Facebook Marketing: Separating Hype from Reality
If you visit many of the work-at-home websites or “make money online” blogs, you probably have been shotgun blasted by all sorts of come ons and fake guarantees regarding “making millions of dollars on Facebook.” When you read Time Magazine or online newspapers, they always keep saying how powerful Facebook is as a marketing tool. There is so much heat and smoke regarding the issue of using Facebook as a marketing tool. Sadly, there has been little real light shed on the matter. People have just been too driven by hype or too caught up in easy money pipe dreams. It is easy to understand why.
Facebook has more than 400 million users. A large portion of these are active users. It is a fact that a great percentage of all content recommended and consumed on the internet are done through this one website. Talk about power and talk about influence! Not only does its massive global reach get our attention regarding its marketing usefulness, but Facebook is also very powerful in the sense that it is also very intimate.
Personal Circles of Influence
At its core, Facebook’s marketing potential centers on a person’s ability to reach out to their friends and make a connection. Once this is established, the sharing of information between two friends is a very powerful bond. It makes for a very compelling marketing opportunity. Word of mouth and personal references have historically been the most trusted way people find out about new products, services, restaurants, etc. We have this built-in predisposition to give a lot more weight to claims made by people we trust. We tend to listen to them more.
If Paul, my buddy whom I trust, finds an article interesting and amusing enough to share on his wall, I would take his word for it than if a stranger or TV pitchman made a similar recommendation. This intimate power of the circle of influence is really the secret weapon behind Facebook’s marketing potential. If you are looking for dramatic evidence of Facebook’s power, you only need to look at the Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East. From Algeria to Libya to Syria to Bahrain to Israel and Egypt, people have been energized by social networking tools to get together as a common people and demand change. This is a demonstration of sheer raw social mobilization power and while it can yield dramatic results politically, on a more commercial front, it can yield dramatic results as well. However, there are a lot of myths about the power of Facebook.
What Facebook Can and Cannot Do
While it is easy to see the raw power of social mobilization when looking at video clips of Tahrir Square Egyptians in an uprising, it is tempting to daydream and think that if it can reap that much change, it could probably fill up a bank account, too. Not so fast. Facebook is outstanding in raising categorical consciousness. For example, if you have a dog training service you could probably use Facebook to raise consciousness regarding specific issues in terms of dog training or pet care. However, if you are trying to just create dramatic results with your particular website, it would be a tougher road to travel. It would not be impossible, but you would run face first into one of the key truths regarding Facebook – Facebook is good for branding not necessarily direct sales. Branding is very different from direct sales. A brand needs to be seen many times. Its credibility accrues over time until people suddenly act on it. That is how branding works. When someone sees a McDonald’s logo for the first time, very few people buy immediately. Once you get branded with the McDonald’s logo and the level of quality and service predictability that logo represents, then it is easier to make a decision and to buy. However, it might have taken months, if not years, to brand.
Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising on Facebook
Facebook, just like any marketing platform, has several do’s and don’ts. If you run afoul of these rules, the impact could be quite big. It is not uncommon for many businesses in America and elsewhere to encounter dramatic problems when they violate these do’s and don’ts.
Do not scam. Typical Facebook scams are selling e-books that make all sorts of claims. For example, there are many products that are advertised on clickbank.com and other similar sites that are being wantonly advertised on Facebook, making all sorts of wild claims. Remember, when you are marketing on Facebook, you are trading on your profile’s reputation. Don’t abuse your friends. These are your friends or friends of friends and you should treat them with respect. Do not pick products like, for example, male enhancement products or breast enlargement creams – dubious products that do not really add any value or pose serious ethical concerns.
It really boils down to your ethics as a person. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Be clear as to what is it your offering. Make sure that people understand clearly. If they do not understand clearly, but you explained clearly, then it is no longer your problem if they feel “burned” later. You have to make sure that you have clean hands and fully disclose what it is you are offering because you are trading on the goodwill of the people that are on your friends list or on your Facebook fan page list. They signed on for a reason and they added you as a friend for a reason. Do not betray that trust by feeding them garbage.
