Say Goodbye to Promotional Posts!

It seems Facebook is cracking down on organic reach once again with its latest plan: reducing the number of promotional posts that appear in the news feeds of users, even if they Liked the Page from which these posts come. While it may seem like something I’d disagree with as a social media marketer, I’m going to have to side with Facebook this time around. But let’s get one thing straightened out: this does NOT have anything to do with Promoted Posts (which are paid for), but rather unpaid posts that Facebook as deemed “too promotional”. This is an example of what’s “too promotional”:

too promotional

According to the official Facebook newsfeed, the social network giant is targeting three types of posts:

1. Posts that only push people to buy something or install an app.
2. Posts that push people to enter a promotion, contest, or sweepstakes.
3. Posts that reuse content from ads.

At first glance this update might have marketers and social media experts quaking in their boots, but personally, I’m not worried at all. I’ve always been a proponent of quality content that is creative, unique, social, and in general, doesn’t look like it was generated by a computer and posted via an automated platform. This blog is called “Robots NOBOTS” after all! As social media marketers, we need to reach people from a social standpoint, which means we need to treat people like people, not potential wallets waiting to be emptied. Our social media accounts and Pages need to behave like human beings, not a hub for promotions, sales, and products. Treat your potential customers and fans well, and they will come flocking to your Page! Treat them exceptionally well, and they will come back with friends!

I won’t forget that Facebook killed organic reach for Pages, but this is an update I can get behind. It will reduce spam, and most importantly it will force the social media marketing industry to produce rich, engageable content. Coupled with Facebook’s promise to crack down on clickbait articles, we might actually start seeing some improvement in our News Feeds!

Automated…or Not?

Automation makes social media much simpler and easy to deal with, especially with all the “noise” going on that drowns out relevant messages you want to receive. With rapidly growing audiences and user pools, it’s almost essential to have at least some form of automated service in order to make sense of the monster known as “social media”. For those dealing with multiple accounts and clients, it can be an absolute godsend. However, you should not treat automated platforms like Sprout Social as a main tool. Automation cuts through some of the noise, yes, but it also takes some control from you, and that’s where social media mistakes occur.

A computer program can only do what it’s programmed to do; it cannot make judgment calls in terms of facts, appropriate language, and unacceptable behavior. You must treat automated social media tools as supplements that need to be checked frequently. Complacency is a problem that sneaks up on even the most seasoned social media marketers. Variety and excitement exists on an everyday basis, but even the Internet has slow days. It’s like driving: look away for just a few seconds and trouble will find you.

Opening Promotional Emails = More Promotional Emails

emailMany people might not know this, but nestled inside every promotional email is a hidden pixel, a tiny 1 pixel image that’s the same color as the email background, that serves an important purpose for every email marketing campaign: tracking and collecting user data. Since every image lives in some nebulous server space with a requisite URL, you can use analytics programs to gather tons of important data about those opening your newsletters and promotions, including geographic location, whether you clicked on any links, when you clicked, what you clicked, how long you stayed on the website after clicking, whether you’ve made a purchase within a set time frame of opening the email and clicking a link, etc. All of this is used to collate a pattern of behavior in order to better market and advertise to you via email. Believe it or not, it’s standard practice, and it’s rather ingenious. You only want to receive emails about topics and products relevant to your interests, right? This method of tailoring content based on your consumer behavior ensures relevancy in the long run. For those who don’t want their behavior tracked, there’s always the option of opening text-only versions of emails.

So what happens when you don’t open promotional emails and newsletters? After a while you get taken off the main mailing list and put on a sub-list that will be targeted with a more significant incentive to purchase. This can come in the form of a coupon code, an exclusive but time-sensitive sale, or it can simply be a reminder email asking where you’ve been. If you’re familiar with the email marketing process, it might actually benefit you to open the first few promotional emails you get from a company you’ve signed up with to trigger the tracking pixel, then waiting a few weeks for them to send you a better deal. One of the most important goals of email marketing is customer retention; you might even notice additional incentives thrown your way when you try to unsubscribe from promotional emails!

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from opening promotional emails – not at all! There’s a reason why you signed up for them in the first place! Open the ones you want to keep receiving and unsubscribe from those you don’t want to hear from anymore. Additional Tip: If you didn’t sign up for something but you receive emails from a sketchy source, block them. Clicking the unsubscribe button they provide might only exacerbate your SPAM problem!

Are Your Apps Compromising Your Privacy?

