Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced with considerable fanfare that Facebook was changing how it would prioritize the content that it shows in people’s News Feed. People have so many connections, and follow so many brands and interest groups, that Facebook can’t show you everything. From now on posts from publishers and brands will be given a lower priority, with the highest priority going to content from people’s friends and family, as well as groups people belong to – and especially those people and groups that we most engage with (Facebook weights comments much higher than likes or shares).

Tell me something new.

This is what Facebook has been doing increasingly for several years. So the question is: Is this just a continuation in the same direction or, as Larry Kim, founder of Wordstream and MobileMonkey says, essentially the end of Facebook as we know it?

Whichever is the case, you will probably barely notice the change. Facebook doesn’t tend to throw we lobsters into pots of boiling water; it slowly turns up the heat on the pot that we’re already in.

Starting five or six years ago Facebook started to de-prioritize the posts from brands to the point that now a post is typically only seen by 2-3 percent of a brand’s followers. (In 2013 it might have been 10 times higher.) Posts from big, national brands are shown at a lower rate than smaller, local companies.

What’s the message to brands? No more free ride. If companies want to reach people on Facebook, they need to pay for ads or promoted posts.

Will Facebook ads get more expensive? Almost certainly. They have a limited inventory and they provide advertisers with unmatched personal data to target ads with. Facebook can live with fewer, more expensive ads. They did announce that they would essentially rate ads and prioritize ones with higher engagement; this is similar to how Google gives a higher score to search ads with higher click and conversion rates. It’s a win-win; what’s good for the customer is good for the platform.

Similarly, Facebook has been steadily reducing the number of posts it shows from publishers for some time.

chart of Facebook declining publisher referrals

So is this more of the same, or a radical departure?

Even Facebook VP Adam Mosseri seems unclear on that. He said,

“So one of the key things is understanding what types of interactions people find meaningful, what inspires them to interact more or share more in the future. Some of the specific things would be like we’re going to be (weighing) long comments more than short comments… Comments in general, this was true before (the change). But it’s more true after. Comments are more valuable than Likes. If you bother to actually take the time to respond to something that I posted, a picture of maybe my two kids. It’s a pain actually to type on a mobile phone. Liking is pretty easy; that’s the whole point of Liking.

“Some news content that is shared and talked about a lot will receive some sort of tailwind from this. And news content that is more directly consumed by users—that they don’t actually talk about or share—will actually receive less distribution as a result.”

So will our News Feeds will be filled with posts from people who use Facebook more like LinkedIn, who have 1,000 to 5,000 (the maximum allowed) “friends” rather than the median ~200, because they will get the most comments?

The most surprising part of Zuckerberg’s announcement was when he described (around the 4th and 5th paragraphs) the potentially negative effects of social media on people’s wellbeing. He also wrote of the anticipated business impact on Facebook (whose stock promptly dropped about 4%), “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

He was being kind to social media, as many studies have shown that it can produce anxiety and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Just search on “social media increases anxiety” and you will find a ton of articles.

Facebook is constantly evolving. In 2009 it changed its UI to respond to the rise of Twitter. Lately it’s been pushing its Group feature more, partially in response to Nextdoor, I assume. And it introduced Marketplace where members can “buy and sell used stuff”, which responded to the rise of groups with tens of thousands of members that were informally doing this. Zuck wanted a piece of the action.

Zuckerberg said that these latest changes will roll out over several months. You’ll hardly notice. It’s just part of the evolution of Facebook that’s been happening since it was founded.

 

Evan KirstelThis is an excerpt from an interview with Evan Kirstel that I did for the book that I’m writing on my Bullseye Marketing Framework.

Evan: I’m essentially a one-man — although I do have collaborators – a one man social media marketing agency for B2B tech companies. My clients are vendors and service providers in the enterprise telecomm, cloud, mobile world. From big companies like CenturyLink and Qualcomm to quite a few startups and early stage companies. It’s extending their reach and coverage and capacity to engage on social media, which increasingly is where their customers are spending time, where their partners are, where the events are, where analysts and journalists are.

Louis: So what are the biggest challenges?

Evan: There are still questions about the ROI of social, the measurability of social. There were a lot of skeptics and question marks. And there still is, to a degree, on the value of social in real lead generation, and how do you measure and monetize those activities. But when you look at where people are spending their time, in terms of where customers are, where your analysts and influencers and thought leaders are, increasingly there’s no doubt that they’re just spending more time on social media. And you need to go where they are in this new attention economy. So that’s less of an issue now than in the early days. I think now with analytics you can measure things like click-throughs and website visits. The marketing analytics tools that are available can easily track opportunities and deal flow even, leadgen and top of funnel activities.

Louis: And you’re talking about organic social, not paid social?

Evan: Most of my clients do both. The organic social is critical. They’re mutually supportive. And then paid campaigns can help, too. But in terms of engaging those CIOs [chief information officers], engaging analysts, that really has to happen, in my opinion, organically. People are kind of numb to ads and to paid promotion these days, whereas nothing beats real interaction.

