Does a Facebook Like equal an opt-in?

Facebook Like

Facebook Like

I read a post from Brian Solis (author of Engage and principal at Altimeter Group) over the weekend in which he accurately described the typical tactics used by social media marketers to grow an audience on Facebook.  From the post:

“So, to keep the [Facebook] numbers up, our team posts more often, asks questions, runs polls, curates content, introduces more and more contests, and asks for your help to submit your pics and videos as part of our ‘user-generated’ content campaigns. We measure success by the Likes, comments, shares, the number of conversations, and reach.”

I was nodding my head in agreement as I read through this.  Yes, most organizations that have focused some of their social media marketing effort on Facebook have tried some or all of these tactics.  They make sense because they work.  These are the types of tactics that drive Likes on the platform.  But then…he threw this at me:

“While the Likes are rising, we’re starting to recognize the pattern…I guess we never really defined why you should ‘Like’ us beyond the initial click. We just took for granted that a Like equated to an opt-in.”

I don’t interpret this as a negative but it is certainly something that deserves more attention.  Once a brand has acquired the Like should this be interpreted as equivalent to an opt-in for general information?

I don’t believe so.

I arrived at this conclusion by thinking about my personal habits on Facebook.  Here is a quick sampling of some of the brands I Like and why:

  • We Are Social: They provide useful, relevant information about social media marketing.  Yes, they are an agency but I do not have a business relationship with them.
  • Kashi: Coupons.
  • Facebook Marketing: This is the team at Facebook responsible for reaching out to the Marketing community.  They provide useful, relevant information about social media marketing as it relates to the Facebook platform.
  • ShortStack: I currently use this product and the team does a good job educating me about quick tips and other useful information regarding how to use ShortStack more efficiently.
  • George Takei: He’s funny.
  • Ignite Social Media: Much like We Are Social, Ignite provides useful, relevant information about social media marketing.

So, there is a mix of business and personal.  That’s common.  On the business side, I am looking to educate myself.  In all instances (regardless of my relationship with the company) I am seeking information to help me either learn or be more efficient.  This is why I do not believe the Like should be interpreted as an opt-in for general information.  I’m seeking information, not vendor relationships.  Those relationships will ultimately form.  As long as the content is valuable I will continue to return to the source.

To bring this back around to Brian’s post, as social media marketers we should all ask the question: Are we posting information that is useful to the audience we have acquired on Facebook?

Did you notice that Bing is at 30% market share?

bing social search

bing social search

I read an article last week about Bing that made me say, “Wow!” No offense to the fine folks at Microsoft working on this product but I don’t often use “wow” and “Bing” in the same sentence. We assume the search engine market was locked up years ago and Google walked away with the top prize.

However, with change comes opportunity and the major search engines are working hard to figure out how best to integrate social signals with traditional search results. There is an opportunity to capture more market share based on how social integration is implemented. Bing is making some progress in this space which seems to eclipse what Google has accomplished to date.

While it has not launched yet, the redesigned Bing is going to include Facebook and Twitter data (among others). This is something that Google is not technically/legally able to do right now. If early adopters take to Bing based on their social integration there may be opportunities for socially savvy companies to capture additional eyeballs.  Based on your overall marketing spend, this could be a factor to consider.

Personally, I'm not happy with the social signals built into Google.  I don't hate it and I'm certainly not part of the cadre of people who have railedagainst it.  I just don't "love it".  I've used the social signals built into Google a few times and face all the normal issues that exist, the most obvious one being that my Google+ Circles are not representative of my real social graph.  "The idea is wonderful.  The execution is poor."

Sage, Social Media, and Music

Sage Summit big shot

Sage Summit big shot

Ever had a series of conference calls with someone you’ve never met and then comes a day when you actually meet in person?    There’s an instant recognition– a bond that is professional yet friendly -- and over time, your rapport and trust builds and strengthens. Now….imagine a similar scenario but one that actually thrusts you onto a stage under a spotlight in view of thousands of peers – some you know, many you do not.     Now imagine these thousands of peers looking up expectantly at you and anticipating ….what?

