Social, media and everything in between

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Facebook Likes no longer work for permission marketing

Didn’t you get the invite?

Just as it is told that vampires cannot enter the house of a mortal uninvited, it has long been believed that marketers should use Facebook page likes as an invitation to the users’ newsfeeds. 

Many tried to estimate what this invitation was worth, and the value varied significantly depending on how the invite was perceived. But the common denominator for all was that, for each fan you acquired, you had one more set of eyes to broadcast to, when you sent out a message.

For an epoch in Internet time, this idea of permission marketing held true, since people had their 130 friends, it was possible to stuff around 20 friendly brands into their living room comfort of a newsfeed before reaching the Dunbar ceiling. But people got more friendly, added more friends to the party and the decibel level of the many conversations needed curating.

Facebook turned down the volume with Edgerank and for brands their conversations were suddenly turned into whispers.

Today studies claim, you reach 12-16% of your fans and if you want to reach the rest, you can add sponsored stories to the mix. Traditionally, and yes on the Internet you can call it tradition if it’s more than a year old, sponsored stories were meant for friends of fans, to increase your fan base by using social proof. Now it seems Facebook wants you to use them for reaching fans and non-fans alike.

Do you feel the breeze?

Fan count today holds a resemblance to the barely clad ruler in The Emperor’s New Clothes. The tailor promised you a magnificent dress with magical powers and you ended up having nothing to show but an empty bag of vanity. Unfortunately, this vanity metric is still the de facto KPI of marketers today. Though engagement is getting attention, and it is shown that 25% of engaged users are not fans, the money is spent weaving the fan cloth of fairy tale illusion.

So what is the fan base actually good for?

Before you lose faith in Facebook as a great advertising platform and stop trying to gather more fans, here are a couple of selling points that can still be made about the fan base:

An indicator of interest

Studies link the affinity of fans to more purchases and higher engagement. By deciding to click like on a brand’s page it is imprinted as a small part of the user’s identity: “Since I indicate I like this brand I must live up to this”.

Learn from those closest to you.

Use the fan indication to understand which interest groups you should target your efforts at.

Ask for old-school permission

Create initiatives on the page where you can ask for the e-mail. Though the message won’t stand next to photos of distant relatives in the newsfeed, you can build social affordances into the mailing lists as well.

To better understand this new paradigm of social marketing, you can read this post entitled:  Facebook’s Social Brand  Philosophy

Filed under facebook fans social media engagement permission marketing

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Your goals are unambitious compared to the market

Your social binoculars are broken

When measuring by eye, your competitors may look the height of Napoleon but if you look a little closer, the little guy is standing on the shoulder of a giant of titanic proportions.

What I mean by this is best explained by an example. For a random jewellery page we pulled a month’s worth of comments and compared with two of the most popular benchmarking tools out there, SocialBakers and AllFacebook.

SocialBakers and other analytical benchmarking tools only show a fraction of your competitors’ posts and comments.

AllFacebook and SocialBakers both showed a total of 9.828 comments. The true total, however, was 58.087 comments, revealing that the benchmarking tools only showed 16.92% of the iceberg. A disastrous 83% of the comments were simply not there.

83% of your competitors’ posts are hidden, meaning you are setting goals based on 17% of their engagement.

In effect, this means you can’t benchmark against your competitors, which is something Facebook needs to address immediately, to avoid an exodus of brands, following in the tire imprints of GM, whose whole social strategy might be built on wrong assumptions at the moment. 

Why is this?

For each post, you, the marketer, can choose to target by country, city, region or language. You can even add multiple of each, to reach users from Spanish cities Barcelona and Madrid, who speak russian, to hit the small but specific group of nomadic Cossacks yearning for some vacation sun. This makes for a myriad of combinations and when pages use this feature, the posts get hidden from any user not in the target group, even through the API.

If you look at any given post from one of the large brands, you will notice a small icon to the right of the date. This describes the privacy/targeting setting. Not the actual target but whether the post is “Public” or has a “Custom” setting.

Try to go through the whole feed of one of these pages and you will see the scale of this problem.

