by Tim Sweeney
Q & A with Facebook and Relationship Marketing Expert Mari Smith
We asked Facebook and relationship marketing expert Mari Smith for some words of wisdom on how to get the most out of your Facebook marketing efforts. Here, one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media marketing explains where you should focus your efforts on the social network going forward, offers advice on things you might not be aware of, and pontificates on where the social media giant might go next.
Q: For those who haven’t been paying close attention, take us through the latest offerings businesses can leverage in their Facebook marketing strategy.
Mari Smith: The first for me is Facebook Live, which is now going mainstream, and businesses are integrating it. A new shift is that Facebook is building a separate video news feed, which has already rolled out in most English-speaking countries. You’ll see the “play” icon at the bottom of the app. They are building this because they will run out of ad inventory in the main news feed this summer. Essentially, demand is exceeding supply on mobile as people figure out Facebook ads and use up that supply. This is all driven by a huge play for TV-style broadcasting, which has been fully embraced by celebs and media companies. The second area is direct messenger apps, and China’s WeChat is a big player here. It’s a mobile operating system with which the user can do everything without ever leaving the app, including order groceries and do their banking. The only apps poised to compete are Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. WeChat is what Facebook is driving toward—an all-in-one app with commerce integrated and calls to action in direct-messaging.
Q: So, is Facebook Live now a must for marketers going forward? And how can they tell if it’s working for them?
MS: The acid test for all marketing is this: Does it result in lead generation and, ultimately, sales? It’s a bit early now to determine whether businesses are really going to embrace Facebook Live and benefit from it. I’m not seeing really great, standout content yet. It can work well delivering live, behind-the-scenes, backstage-pass types of things. People love the informality of it. Whether it’s working for you is determined by whether it’s building an audience of the right people and moving those people to an action such as buying, downloading, or signing up for your emails.
Q: Social media managers are constantly asked about ROI. How should companies be measuring their Facebook marketing efforts?
MS: We consult with small businesses daily, and one of the first things we do is identify what a Facebook interaction is worth to them. For some, it could be $5. For others, maybe it’s $100. Businesses ought to know their cost per customer acquisition plus the lifetime value of a customer before spending a dime on Facebook ads. Let’s say a company knows their typical customer spends a total of $5,000 over time, and it costs them $50 to acquire a new customer. So, it’s worth it to spend as little as $5 per lead or even as much as $100 on Facebook. A Facebook interaction might be a video view (the longer the view, the higher the value), a click to a website, or a private message (worth much more than a video view). Start with that and refine your campaign as you go. Facebook’s ad algorithm can tell if it’s dealing with a novice advertiser or a seasoned veteran. The best-performing Facebook ads drive people to a fast-loading, mobile-optimized landing page. That tells Facebook that this advertiser knows what he or she is doing. We will see more Instant Articles, Facebook’s fast-loading posts consisting of things such as branded blog posts that are housed inside Facebook. You can have a one-click lead ad integrated in those. That’s the name of the game. A lot of major content publishers, however, are weighing the pros and cons of keeping people on Facebook or sending them to other content of theirs outside the app. Facebook certainly wants to keep people inside the app.
Q: Will Instant Articles change content-posting habits on Facebook?
MS: With Instant Articles, you just need to create a special feed for your blog that meets the required formatting. When you publish on your blog, your post is essentially syndicated on Facebook, where it will load instantly—10 times faster than on the mobile web. You are reducing the friction and letting people consume that content in a reader-friendly format. You can have all kinds of content there. The challenge is you don’t get the traffic measurements, so that’s where the resistance is, though you can serve your own ads, keep the revenue, and track readership. People say, “I want people to come to my content on my platform (website, blog, etc.).” And it’s a big discussion in boardrooms around the world, but statistics tell us that people share Instant Articles 30 percent more often than articles that require linking to a location outside the Facebook app.
Q: You have written that video on Facebook gets the best organic reach and engagement, and that you can remarket that content to people who watch it. Can you explain to our readers how that works?
MS: BuzzSumo recently studied 800 million Facebook posts from 2016 and confirmed that video is at the top of the list in terms of organic reach and engagement. But look at your insights per post or per video and see how many people are watching them for 10 or more seconds. Let’s say you do a six-minute video and you want to create an audience out of the people who watched half of it. Ezra Firestone (founder of a company called Smart Marketer) has been able to create retargeted video ads that cost around 36 cents each to reach people who watched four minutes of a six-minute video. That’s where marketers and businesses are missing the mark. They put up a video, but they don’t take advantage of reaching multiple audiences. I might do a different type of ad for people who watched 50 or 75 percent of my video, because they are a much hotter target audience than someone who watched none of it. Most small businesses I’ve worked with don’t know this, and it saddens me. Facebook Blueprint (a training and certification program about marketing on Facebook and Instagram) has free video tutorials. Most
people spend thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, but they don’t know what they don’t know. Educate yourself, delegate to others on your team, use an agency, or even read case studies to see what other brands have had success doing.
Q: Do you have a few tips on the best practices for using organic and paid Facebook ads? And what if the company doesn’t have a budget for ads?
