Two-facebook?

People running a Facebook page (social media managers are people too, you know) must have noticed something odd recently. On every update, Facebook tells you that you’ll only reach about 15% of your audience. If you want more, there are easy, conveniently highlighted options to pay up.

This is not a small change. There’s a great run-down on this on a blog called Dangerous Minds. You can read it in full right here.

Paying to reach an audience on which brands have invested time and money already (via FB ads, among others), doesn’t sound like a good deal. And for most pages, the economics won’t make sense either.

It’ll be terribly interesting to see how this will pan out, and how brands will cope with it.

The traditional defense of Facebook is that their secret-sauce algo filters out brand updates so as to not pollute peoples’ newsfeeds with less relevant information. A great reason, putting the users’ interest first.
Except that it falls on its face when they say they’re okay with polluting if someone pays for it.

We’ve said it before though, even when it was free:
http://blog.digivaasi.com/2011/11/a-community-of-dunces/

The Internet was always social.

If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at analytics data for a website, you’d have noticed something called “Direct Traffic”. In our experience, most websites without media support tend to have ‘Direct’ as the biggest source of traffic, by far.

Most social strategies are built around driving traffic from Facebook or Twitter, ignoring this chunk. Many believe ‘direct’ means people are coming directly by typing the url.

Come on. If you think about it, the average person typing

www.yourbrand.com/yourlatestcampaign
sounds, well, a bit of a stretch.

Turns out, ‘direct’ is much more, and it’s social in a sense that preceded social networks.
When there was no Facebook, we still shared sh** on the internet. And we still do. In the end, it comes down to how cool your sh** is. Not the channel where it’s shared.

This wonderful article on The Atlantic explains what exactly it all means.

Arrogance or insecurity?

There is a famous quote that’s attributed to everyone from Gore Vidal to Genghis Khan to Maurice Saatchi. (At least Saatchi is misquoted on that, as the inimitable Dave Trott pointed out on his blog.)

Here’s the quote: “It’s not enough to succeed. Others must lose.”

It seems that many people working in digital marketing have taken that quote a bit too seriously.

You can’t go to a meeting or a conference these days without someone proclaiming how everything has changed forever, how digital has transformed our species and how mobile is going to change everything again.

Somehow, it isn’t enough that a digital or social or mobile campaign does well. It is invariably made into a case study of how everything else is dead.

Since we live in an age of aphorisms, and one of our favourite things these days is images with insightful quotes easily shareable across our social graphs, here’s something to think about.

The case of the blank banner

AdAge recently ran an article on a fascinating experiment with banner ads.

Any discussions on banner ads seem to get clouded by questionable data or entrenched beliefs.

Well, it’s quite clear anyway that they’re pretty damn far from perfect.

Whichever report you believe, if you can get anything more than 1 in a thousand people to click on it, you’re either very lucky or very smart.

Why do they perform so dismally? Probably because there are too many of them popping up in your face, and most of them are uglier than an ostrich.

But anyway, the experiment.

It basically ran a blank banner ad in different sizes across some sites, and the response it got was a bit of a surprise.

Have a look. It may not be the most valid of experiments, but it sure is interesting.

(Spoiler: It did better than Facebook ads*)

*Yes, Facebook has banner ads. Look carefully.

Teacher! Leave them clients alone!

Every blog, news site, conference, seminar (or webinar?), there is one thing that has been appearing for as long as we can remember.

It is some variation or the other of “Digital agencies aren’t doing enough to educate clients”.

The thing is, if they haven’t succeeded till now, there is something wrong. It could be any of the following:

– Agencies don’t want to educate clients.

– Clients don’t want to be educated by agencies.

– Agencies don’t know jack about anything themselves.

– It’s a meaningless, slightly condescending and probably irrelevant objective in the first place.

Or, they may all be true. (Though as you may have detected, we lean slightly towards the last point.)

What is hard to understand is, what exactly do clients need to be educated about?

Media properties? Effectiveness for those properties? Facebook insights? Relevance of Facebook insights? How to create viral videos?

Almost all aspects of digital advertising, perhaps advertising itself, have been obfuscated beyond the grasp of a normal person.

