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?


Oct 112013
Museum art

Museum art

Imagine you’re a curator in a city museum. The gallery spaces are yours to conjure with. You have to attract and engage an audience of city dwellers and visitors. The range and scope of art works available are huge. Your job is, not just to display pieces, but to select and organise pieces that compliment each other, to demonstrate connections.

For anyone tasked with promoting a network on social media, it is helpful to think in terms of being a curator. Networks, like women’s business groups, online business directories, tourism clusters or community groups, often want to use social media. But the task can be overwhelming. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is a network?

In some cases it is an organisation with paying members that sets out to promote the interests of those members. Or it may have no membership fee but simply draws together parties with something in common. Like a tourism network. Here in Wales, for example, the tourism operators in the Brecon Beacons are keen to encourage more visitors to the area. Sites that promote the area benefit all providers. But there’s more to a network than external promotion.

A network also implies members can benefit from interaction within the network. Sometimes forming a loose organisation is about pooling resources or accessing resources such as a community forming a group to set up allotments for a village.

Either way, for the network to pull together and help each other, members need to see tangible benefits of putting resources into the network. Social media can help in a number of ways. Here are 10 steps to consider.

1. Assess resources of the network

2. What do you want to achieve?

3. Who do you want to engage with?

4. What will your role be?

5. Which tools?

6. What phrases will people use

7. Draw up list of contacts

8. What’s your post strategy?

9. What activities will support your strategy ?

10. Who will run this?

1. Assess resources (how many hours a week can be spent on this)?

This is very important especially if you have a volunteer running the social media activity. It is better to be realistic at the outset. If there is only 2 hours a week, then you’ll need to prioritise (never a bad thing). So now you know how long you’ll spend, next why are you on social media platforms?

2. What do you want to achieve?

  • Promote a common cause?
  • Awareness of the network?
  • New members for the network?
  • Sales for members?
  • More co-operation and activity within the network?
  • National publicity.

Which is most important? Pick one! You need to expand on your goal. For instance, a tourism group, may want to promote the area first, then individual operators second. So it’s good to have a clear marketing strategy in place before you launch onto social media. That way you will have decided on the brand image you want to convey and the tone of voice you want to use.

Once you know your goals, it is easier to work out who you need to engage with.

3. Who do you want to engage with?

End users, existing members, new members and/or the press? Who is most important? Pick one! It may be with the time you have available, you are better using social media to strengthen the relationships within the network which will encourage members to support and promote each other.

Don’t get diverted. Doggedly pursue your target audience, remembering that the whole point of social networks is that people know other people. Don’t forget it’s not just what a person knows but who they can put you in touch with. This is the ripple effect, most obvious on Facebook.

4. What will your primary role be?

Choose either Curator, Networker, Promoter or Go To person. Which role has the potential for you to make the biggest impact?

The Promoter

For example: if you run a local business network where members pay you to market their businesses then clearly your primary role is as a promoter. Promoting others is far easier than promoting your own interests. If you can do this with a light, friendly and personal touch as a trusted member of the community your posts will have much more impact.

To see a great example of a social Promoter, follow Diana Vickers of Best of Carmarthen, Best of Cardigan and Teifi Valley and Best of Pembrokeshire on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @DianaVickers1.

The Curator

Here you bring together and share news, snippets, successes, events and reports from your members or sector. Two good examples are Organic Centre Wales’ Facebook page and WIRE (Women in Rural Enterprise)Facebook Group. The WIRE group in particular has members adding content taking much of the strain off the administrators. WIRE has a paid membership, so you tend to get better input when people pay to use your social networks.

In a tourism network there is huge potential for attractive and engaging images, short video clips and posts from behind the scenes. A curator will do some leg work to find out what’s available i.e. which members are already using social media platforms. Consider investing in running workshops to encourage others to start posting photos at least, say on Facebook where you as the curator can easily share them.

The Networker

The Networker finds useful and interesting people and information in any given room (real or virtual). This is less easy to see in action as the Networker is busy looking out for contacts and information and passing them onto specific members or the whole group e.g. Pembrokeshire Tourism regularly send out PR opportunities to members. This is a particularly good role where members pay to be part of your network. For the time pressed social media marketer, she can log contacts and information passed and use that evidence of tangible benefits, to help persuade members to renew.

The Go To person

The Go To person can either be the predictor of trends or the specialist. If you are bringing together creatives in Cardiff, then you need your finger on the pulse, not just of what’s hot in Cardiff but bring news of London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Beijing and beyond.

If you run a business network, and want to attract others, then as well as promoting events, you could curate guest posts from among your experts and bring the latest from the web on financial, legal and employment issues that affect your members. A sense of your role will influence what kind of content you post. Next you need to think about which platform you’ll use.

5. Which tools?

With so many to choose from. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Will you use a Blog, You Tube, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest? One of them or all of them?


To help you answer this, work out where your audience hangs out. Which is their favourite platform? Will you be mainly publishing original content or sharing others’ content? If you plan to write articles or want to share articles or content from your members’ blogs, then a blog for the network makes sense. Look into WordPress.com blogs. They’re easy to set up, free to use and have more and more plugins available enabling you to share video, add events and more.

You Tube

If you can see that short videos will work well, then consider setting up a You Tube channel where you can upload your content. Smart phones are making it easier and easier to shoot video and upload it on the fly. You Tube videos can be embedded in blogs, shared on Facebook and of course work very well with Google + (Google now owns You Tube which is the second largest search engine according to Social Media Today).