Share Quality Content
Do share quality content. There are many people that joined Facebook and they would just share all sorts of spam links pushing products. Their Facebook walls are just filled with advertisements all the time. The same goes with Facebook fan pages where all the updates are pushing a product. In of itself, this may not be a problem if and only if the people that add you as a friend or signed on to your Facebook fan page actually expect you to market to them. But if you are a normal Facebook user and your friends befriended you on Facebook because you go way back, you went to the same school or you grew up in the same place and then you send them spam, this is going to be a problem. Do not spam them because they did not add you as a friend for that purpose.
Compare that with a situation where from the beginning you are saying, “Hey, add me so I can do this for you,” or “Add me so I can send you this information,” or “Add me so you can do this.” If it is clear from the start that that is what is required, it is an exchange. The person complaining do not have a reason to do so because that is what you are and that is your persona. You are there to market and you are there to share a specific type of information. The same goes with Facebook fan pages. If your Facebook fan page is talking about something non-commercial and then you are going to hit them with advertisements, then that is spamming. If, from the beginning, you are telling them that if they sign up you are going to send them commercial messages based on this particular topic, then it would not be a problem.
When both sides know what is going on and there is full disclosure, there is a higher chance of a win-win situation because people will not join your Facebook fan page if they are not interested in things that you are trying to sell. If you baited them with another type of content and then you try to sell them something else, it is going to be a problem. However, if they knew going in, for example if you have a page talking about shoes, you are going to send them materials and ads about shoes and people sign up, it becomes a closer fit and both sides are happy. The person joining the page would get the information that they have been looking for and probably would want to buy shoes. You get what you’ve been looking for – sales! Everybody is happy. That is the situation you want. Publish quality content. Give people what they are looking for.
Build Your Community
Do build the community up. Whatever you do in Facebook, it must be done in such a way that you are serving your own personal interest while serving a larger community interest. This is the only way to proceed in such a large system, and this is positively the only way to proceed in life. If you pursue your own interest and other people benefit, and I am not talking about just your family or people close to you but society in general, the larger community benefits and you in the end benefit as well. It is a chain and the chain breaks down when people are just in it for themselves. What will happen is the content quality starts to deteriorate until Facebook is reduced to a toxic soup of noise and spam.
Let me give you one example: You have 200 friends on your friends list and you start sharing commercial ads. Your friends find it annoying, but one of them joined another affiliate program and started doing the same thing. Now your home page is beginning to look spammy. Another person does it and then another. All of a sudden everyone’s status update feed is reduced to garbage. The key here is, to paraphrase Gandhi, be the change you want to see. If you want to see your home page full of useful information while at the same time you are pursuing your interests, it can be done. Make sure that you fully disclose the information why people should click and fully disclose what value are they getting from it. Most importantly, be a tough editor on the links that you are thinking of putting on your Facebook fan page or your wall.
The Thin Line Between Spam and Not Spam
The line between spam and content is unmistakably very thin. Like the saying one man’s junk is another man’s treasure goes, in this case one man’s spam is another man’s valuable content. The best policy would be to fully explain why people would want to click the link. Why would it be valuable them? For example, many people hate pay-to-click programs as they consider it as spam and worthless. They may be right because you click a link and you get paid 0.001 cents and you wait three minutes and another link appears. You click it and again you get 0.001 cents. It is kind of pointless. In reality, the big money is made in referring others. It is not the actual person making the click that makes the money, it is the person who refers those people because he gets a percentage of their earnings. Numerous Facebook walls become polluted when people just fill it with PTC junk. The way to turn that around is to fully explain to your friends that you have tried this out, this is your actual experience with it and if they have any questions they can ask you. Instead of just dropping naked spam on your friends and have them figure it out and fully exploiting your friend list, you become helpful. You walk them through and you add value. That is the big difference between content and spam.
Content adds value, it either answers a question or fills a need. Spam is exploitative and repetitive. Make sure that whatever link you put up provides value to its potential readers. If you follow this tip, you build up the whole community because now you see your status feed becoming cleaner and more useful. Your feed becomes a place where people post interesting materials matter in addition to helping them make a living. Always shoot for a win-win.
