Monthly Archives December 2012

Facebook’s EdgeRank Algorithm – What Brands Need to Know

Unless you’ve been living under a buzzword-free rock (and if that’s the case, please share your location so that others might seek refuge), you’ve undoubtedly heard about EdgeRank, the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what users see in their News Feeds. While the method itself remains elusive, there is solid information that brands can use to navigate the News Feed and stay on top of fan engagement and in front of fan faces.

The Algorithm :: What is it?

Every piece of content or interaction on Facebook is known as an “edge,” from uploading a photo to joining an Event or Liking a status update.

EdgeRank accounts for three determining factors, known as “signals,” regarding posts themselves: affinity, weight, and time decay. Affinity reflects how friendly you are with your fans. Weight is a basic formula that is used to determine what types of content are more likely to be shared. Time Decay is a simple measurement of which content is the most fresh.

While there have been hints that Facebook may be introducing a new signal (or more) into the equation, this trifecta currently makes up the mix.

The Latest :: What’s the word?

In late September, Facebook announced an update to the EdgeRank algorithm, sending the digital marketing world into a tizzy as organic reach levels dropped suddenly and dramatically across the board. Phrases like “pay to play” flew across our screens rapid-fire, and brands began to panic over losses in revenue. The algorithm still remains elusive, but there are a few key changes that have become apparent.

Negative Feedback is now weighted more heavily.  Users are now equipped with simple controls at the forefront that allow them to hide, block, and report posts. Because the objective of the updates is to combat spam pages, there is far more attention paid to this type of feedback from users. In addition, if pages have received a substantial amount of negative feedback in the past, they may have been hit even harder by the update.

The Popular Post Paradox creates new opportunities for negative feedback. Yes, that’s right. We’ve coined a new paradox. (While no one at Flightpath fancies himself or herself a philosopher, we’d argue that critical thinking skills and a love for alliteration go a long way.) Thanks to EdgeRank, the most popular posts make their way into the News Feeds of many a Facebooker who isn’t necessarily a fan of your content. While this is a great opportunity to make new friends, it’s also an easy way to get your posts hidden in the case that we don’t like what we see.

Status Updates Are the New Black. Once the updates went into affect and widespread suffering was reported from the depths of editorial teams across the globe, there was a single glimmer of hope: Status Updates. The oft-forgotten content type actually showed improvement in performance as a result of the algorithm, and brands that have strategically revitalized the status update have seen positive EdgeRank results.

Optimal Post Frequency hovers around once per day. Talk about high stakes-statuses. Many an analyst agrees: the most engagement is garnered when a brand posts once per day – and interactions begin to decrease substantially as frequency increases. It’s up to you to determine the best time of day to hit “Post,” as well as the ideal type of content to share. The good news? There’s plenty of room for experimentation.

The Implications :: What’s it to you?

EdgeRank exists to further personalize the experience of logging in to your virtual world by weed out irrelevant content and promoting pieces of interest. The fact is, except for the rare occasion on which a rapper launches a video game, we aren’t generally clamoring to canoodle with brands.  EdgeRank recognizes what we are clamoring for, however, and rewards those pages who are posting killer content, at the right frequency, at the ideal time of day. If you’re not using EdgeRank Checker already, create your account and get moving – many of the optimizations that can be made are easily measure and reported within the tool, which also allows for real-time monitoring.

At the end of the day, I’m still subjected to far too many baby pictures (and when will we start punishing college buddies for gratuitous sorority poses?), but technology has only come so far.

Facebook Gifts – Presents New E-Commerce Opportunity for Brands

Remember Facebook’s Virtual Gifts of yore? When you could send your Facebook friends a “beer”, “rose” or “birthday cake?” Facebook closed its virtual gift shop in August 2011, and has replaced it with the ability to send Facebook friends real beer, roses and birthday cakes (or at least cupcakes). All from the status box on their friend’s timeline.
At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. For instance there are only 10 gifts available in the pets category. So, Facebook is going to have to expand their selection to appeal to more buyers. Which is great news for brands who are interested in coming aboard.

Facebook has rolled out another value add for brands. Facebook Gifts, which have been available through chain invites since September, are now available to all users and open for brands to submit products as consideration for Facebook Gifts.

Remember Facebook’s Virtual Gifts of yore? When you could send your Facebook friends a “beer”, “rose” or “birthday cake?” Facebook closed its virtual gift shop in August 2011, and has replaced it with the ability to send Facebook friends real beer, roses and birthday cakes (or at least cupcakes). All from the status box on their friend’s timeline.

So what is the benefit of this for brands? Your brand’s products can be offered via Facebook Gifts, which offers a seamless e-commerce experience and new platform for driving sales. Now, when a user sees a friend announce they are expecting a baby that user can quickly send an appropriate gift without having to leave the confines of Facebook for, say Amazon and perhaps get distracted along the way to purchasing your brand’s product.

