Oct 312013
Miracle cures

Miracle cures

You know those ‘too good to be true’ offers you see on TV? Miracle creams that’ll eliminate wrinkles, diet pills that will help you drop 4 dress sizes, hair re-growth products that will give you Samson like locks in 2 weeks?

Deep down we know they can’t be true. Sure enough in the small print, they’ll be little weasel words and disclaimers that water down the apparent claim and allow for something other than the promised dazzling and dramatic results.

Your skin might get a bit smoother, you may lose a few pounds and you may get a little more hair on your head but that’s not what attracted our attention. You feel let down.

I feel a little like this about the Facebook Custom Audience Feature launching globally this week. It allows you to upload your contact list and put promoted posts or Facebook ads in front of your email subscribers. I spend a great deal of time educating rural businesses about the DOs and DON’Ts of email marketing and my gut reaction to this new feature was, “hang on a minute.”

So let’s take a look.

What is the new Facebook Custom Audience Feature?

This latest Facebook feature allows you to upload your email list so you can target your Facebook ads to your subscribers’ profile pages. As Mari Smith (known as Queen of Facebook) explains,

“Facebook allows you to upload your own contact list (email subscribers) to the main Ads dashboard and reach your own prospects and customers with targeted ads. Previously, this feature was only available through Power Editor.”

How does it work?

It allows you to place promoted posts in your subscribers’ newsfeeds and ads in the right hand column on Facebook.

Check out the small print for yourself, Facebook Custom Audience Feature.

Anticipating the howls about privacy and opt in, Facebook says it will encrypt the email addresses and the data won’t be used to send marketing emails from Facebook or other 3rd parties. It also promises to delete the contact data once the matching process is complete.

So why should you worry? Isn’t this a great new marketing feature?

Why should you be cautious before using this feature?

There are 3 areas that concern me:

1. Email subscribers’ expectations

2. Wise use of advertising dollars?

3. Keeping track of unsubscribes in your Facebook Custom Audience

1. Email subscribers’ expectations

My first and main concern is, using my subscribers’ email addresses to place promoted posts or ads on their Facebook profile is not sticking to the spirit of the contract between me, the marketer and my subscriber.

Each subscriber gave me a contact email address so that I can send direct marketing messages to her inbox. There was no permission to use that data to track her down on third party sites. Using this feature feels like ambushing her.

Email marketing is bound by rules regarding opt in. Those rules act as a form of contract between you and the people who ‘opt’ to join your list. Your subscribers. Email marketing’s success relies on building a strong relationship with your subscribers. If they know, like and trust you, it is far easier for them to buy from you. I’m concerned that using email data in this way will undermine that relationship.

A recent study reported on All Twitter,  found that

“71% of social media participants say they are more likely to purchase from a brand they follow online”.

This is an argument for being active and engaging on your chosen social media platform by producing good, well targeted content. You do this by understanding your audience. In my opinion, it is not an argument to ambush email subscribers by using their private information to hunt them down on third party sites.

Of course when I search You Tube or Google I will see ads. These ads will be targeted based on past searches. Whether we find this helpful or annoying or amusing (depending on our mood and the ads), it is fundamentally different from the Facebook Custom Audience feature. Google uses your search history to place the most relevant adverts in front of you. I accept this as part of the price I pay for free search. There is no such reciprocal arrangement between your subscriber and Facebook.

Using the Facebook Custom Audience feature feels more like using someone’s email address to track down their phone number and then calling them during dinner. It’s not what your subscribers expect you to do with their email address. For those who dismiss this objection as unimportant, let’s look at another more commercial objection. What about good use of resources?

2. Wise use of advertising dollars?

Why pay more to advertise to people who are already engaged with you and have given you permission to send them direct email messages? There are many studies that show email marketing is considered effective by marketers. In the UK, a Direct Marketing Association report found that

90% of respondents rating it as strategically important or very important to their businesses, while 63% expect to increase expenditure on email marketing in the future.”

Getting people to subscribe to your list is a key step to getting engagement and buy in to your ideas, products and services. To then place ads, however personalised, in front of them on Facebook would seem at the least intrusive and at worst a waste of advertising dollars.

Wouldn’t it be better to put more resources into your email marketing rather than risk paying Facebook to possibly irritate and alienate your subscribers? What if the irritation you caused by showing up uninvited on Facebook, led them to unsubscribe next time you send a marketing email? Is it worth the risk?

And finally if you do use it, how will you make sure you don’t forget to remove subscribers from your Facebook Custom Audience who unsubscribe from your main list?

3. Keeping track of unsubscribes in your Facebook Custom Audience

In the UK, if you want to send marketing emails to people who’ve enquired with your company, you can use soft opt in as long as certain conditions are met, including:

 “where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages.”

That simple way to opt out is the UNSUBSCRIBE button that is automatically added to campaigns by programmes like MailChimp. When someone hits unsubscribe, MailChimp automatically ensures no further emails are sent to that email address. So you don’t have to worry.

How will you remember to remove them from your Facebook Custom Audience data? It’s safe to assume they left your email list because they don’t want to hear from you anymore. I can’t imagine theyd be thrilled to find you pitching to them on their Facebook profile.

I know you want to see this is a great opportunity.

Isn’t it good marketing practice to reach your audience through every possible channel?

