Facebook Sponsored Stories: Engaging Content is More Important than Ever

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the success of Facebook’s Sponsored Stories. It makes sense, really. Sponsored stories are posts you’d see anyway in your newsfeed, so they aren’t as disruptive as, say a popup ad. Your friends interacting with brands on Facebook or brands that you’ve already liked are being featured in your newsfeed often because the brand paid to increase the Edgerank of the post.

Let me explain.

Without paying for a Sponsored Story a brand would need to rely completely on organic likes, shares and comments to increase the EdgeRank of a post. After all,  Facebook has admitted that only 16% of your fans see your posts in their feeds at any given time.  So, the more clicks, likes, shares and comments, the higher the EdgeRank, and the more likely it is to show up in their fans’ newsfeeds. With Sponsored Stories,  brands can PAY for that positioning. But before you get all excited and forge ahead, check out this Forbes article on why Facebook is standing on shaky ground here. Social media and paid advertising, to me, seem counter intuitive.

There’s also a lawsuit over the use of Facebook user’s photos and profiles to promote these stories, specifically the fact that one of your friends “liked” a page and that Facebook is using their photo and name without their permission. I’ll keep watching to see how that plays out. Facebook may end up allowing an opt out to these stories.

Let’s remember though, the whole key to social media is the social part. People are there to chat with their friends, share funny photos of their cats (yes I’m simplifying) and talk about their family vacations. Sponsored stories about brands in their newsfeeds borders on the “let’s have a party and sell something” side.

This is why brands wanting to connect with fans need to be even more creative about the content they post, especially if you plan to use Sponsored Stories. Your fans still want to look smart in front of their friends, share funny photos and feel like they have a connection to something larger than themselves.  Even if you pay for that positioning, these rules still apply. To my sense, the most logical use of a Facebook Sponsored Story is paying for the likes of a page, to promote a deal, or for a poll on something relevant to your brand.

My friends at Social Fresh have some great examples of ways to use Sponsored Stories, so check that out if you’d like to give it a try.

Have you had experience with Facebook Sponsored Stories?  I’d love to hear your results. Share them with me here in the comments.

How to Know if Your Content Strategy is Working

Social Media Content StrategyExecuting a content strategy is a lot of work. Let no one tell you that social media for business is easy or fast. You must invest consistently and regularly in your content updates. You must know your audience. You must evalaluate and re-evaluate your strategy and work to become a trusted resource. You must be engaging, fun and entertaining. You must target and grow your audience using a multifaceted approach. And you must be flexible and willing to change course when your audience dictates it. So how do you know if all of this work is paying off?  How do you know if your content strategy is working?

You are Engaged in an Ongoing Conversation with Fans

When starting out on a social media campaign you may first feel as though you’re talking to an empty room. There may be little engagement from fans and few clickthroughs to your website.  Now is not the time to decide social media doesn’t work. Just like I write in Social Media Marketing is Like Dating, relationships take time to build and develop trust. As you build your audience you should see a gradual increase of likes, comments, retweets and shares. You’ll get to know your audience and what they enjoy. You’ll find yourself thinking of them when you read a certain article or produce an original content piece. You’ll become part of a larger conversation with fans and followers and you’ll recognize their unique personalities and traits. Don’t give up too soon as this process can take months to develop.

Fans Tell their Friends about You

Maybe this process starts with the Twitter Follow Friday tradition, or perhaps your Facebook page is recommended by friends in the beginning. Take advantage of these recommendations to help your account grow. Remember to recommend the pages and people you find valuable too. Social media, like dating, is a two way street.  You need to recommend others if you want them to recommend you.

People Tell You They Recognize You from Social Media

You know that feeling when you buy a car and then start seeing that same make and model all around you? You never noticed it before, but now it seems like it’s everywhere.  That’s brand recognition. The same thing happens when you engage regularly in social media spaces. If you’ve done a good job of branding your account and are actively engaging in these spaces, people start to recognize your logo and your name. Then, when they see your store in their neighborhood, your products on shelves or your brand name on your collateral materials they’re already familiar with you. That’s how trust in a brand builds.