Facebook has also done a great job of removing the shipping address barrier of sending gifts to people you are friends with on Facebook, but are not close friends with in real life. The sender doesn’t have to enter any shipping information. The gift recipient is notified via Facebook private message that they have a gift waiting and they are prompted to accept the gift, at which point they enter in their own shipping information. This lowers the barrier to purchase for the gift giver and also encourages surprise, and impulse gifting (it’s a little hard to surprise someone with a gift when you have to text them and request their shipping address).

The social media/word of mouth marketing aspect of Facebook Gifts is also alluring to brands. Every time a user sends a gift, a tantalizingly wrapped gift image appears on the recipient’s timeline by default, encouraging them to unwrap it and reveal what is inside. Senders can opt out of the share. Below is an example of the image a recipient sees on their timeline:

At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. Potential senders first land in the “Recommended Gifts” section, which is mostly gifts of food, but also include Starbucks and iTunes virtual gift cards. The user then has the option to navigate into the following gift categories:

  • Food & Drink
  • Wine
  • Fun
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Fashion & Body
  • Flowers
  • Baby & Kids
  • Gifts that Give Back
  • Pets

According to Facebook, there are multiple safeguards in place to ensure that alcoholic beverages are not purchased by or sent to underage users, including carding recipients at their physical door during delivery and barring users with a stated age below 21 from even seeing alcoholic beverages as Facebook Gift options. This could be a great sales platform for those brands in the wine and spirits category.

At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. For instance there are only 10 gifts available in the pets category. So, Facebook is going to have to expand their selection to appeal to more buyers. Which is great news for brands who are interested in coming aboard.

So, what brands are taking part in the initial roll out of Facebook Gifts?

  • Apple
  • Baby Gap
  • Harry & David
  • Fab
  • Brookstone
  • Gund
  • Sesame Street
  • Warby Parker
  • And more…

Want to get your brand’s products on board with Facebook Gifts? Just fill out this form to submit your products for consideration.

Facebook Ads CPC vs CPM vs Promoted Stories – What’s a Social Media Marketer to do?

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad. But, that has changed.

CPC, CPM, Promoted Stories, Promoted Posts – there are a lot of options facing social media marketers interested in advertising on Facebook. It used to be that there were only two choices for advertising on Facebook CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impressions).

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad.

For years, if you chose CPM your ad would be relegated to a lowly position on the bottom right hand of the user’s newsfeed and gain very few clicks. CPC ads outperformed CPM ads in all tests that we ran here at the agency as well.

But, that has changed.

While Facebook has talked a lot about the value of their new Promoted Stories ads and Promoted Posts, they also quietly chose a new favorite child in the CPC vs CPM debate. We noticed this at Flightpath when CPC ads that have been performing for years suddenly stopped being even displayed and our testing of CPM ads started showing amazing results.

We switched clients over to CPM ads and saw our average Facebook ads CTR jump from an average range of .05% to .20% jump to a range of  .50% – .80%. Then we added in Sponsored Stories, to run simultaneously with the CPM ads, and the average CTR jumped even higher to a range of .80% to 1.2%.

At the same time, we are seeing the average CPC fall from that .35 – $1 range down to a bargain basement .06 – .15 CPC. So, for the same Facebook ad spend our clients are getting about 6 times the likes they were getting earlier this year. This is really helping to rapidly grow page likes without having to dramatically up Facebook ad spend.

Why are ads suddenly cheaper and performing better?

So, this is why we think this dramatic uptick in Facebook ad performance is happening: remember months ago when advertisers like GM pulled their Facebook ad spend because they didn’t feel they were getting much of a return and remember when Facebook’s stock came out of the gate to dismal results?

Facebook had to devise a plan to get advertisers excited about spending on the platform so investors would be consider buying Facebook stock. Lowering the cost of ads and rolling out Promoted Stories (which not all Facebook users like, but they seem to click on them anyway) is a great way to get advertisers excited and spending.

If you are still running Facebook CPC ads for your clients, set up a separate CPM campaign with Promoted Stories pronto for testing. The results will blow you away.

Interview: Chris Brogan on Podcasting & ROI of Social Media

What I am always trying to do is tie a mainstream, real world metric to these goofy online metrics because I just don’t care how many video views we got, or what our Klout is. What I say is “Did the cash register ring?” If the answer is yes, then we met our goal.

This is part 2 of our interview with author, blogger and social media expert Chris Brogan.

Over the last few years there has been a greater adoption of social media by companies looking to use social platforms to connect with consumers. Chris Brogan has been busy speaking, blogging and advising companies on how to do just that for the last 12 years as one of the biggest rock stars in the social media world.

