Why Brands are Bummed About Facebook Reach…or Lack Thereof

Why Brands are Bummed About Facebook ReachEveryone should have seen it coming when Facebook went public. Even though “It’s free and always will be,” Facebook was going to have to make money. The clock was ticking.

Brands began seeing the reach of their posts dwindle until Facebook finally said brands will have to pay to be seen. Facebook was gaming its own system to force brands to pay. It seems shady – like “here’s a free one to get you hooked and after that, it’s going to cost you” shady. Many (myself included) who were sold on the premise of free felt like they had been had.

Facebook was supposed to be different.

Facebook and marketers, gurus and other experts promised brands a new way to connect to consumers, customers and fans. People would invite brands into their Newsfeeds, talk about the brand, and share branded content with their friends. This unprecedented level of engagement would challenge the effectiveness of traditional advertising. And, it was mostly free.

Now Facebook has turned into one of those traditional advertising platforms it was supposed to challenge. The obvious culprit is Facebook becoming a public company, but others are pointing to a flawed promise of engagement and disruption. Sure, promoted posts may not look like ads in the traditional sense, but brands are paying to deliver a message in a specific medium. Sounds like a dictionary definition of advertising.

Ads on Facebook and social media aren’t new. Most major platforms have some sort of promoted unit that advertisers can use insert their content into a user’s feed, often to those who do not follow the brand. Facebook is different because it uses an algorithm to determine what each individual user sees in their feed rather than everything from everyone that they like or follow.

Facebook’s priority is its 1.19 billion users, specifically, the data these users create as they interact on the platform. Inhibiting brand content from users so that they see more of what they want, keeps users on the platform and creating data. As a result, Facebook is armed with a data goldmine that is too enticing to ignore, even by those that are miffed about the new price tag.

Time to Eat Our Vegetables

The reality is that brands now have to work harder and spend even more to reach their followers. As Unmarketing author Scott Stratten explains it, we’ve been living in Facebook’s house for free and now the rent is due. (Watch his Facebook rant below). While I have to agree with his point, I still don’t like it.

Facebook has opened a new door in social media advertising. It will be interesting (and probably annoying) to see if other platforms find ways to game their systems. We’ll be bummed, but we should see it coming.

(Careful, contains a few nsfw words)


Pros and Cons of Samsung’s Selfie Stunts

Samsung selfies

It was the selfie seen around the world.

Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie took the internet by storm, setting a record for most retweets. It was one of those great cultural moments shared by nearly everyone thanks to everyone. Then Samsung, whose device was used to capture the moment, claimed that they were behind it.

Several weeks later, President Obama hosted the World Champion Boston Red Sox at the White House. Slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz took a selfie with the President on his Samsung device that grabbed social media’s attention as a special moment. It was later revealed that Ortiz had signed an “social insider” deal with Samsung a few weeks before and again the company again branded a seemingly spontaneous event.

Samsung strategically and creatively capitalized on the selfie trend. It was a bold, clever move to place its devices in the hands of celebrities and leverage personal (or seemingly personal) content to promote the brand. As with any bold move though, there is backlash. For all of the pros, there are cons.

Pro: Owning a moment

With a constant cycle of information and entertainment, creating a moment that causes people to pause and say ‘hey look at that’ is the goal of every social media marketer. Those moments are usually personal in nature and rarely happen with brands attached to them. Samsung created an exception by capitalizing on moments created by celebrities using the company’s devices. The company created cultural significance for themselves, which is necessary in their quest against the cultural icon that is Apple. By utilizing selfies – a cultural phenomenon themselves – the company created instantly relevant and relatable content. With the personal nature of selfies, this content created a stronger personal connection between the celebrity, the audience and Samsung.

Con: Ruining the moment

“Pix or it didn’t happen.” Nowadays, amazing personal moments or encounters are verified on social media by snapping a selfie or just a normal picture. This social proof is taken at face value as authentic. Now that authenticity is somewhat tainted when it comes to brands on social media. Samsung has seemingly hijacked special moments via selfies. People and brands around large events and potential cultural moments will have a heightened awareness for selfie seeking brands. The steps taken will ruin the experience for the average person looking to verify their place in the moment with a selfie. For instance, the White House now seems to be prohibiting people from taking selfies with the President. Sorry Olympians.

Conan's White House Selfie Joke

Pro: A New Level of Celebrity Endorsement

Samsung has been going after Apple’s “it” status for the past couple years by going after Apple fans and head to head comparisons. With the selfies, they are trying to knock the iPhone from its status symbol status by trying to transfer some of that celebrity status to its brand. Plus, celebrities tend to hang around other and sometimes bigger, celebrities who can grab more attention for the brand.

These “social insiders,” armed Samsung devices, documented these moments and provided the company with original and unique content. The selfies provided a level of authenticity to the endorsement with proof that the celebrities actually use the devices. Some may still be skeptical about the authenticity, but everyone knows that Ellen and “Big Papi” weren’t using iPhones.

