With more than half of American adults on Facebook alone, social networks have become big business. But so many mysteries remain for organizations and brands looking to share content, promote their business or simply engage with customers within these networks. What’s appropriate to post and when? How should organizations craft a particular strategy for each social network, and what metrics should they use to assess that strategy is working? To help demystify the three major social networks—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—I joined Matt Hansen in a discussion about social network strategy and easy-to-implement steps any organization can use to develop more effective online outreach.
Take a listen below.
Matt Hansen: Welcome to the Cardwell Beach podcast. I’m Matt Hansen. Today, we’re joined by Mike Beach, the Creative Director and co-founder at Cardwell Beach. Hi, Mike.
Mike Beach: Hey, man, how’s it going?
Matt Hansen: Good, thanks. Today, you and I are going to be talking about social media. That’s something that a lot of us spend a good portion of our days using and thinking about, but it’s also becoming a home for brands and businesses. So we’re going to look at three of the big social networks today – that’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – because all three of these raise some really interesting questions around user growth, the way people interact with each other online, and also the ways that businesses interact with potential customers.
Then we’re going to talk about strategies that I think any organization – whether it’s a startup, an established company, a nonprofit, a university, even a social movement – can use to take advantage of social media.
Let’s get started.
Mike, I thought we could talk first about the social network that started this whole thing and tat’s Facebook. I just rounded up a couple of statistics that I thought were interesting to inform our discussion, which you’re probably aware of but I think they’re kind of revealing. According to a Pew research study from earlier this year, 72% of adults who use the internet have a Facebook account. But what’s even more impressive is that 62% of all adults in America have a Facebook account. That’s just a huge, huge number.
But at the same though, Facebook has a bit of a youth problem. It was built, as you probably remember, out of an audience of college students and young people. But today’s high school- and college-age users really aren’t as interested in it as we might have been when we were younger. In fact, there are some estimates out there that up to 11 million high school- and college-age users have actually left the site altogether since 2011. Who’s replacing them are actually their parents and grandparents who are signing up really quickly. So in 2014, the number of Facebook users ages 55 to 64 actually grew by 46%.
If we look at this from a marketing standpoint, from your perspective, how do you approach Facebook as a marketer? What happens when the demographics of a site like Facebook start to change really radically? What happens when it gets older and not younger?
Mike Beach: Great question. I think one of the biggest issues marketers face in general is identifying which platforms they should be on. Starting with the customer, mapping out who you’re trying to reach, and then starting to get a feel for where they’re getting their information or where they’re getting their entertainment. I think it’s always your starting point.
At some point through the process, you’re going to think about Facebook obviously just because of the mass numbers, given that you were just going into at this point. I think for younger, it probably still has its use but it is becoming more of a phonebook as it started to grow and people’s parents start to get on the network. It starts to [teem] what it was, which was much more open.
I think from a marketing perspective, it still has its place but it’s just a matter of understanding who your customer is and what they’re looking for. For example, we find a lot of success on Facebook for marketing restaurants, especially like midweek promos. I think they’re very helpful trying to just pack the restaurant on off days. For that, we’re going after 30- to 55-year-olds who are different parts of Brooklyn or different part of Manhattan for one of our clients and we see a lot of success with it. For financial products, downloading a financial app – money transfer app is another client of ours that does pretty well on Facebook.
But you really have to understand. If you’re trying to reach 30- to 55-year-olds who are interested in burgers, for example, it’s a pretty broad group. So if they see an offer up, it’s around the corner, it’s approachable, they’re browsing Facebook before lunchtime and they see a deal up that that jumps out at them. You’ll see the result that day. If the restaurant is busy and people are coming in for the promo, there’s the real proof. For financial products, you’re downloading an app, you can actually see the results.