Methods for Advertising on Facebook
Keeping in mind all the important ethical and content quality issues discussed above, these are the most common ways people can market on Facebook. Use these methods responsibly. Facebook is always guarding its network and continuously blocks/bans spammers. Blocks/bans/suspensions can be very arbitrary at times so do not push the envelope. Always stay within safe bounds. Also, if you think Facebook is a pushover, it has been suing people for abusing its system. Be very careful in what you do. Stay within ethical and appropriate boundaries.
Method #1: Status Update Marketing
This simply means posting materials on your wall. You can post a link and then why you think people should click that link. It is always a good idea when recommending a link to answer the following three basic questions:
Quickly explain the link. Explain clearly in as little words as possible what value there is in the link or what people should expect. This eliminates surprises and it adds worth to the link. It also makes you more money down the road because it eliminates surprises. People hate being tricked like if they are clicking one thing or they are clicking blindly and they end up somewhere else. Clearly explain to them what is there and this means since they have been pre-filtered, the chances of an actual sale or actual subscription are higher.
Indicate your experiences with the link. You must put yourself in the mix. You cannot come off as you just collected this link, dropped it on your friends, and took off. That would be very sleazy and you come will off as a spammer. Spammers aren’t very popular. You do not want to be the loud guy who shows up at a party and ruin everybody else’s time. You need to get along and this is a good way of doing that. It clues people in like what is your impression of it, your personal view of the link. Furthermore this helps you because by drawing a personal connection between you and the product or service that you are pushing, the link becomes less foreign to your friends. Since they know you and they think you are a credible person, some of that credibility rubs off on the link and this benefits you as well.
Offer a quick review. This must tell people the value of that link like what did you learn from it, how does it impact their lives, what are the good points and negative points. This element adds a deeper level of reality to your wall update because if you are just stuck to telling people what it is and then saying you checked it out, it is incomplete. It does not paint a big picture and does not make a value connection. The focus here is by giving your friends enough information, you are filtering people that would not be interested and you are condensing the pool of eyeballs into people that would be interested.
The power of One. Do not be afraid of just one person going to your offer or to your website. As a pastor once said after his evangelical team spent a lot of money in evangelizing a whole town and only one person was baptized, he said that it does not matter that only one person was baptized. He does not think about the money, time, effort and sacrifice that was spent because that one person could be like Paul the Apostle. That is a very powerful testimony to the power of one. If you were able to distill your traffic into just one person, do not lose heart. That one person may be the influential person that would cause a stampede of people to your website. What is important is you stayed within the ethical lines of marketing correctly on your wall.
Method #2: Photo Tagging
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Similarly, photos on Facebook are also worth a lot more than just a status update. Let us face it, many people just abuse their wall updates and many people do not even look at the links that are posted there anymore. However, they are interested when somebody tags their photo. While FB photos do not exactly translate to a thousand wall updates, it is definitely worth more than a few status updates.
How does this work? You put together a picture of your offer. You have to distill down your advertisement, what is it that you want people to know, and what is it that would attract people to your offer. You can outsource this to professional copywriters or you can spend a lot of time and effort doing it on your own. What is important is that you do it. You must expend the necessary time and effort to distill your offer into as little space as possible. It took millions of dollars to come up with Nike’s Just Do It campaign. It takes a lot of thinking to distill a whole new universe of values of why people would want to buy a certain brand of sneakers and come up with Just Do It. The same analysis, on a smaller level obviously and definitely on a smaller budget, should apply to your situation. Brainstorm as to “why would people want to click through my offer?” or “why would people want to click through my link and make me money?” Envision of the values that are being offered and keep refining it until you can put it in a nice 600×800 picture. You can use tools like Microsoft Paint or if you know Photoshop you could use that.
Next, put the URL where your offer is located. If your offer URL is very long, you could use a redirection service like bit.ly and then put that in your photo. The secret to making the photo work is that it must hook people and it is usually done through certain hot words or hooks that you could use. This is not predictable like science. It is an art and you normally have to hire somebody to do this, but either way you have to hook people. Now that you have your photo, you can put it your photo album on Facebook and tag your friends. When they see themselves tagged, they would check out the picture and the picture has that hook, they do what you need them to do.