MS: First and foremost, the best advice I can give for creating posts is to make them relevant in context. People are there for social feeds. Your paid content needs to feel relevant and not interruptive. If you can “edutain” them—educate and entertain—and do it using a video, you’ve potentially hit a home run. There is a start-up company called Chatbooks that allows you to print books from your Instagram and Facebook photos. They have about 120,000 Facebook fans, but they did a hilarious ad campaign that I sat and watched in its entirety—3 minutes and 45 seconds. It has 52 million views. If you are a small business with a limited budget, funny and original works well. If that doesn’t fit your brand or budget, look at how you can make real, authentic, and humanized content. Try spotlighting staff members or customers, as opposed to asking people to buy your product. And remember, once Facebook sees you are investing in Facebook ads, they will turn up the volume of your organic reach. You can raise that with a small investment of even $5–10 per day. One big mistake people make is that as their reach plummets, they start posting more and more. At that point, you are getting penalized because you post too much. Another tip: time your posts to go out during off-peak hours.
Q: How can companies grow by using Facebook? And how can they use Facebook to find audiences similar to their target profile?
MS: I recommend an always-on campaign that gives people a reason to like your Page. That means using a variety of lead-generation tactics, such as contests, which are a wonderful way to convert likes into email sign-ups. Try using Facebook to do some granular targeting of your demographic. You start with your own customers in your email database, and that provides a prospect list. Facebook will match those emails to Facebook users, and you will get a 40–60 percent match. Then, you can say to Facebook, “Create me an audience that is similar to people who buy my products or similar to people on my email list.” The owner of a company called Little Passports (which ships monthly packages to your kids to help them learn about the world) took her business from $1 million in revenue to $10 million by using custom audiences and look-alike audiences. And she is now on track for $30 million.
Q: Do you find companies have more success with an in-house person managing their social media efforts or by using an expert external agency?
MS: I love working with companies that do their social in-house but also bring an outside trainer or consultant so they have the benefit of both worlds. My friend Chalene Johnson is a successful celebrity fitness coach and also a great marketer. For two hours every week, she sets aside time to create fitness tips and business-growth tips and broadcasts, using Facebook Live. Then her team comes in and chops the whole thing into multiple pieces of video, visual, audio, and written content across her social media channels. So, she is effectively repurposing the content she creates and getting more mileage out of it.
Q: With regard to telling stories, companies that aren’t natural storytellers sometimes struggle to do so. Any advice for them?
MS: The untold stories are the key. Acuity Insurance is the number-two most desired place to work in the United States, second only to Google. They have an extraordinary culture, and they treat people like royalty, but that was their best-kept secret. So, the challenge was to take that story from inside to outside the company. But what kind of wonderful stories can you tell about casualty insurance or motor vehicle insurance? One example is sharing an experience in which the company comes in and saves the day. Or maybe it’s a financial company following a small business they gave a loan to and watching them have success. One of my clients does flooring. I looked at their Facebook Page and said, “Everything on your social media is about floors. There’s nothing about humans.” They said, “Wow! You’re right.” And they began including people in their product photographs.
Q: What are the most common mistakes you see in social media/Facebook marketing efforts?
MS: In my book, The New Relationship Marketing, the central idea is that marketers need to understand that people want to know they are valued, that we are listening to them. One of the ways brands don’t do that is by not responding to or acknowledging people when they share your content. Brands will often pay to promote a post and receive a lot
of comments on it. Then there might be some negative comments or people pitching their businesses, and it stands out when the business does not respond. KLM, the airline, does a great job responding to inquiries and comments on social.
Q: Should companies look to employees to become brand ambassadors by using their personal Facebook pages? What are the risks?
MS: I’m a big fan of employee advocacy and companies that have an official advocacy plan in place and bring in training. You can mobilize a bigger audience. The important thing is that it has to be derived from a great culture. Zappos is renowned for their extraordinary customer service, which is derived from their culture. If your employees love the brand and love their jobs, I would advise using your employees to get involved. If employee culture isn’t great, then it’s a risk. I really believe that direct-sales franchises and companies with large numbers of employees can benefit from social media training across the entire company, because it helps deliver unified branding.
Q: What is the toughest change you have helped a client overcome by using social media more effectively?
MS: We worked with a start-up direct-sales company in the beauty industry. Starting from zero, their goal was to have 1,000 distributors by the time they launched. My team and I created a “passion page” on Facebook called “All Things Gorgeous.” It was an interesting page with beautiful and fun images, where people could see the content and share it. Through that page
and my social media training, the company had 5,000 distributors before anyone had even seen the products.
Q: What are you seeing as the breakout social media trends for this year?
MS: I think Snapchat Spectacles could take off. With regard to Twitter, their integration of Periscope could be widely used. The whole area of live content could explode. Otherwise, Pinterest is going to do an IPO, and perhaps Facebook will buy Netflix. Oh, and here’s a wild one for you: I think Mark Zuckerberg is beginning a process now that will one day enable him to run for president. Facebook has structured his stock so that he could step away for four or eight years and not have his stock impacted. He has said that his goal this year is to go around and meet real people. So, you heard it here first.