I think when it starts to get into a weird space is when you have a brand and you want it to be a lifestyle brand, no matter what it is. I had a phone call earlier today with a prospect and they went into a lot of detail how they wanted to be a lifestyle brand. The reality is it’s not that they want to be a lifestyle brand; it’s just that they don’t feel comfortable in converting on Facebook, but they know they should be Facebook. They want to just attract people and give them valuable material, which I think has been something people have been recommending, including us, for years and years. It’s actually creating content.
So ultimately, I think it varies completely depending on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. But it’s just a matter of mapping that out and then building strategy off of it instead of just going somewhere because people are there. It’s the same as any other channel. It’s a billboard, a radio spot, where is it, who’s listening to it, and work backwards.
Matt Hansen: I think that’s a really interesting point you raised about the difference between Facebook’s different users. I think clearly there’s a case to be made for using Facebook, as you said, as a pure advertising platform, as a way to sell a time-based promotion for a restaurant or to download an app. But as you said, it becomes different when a company is just looking to do some branding work, it’s just looking to get its message out there or share some content. It also seems to me as a very casual Facebook user that it’s almost very difficult to be heard in the stream of information that you see in a typical day on Facebook.
In your experience, what would be a good way or are there any good ways for a company or an organization to get their content and their message out there if they’re not just purely advertising?
Mike Beach: I think if you look at the brand and you look at what the core values, what’s important to the brand and what should come through in terms of tone and message for what you’re capitalizing on and building content around that, it’s a matter of serving it up to the right people and then understanding what your KPI is and what is the real metric. Are people looking at it, reading it, interacting with it, and so forth? If you have other content that’s supposed to be shared, I think the same thing, you just measure shares.
Overall, keeping it short, entertaining people, going the humorous route seem to work really well for a lot of assignments. Very short and sweet. Facebook actually has a rule for boosting posts, that it has to have less than 20% text in it and [they have a human actually] scan this, so you can’t really beat the system on it.
So if you’re running a promo for a deal, just be straightforward. Sometimes it’s less about having a catchy, interesting headline that gets people in to click, to go to a landing page, and it’s more about what it is. Put it all up front to see if it works and if it doesn’t, try something else. That’s the beauty with Facebook. You spend five bucks, show 500 an ad and see immediately what the result is. Run five ads, see which one performs better and go forward from there.
Matt Hansen: Before we move on to our next social network strategy, the other thing that I think is really interesting about Facebook is that it’s becoming, probably out of all the social networks that we’ll talk about today – I guess with the exception maybe of Instagram – it’s the one that people look at most on their phones. Statistics that I found before we recorded today showed that almost about 200 million Facebook users are mobile only – so they only look at it on a smartphone – and that accounts for about 30% of the company itself, their ad revenue.
When you’re developing ad for Facebook or you’re think about trying to reach people, how much does reaching them on mobile factor into your thinking?
Mike Beach: I feel like I was perfectly served up for that question because this is very recent for us. As I was mentioning before that it seems to work really well for us for restaurants, mobile is unbelievable in that sense. There are basically two types of running ads on Facebook. There are boosted posts which you can have a post in the newsfeed, put some money behind it, choose your target, your age, your location, you could target by city and show the ad. You could also obviously choose to show only mobile or desktop.
For local promotions, that is pretty fantastic especially for businesses with multiple locations because you could just set up separate pages and target they same way. But for this, you could target within a mile, you could target between certain hours. So if it’s again just using the same example of restaurant, you can choose from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., we’re going to run ads and we’re going to do that day in and day out. Here’s the split. You can choose to show people ads faster. If you want to run a promo in an hour, just a random promo and have it last for another hour, you could have all of the impressions completed within then.
So there a lot of interesting things you could do on mobile for getting people in. But for something that’s on location, driving people to a physical place, mobile is, I have to say, incredible.
