Why Facebook’s Woes May Have a Silver Lining

Why Facebook’s Woes May Have a Silver Lining

Social media

Last week I was surprised to receive both an email and phone call from a dedicated Facebook Ads representative interested in setting up a meeting to discuss my current Facebook Campaigns as well as future opportunities. On the surface, a call from a salesperson might not seem newsworthy. But for those of us who have been advertising on Facebook for the past few years, that level of customer service is a sharp contrast from what we have grown to expect from the social media giant. Is it possible that Facebook’s woes, including a steep decline in its stock value, are making Facebook pay a little more attention to customer service?

I sure hope so.

Then and Now

Let’s go back four ago when I first began testing Facebook ads for some of my clients. If I ran into an issue setting up a campaign, had a question about targeting features, or was interested in tips for better results, the chances of finding a way to connect with someone from the Facebook team were slim. There was no chat feature, no easy-to-find customer service phone number, and no email address. Among my agency teammates, it was common to hear, “Hey, does anyone know how to get a hold of someone from Facebook?”

So what’s changed? Frankly, a lot. Do a quick search of recent news stories, and you’ll see that Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth fell more than $16 billion in one day after the company’s stock plunged 20 percent and issued guidance that the financial future of the company isn’t quite as rosy as some investors thought it might be. This news, coupled with Facebook’s privacy issues and recent discovery of inauthentic social media campaigns ahead of the mid-term elections, has proven to be a PR and financial nightmare. Earlier in the year I, predicted that it would be tough sledding in 2018 for Facebook. It’s possible that the company’s woes will turn into improved customer service for advertisers.

Facebook Has an Opportunity

Despite negative press surrounding Facebook, I still believe the platform can be an effective marketing channel, especially when used as a brand awareness tool.  Advertising costs on Facebook are a fraction of those on Google, and there is still an impressively large number of active users to engage. My advice is to take full advantage of the more robust customer support at Facebook.

And Facebook’s customer service can help you, too. A recent call with a Facebook expert led to me testing some new targeting methods as well as adjusting my campaign structure. While it is still early in the test, I am seeing improved engagement and more conversions.  This is a critical time for Facebook as they work to rebuild the integrity of their brand. It is in Facebook’s best interest to help ensure advertisers enjoy as much success as possible using their platform.

Are you seeing better customer service from Facebook? Let me know!

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

Marketing

The days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday were a nightmare for Newell Brands, maker of the iconic Crock-Pot, thanks to an unexpected crisis triggered by a TV drama that involved a make-believe death caused by a Crock-Pot. Following is a closer look at how a fictional event caused a real-life problem for a $13 billion business – and how quick thinking contained the problem.

What Happened

The show, This is Us, an emotional drama that follows the generational story of the Pearson family, took television by storm in the fall of 2016.  The series averages about 15 million viewers a week in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Spoiler alert: in one of the episodes, the family’s beloved father, Jack, suffers a heart attack as a result of a massive smoke inhalation caused by a house fire. On January 23, during the episode “That’ll Be the Day,” viewers learned what caused the fire in the first place: a Crock-Pot.

Viewers watched as an elderly neighbor delivered a used Crock-Pot to the young, newly married Pearson couple. The neighbor said that the Crock-Pot’s power switch was a little temperamental but assured them that they would still be able to enjoy some good family meals. Flash forward to years later as the couple, now with teen-aged children, celebrate the Super Bowl.  The show ends with Jack turning off the Crock-Pot switch before going to bed. A spark flashes from the faulty switch, igniting a fire, and the house quickly becomes engulfed in flames.

Crisis Time

As I watched that episode with my husband, the marketing gears in my head immediately started turning. I thought about the backlash that Crock-Pot would be facing as it was revealed the product was responsible for the beloved character’s death. I told my husband that I hoped Crock-Pot’s PR team would immediately start working on a plan to offset any damage incurred by the revelation. I suggested they flood social media with a response ASAP so as to minimize the negative impact. It was then I realized that we could very personally be affected by this unforeseen series of events: my husband is employed by the company that owns Crock-Pot, Newell Brands.

By the next day, Crock-Pot was headlining news stories:

And while it may seem silly to think the death of a fictional TV character could cause such a hardship for a long-established household brand, the facts were hard to dispute. People were tweeting about throwing away their Crock-Pots. The safety of the product was called into question. The value of Newell Brands stock fell by 24 percent, and the loss was immediately linked by many to the Crock-Pot fire disaster. In reality, the stock plunge occurred after Newell Brands announced disappointing guidance for 2018. But nonetheless the brand was under attack after a perceived safety hazard.