Con: Celebrities May be Gun Shy with Selfies Now

Usually these guerrilla tactics are used on average people, who, assuming a positive experience, will allow use of their likeness after the fact. But Samsung is using well known celebrities whose likeness is more guarded and in most instances, their paycheck. Their personal brand is now tied to Samsung whether they like it or not. It will be interesting to see what legal issues come from this.

Will unsuspecting celebrities sue Samsung for unauthorized use of their likeness? Athletics could be particular interesting. Say a Nike sponsored athlete takes a selfie with an Adidas sponsored athlete back stage at the ESPY’s and Nike pulls a Samsung. Are there consequences for the Adidas athlete for essentially appearing in a Nike ad? I have a feeling that those who sign these “social insider” contracts will start to include boundaries.

Pro: Better engagement

Samsung was able to insert itself into big events in a very personal way through these selfies. By combining tactics like real-time marketing, product placement, celebrity endorsement and social media they created connections between people, an event and the brand in a way no other brand has before.

Selfies are personal. Spontaneity, imperfections and moments make them that way. Samsung’s use of selfies was in stark contrast to carefully planned and measured photos and posts normally delivered by brands on social media. They were able to add an additional layer of humanity to their social engagement and people responded.

Con: Further Infiltration from Advertisers Into Daily Lives

“Nothing is sacred anymore” is the typical response to an advertising first like this. People are leery of brand engagement on social media and see it as an invasion of seemingly personal space. Samsung’s stunts take that angst a bit further by turning something very personal – the selfie – and cheapening it. Another seemingly spontaneous cool event turned out to be another advertising stunt.

Our devices have become completely integrated with our daily life, new boundaries will be discovered as advertisers look to take advantage. Advertisers have always looked for ways to be seen by their customers and maintain relevance. That will never change despite people’s best efforts. As technology expands and new trends emerge, so will advertisers’ desire to be a part of it. People just won’t like it.

Now What?

People in business and marketing circles will continue to debate the how much of this was spontaneous or manufactured. No one will debate that Samsung touched on something with this tactic. They discovered a new boundary to cross and no one is quite sure what happens next. It’ll be interesting, and a bit messy.

How Brands Event-Jacked the Super Bowl

Like many brands in the weeks preceding the Super Bowl, Newcastle created a campaign around their Super Bowl ad. They went all out with a dedicated website, teasers and behind the scenes video. The catch was that Newcastle wasn’t a Super Bowl advertiser.

News-jacking is the term used for when an opportunistic marketer or PR professional is able to insert their brand or organization inside the buzz of a breaking news story. The goal is to siphon off some of the news story’s attention and direct it to the brand. When brands like Newcastle apply this principle to a mega event like  the Super Bowl, I call it event-jacking.

The hefty price tag of a Super Bowl ad is an insurmountable obstacle for many brands that covet the millions of eyes watching the big game. This year however, the $4 million barrier to Super Bowl was torn down by social media and the second screen. Oreo’s famous power outage tweet last year opened the imaginations of advertisers on how to reach Super Bowl audiences without an official commercial. While Oreo was a Super Bowl advertiser that year, non-advertisers like Newcastle and JCPenney were able to insert themselves into and event-jack this year’s Super Bowl.

The Build Up

Over the past few years, Super Bowl advertisers have begun building buzz for their ads with leaks and teasers in the weeks preceding the game. Newcastle took advantage of this hype build-up and lampooned it with their “If we made it” campaign which dovetailed nicely with their “No Bullocks” branding. Videos of storyboards, celebrity endorsers, focus groups and the epic b-roll footage they would have used flooded the internet like the leaks and teases of the big game advertisers. A clever interview with Anna Kendrick, the would-be star of the mega huge football game ad, made the most waves.

As the teaser for the ad they would have made says, they didn’t have the money to spend on a Super Bowl ad, so the essentially spent a lot of everyone else’s. They took advantage of the hype that was paid for by the Super Bowl advertisers who were maximizing the exposure of their pricey big game ads. These advertisers pre-conditioned people to look for Super Bowl commercial hype, opening the door for a non-advertiser to oblige.

Newcastle carried over the campaign’s mockery during the game by showing how they would have made some of the night’s ads. However they didn’t quite get the attention that another non-advertising, event-jacking brand did.

During the Game

Many brands prepped for real-time social interaction during the Super Bowl, looking to catch the magic that Oreo did the year before. As the game went on, JCPenney began sending out horrendously typed tweets about the action. It got so bad that people and even other brands began tweeting about it, assuming the account had been hacked or JCPenney’s Twitter manager was partying a little too hard.

jc penny super bowl tweets

About an hour after the first jumbled tweet went out, JCPenney let everyone know that they were tweeting with mittens on. And not just any mittens, these were Olympic -themed mittens exclusively available at JCPenney. They got us and as a result earned 150,000 mentions, 10,000 additional followers on Twitter  and, most importantly, saw sales of those mittens almost double.

While this tactic may cause an eye roll, JCPenney was able to steal second screen attention from the event (the game) and the event within the event (the commercials). In talking to Ad Age about the stunt, Sean Ryan, J.C. Penney’s director-social and mobile, said the company was looking create their own moment, rather than wait for the right tweet at the right time.