If you want to curate content, your audience is made up of consumers rather than businesses and most of your members use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, then consider Facebook as your main network. Tools like Hootsuite allow you to operate several different social media sites from one place. Think of it as mission control. You can write one post and share it across many platforms or edit and share it making it more suitable for the quirks of each different platform. Hootsuite is a great time saving tool.


If your members are mainly professional business people then consider LinkedIn as your main platform. LinkedIn groups are a good place to post topics, longer pieces and engage with like minds. We’ve focused a great deal on content, but how will your target audience find you? You need to give some thought to what people might be searching for.

6. What phrases will people use?

What phrases will people use when searching for what your network offers e.g. Rural business advice, eco tourism Ireland? Draw up a list for use in bios and posts. Google has recently made it harder for website owners to see which key phrases are bringing traffic but on social media sites you can quickly do trial searches to see what kind of people and content comes up. For example if you enter kayak Ireland in Twitter it will show you Twitter accounts of providers and tweets from kayakers and visitors interested in kayaking. By following those people, there’s a good chance they will follow you back and you can keep this as a live search helping you keep in touch with kayaking conversations.

Kayak Ireland Twitter search

Kayak Ireland Twitter search

It’s good to give active searchers the best chance of finding you but of course social media allows you to go looking for people too. So who would you go looking for?

7. Draw up a list of contacts

Think about who you want to engage with e.g. Members, support organisations, sponsors, end users. Look up those already in your contacts lists. All the social media platforms make this dead easy. But there are others you may overlook. The members of other local networks (not in direct competition with yours). An often overlooked group is made up of people or organisations you want to emulate.

They may or may not be a network like yours or they may simply have the kind of vibe you want to emulate. So for instance if you’re trying to promote outdoor activity holidays in a particular destination, think laterally and look and see if there are any interesting outdoor equipment suppliers doing innovative things with social media. Here in Wales, Howies is an independent organic clothing company with a passion for the outdoors. Take a look at their Facebook page for a good example of tribe building.

Or if you want to be the Go To person for food, look into another sector like fashion. Follow some bloggers and see how they do things. I’m a firm believer in NOT re-inventing the wheel. Go and see what the pioneers have done to make your way easier and emulate what works well. A word on this. Of course, I don’t mean slavishly copy. I mean adopt good strategic approaches. Back to strategy again. So what’s your strategy in terms of posts?

8. What’s your post strategy.

We know social media can soak up huge amounts of time and in some cases yield few results. To make the process of posting quick and easy it helps if you pre-plan your content to some degree. Draw up list of types of content you want to share: e.g. Events, offers, news, images, videos, funnies,case studies, stories, inspiration. Decide on frequency of posts. Also have a ‘go to’ list of people who reliably post shareable content. It takes seconds to hit share if you can quickly pull up the relevant posts. As already mentioned consider using tools like Hootsuite to save time. And what about other marketing efforts?

9. What activities will support your strategy

If your strategy is working well then you’ll attract a good following of engaged people who like what you post. Bearing in mind social media is a fast moving sector, it’s a good idea to have a back up plan. What do I mean by this? Remember Friends Reunited? Yes they’ve disappeared without trace. Not having a crystal ball I can’t reliably predict which social media platforms will still be around next year let alone in 2020.

So it’s a good idea to invite your friends, fans, contacts and followers to join an email list. By signing up they give you permission to send marketing messages directly to their inbox. All the social media platforms collect email addresses every day. Shouldn’t you too?

If time is short this may just be a monthly nudge to go and look at your Facebook page or it may be regular event promotion or special offers. If Facebook should fall out of favour, that list will enable you to invite your fans to join you on another platform EyeWink, HandFall or some such yet to be invented platform!

Will you be aiming to get articles or features in local, regional or national press or perhaps you’re aiming to guest blog to connect with your target audience via other specialists? Bear in mind the resources you assessed in step 1. So now you have more idea of the task at hand, in whose lap will this task land?

10. Who will run this?

The personality of the person given this job is important. Some of us are chatterers. Some of us are not. Some have boundless enthusiasm for social media, some are suspicious. For the younger generation sharing everything from what’s on your plate to who you fancy is second nature.

For the older generation it’s all a bit cringe worthy. The best person to run your social media is someone who’s in about the same place as the majority of your audience or perhaps just a grade higher. If your members are in first grade with social media, get a second grader to encourage them to get their water wings on Facebook or Twitter.

If your audience contains profilic bloggers and tweeters then encourage such a person to run your social media activity. For those who have willing volunteers or deep pockets a team of social media elves is even better.

Someone who likes writing isn’t necessarily going to be the best bet. Pictures have great impact on social media as do pithy one liners. Who comes to mind?

That’s enough to get you started in the right direction. Here’s a summary of those 10 steps again.

1. Assess resources of the network

2. What do you want to achieve?

3. Who do you want to engage with?

4. What will your role be?

5. Which tools?

6. What phrases will people use

7. Draw up list of contacts

8. What’s your post strategy?

9. What activities will support your strategy ?

10. Who will run this?

Can’t we just get tweeting and people will come?

It is definitely a good idea to get started and learn from others as you go but if you don’t take time to plan out how you do it, you’ll get easily disheartened and give up.

If you’d like me to speak to your network about digital tools or provide some hands on training, drop me an email and let’s have a chat.