Facebook is asking brands to have a single page, thought of as Mission Control, that posts regionally and thereby adds to the problem. Let’s all ask them to fix this, by making all posts available through the API with their targeting settings available, so we can actually benchmark this regional strategy that Facebook themselves propose.

Filed under facebook socialbakers allfacebook api benchmark

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Your social media tool has been defect - until now

Quietly, like a ninja in the night, Facebook has made a major feature fix in their API. They repealed an artificial limit on comments, which meant that you could only get 5000 comments for any post through the API.

Though it has only been whispered in corners by social media tool developers, for years, it actually meant that none of your analytics tools or moderation suites were able to truly serve you. 

Take a post like this:

It was the first official post from Sony after the scandalous hacking of the PlayStation Network and garnered a staggering 72.263 comments, all of which must have been of great interest to Sony, who were trying to manage the uproar. Imagine, only being able to respond to 5000 of these, a minuscule 6.92% of the responses.

On Facebook posts, you have only been able to see as low as 6.92% of the comments, in both Buddy Media, Radian6 or any other tool

The only way to do this would be to go to the permalink on Facebook and initiate the tedious task of moderating the lynch mob.

Since we were privileged enough to be inducted in the league of Preferred Marketing Developers, we have gotten a hotline for a dedicated Facebook team. Think of it as the bat signal pointed at the skies, only without the capes…or any cool gadgets. We mentioned the issues related to the limit and the PMD team came through.

The limit is still effective on likes of a post and shares of a post have still not been implemented in the API but we have to celebrate the small victories along the way.

Operation Developer Love
There are currently 5.993 reported open bugs in the Facebook machinery’s nuts and bolts but most of them are not relevant to marketers or users in their daily Facebook humdrums.

The hardworking engineers are always trying to weed out the quirks of their platform, which as an extra challenge sports every developer the ability to push code to the users with the push of a button. For a platform that caters to third party developers, who are trying to build a business on top of their machinery, the tears can be measured as the 8th sea of the world and in October 2010 Facebook upped the effort with an initiative aptly named Operation Developer Love. Each week an update is sent out reporting how the Facebook team has tried to improve the system. In the week from June 5th to June 12th for instance they fixed 23 bugs while 192 were reported (many being duplicates or non-reproducible).

Filed under facebook api data buddy media radian6

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Android is the biggest loser on Facebook

Curious like George
Have you ever sat in a café, in a gym or simply strolled along the sidewalk noticing how many noses point straight at their mobile screens? Somehow, it has only taken evolution 20 years to develop the ability to handle unsafe operations like crossing the street, pouring and drinking boiling hot beverages and driving cars without looking up.

I am very curious by nature and when I see people glued to their screen, I will literally bend over backwards, to see what is going on and over time I have gotten an eerie sense for what 614.400 pixels on their iPhone are illuminating. Whether it’s playing Draw Something or texting messages a lot of people seem to spend a lot of their short lifes on the phone. ComScore puts a concrete number on this. 

Market shares and usage
In the newest ComScore Press release from April, there were 3 tables of data. 2 for market share, hardware and software, and one for usage.

Since I did a small research project to find out if people engage with brands’ Facebook pages from their mobile, it struck me that Facebook consumption is large enough to be a category of their own.

The ComScore stats also made me curious as to which phones were actually used on Facebook, since the market share for Android had surpassed half.


So as always, I did a little digging and this is what I came up with:

Android is the biggest loser on Facebook with 35.37% of the engagement, compared to their smartphone market share of 50.8%

Both BlackBerry and iPhone steals a bit of Android’s thunderous market share, when it comes to Facebook, evening out the gap between Android and iPhone. In fact, iPhone is leading by a few decimals.

As in the ComScore report, Microsoft, much like Apple was in the early eighties, is still the small pirate rebel force in mobile land and is placed in the ‘Others’ corner along with Symbian and other small platforms.

As an addendum to complete the story, I would have loved to compare these stats to the app data stats of each platform, as they are usually available through the Graph API or on sites like for the non-techies, but Facebook’s own mobile apps do not share this data. So much for an open platform. 

* The percentages across 430.533 interactions were
iPhone: 35.92%
Android: 35.37%
BlackBerry: 22.74%
Others: 5.97%

Filed under BlackBerry android facebook iphone mobile data

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The 3 dimensions of engagement

How do you define the value of your engagement?