Louis: Have you found those people? Are CIOs on Twitter?

Evan: Yes, increasingly they are. And some of them do it as a sort of career advancing self-promotional thing as well. They have a point of view. And not just social, also blogging, content creation, videos and interviews. And the ones that are in the forefront of this are becoming pretty social creatures and are getting out front of the industry and they’re seen as a thought leader.

Louis: I’ve told you some of my reservations about social media marketing. Thoughts?

Evan: I think the earlier comment of paid versus earned social, I think that requires context. I’m focused on very specific niches, very specific industries, I’m using very targeted hashtags and keywords. If I do occasionally have a strategy of following certain people it’s based on very specific keywords, combinations of keywords. I’m using very complex hashtags; if someone is tweeting around Cisco DevNet Congress, that’s a pretty targeted event. So I’m not worried about stray cats and dogs that I may pick up, who may follow me back. So I think that if I were in B2C marketing like Nike I might agree with that. But if you’re in a very niche market, a very targeted market, an industrial market, you’re hunting with a rifle not a shotgun.

Louis: Good point.

Evan: Secondly, you go for relationships. For me, the value of Twitter and LinkedIn is in that initial awareness, visibility and engagement and turning it into something else: turning it into a face-to-face meeting, a call, a sign-up, a webinar, getting a content view, going to an event. This is all very top of funnel stuff, not some independent thing unlinked to everything else that you’re doing in marketing. So that’s the second thing.

And I think the goal of social is to create and build relationships. There’s this entire watercooler out there and you’re participating in conversation around the watercooler in a very targeted way. And when I get into a conversation around the Internet of Things, there’s a very targeted community of vendors, of consultants, of analysts, of suppliers talking about that. I’m not interested in the macro; I’m very focused on the micro of those conversations.

Chuck Kent does a lot of writing on branding. He recently interviewed Phil Gomes of Edelman, a global PR firm, about their research on the value of thought leadership.

A real “cut to the chase” moment is the survey’s finding that while 17% of the producers of thought leadership thought that it had produced new business opportunities, 45-48% of executives said flat out that they had included companies in RFPs because of their thought leadership.

chart showing 45-48 percent of executives saying thought leadership made them more likely to do business with a company

What is thought leadership? Gomes described a pretty low threshold, “We define thought leadership as the marketing instruments that a company puts out that satisfy two criteria: Number one, that they are sufficiently divorced from product marketing, so they’re not shilling product. And number two, that they are freely delivered – not paid-for work product.”

That sounds more like just content marketing to me. Real thought leadership is similar to what the writers of The Challenger Sale laid out a few years ago in that very popular sales book – unique industry insights that provide true value to the customer; the 10,412th blog post on search engine optimization isn’t going to move the needle. . I wonder if the senior execs who rated thought leadership so highly were thinking of it in more of this sense.

I have no doubt that unique, even contrarian industry approaches can provide this kind of increase in leads and sales. I’ve experienced it from my Bullseye Marketing Framework and seen it many times for others.

Computers have been crunching massive amounts of data and answering complex questions for years. They now can also read our emotions.

Affectiva, in Waltham, is one company that provides software that tracks a couple dozen points on a person’s face and uses that data to describe their emotional state. They can detect changes in mood in a few milliseconds.

Affectiva face scan

Affectiva has applied this to several million people worldwide to build an emotional database.

Hundreds of companies now are using Affectiva’s Emotion as a Service online software to run virtual focus groups and test their advertising and marketing.

Note that this is not facial recognition. The identities of the faces in the database are anonymous.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to imagine uses outside of marketing in the future such as systems in cars to detect if a driver is drowsy, or drunk. Or maybe even systems in airports and subways that would detect the emotional states of would-be terrorists.

I was doing video work with IBM one time (many times, actually, but this particular incident only happened once) and my client asked me, “Do you know an agency that can produce an interactive software demo for us?”

Yes, I said, we can. My agency had produced many demos for IBM. But she thought of us as that video company.

Recently I was doing customer interviews for a client and their customer said that while he understood all of the current technologies my client provided, many others thought of them as being kind of old fashioned because they also provided support for a very old technology. (It would kind of be like a company that did print but also – mostly — web development and mobile app development, but people thinking of them as just a print company.)

This is a branding problem. And it’s common. Often companies occupy a particular place in the customer’s mind, or more broadly the market’s collective mind, and aren’t recognized for other things they do as well or better. It’s been remarkable, actually, so see how a few brands like Amazon and Virgin have been able to avoid this while expanding into many fields.

My client needs to update their appearance and messaging. Stop highlighting that old technology on their website and emphasize the new. They may need to do a branding campaign targeted to their industry. It could have a big impact on their business.

What are you known for? Is it what you want to be known for?

It’s December and time for the many year-in-review articles. A recent AdWeek piece featured the 10 most watched ads on YouTube.

