying process I go through when I want to purchase a vehicle is quite a bit different from the one I follow when buying a pair of shoes, a magazine subscription, or music. I have, on rare occasion, been known to click on a Facebook ad to purchase a Christmas gift. BUT, I can promise you that I’ve never clicked on a Facebook ad to purchase a vehicle. I don’t research vehicles on Facebook, either. (I usually talk to mechanic friends of mine to find out what they’ve been fixing lately.)
What if 5% of these click-throughs resulted in a sale? What’s the value of a click-through, anyway? How many of those click-throughs are converting? It could be very little. It could be almost all of them. In truth, you just don’t know. Someone could be clicking on the GM ad, checking out the car, and looking at the vehicles offered by their competitors, before stopping in at the dealership on his or her way home from work the next day.
Alternatively, let’s say a wife saw an ad with the picture of a car she likes. She realizes it’s the car from the TV ad she saw the night before. So, she turns to her husband and says, “This car looks really interesting. I hear it has x, y, and z features. Maybe we should get one of those?” The husband then stops at the dealership to look at the car. They may not make the final decision for weeks or even months after that. Are they going to say they heard about the car on Facebook when they made the purchase? Not likely.
Because GM has a fairly strong presence on Facebook, it might not notice much of a difference, but I’m worried that they won’t realize what they’ve missed out on. That’s like saying you lost the $5 million lotto prize because you forgot to buy a ticket for Monday’s draw.
I’m not the only one considering the validity of the Business Insider article and GM’s decision to pull the ads. Marty Weintraub of Aim Clear also has doubts and published his own rant on the topic, which has a number of other issues I didn’t bring up here. Business Insider also made some interesting arguments on both sides of the fence.
I don’t know. Am I way off base here? The only thing I’m completely sure of is this: I would have loved to hear the arguments GM’s marketing team gave against the campaign. I think it would have been quite interesting and informative.
The latest hot topic is the launch of Google’s +1 feature. While some are singing the Facebook ‘Like’ killer song, others are professing it to be a smart business tactic and others are having blackhat dreams. Of course, not long after it was announced, I received an invite to a Facebook question on the subject.
This poll led to some great discussion and I added my two cents as well (I’ll let Mike tell you about that on his blog) . The truth is, I’m just not that excited about it. I don’t see it doing well, and while it may rope a few businesses, and a number of sites will likely use it, it just doesn’t have the power.
Is +1 Really a Social Thing? No, but Yes
When people originally started picturing +1, they compared it to the Facebook ‘Like’ feature. There’s no denying the similarities, at least not after it is out in the wild and on your favourite sites.
Unfortunately, for social media lovers, +1 is missing a key feature known as aggregation and conversation. Facebook does this, and does it well. So, other than seeing an ad that some guy from Tuktoyaktuk I know through Twitter clicked or +1′d (which is a social failure all on its own), it has no real purpose.
That isn’t the only role +1 is speculated to have on the Web, however. And really, iIt isn’t exactly meant to be social.
+1 As a Business Thing and Cash Grab
Not long after it launched, Search Engine Watch published several speculations about the real purpose behind +1. Aaron Wall and Loren Baker said it’s purely a business thing, created specifically to push Adsense ads, Google Accounts, and other features. I completely believe it. Anyone who read the Adwords blog that day would too, and let’s not forget Google is in this to make money.
By launching +1, it can push businesses to use Place pages and other local, business specific features it has been known to monetize in the past. This is fully their right, and just may work, but I highly doubt they’ll be successful.
Ruud Hein of Search Engine People also spent some time speculating how the data gathered through +1 could be used for ranking purposes. Ok, I could maybe see that working too, but…
Google Forgets About One Important Thing
There is no doubt in my mind that, if business owners see their ads will be found more easily because someone clicked a button, they’ll pay to opt into the feature. This side of the feature will likely fly.
What they did forget about, however, is that people actually have to click and use the +1 feature, and they have to be in your social network. Will people really use it? I honestly can’t see it.
Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Twitter buttons already do this and have already been adopted by users. Why would they switch now? I sure wouldn’t. Right now, I have two groups of people I share things with. Business associates, with whom I share things on Twitter, and family/friends, who I share with on Facebook. What incentive or benefit do people have to switch?
The other issue is that people actually have to go back to the SERP at this point to +1 something. Now, I don’t know about you, but I spend a fair amount of time wandering online. I jump from link to link, switch tabs, and do a fair bit of digging. Why in the world would I waste time researching something or pressing the back button repeatedly to find a stupid button that may or may not be seen. Others, such as Lee Odden and Jon Henshaw have expressed similar concerns.
Here’s another conundrum Google has: I have three distinct social circles: 1) Friends and family who don’t know and don’t care about what I’m mumbling about, using, and sharing online because it’s usually work related. 2) Work related people who actually may be interested in the things I share. 3) Friends and acquaintances, who understand and may be interested in the odd tidbit, but really could care less for the most part.
Why would I share personal things I like with group #2? Why would I share work related things with group #3? In the SERPs, they get it all, even if it’s research for a client project. On my social networks, I can share it with people who are already looking at what I have to say. If it’s personal, I share it on Facebook. Work related stuff gets shared on Twitter. Why would I need a third?
I would also like to add that what I find relevant, quality, and interesting is only shared by a small percentage of my social connections. Many times, I pass up the links they share elsewhere because they simply aren’t that valuable, in my opinion. Having these same links show up in the SERPs isn’t going to make me any more interested.
What Google Needs To Do If It Ever Hopes To Go Social In Any Way
I think marketers and Web-savvy people pretty much agree that Google sucks at anything social. They just don’t seem to grasp the concept, and either mimic things other companies already do well, or create something so disjointed it’s essentially useless as a collaboration or social tool. Google has yet to decide where it stands in a world out of its control.
The way I see it, businesses are jumping into social media with both feet and figuring out what to do with it all afterward. Many of them post without any real central location or any way to access it all. They fail to create a hub of value.
Google, one the other hand, has already been including features such as tweets and status updates in the search results. What it really needs to do is aggregate all social content and serve it up much like it does in the search results already. However, give users an option to filter it globally, within their social circles, and divided by lists.
Give users a global dashboard, much like some social apps already do, where they can see all of their social networks at once, search their content, and find what they need. Create a hub that consumers can use to see a company’s social interactions and reviews all in one place.
Greplin is already very much like this for your own social stuff, and Trunkly is great for aggregating several sites into one place, but they both still have a long way to go, if they intend to become an aggregated social hub. Sadly, they need access, power, and money. Sort of like what Google already has, but has dedicated mostly to neat toys. In short, Google needs to stick to what it does best: search.
The other thing Google needs to do is connect all of its services together so that they play nice with each other. My Motorola ATRIX phone automatically picks up all of my contacts, including those stored in Google contacts, and puts them all together in one central location where all of my apps can access and use them. Why doesn’t Google do that?
Of course, I’m not sure I’d want Google having quite that much information about me, but it already has way more information about me than any other company on the planet, most of which it can gather without permission or a password. Make things like Google Docs easily sharable and workable right from the major social networks. I’d love to be able to share a calendar or item from Google Docs with a quick push of a button or two, or define groups for collaborative work, without having to set up each site separately. Remove the repetition! And for goodness sakes, make sure all it’s current offerings are integrated and work together!
They have true potential here, and simply are failing to use it.
While I am a copywriter, I find that most of my time is spent creating various types of content strategies. Of those, user-generated content (UGC) strategy requests are coming up more and more frequently and there’s several reasons for this. For me, one of the biggest reasons is the popularity of social networks and the enjoyment we get from them. If we like them, everyone else will too right?
Well, there’s more to it than just saying ‘we’ll do a little bit of x, y, and z’. Your UGC needs to match your marketing plan and business goals, but it also needs to cater to the needs and desires of your client base. In short, the strategy must satisfy everyone involved and provide value on one side of the conversion process or the other.
User-Generated Content Basics
You’ve been hearing the chatter about this type of content for months, so I’m not going to go into the basics. If you’d like to know more on those, you’ll find some great posts on TopRank (stats and integration), WiseGeek (nitty-gritty, point form ABCs), and Chris Grannell (Psychology of User Generated Content PDF).