Matt Hansen: I thought we could turn next to one of the social networks that I think may be one of the more interesting ones out there right now primarily because it’s going through a little bit of change and that’s Twitter. It’s in an interesting quandary right now as a company. I don’t know if you’re much of a Twitter user but I know that the internet was all abuzz this week because Twitter made a little change that ended up being a big impact. Prior to this week, if you wanted to favorite a tweet, it you wanted to basically indicate that you like something or save it to read for later or whatever, there was a little star button that you could click on. That changed this week to a heart. The thinking, I guess, behind the design move there was to try to soften the image of Twitter and make it a little bit easier to use.
Twitter these days, as anybody who uses it frequently knows, it’s home to a lot of prominent media, business and celebrity folks. Things like Twitter battles and these long, sometimes aggressive discussions can break out on Twitter and that can seem to be a little bit alienating for the average user. So I think this heart move was a way to try to change the system a little bit.
But I’m not necessarily sure that it addressed the core concern that faces the company and that’s user growth. According to some statistics that I found today doing a little digging around, the company actually reported that it basically hadn’t added any new US users so far in 2015. Some of that might come from users simply not understanding how to use it or it might come from its reputation.
Just to close out here before I ask you a couple of questions, I thought there was an interesting quote here from a reporter at a newspaper in Canada, The Globe and Mail. They said that Twitter “needs to move from a service of angry people into the kind of place your mom wants to post pictures of grandkids.” So it almost sounds like that reporter was suggesting that it becomes more like Facebook.
In your view, with all this having been said, where does this leave Twitter as a tool for marketing and outreach? How should organizations think about it?
Mike Beach: I would say ultimately Twitter is becoming somewhat of a customer service platform, whether brands want that to happen or they don’t and I think those that do embrace it will be much better off. This is nothing necessarily that’s new but in terms of it becoming a common use, I think that is new. But over the years, there have been some great examples of brands doing this really well.
If a customer has a bad experience, the first place they go is Facebook or Twitter. They’re calling you out in public and trying to get some sort of discount or revenge or see how you’re going to respond to them and try to make things right. I think just embracing that, moving in that direction and having these conversations open, knowing you’re accessible, being transparent, that’s a great place to start for Twitter. But in terms of shouting things out just into the atmosphere and favoriting each other’s post, trying to get traction, there’s just so much garbage out there, which is why I think a lot of people are turned off by it or they don’t know how to use it.
Should we spend time coming up with great, powerful, well-written concepts that just disappear into the abyss? It’s a waste of creativity. I think there’s a lot of fear out of spending too much time creating content for Twitter.
But overall, I see it more as a customer service tool at this point, better suited for customer service than anything else.
Matt Hansen: The other thing I wanted to ask you about was more from the business perspective because I think this is an interesting business quandary. If you could put your consultant hat on for a minute, what would you recommend to Twitter’s new CEO, Jack Dorsey who also founded it, who has come back to try and turn things around? What could he do to help things around and attract new users, in your view?
Mike Beach: Building off of what we were just even talking about, I think it could be interesting if they created some sort of format where I guess there’s a little bit more structure to all of the content that is created and put up on the site. I guess that would be, in a way, moving more towards Facebook, but not really moving towards Facebook. He knows he’s got a tough job to do basically but ultimately there’s a way to access content. So if it was this kind of living, ongoing conversation and there’s a lot of helpful tips and tricks that come out of there, what are ways that people interact with that and have the best concepts float to the top and remain somewhere that you can access at another time in some sort of resource library. I think that would be interesting for next level in some capacity.
Matt Hansen: I think that’s right. I’m just very curious to see what he chooses to do. Obviously, he’s running Twitter at the same time and he’s also running the payment services company, Square. So it’ll be interesting to see how he juggles it all. But I think you can see that already happening with their move toward Twitter Moments which is like their curated section of contents. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the direction that they end up going in.
That actually leads me to our last platform, pivoting from Twitter which is going through some struggles to Instagram which is actually doing quite well. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so there’s a connection there. From my point of view, I don’t know about you but it seems this is the last social network out there that people actually really like using. It’s growing quickly, it’s popular with brands, and it doesn’t seem to be like it’s intimidating to users as some of the other networks.