Well, what they will be expecting from me (and my Sage Summit band members) in August at Sage Summit 2012 is a rockin' good time.  Imagine (for those that know me personally) how awesome it felt when one of the Sage Partners called to tell me I had been selected as a band member for the Sage Summit 2012 battle of the bands.  I will get to stand on stage with them and perform after only a few hours of practice.  The winning band then gets to perform later in the week LIVE at the Grand Ole Opry in front of 4,000 of their peers.  Very cool.

So, what does this have to do with social media?  The winning band will be chosen by their peers through a series of votes.  QR codes will be scattered about on jumbotrons and messages will flash encouraging attendees to text a code for their choice of best band.  What I have learned through the planning process is that social media, as it can be specifically applied to live events, poses some very different challenges.  Expect me to write more about those challenges in the future.

For now, I think it's safe to say that when I need your vote I can can't on you.  Right?

Why Your Business Should Be Using Google+

googleplus-icon

googleplus-icon

Are you thinking about incorporating Google+ into your social media strategy but haven't made the leap yet? There are a few important advantages to participation you need to consider. But first, some background.

What is Google+, really?

For the uninitiated, it’s a social network. For those in the know, it’s a Facebook clone (that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment but it’s partially true). Google is understandably avoiding making any comparisons to existing social networks. If I were forced to do so then Facebook would be the most likely comparison. As you think through both this post and your strategy, Facebook will do if you absolutely need a point of comparison (at least for now).

Something to keep in mind is that Google+ is not +1. They are two separate names to two related but very different things. For those that don’t spend their professional time geeking out on social networks (I do) the terms can be confusing. That’s completely understandable. As discussed above, Google+ is Google’s social network. The +1 is their equivalent of the Facebook Like (to stretch the comparison a bit further). So when you “+1” something you are giving Google a signal that you like the page/link/ad (Yes, you can +1 an ad. Who does that?!!?).

To add further confusion to the understanding of Google+ terminology, Google is now aggregating +1 and Circle activity for business pages. I’m not even going to go there right now (see the footnote for an explanation1).

Why should you consider incorporating Google+ into your social media strategy?

As marketing practitioners we all need "another social network”, right? Well, under other circumstances I would relegate Google+ to a second tier network, monitor it for any activity about my brand and respond as appropriate. Then I would move on with my life. But this is Google and, while their network is still nascent, it does require more attention than you would give other burgeoning social networks.

These are the important and distinctive advantages to using Google+:

  • Google allows for long form content (somewhere around 100,000 characters if you would like to personally test it). You can post long status messages like this entire blog post or even a novella (literally).  Sure.  Sure.  Facebook recently also increased their character count on posts to 63,206 (Facebook … Face Boo K … hex(FACE) - K … 64206 - 1000 = 63206) but it wouldn't flow or feel right if you used all characters.  The Facebook community is not used to long posts.  The Google+ community see long form content regularly.
  • Google+ posts can be referenced through unique links and shared publicly. There is no need to worry about whether or not someone has a Google+ account. Everyone can view your public content regardless of their Google+ account status. This is not a distinct advantage in and of itself but when combined with the next point it is important to consider.
  • Google+ posts perform extremely well in the search results. Some prominent bloggers have used anecdotal evidence to support the idea that, while their blog post performs well in the Google SERPs, a Google+ post about the original blog post performs better. See this note from a former Google Apps product management lead as an example of said anecdotal evidence.
  • Google “Search plus Your World” (a.k.a. social search) is a significant change to their algorithm in which social signals (mostly the +1) are incorporated into Google’s search results. Currently, signals from Twitter and Facebook are not being included in these results so activity on Google+ is the only way to increase your chances of being seen (there has been plenty written about this already). This is a complex advantage so lets look at some pretty pictures.

Look at these screenshots for an example of how social search is affecting results even today. They are both for the search term “SOPA” (an extremely egregious and disgusting bill making its way through Congress). The results are very different when social search is triggered and the difference does not have anything to do with proper SEO. It’s almost entirely based on your Google+ Circles and +1 activity.

SOPA - traditional search results

SOPA - traditional search results

SOPA - social search results

SOPA - social search results

Based on the incorporation of these new social results, there has been some healthy discussion about how traditional SEO is not important (see an excellent argument from Ed Kless about SEO and social search). I think this conversation is great because we are in a transition phase. SEO is still extremely important for your digital marketing efforts if your goal is to be seen by more people.  It’s difficult to tell if SEO will continue to deliver the same results using the same formula as social search becomes more prominent. My educated guess is that it will not.