It probably suites some people well, if clients don’t understand what goes on behind the servers and clouds, in the magical ecosystem of socially empowered consumers engaging in interactive experiences and conversations.

But the point is, why do clients need to be educated at all?

The role of an agency should be pretty simple. You do try to understand and solve a client’s problems. You show the client how well (or badly) you did it. And you repeat, until you win awards or get fired.

How you solve it, what strategies and platforms you use, how much time and money you devote to any aspect, is up to you.

It sounds a bit condescending to say to a client that we can’t really account for your money, or measure ourselves against a clear objective, so we’re going to make up words and educate you about them.

Granted, clients may sometimes come across as utterly clueless about even the basics of the medium.

But it’s 2012! Everyone should know by now what a website is for and what’s cool on the internets.

Apart from that, it’s not that complicated, is it?

You create something interesting that communicates a message and persuades people to act. And you try and reach the right people wherever they are.

The clients don’t need to be educated about much else. They have their own job to do.

Agencies, on the other hand, could probably do with some education.

About what the client exactly does. About how their products or services are created and used. About the real business problems they face, and if they can be solved by us.

Or, we could all just get MBAs!

PS:

This is not to say that we’ve got it all right. Probably the opposite, if anything. But we usually like asking questions and wondering aloud.

At least unless a client tells us they want their own Facebook 😛

Sent from the bottom of our hearts :P

Just some things we gathered from your email.

  • How to save the forests.
  • How to save the tigers.
  • How to save the children.
  • Your company’s logo. (Yes, it was big.)
  • URLs to your LinkedIn, Twitter and corporate blog.
  • Your fax number.
  • Your email ID (within your email – emailception!).
  • The awards won by your company.
  • Your company’s no. 1 ranking in something.
  • Your disclaimer about something.
  • Your warning about not stealing any of the above.
  • And, that all of the above was sent from your super-awesome gadget.

Thing we struggled to find:

  • Respect for the English language.
  • Any evidence of serious deliberation.
  • Meaning.

Is the internet closing our minds? (And our dogs’ too.)

The internet is a funny thing. Everyone has their own perspective on it, but there seems to be a general consensus amongst the learned on one aspect: that the Internet has helped make people and societies more open and free to new ideas and influences.

Well. Not sure if that’s really true. In fact, the internet, esp. social media (we’re looking at you, Facebook), seems to be making everyone increasingly uniform in thoughts and behaviours. It is slowly erasing the quirks of individuality and spreading a web of conformity across its population, where people who like cats and tag holiday pictures from Goa are ‘cool’, and the ones who dislike cute animals or the DSLR disease are just weird.

Of course, the web lets us indulge in every possible hobby or interest, from philately to light-saber fighting, which is great. But the uniqueness is becoming increasingly confined to the niches, and the masses are becoming more closed to new ideas or challenging thoughts.

Perhaps the best example is the online matrimony business – one of the few which have been wildly successful since the beginning of the internet era in India.

A quick glance at the matrimony websites will show you how they work. They positively encourage you to choose people from your own caste. Whatever caste you can dream of has its own yourcastematrimony.com. Not just the obvious ones like jat matrimony, gupta matrimony, brahmin matrimony, etc. Even the most obscure ones. Do the Khandelwals really only want to marry other Khandelwals?

Perhaps it merely reflects the way Indians work. But the internet here is not helping anyone be more open. If anything, it’s manipulating the caste-focused culture to help us be more inbred. Without it, if your options were limited to relatives and neighbourhood aunties, you may still have had to find someone different. But now you can search for people with the same surname from across the country, even the world.

Google also throws up sites claiming ‘caste no bar’ in their URL. The first thing they tell you is that they have “18 different community channels to choose your life partner from your own caste”. Then there’s a little link at the bottom for ‘caste non-oriented people’. Clicking on it opens a woman’s profile, where the 5th word in her description is, well, her sub-caste.

Maybe, as a capitalistic enterprise, you have to give people what they want. But don’t you also have a social responsibility to encourage ideas and behaviours that could help our societies be more open and free-minded?