Method #3: Facebook Profile Picture Marketing
Your profile photo is your advertisement. Besides the photo album, another very forceful branding tool is your actual profile photo. You can put your URL there or put an E-mail address there. Whenever somebody looks at your comment at a friend’s wall or if you commented on a Facebook fan page or whatever way you get their attention they can look at your profile. They are being branded. They are being hooked to go to your offer.
Of course, this is harder to do than the photo album tagging marketing because you have less space to play with. If you thought it was hard compressing your offer into a 800×600 pixel picture, it is going to be harder distilling it into your profile picture, but it is necessary. You need to put in the time to make it happen. This is a pervasive branding technique. It only gathers power the more you comment on other people’s walls and the more active you are on Facebook because it rides your activity.
Method #4: Facebook Fan Page Marketing 101
Facebook fan pages are a fun way to get traffic from Facebook because many people post up novelty fan pages of almost useless topics. Many people join the fan page just for giggles. Little do they know that when they join a fan page, any updates of that page show up on their wall. It is a very powerful marketing technique that is why there is such a wide range of fan page topics. Numerous marketers would call these fun pages.
Sadly, many fan pages are being used for spamming worthless material, unethical and unscrupulous products, or pushing paid survey affiliate programs. This is a shame because the Facebook fan page, if used properly, can be an effective sustainable medium for attracting people interested in a particular message. It could be a great platform for a win-win situation. You can do this by stating clearly on your Facebook fan page what kind of updates you would be posting. Only people who are interested in that particular subject matter would join. In addition, it helps if you clearly label your Facebook fan page to avoid surprises. The worst abuses of this type of marketing are people who put up a celebrity fan page and then they send survey spam or pay-to-click spam and whatever kind of spam they send out.
Full Disclosure Builds Trust and Builds Targeted Traffic
Sure, you get less fans this way because everything is out on the open, but actually less is more. If, for example, you have a stock investing fan page and you are going to send out forex (foreign exchange) information. If only five people signed up, but they are really interested in foreign exchange and they click through, there is a higher likelihood that you would get a sale since they are already interested. Forex programs pay a lot per sale so you do not need that much traffic. You need only the right amount of qualified traffic. Keep this in mind when using this very powerful advertising platform.
Additionally, the discussion regarding content versus spam above applies tremendously to Facebook fan page. Make sure you send out quality content, content that helps your users gain more knowledge, helps them make better decisions and improves their lives. Do no send them garbage.
Method #5: Facebook Group Marketing
Groups are a very popular way to find like-minded people on Facebook. This is a great way to recruit friends and a great way to send marketing messages. Again, send content not spam. Make sure that when you join a group, you do not send messages immediately. Pay careful attention to the updates that they send. Take a look at what actual messages are being sent and then send materials that fit in with existing messages.
If you join a very clean group that only sends really high-quality content links then send that. You may even need to modify your marketing links to boost the quality of the content you send. You need to comply with quality expectations of other group members or you will be labeled as a spammer and get booted out of the group and possibly get banned from Facebook.
Method #6: Events Marketing
Events are very powerful because when you see an event notification on your Facebook dashboard, you sit up and take notice. Do not abuse this. Normally, events notification are terrific for birthdays and other personally important dates, do not destroy its significance to your friends by making an “event” of every blog post you put up or every new spam you come across. Respect people. Maybe send a notice once every two weeks, space it out and once again the link that it goes to must add value to the experience. Do not just redirect an affiliate link and expect them to know what to do.
The Bottom Line: To Facebook Marketing
Facebook marketing is a very powerful way to get the message out and it is energized by humans’ overwhelming tendency to listen to references and referrals made by people they trust. Do not abuse this. Use it to your advantage. Focus on creating and sharing high-quality content that improves people’s lives in addition to putting a few more dollars in your pocket. It can be done – just think win-win all the time.