Say you have a brand with a quite popular Facebook page. Let’s make it a car brand with a catalogue of different cars, catering to different niches. One might be a sleek black and very fast car with the newest gadgets and screens, while another is pink and bubbly and named after an appropriately cute insect.

Needless to say, that these cars target quite different audiences and sending out a message about the cute pink car on the Facebook page would probably annoy the 99% not in the market for anything pink nor bubbly.

Instead of trying to hit these niche segments, you and your team of conversational equilibrists might have chosen to focus on more mainstream content. It may even seem, you have the Midas touch of engagement, since you’re averaging four digit comments on most posts but do your commercial messages receive the same attention as the viral videos you post to keep the engagement up?

Do your commercial messages receive the same attention as the viral videos you post to keep the engagement up?

Of course not. This question adresses the concept of 3 dimensions of engagement: reachfrequency and depth.


The reach is the only dimension widely used and also the reason many companies have questioned the strength of social media. Reach is an important metric but from a social view it is dull and superficial.

It’s the marketing equivalent of buying a megaphone and shouting from the center of the mall in the hope that one of the thousand ears you disturb is interested in your message. The thousand ears are what you measure when you ask for likes and comments, fan count or number of followers and even though it is widely perceived as permission marketing, users have very different reasons for “opting in”, if they even know, that’s what they are doing.


A new dimension that’s gaining ground, is the retention of each user. This can be measured as user life cycles and answers how many of your engaged users only interact once.

Take this example from Coca-Cola:
Last month we analysed the International part of Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, to learn more about their journey on the page.

617.774 users were analysed. 

76,5% of the fans only interacted once.

Only 6.8% of the users were active a month after their first interaction.

The average number of interactions per user, who interacts more than once, is 3.8 interactions. The average life cycle of these users were 77.64 days.   

On Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, only 6.8% of the users were active a month after their first interaction 

These numbers still concern the quantity and the breadth of the engagement and this is where the brand new third dimension comes into play.


Since Facebook urges you to keep one global page and use it as Mission Control for all your Facebook endeavours, your page fans may consist of different crowds with diverse interests. Your marketing department is most likely pushing commercials to each of these groups, the execs are asking how you are moving each of them and you are trying to keep all the fans happy and engaged.

Up until now, it would have been a punishment worthy of Sisyphos pleasing all parties but with the direction Facebook, and upbeat agencies, are taking, this is now more feasible.

Say, you post a message about the pink bug car. You target it at women, to broadly target those most likely to resonate with it. Facebook’s Edgerank tests the message on a small subset of your fans and usually it will hit the newsfeed of 12-15% of them.

From here, it’s up to you, to get the message through. By identifying the common interests, behaviors, demo- and geographics of the users who engaged organically with the post, you can amplify the message with sponsored stories, targeted specifically at these qualities.This means more bang for your ad bucks, since you are now yelling at those most likely to be interested.

The reporting part, which roughly translates to the part where you show the effect of your work and keep your bosses satisfied, is also getting sharper with the possibility of seeing the monthly move of specific key market groups, ie. “Have the 18-34 years old women in Germany, with a taste for neon cars, been activated since last month?”. This can even be done granularly down to each post, to ensure you understand, who you are engaging and validate that each post moves different parts of the audience.

Take this example from Shell:

At the end of May, we looked at a small subset of posts from the new but very popular Shell Facebook page with close to 1.5 million fans in just a few months. Most posts had around 800-900 interactions but this post stood out with a high number of likes and shares:

A look at the demographics of this post showed the following:

The post of an extreme monster truck seemed to resonate better with a younger male crowd.

17.16% of the activated users were not even fans of the page.

To top it off, the users who interacted with this particular post was significantly more interested in Axe Angel’s Club and Justin Bieber, which corresponds well with the younger group.

So from now on, no more cold sweat, when you get the updated conversation calendar. You can with confidence say, that you will deeply engage the Pinkies and the Bubblies.

* 617.774 users who interacted on the Coca-Cola page within the last year were analyzed. 472.654 of them only interacted once.  42.298 of them were still active after a month.

Update: I added a data example and simplified a paragraph for clarity