Brogan is co-author of New York Times bestsellers The Impact Equation and Trust Agents, (both cowritten with Julien Smith) and author of Social Media 101 and Google Plus for Business. Both in his roles as CEO & President of Human Business Works, co-founder of the PodCamp new media conference series and as a blogger himself, Brogan has a long history of shaping the way that companies approach the social web. Flightpath took the opportunity to speak with Brogan about his take on how companies could better utilize social media, measure ROI and just do social better.

In your book, The Impact Equation you have an equation for success that includes platforms, ideas and so forth. What do you think companies are missing as part of the equation?

Brogan: The real hope of the book is letting people know how you get your idea to resonate with people in such a way that they take action. What Julien Smith and I who wrote the book together, found and believe is that everyone seems part of this figured out.

They might have a great idea, but not a big enough platform for anyone to see it. They might have an amazing idea and an amazing platform but they haven’t found a way to connect with people so that people can run with the idea.

I think that getting that whole set of chains to turn the same way and pull the same gear is what I am really working on the hardest.

Flightpath: How have you seen the social space change over the time you have been in it?

What has changed in 12 years is that we humans expect a much more custom, personalized humanized response in business. There was none of this in the 80’s and the 90’s. There was none of us going “Oh man, I didn’t hear back from someone specific at Delta, I got a form letter.” That is just how life was. I grew up with my family yelling at the TV, now everyone tweets at the TV. There are some vast differences, but I think it is all good stuff.

Flightpath: I’ve known you for a long time from podcasting, and think it’s interesting that you are launching a new podcast, The Human Business Way. Within all the forms of social media, podcasting is really the one that never blew up and went so mainstream. So, I think its interesting that you are investing in podcasting as a way to get your messaging out. Do you think that podcasting still has the promise it did in 2006?

Brogan: That is my favorite question so far. This is a really interesting time for this medium called podcasting. When we were at it, I didn’t get into it until like 2006 or 2005, but I know that you were in it before that even and that you have one of the longest running ones in the world.

When I got into this space, I was just like everyone else in that space thinking this is going to be great- we are going to topple TV stations and the radio and the world is gonna be ours and I am going to buy a bunch of stickers, because that seems to be what everyone did.

Then that collapsed because at the time no one had the technology you had to be like a PHD to figure out how to get the podcast onto whatever device. It was just so much work. Now we are in this world because I can record, edit and post from the my phone. The process is just much more streamlined now.

At the same time, podcasting suddenly picked up a lot of news from the strangest of ways. So first off, all the nerds came and made podcasts and life was good for all 3,000 listeners that we shared. Then, the mainstream discovered podcasting and all they used it for was archival distribution of their mainstream junk and that was boring, although it got more people to listen.

Now, these mainstream people who have said F you mainstream and they are becoming apart of this new thing like Kevin Smith and Adam Carolla and every other comic it seems has a podcast. They have brought new attention to podcasting people are seeing that they really can listen to whatever they want.

So, the reason I invested in it is because it is right out of the Impact Equation. It is Contrast, not everyone has this kind of a show. It’s Reach- putting me into a whole new place that I haven’t been, like iTunes. I got an email the other day from a listener saying “This is great do you have a website” and I thought “This is great, I have made it.”

Its one of these things where we think we shouldn’t be doing it, it’s not a great idea because is takes a lot of time.  That is why I am gonna do it. I know it is a way to get more engagement with people.

Flightpath: So the last question is a question that every social media marketer who deals with companies is posed. It is “What is the ROI of social media?” Just how do you answer that question, or do you not- or is it a terrible question?

Brogan: I do it all the time, and I tell you what I do. I say that there is no blanket answer because what you really need to do is always this: you have to say that you are going to tie this activity, this effort, this event to a direct and obvious revenue stream

So for example, if I am helping a beer company sell more beer, then I would do it through Facebook and through the bars. I would choose very specific bars and I would create very targeted promotions for the bars and do all kinds of work to pump that up via the social web. Then I would ask the beer company how many more cases of beer did the bar order this week versus last week and that is the measurement.

What I am always trying to do is tie a mainstream, real world metric to these goofy online metrics because I just don’t care how many video views we got, or what our Klout is. What I say is “Did the cash register ring?” If the answer is yes, then we met our goal.

In ROI, the first question should always be “What is the I?”  If you put no money in and you are wondering where the return is, then you are obviously not doing it right.

Second, if you are saying more what is the time involved to get a yield, then that is a harder question that is like asking how long does it take to grow a garden. To me, there are some different metrics to look at in that case. What I always look at specifically in ROI is a real world number that I can move with an online technology.

 

Read Part 1 of our interview with Chris Brogan here.