These aren’t just :15 or :30 second TV ads posted to YouTube. Some, like the most watched ad from India are longer form pieces created specifically for the Web. (Millennials and Gen Z watch a majority of their video on devices other than TVs.)

Some, like the Melissa McCarthy Kia ad, are funny. Some are serious. The Indian ad is touching. Check it out.

 

Seven Principles of Digital Marketing

  1. We don’t do digital marketing but rather, as the head of brand at P&G said, market in a digital world. Digital marketing should be fully integrated with traditional marketing.
  2. Marketing should be judged on its contribution to business goals such as leads, opportunities, lower customer acquisition costs, and revenue, and not just marketing campaign metrics like opens, shares, and time on page.
  3. The customer should be at the center of all marketing, rather than the product.
  4. Use digital programs to personalize delivery of the right message to the right audience (person) at the right time.
  5. Use data to optimize programs. As Deming said, “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.”
  6. Bring an attitude of experimentation and constant improvement to the work. Recognize that what works for one industry, or company, or product, or audience, may not work for another.
  7. Be open to change, because what customers want and competitors are doing is likely to change increasingly frequently.

Southwest Airlines recently posted this promoted tweet:

Southwest tweet soliciting good flight experiences

This is a user generated content campaign. They can get countless impressions just by inviting people to share their stories and promising to retweet a few of them. And people did share, including the video in the center that used an app to add a goofy face to the speaker.

Several positive story tweets

 

Although I’ve seen user generated content campaigns from both B2B and consumer brands, and some considerably more elaborate than this (like entering a video in a contest), this kind of campaign can be risky. If Southwest had a lot of unhappy customers they may have taken the opportunity to tweet their displeasure. But I’m not seeing much of that.

I guess you don’t have to worry about that when you have the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry.

Tomorrow evening I’m speaking to a class on social media marketing at Northeastern University in Boston. My news for them: sorry, but you’re late. The party’s over.

Brands can still use social media for connecting with influencers, social selling, and certainly for highly targeted paid ads (each platform has a different way to do that). But the idea of using social media for publishing and amplifying content is decreasingly relevant.

The average Facebook or Twitter post is only seen by 2 or 3 percent of a brand’s followers unless it gains considerable engagement. This week Snapchat announced that it’s dividing its Stories tab between friends-only and brands, sort of like Gmail’s Primary and Promotions tabs.

People on social media are simply more interested in posts from people, not from brands.

And then I ran across this on Twitter, that well-known cesspool of bots and harassers (and bots who harass). A verified journalist with 50,000+ followers (97% real, according to Twitter Audit, which is the highest rate that I’ve ever seen) discovers that she can avoid harassment by changing her location to virtual Germany…

Tweets from journalist

Countless people have reported being harassed on Twitter. It’s clearly one of the biggest problems with the platform. Why doesn’t Twitter treat everyone like it treats Germans?

The trade show industry took a major hit with the advent of the Internet, and the 2002 recession was the final straw for some. COMDEX, the huge computer industry show that started in 1979, folded after the 2003 show.

The 2008-9 recession was another hit, but through 2016 the industry has had six years of growth since then.

And while COMDEX is gone, Salesforce’s Dreamforce alone draws over 170,000 people. The annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is attended by over 100,000 people. A dozen other U.S. shows cover more than 1 million square feet of space annually.

Trade shows draw a very industry-specific audience and can help a company…
• Build its brand by its mere presence
• Present (often with customers) to a relevant industry audience
• Give sales people and executives a venue to meet with customers and prospects
• Gain leads

Some tactics:
• Before the show sales people and executives should schedule as many in person meetings with customers and prospects as possible
• Email or mail attendees an offer before the show if you can get the list, otherwise use a list you built last year. Promote the offer prominently on social media and perhaps targeted ads, as well as your booth.
• Be active on the event’s social media conversation using its hashtag; use that to respond to posts from others and inform people of offers and your sessions (there were one million uses of the Consumer Electronics Show #CES2017 and @CES this year)
• Consider state-of-the-art exhibit techniques like AR and VR to wow people at your booth.
• Be sure to follow up promptly after the show to all new leads.

Of course your tactics and approach will vary depending on your goals.
Sales people tend to love trade shows, and companies can over-invest in them. After all, for a small company it can easily cost over $10,000 all-in to exhibit and travel, and during the show your people there are 95% unavailable for anything else. Bigger companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, at a major show.

At my former agency for one show we arranged a discount in exchange for promotion with a bike store to give away a $2,000 bike (or the equivalent, like two $1,000 bikes). When I wheeled the bike into the exhibition hall I heard a person say, “No THAT’S a giveaway.”. The entry form was detailed and we had people lined up to fill it out. We got many good leads from that.

On the other hand I had one client who found that search ads were so much more effective for lead generation that they cut shows they exhibited at from 29 to 4.

Meeting people in person is still tremendously valuable and effective but don’t overdo it. Treat trade shows like any other channel. Integrate them with your other programs and use them to the degree that they’re effective for you.