On the bright side, there is also a dog matrimony site. They offer Arabian Nights-themed weddings for your dogs, followed by “We are against animal cruelty”. I don’t know about you, but to the male author of this blog, it sure sounds cruel to be dressed (against your will) as Aladdin on your wedding day.

What if we *don’t* need a community?

Depending on who you’re talking to, it may sound preposterous, hypocritical, ignorant or just plain dumb. But it’s always, always a whole lotta fun.

Now, this is kind of tricky territory for us, because some clients have been known to find us too thick or too non-serious when it comes to the wonders of social media. (Maybe they’re right?)

But every time we’re in a meeting, or a pitch or something, with people talking about how a “strong, engaged community” is the single most important objective for the brand, we’re just waiting.

Waiting to utter the simple question that instantly transforms the atmosphere and provokes a reaction from every single person.

“Why do we need a community?”

But seriously. We sometimes really don’t understand. And community mostly means a Facebook page.

Maybe it’s a good idea if you’re, say, an ecommerce business (promos, CRM). Or a bookstore (passionate, niche, local audience). But what if you sell bluetooth headsets? Or washing machines? Now we don’t have any research, but we just wonder if people out there are dying to have conversations about washing machines.

“It’s an excellent way of keeping people engaged with the brand over a long term.”

Is it?
In May 2011, Eminem had over 41 million fans. Which is about 41 million more than most brands do.
But the core fans – who interact with the page more than the average (which is usually once) – were 575.

That’s 0.001%.

And that’s Eminem. People generally tend to love him a bit more than their washing machines.

Also, the way Facebook works is poorly understood. Most people consider the million or so fans they have as a captive audience of minions waiting to hear the brand’s message and scream ‘Wah-wah, wah-wah’.

In reality, it’s nothing but an illusion. Unless you have actively interacted with a page – continuously over time – Old Zuck’s secret (dubiously acquired?) algorithm will make sure you never see its updates again.

In reality, about 96% of fans will never visit the page again, after liking.

In reality, links posted by pages get 0.00093 clicks per fan. That’s roughly 1 click for every 1000 fans.

It all comes down to how different, interesting, relevant and creative you can be. And how meaningful your message is.

For an average page, there’s hardly any point.

But let’s just forget all about it. Let’s assume we did have a community of a million people, eager to listen to what a brand had to say. What will we say then? How will it help? Even if we post cat videos and pictures of Aishwarya’s baby and keep a million fans hooked, will they buy our product because of it? Will it have any effect at all?

And then comes the big one. The one that clears the fog of confusion and lets in a bright ray of light to illuminate our befuddled faces.

“Let’e be clear about our objectives here. It is not sales. It’s brand salience, consumer engagement and long-term relationships.”

Ah. Why didn’t you say that earlier? Of course, it all makes sense now.

As usual, we apologize for the silly questions.

*Sources:

http://mweigel.typepad.com/canalside-view/2011/09/fashionable-yet-bankrupt.html

http://www.marketsentinel.com/blog/2011/08/can-facebook-work-for-brands/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/14/page-post-ctr/

Killed the microsite? Now blame the apps.

Much has been said about the once-mighty microsite and its fall from grace, but this little post at BBH Labs hits where everyone misses.

But as with all great ideas, there were thousands of bad executions, wasting clients’ money with little to show in scale or engagement as a result … If you make something great, they will come (or watch). Otherwise, they won’t.

The latter part of the latter sentence really is the key. Everyone seems to be convinced these days that nobody will ever visit their microsite and every idea should be based entirely where the “fans” are.  So what are your top 5 favourite branded Facebook apps, by the way?

The same kind of blanket rejections extend to “virals” these days. Sadly, amongst our marketers and agencies, there seems to be a firm belief that what they themselves like to refer as ‘virals’ don’t work anymore. It’s all too common to hear something like , “Oh those Sholay-type virals? People are not interested in those now.” We often succumb to the urge to ask which research study they are quoting. We owe this attitude to the ‘thousands of bad executions’ too, each with a horrific, banal Rajnikant parody.

Anyway, the point of course remains the same. Create something truly excellent, and people will watch. With or without Gabbar Singh.

(Thakur, on the other hand, is a 100% guarantee for success.)