So what do you think about Instagram for marketing purposes? I guess one of the challenges being that it’s image-based, so not every company, service or product is going to have an image-friendly way to advertise it.
Mike Beach: I think that’s ultimately its attraction. In the same way that brands would bring on a spokesperson, be it a pro athlete or a musician that represents the target group or resonates with the target group, on Instagram, getting behind the right people is probably the best way to use the brand. Those that already have influence is very important. But even as a brand, if you’re bringing on a photographer whose style is very representative of the overall message that you’re trying to convey just interesting stuff on brand. Going that direction where it is very no-sell at all and it’s just gaining some fan love is really the way to use it.
Something you mentioned, people feeling a little bit more comfortable putting themselves out on one platform versus another platform, anyone can be a photographer. If you’re writing on Twitter, everyone knows that not everyone is a writer. For photography, it’s very much obviously subjective and you could pull whatever you want there. I feel like there’s this kind of freedom where there are many ways to interpret stuff. It’s not necessarily set in stone. It is just art. For brands, you just use it as a place to get people to like how you feel.
Matt Hansen: The last thing that I think could be kind of [unclear] to touch on to wrap up our discussion would be just to look at social networks in general, at large, and say they are all a little bit different and obviously there are many other social networks that we didn’t talk about today, things like Pinterest, Snapchat and others. They all, at the end of the day, fulfill something that we feel is missing in our lives or something that we want more of and that is social connections. It helps us connect to people.
How do organizations, which sometimes people trust, sometimes they don’t, fit into that conversation? How can any organization, whether it’s company or a school or whatever it might be, join the social networks while still feeling authentic? Does that make sense?
Mike Beach: It does make sense. I think being approachable, or maybe not even necessarily approachable because I know that’s not always the case and it shouldn’t always be the case, but being as transparent and available as possible, I would say, are very important things. Giving people insight into what’s going behind the scenes, if they have questions, being out in the open about stuff, I think if you’re on social, you get a better review, you respond to the public and that’s how you deal with stuff. If you’re going our into a space that’s supposed to be open and public, it’s just [costly]. Look at things as if it’s in a real physical world versus virtual world.
If you’re going into a town square, there’s a ton of people and one guy hates what you’re about, everyone else is going to notice and it depends on how you react to that. It’s the same thing online. It’s dense because there are so many networks, there are so many different ways to use things, there are different tools, there’s this, there’s that. But if you just step back and think about how you use different networks – how do I use, I’m waiting for something, I’m skimming on Instagram, checking things out, maybe a brand has something cool and I’m interested, maybe I’m just skipping through.
It’s probably a similar experience with other people but you’ve got to ask people, find out how they’re using it, especially your customer, once you’ve identified who that is, have conversations, find out what they’re looking, what’s a realistic goal that you can ask them to complete. Are they going to buy a product that’s five grand once they see it the first time? Are you going to get their email, get them on the hook for something else? Maybe, maybe on the landing page, maybe not on Facebook, but just getting a feel for how regular human beings use different things and then giving them what they want.
I feel like there’s a lot of negativity in marketing overall where people say you’re advertising, you’re lying for a living. The reality is if you’re lying for a living, then you’re doing something wrong because the goal is to find the right customers, not the wrong customers. It’s to find people that if they try your product once, they’re going to keep buying it because they’re happy and they like it, not that you’re lying to them and trying to convince them to try it once and then you’ll never see them again. I think that is becoming a more and more important thing each day.
Matt Hansen: Mike, thanks so much for joining me for today’s podcast. It was really a pleasure talking about this stuff with you.
Mike Beach: All right, Matt. Thanks very much.
Matt Hansen: Thank you. This was the Cardwell Beach podcast. I’m Matt Hansen and today we were joined by Mike Beach, Creative Director and co-founder at Cardwell Beach. Thanks for listening.