We’ll add a great slide presentation here, too:
The Strategy’s Target
While it’s tempting to do it all with one strategy, you have to decide which product or service is most important. Which one needs the most attention and will hopefully leave you open to integrate other offerings? You can offer multiple opportunities at some point, but focus on one main goal at a time.
There’s a bit of a trick to this. If you get too granular, you will have to push really hard to get user-generated content and run the risk of not getting any at all. Not to mention, the views and interest in the subject will be lower. If you get too broad, your message and the purpose gets too muddled and diluted to be effective.
If you’ve become too general, you’ll have to start creating multiple sections, complex systems, and lots of rules or hands-on editing to keep it going. And while this is occasionally pulled off with flare, it usually just makes the system difficult for everyone. If you make it difficult, people just won’t bother using it.
Here are a few examples: An auto sales website might focus on Fords or used vehicles. A web designer can likely get away with pushing website designs or logos. If you are a shoe manufacturer that only creates one type of shoe, on the other hand, you can get away with pushing the shoe type and cover the entire site.
Gathering the Ideas For Your UGC Strategy
Every time I create a user-generated content strategy, I have to start be creating pools of information that we can manipulate and tweak in order to generate the ideas that we can either ditch, use, or put on hold. Sounds simple right? Just start listing off ideas, right? Well, not quite. Not saying that you won’t get lucky and hit a winner, but it’s not exactly a methodical approach.
To get this pool of ideas, I create lists of information we can pull from users and how those things can be integrated into a website.
Pre-Sales Funnel Needs — What do users need before purchasing your product or service? What do they have? What do they need to know if they’re going to buy from you?
Product Needs — What do users need while using your product or service? What sorts of things do they use with it? What can they do or use to get more from the things they purchase from you?
Post-Purchase Needs — What sorts of needs do they have after using your product or service? What’s their next step? What sorts of materials do they have to offer after use?
Website/Marketing Capabilities — What sorts of mediums do you have at your disposal that would make use of the previous three lists?
Under each of these, I just start listing all of the things that fit including information, products, services, ideas, and problems users will encounter at each stage. Then, I wander through various target-rich environments and see what the chatter is all about, what questions they’re asking, and what they’re praising. These get added to the lists, and by the time I’m done, I’ve got massive lists of ideas I can pull from.
In your last list, mark down the types of mediums or concepts your website either currently handles, or could handle with a reasonable amount of tweaking. Photo albums, membership areas, video uploading, audio collections, user-generated blogs…the list is endless. At this point, list them all. You never know when something odd will become a unique streak of brilliance. (Hey, it happens!)
Associate a Need, Want, Or Desire With an Idea
Here’s where your creativity, cleverness, and insanity come in handy. Look at each item and think about how you could present that information to others. While I’m in the middle of the process, I give myself extra brownie points if I can come up with something that will make people laugh, prompt a trip down memory lane, go ‘aaaahhh how cute’, or drive (healthy) controversy. You’ll also want to give yourself extra brownie points for any ideas that naturally show off the benefits or traits you’d like to highlight in your products and services.
Consider User Habits, Interests, and Preferences
Hopefully, by now, you’ve already profiled your target audience, your complementary businesses, and vendors (and know which of these three you’re focusing on here). This should be a complete profile which includes everything from demographics, beliefs, habits, economic situation, and any other little tidbits you can gather together.
Then, compare these details to the ideas you generated in the previous step, tossing out anything that might be offensive or otherwise unusable. Next, mark anything that’s likely ineffective because of these same traits and move them to the bottom of the list.
Choose the Best Concept
At this point, I’d move the ideas with the most brownie points to the top of your list, go through them, and try to find reasons to keep or discard each one. Be ruthless! (Oh, and do yourself a favor and write them down. Trust me. You only have to forget once to figure out why.)
Don’t toss out the ideas you didn’t use. You’d be amazed how many of these simple ideas can fit together. Also, if your idea *gulp* fails, you’ll have plenty of other ideas to fall back on.
Go ahead! Try it!