Your Conversion Rate is Growing

I don’t necessarily mean sales here. How you measure a conversion is unique to your business. A conversion from Facebook may be a subscription to a blog. A Twitter conversion may be a Facebook page like, or a newsletter sign up. Conversations can also be:

  • Donations to a cause
  • Downloads of a white paper
  • Requests for information
  • Commitment to volunteer

However you measure a conversion, as you continue to execute your strategy you should see this rate increasing.

You are Having Fun

You’ve heard this one before. While social media for business is hard work, you should also be truly enjoying your engagement with your fans and followers. People involved in social media are social in nature, so their online interactions should reflect their offline values.  Use your sense of humor and be interesting. Remember your job is to entertain and add value to your fans’ newsfeeds. So if you’re not having fun what makes you think your fans are? Whether you’re writing a blog on a topic about which you are passionate or posting a silly photo of your business, you should be enjoying the interaction as much as your fans do.

How do you measure success in your strategy? I’d love to hear from you.

Boost your Website Traffic with Pinterest

Carmine Media on Pinterest

Carmine Media on Pinterest

If your business relies on driving traffic to your website to increase sales consider joining Pinterest. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it is a social network where users to share their interests by “pinning” images or videos to their own or friend’s boards. Remember how you decorated your locker in high school? Well now you can share those clippings on Pinterest and use them to drive traffic to your website. Of all the social networks this one is truly the easiest to get set up and running.

Getting started on Pinterest

  1. Go to Pinterest.com and request an invite. The response is usually fast, within one day or so.
  2. Add the “Pin it” button to your browser
  3. Start Pinning
Pin it button

Connect and Brand your Account

Currently Pinterest allows users to connect using either a Facebook or Twitter account. Note to businesses: the option to share your Pinterest activity is not available to Facebook pages, only personal profiles. When you set up your Pinterest account be sure to connect with your business Twitter account to allow easy sharing to your Twitter followers.

Brand your Pinterest account the same way you’ve branded your other social accounts. Under the settings tab add your website, a keyword rich description and your standard social profile picture.

Create and Build your Boards

Just as with any social network it is important to flesh out your content before actively seeking out followers. Explore the platform and pin images you like and those that represent the type of content your customers will find interesting. It probably goes without say, but make sure your images are visually appealing so users will want to share them. Go through your website using the “Pin it” button and organize your interesting images onto a board. This is where the platform becomes a powerful traffic driver to your site. Users will be able to click through that image from Pinterest right back to your website. Keep this in mind when adding future images to your site or blog. Make sure they are pinnable and interesting to Pinterest users!

Build your Pinterest Following

Start following users you hope will follow you back. Follow some of the Pinterest power users so you can see how they’re leveraging the network. Mashable, Etsy and Folk Magazine (debuted November 2011) are good resources for inspiration. You can see the beginnings of my boards at Carmine Media here.  Pin a few images every day for maximum exposure. The network is growing fast and you’ll be surprised by how quickly folks start repinning your images. Cross connect by adding a Pinterest follow button to your website so visits know you’re using the platform.

Become a Pinterest Thought Leader

By posting your own and curating other’s content you can become a subject matter expert on the topics most interesting to your customers. For example, if you’re a real estate broker, pin images of beautifully staged rooms so sellers can get ideas for home staging. If you’re a pet groomer, pin images of cute animals (there are plenty to be found) and show dogs being groomed. Make sure to add links to your image descriptions, use keyword rich text and know that Pinterest supports the use of hashtags. Remember too, as with any other social network there are rules of engagement known as Pin Etiquette . Make sure to check that out.

Happy Pinning!

The best way to get a handle on using Pinterest for business is to try it yourself. Sign up for a personal account, connect it to your Facebook page and start pinning images that inspire you. You’ll see quickly how all that activity can translate into buzz around your brand.

How are you using Pinterest for business? Share your thoughts, ideas, and any boards you love here with me.

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