The world has gone mobile, and that means millions of apps are being installed every day on smart phones, tablets, and other devices that rely on Internet access. What most people don’t know is that when they download an app, they are subject to user agreements that allow the owners of the apps to collect personal and private data that will be shared with advertisers. You might think that apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms would be the worst offenders, but according to Forbes staff Parmy Olson, the worst offenders are actually games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds. Locational data is one of the things these apps collect. The game developer doesn’t care where you play, but the advertisers who pay the game developers to include their ads in the app most definitely do.

App Grades

PrivacyGrade.org Database Scores on User Expectations VS Actual App Behavior.

You might’ve noticed that apps nowadays will inform you about what type of data they collect before you finish installing it. As an advocate for transparency in all facets of life, simply stating that your data is being collected is not enough; the developers of these apps and games should let you know exactly where your data ends up, who’s buying it, and for what purpose. On the other hand, it’s a little understandable that free apps require advertisers in order to stay in business. But it’s also important not to confuse this data collection with up-front advertising on certain free apps that allow you to pay a small fee to remove ad banners. This fee only pays for your right not to be advertised at directly, It does NOT mean they stop collecting your data! It only means that you’ll be advertised to later through a different medium.

So how far does this go? How much data is being collected? A driving apple called Google Waze collections your locational data, but it also shares this data with local governments! Doesn’t that strike you as “Big Brother” behavior? It’s not a matter of whether you have something to hide, but rather a reasonable expectation of privacy within your own property – including your car and where you’re going every day! It can go further than that. Last month Twitter unveiled Fabric, a platform for building mobile apps. Included in the tools is something called Digits, which is used to send SMS Registrations to people signing up for mobile app services. Normally this would an expensive undertaking for the owner of the app, but with Digits, Twitter would be paying for the text delivery. However, Twitter also gets to keep the phone numbers for advertising purposes. This behavior isn’t explicitly explained to anyone downloading or registering for the app!

So the question remains: Are your apps compromising your privacy? YES, absolutely they are! The more important question is this: do you care enough to make changes to your mobile behavior?

Adapting to Well-Informed Customers

The power of knowledge and information is no longer in the hands of companies, businesses, and products. The spread of information has grown exponentially with the advent of search engines, Wikipedia, and most importantly, customer reviews via sites like Yelp. According to SAPVoice via a Forbes article, “Customers are tracking down information via Google; looking at what other consumers have to say about products and services on Amazon and Facebook; and researching what other business buyers are saying on LinkedIn.” This means that you, as a business, are no longer in total control of your reputation, and every blunder, misstep, and snafoo you make can be broadcast to the public. And you cannot delete them. You shouldn’t even try, because we all know attempts to delete or hide information from Internet users will only lead to an exponentially opposite reaction (see the Streisand Effect). So what can you do? The landscape of business and closing a sale is forever altered, and those that fail to adapt will fall behind. Social media and customer engagement is the key.

Social media sites are where you customers congregate, socialize, and subconsciously share information that may be valuable to you. That’s how sites like Facebook advertise to their users so effectively. As a company, you have to stop thinking like a company and start connecting with people on an individual level, and that means appointing a Community Manager – someone who knows the ins and outs of social media sites, and most importantly, someone who is great at interacting with people. In other words, you need a face, a voice, and a personality to be at the forefront of where your customers and potential customers will receive their first impression of you. As a company, your priority is to make a sale, but with a great Community Manager, you can leave a positive and lasting impression that will keep a customer coming back for more. Play your cards right, and they’ll bring some friends with them. Creating a stellar personality and profile and your customers will become your advocates, and this is where you want your social media presence to land.

Customers as Advocates

Like I mentioned earlier, people’s impressions of you and your products come not from you, but from the experience of others. If you have ready, willing, an able customer advocates, you’re essentially receiving free advertisement! If you’re good to your customers, they’ll be good to you.

What is “Quality Content”?

It’s the buzzword that’s on every social media marketer’s vocabulary: Quality Content. But what exactly does it mean? There’s no magic formula that will make every post you make instantly popular, because “quality” is a completely subjective term that’s dependent on your target audience. That’s right, you don’t decide whether or not the things you post are considered “quality content”, that status is given by the people who access that content and deem it “quality” enough to share with their friends. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not adhering to your personal concept of quality content; you are always creating it for your readers and consumers. This means you have to be wary of your use of language, images, and post frequency. Vary and adjust your vocabulary to match your audience and post where they post most often.

So how do you define quality content? Do you gauge its worth by Likes or Shares? Or do you delve deeper and look at how long someone stayed at your article, whether or not they scrolled all the way down, etc? All of these are valid markers of quality content, but whether or not the marker applies with change from post to post.