The carrot and the stick

The advantages listed above are all carrots. That is, they are the positive benefits of having bought into participation on Google+ for your brand or business. Here’s the stick:

Not only do Google+ posts rank highly in their search algorithm but activity around the +1 will directly impact your cost per click advertising costs. Stay with me here because this is the most important part of the post (Yes.  I buried the lead). Based on the 2011 Search Marketing Report from MarketingSherpa, the paid search click through rate of social media users compared to non-users (the 3 of you left out there) is double. Double. Let’s put that in terms a bit easier to understand. The more your Google AdWords ads get clicked, the higher your quality score. The higher your quality score the less you pay for ads. In my best mafia voice, “Capisce?”

In Summary

Google+ was officially launched on June 28, 2011. Just prior to that the +1 button was launched but didn’t have much of a purpose without the accompanying social network. In other words, it hasn’t been that long (Leo Laporte asked an excellent question on his TWiT podcast recently, “How many internet years is represented by a real year if a dog year is 7 years?”). You can clearly see Google’s focus here and their desire to make this product successful. Personally, I’m in. The conversations on Google+ are intelligent and in-depth. I really enjoy it. From a business perspective it’s hard for me to argue against the points above. Get your pencils sharp and dust off your thinking caps. It’s time to focus some of your effort on Google+.

1Footnote: Just like on Facebook, you can like a brand or business on Google+. This is done through the +1 and, for comparison’s sake, it matches the Facebook Like perfectly. You can Like a status update. You can +1 a status update. You can Like a brand or business. You can +1 a brand or business. If we look at the Los Angeles Times business page on Google+ we can see that “14,127 have +1’d or added to circles”. Wait. What? Yes, if you Circle a brand on Google+ you are counted in their aggregate influence number (What are we calling that number, anyway?). Breaking down the number, 13,986 have the Los Angeles Times in a Circle which means that only 141 have +1’d the venerable west coast publisher of news and information. I've seen similar trends skewed in favor of Circles for other brands as well. I’m not sure why Google is aggregating these numbers but it can create a small amount of confusion as you are measuring the success of your efforts.

Google+ Pages - A very early review

google-plus

google-plus

Google+ pages (launched recently) now provide an opportunity for businesses, and not just individuals, to participate in the still nascent social network. Along with this feature launch from Google came myriadarticles and how-toguides all geared at bringing people up to speed quickly. There are a few key features that are showing great potential and also a few features that are glaringly absent.

First, the drawbacks: 1. Page administration - This is the biggest current drawback. Business pages on Google+ can only be administered by one person. Google prefers you be a "real" person to participate on Google+ as an individual. Further, only individuals (a "real" person as Google sees it) can create business pages. So once a business page is setup by an employee only that employee can do anything with the account because it is tied to their Google+ profile (and their Gmail account by extension). Trying to get around this requirement is risky as Google has proactively closed many accounts of personal profiles that were not genuinely tied to "real" people.

[Update: This is the single largest feature currently being requested by business users of the Google+ platform.  Given the highly iterative nature of Google it is natural to assume they are working on this.]

2. Notifications - Business pages do not receive notifications via email or in the notification bar. Everything is still manual.

Advantages:

1. Search, of course. Google+ pages, the +1 button and Direct Connect (more on that below) are all geared at providing Google with more intelligence.  This will help to improve search results and also search advertising.

2. Message segmentation - The Circles feature in G+ allows you to segment your audience. Once done, you can also segment your messaging (very similar to segmentation when sending email marketing messages). One big caveat is that creating Circles is currently a manual process and can be very (very) time consuming.

3. Direct Connect - This feature allows G+ pages to show up as the first result in Google search when using the "+" qualifier. Visit Google.com and type "+a". Experiment with different letters and you will see the companies that are currently participating.

Google+ direct connect

Google+ direct connect

Those are the big advantages/disadvantages out of the gate.  This platform will change fast.  What's clear to me is that Google has moved beyond a remedial understanding of social media.  They get it now.  They've spent critical time thinking about how to build out a social network and the most compelling issue for marketers to consider is how G+ activities will affect their search marketing (including advertising) results.  Pay attention here and stay ahead of the game.

[UPDATED] Mashable reports that multi-admin capability is coming soon.