I don’t have an argument with engaging with your audience through any channel where they are (legally) active. You can do that in a number of ways. Indeed using your email marketing to highlight activity on e.g. Your Facebook Page is a good idea. But the Facebook Custom Audience is about strong arming your marketing messages onto your subscribers’ Facebook without explicit consent.

So, for me, I question 1) whether you’re meeting your subscribers expectations by using the Facebook Custom Feature, 2) whether it’s a wise use of advertising dollars and 3) if you do go ahead, how will you make sure unsubscribes are removed from your Facebook data list?

Like those miracle creams it sounds amazing that you can market to your subscribers on Facebook, but when you look at the fine detail, it could well leave you (and more importantly) your subscribers feeling let down.

What do you think about this new feature?


May 142013

The Perfect Facebook Post: What The Experts Know | Social Media Today.

Some great advice here that is also relevant to bloggers. Regarding images, Social Media today suggests,

“When originally saving your image to the desktop, utilize keywords and location within the image. For example, if you are selling Arginine Supplements in Phoenix, Arizona, your image needs to be saved as exactly that – “arginine supplements_Phoenix, Arizona.” Drop of the “.jpg” or “.png” as well. In my experience, it also benefits your website to save the image as the actual URL of your website. For example, if Linwright Design were saving an image, I’d save it as “LinwrightDesign.com_Gilbert, Arizona.”

It’s easy to think of images as just icing on your posts or status updates. This good advice from Social Media Today, reminds us to make their backsides (as it were) appeal to those lovely search engine robots. It’s not just what’s in the image, but it’s vital statistics that matter.

Why rural businesses should think about cooling things with Facebook

 Facebook, Social media  Comments Off on Why rural businesses should think about cooling things with Facebook
Oct 172012
Is it time to look for a more discerning audience?

Facebook is changing. Should you review your use of it as a marketing tool?

A tourism business I was working with today is dismayed about Facebook reducing the visibility of feeds from business pages like hers. Now to get visibility you have to either try and understand the new algorithm and work out how to increase the edgerank of your posts or bite the bullet and give Facebook some dosh to promote your stories or advertise your business.

Is it time to say goodbye to Facebook?

Facebook is a business, like any other, and can’t be blamed for wanting to monetize the gigantic quantity of content its users generate every second. So while Facebook experts will no doubt find ways to help us all navigate the new parameters, maybe there is a wider issue to consider.

The latest changes on Facebook made me think about the content we all publish. Original photos, articles, videos or even collections of links or pin boards that many rural and farm businesses create are highly valuable. Is it time to withdraw our services as unpaid authors and photographers?

By posting original content to Facebook you share it but also lose control of it.

If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, where would all that information go? Unless you back up every post or use a site like Archive Book, your posts are lost for ever.

Maybe it’s time to reduce the resources you put into Facebook

Rather than cut all ties with this phenomenally powerful networking platform, I think it is time to review the relationship. When I talk to graduates about using social media for career development, I often recommend creating an electronic hub or e-hub. A central place for all your original content (backed up to your hard drive). The best way to do that is to set up a blog. Blogger and WordPress are just two sites that offer free blogs.

Here you can post all your original content, then set up automated posts to Facebook and Twitter to promote the new content. There’s a kind of sweet justice:  if Facebook wants to charge businesses to promote content, then perhaps you should withdraw your services of providing free, original content. Why not save it for a more deserving audience?

Without control of data and contacts your online relationships are vulnerable

I’ve been concerned for some time, that social media platforms collect contact information without sharing those precious email addresses with us the users.

At my Email Marketing Workshops, I often cite the fact that on social media sites, you have no access to the actual email addresses of your fans, followers or contacts. Whereas if you encourage people to sign up to your email list, they freely give you their email address and you can contact them directly even if the online platforms disappear.

So by all means continue to use Facebook but take control of your original content by publishing it to your own platform. Encourage friends and followers to subscribe to your email list by including an email sign up form on every platform.

I see social media sites as a good place to publicise your content, using specific keywords to attract followers who are looking for businesses like yours. Post snippets with links to your photos, videos or articles. Comments and status updates are fine but perhaps we should be a little more choosy over where we publish our unique, valuable content. The valuable comments and engagment you get from followers and fans can easily be streamed to your blog (or website), so that it is contributing to the content on your e-hub.

A more sustainable, long term response is to build a more engaged tribe elsewhere. Liking pages is an easy low commitment action. Signing up to a blog shows a little more interest. Whereas subscribing to an email list is a definite, “I want to hear about your business.” In the end, aren’t those the “fans” you want to engage? As a rural or farm business, you only have so many hours in a day. How many of them do you want to spend producing free content for shareholders of a company that doesn’t pay tax in the UK?

New Facebook group for organic sector in Wales

 Facebook, Social media  Comments Off on New Facebook group for organic sector in Wales
Nov 092011

As part of the Better Organic Business Links at Organic Centre Wales, we have launched a new closed Facebook group for businesses in the organic sector in Wales where they can virtually meet and share ideas, ask questions and generally support each other. Only members can see the content of the group. If you produce, process or retail organic food, textiles, skincare or other products and would like to join then please search for 'Welsh organics' in Facebook and then hit the 'Ask to join' button on the top right hand side of the screen. Your application to join will have to be approved so expect to wait a few days for that.

You can also try going straight to the page via this link. Look out for the image below.

If you have any difficulty finding or joining the group please email Lucy Watkins, the Better Organic Business Links Project officer.