Where Oreo found that moment and showed the potential real-time social interaction last year, JCPenney successfully manufactured a moment and steered that real-time social interaction to their brand. All of the eyes that advertisers were paying $4 million to reach, JCPenney essentially stole for free by inserting itself into the Super Bowl conversation.

What’s next?

Super Bowl advertisers are already challenged to get the most out of their investment with additional engagement leading up to the game. Newcastle, JCPenney, several other brands spent significantly less to reach the same audience that advertisers spent millions on. As a result of this year’s event-jackers, both Super Bowl advertisers and non-advertisers will likely take more proactive steps to be a larger part of the “event” next year.

While brands will continue focus on grabbing the eyeballs of Super Bowl viewers, the lower barrier to entry will make it interesting see how this year’s event-jackers affect the decisions of fringe advertisers. Do they make the big splash again or do something a little different? Starting $4 million in the hole is difficult and some may chose to have someone else pay for it.

5 Reasons Instagram Ads May be the Best Native Advertising Ever

Instagram Ad

Image: Instagram

As you probably know by now, back in October, Instagram announced it would be opening up the app for advertisements. Advertising in social media breaks down into two basic forms – native and banners. Everyone knows what a banner ad is – a billboard slapped on your favorite website. Native ads are pictures, videos or other type of content that camouflages itself as a normal part of the user experience.

Instagram has chosen the native approach by designing its ad unit to be nearly identical to a typical Instagram photo or video post. Since the announcement, they have only allowed a select few brands test drive ads and the early results of Instagram ads have been positive. Here are few reasons why Instagram’s native advertising approach will continue to be successful.

1. Brands are Already Doing It, Sort of

A study from Simply Measured found that 71% of the world’s most recognized brands are on Instagram. These likely advertisers are already creating images that people are (hopefully) liking. The ads will then, theoretically, fit right in with the normal content with little fuss from users, which is the key to successful native advertising. Once Instagram opens up ads to everyone, the transition from posts to ads should be seamless. Brands can simply keep doing what they are doing, but with better potential for engagement.

2. Instagram Cares

From the beginning, Instagram has been cautious with merging their desire to “a place where people come to connect and be inspired” with their desire to become a business through advertising. Their limited roll out with brands that were already well-established within the community will help set standards for ads and maintain integrity of the experience for users. Instagram understands that they have built an experience that keeps their users engaged. Protecting that experience will keep users engaged and drive ad revenue. This leads to…

3. Minimal Impact on User Experience

Like most native advertising formats, Instagram ads have minimal impact on the user experience besides the presence of the ad itself and the “Sponsored” tag. Instagram did not change or rearrange the user experience to accommodate advertising like Facebook and Twitter have.  Ads (hopefully) won’t be obviously ads, but will still easy to identify as such, which has become a hot topic as native advertising grows in other channels.

4. Eye Candy

Sponsored or not, cool pictures are cool pictures. Instagram’s native format of pictures and video already provides entertainment value which lessens the nuisance of the interruption in the user’s feed. Users are already telling you what they want from you – cool pictures of a product in action or the lifestyle it promotes. Successful Instagram ads can be as easy and challenging as taking a good picture.

5. Usage

Finally, and probably the most important for advertisers, is Instgram usage. The app boasts somewhere north of 150 million users and is one of the fastest growing social networks. 57% of the app’s users use it daily, the highest percentage of any major social media platform other than Facebook and 35% use multiple times per day. That type of engagement boosts an advertiser’s chances of being seen and interacted with.

For these reasons, Instagram may be one of more easily accepted social media advertising formats.

The Walking Dead Guide to Social Media

walking_dead1I finally became a regular watcher of AMC’s The Walking Dead this season and noticed some eerie similarities between the zombie apocalypse it portrays and the state of social media. In the quest to build communities of followers and effectively use social media, you can either be Rick, the show’s protagonist leader, or you can be a zombie.

The zombies are the background noise of mindless crap that inundates social channels today. They have one purpose and that is to acquire followers. As they wander around aimlessly making incomprehensible gurgling sounds, they devour space for anything meaningful or that is making a lot of noise.

Zombies aren’t human. They are automated and programmed for their own self-sustaining purpose. They were human at one time. Someone did set up the auto-posting, but that humanity is long gone. No more interaction, just mindless posting, latching on to newsfeeds until they’ve consumed them.

But you’re not a zombie, right? You are more like Rick, leading those whom have chosen to follow you through this apocalyptic landscape. He enables his community of followers to find what they need though the sharing of important resources and camaraderie. Rick isn’t looking to have everyone follow him, just those that want to and he posts accordingly.

He is human, just like his followers and engages them like a human would.  When his posts appear in their timeline, branded or not, his followers know that there is a real, live person on the other end. Sure, once in awhile Rick may go crazy and post a TGIF meme, but he’s human.

Rick remains active knowing that if he isn’t careful, he to can become a zombie. As followers get fatigued with the constant onslaught of zombies, Rick keeps posting relevant content, reminding them of why they follow him.

Now, go post something awesome and curb stomp those zombies.