Newell Brands Takes Action

The Crock-Pot communication/social team immediately jumped into action. For instance, the brand worked to restore trust in its product by releasing a statement. Here is an excerpt:

For nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.

(The full statement is available here.)

This is Us creator, Dan Fogelman, also followed up with a tweet defending the company’s product:

Crock-Pot quickly created its first ever Twitter Account “CrockPotCares,” engaging with concerned consumers as the social media storm continued to ignite. While all of these responses were appropriate and wise measures to take, Crock-Pot knocked it out of the park when the brand teamed up with NBC and Milo Ventimiglia (who portrays Jack in the TV show) to create a hilarious new promo ad for the show’s much anticipated Super Bowl episode February 4.

In what appears to be a political ad, Milo starts off in a somber tone speaking about how the country is divided and how we need to come together. As he continues to talk about forgiveness, the camera pans to him scooping up a bowl of chili from, you guessed it . . . a Crock-Pot!  The brilliant ad ends with a black screen with the Crock-Pot logo and the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent.

Results

On February 3, after the promo ad was shown, digital content engagement around Crock-Pot increased by 84 percent, and there were nearly 2,000 tweets using the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent, with sentiment around that hashtag being 57 percent positive — the most common sentiment being that it was hilarious and a brilliant promotion for Crock-Pot.

Lessons learned? If a well-established brand such as Crock-Pot can incur such negative consequences from a fictional TV storyline, it should be a warning to every company about the importance of having a solid strategy in place to combat such challenges. Reach customers quickly through social channels and look for a unique way to re-establish your brand’s positive image. Time is of the essence — so act fast! In a matter of a few days, Crock-Pot succeeded in turning a PR nightmare into a successful restoration of trust  in its brand.

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Advertising on Facebook? Get Ready for Tough Sledding Ahead

Social media

Facebook has quickly changed from the brand that could do no wrong to the business that spreads fake news. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the company is de-valuing publisher content on users’ news feeds caused a notable drop in its stock value and inspired a CNN article with a once unthinkable headline, “Mark Zuckerberg Is Fighting to Save Facebook.” Facebook isn’t going away. But with the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users.

Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. “Reach” (the number of people who saw an ad) is a metric commonly monitored by advertisers, and when the pool of potential audience members declines, so does the effectiveness of their branding efforts.

The most obvious expected drop-off would be among younger members as parents may begin to heed the addiction warning and implement usage restrictions for their children. Currently, advertisers cannot specifically target people under the age of 13 — so there should be minimal effect on paid ad performance if Facebook sees a decline in users age 12 and under.  However, if parents or older siblings start following suit (perhaps by means of setting an example or simply choosing to spend their time elsewhere) the impact could be significant to marketers who have become accustomed to reaching millions of people.

As the Facebook audience narrows, marketers may need to adjust their strategy and opt for conversion-based campaigns versus brand awareness. Measuring the overall effectiveness of a brand awareness campaign is difficult to quantify. But as advertisers start tracking actual results from their conversion campaigns, they may find the cost far outweighs the return and may choose to pull back on their overall Facebook investment.

My advice: keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. Take advantage of the tools we have blogged about (such as Collection ads), but make sure you complement your advertising spend across multiple platforms where it makes sense for your business to be, ranging from Google to Instagram. Get ready for tough sledding on Facebook. For more insight into how to build your brand with digital, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

Why Higher Education Should Take a Closer Look at LinkedIn

Social media

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all recently faced backlash ranging from Russian meddling to antitrust violations, video censoring and more. While recent polls have shown that most Americans still have a very favorable view of these tech companies, the recent negative reporting may have marketers looking for other avenues to reach their target market. If you are in the higher education vertical, you might be looking for alternatives, too. I suggest taking a closer look at LinkedIn, which is starting to catch up with Facebook and Google to offer audience targeting tools.

Google and Facebook Set the Pace

The robust targeting measures offered by Google and Facebook have long been attractive to higher education. Google continues to add to its demographic targeting with the addition of household income along with age and gender. Audience targeting is clearly a primary focus as demonstrated by Google’s addition of in-market audiences, which are generated by tracking the online behavior of searchers and classifying them based on their demonstrated in-market behavior and purchase intent. Although in-market audiences are currently only available for display campaigns, they will be coming to search in the near future. Soon, Google will be able to categorize searchers who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education based on their online search behavior.

While Facebook and Google have made audience targeting a strong feature in their platforms, LinkedIn has been slower to make advancements in this area. However, earlier this year, LinkedIn took a significant step forward when the platform rolled out Matched Audiences.

LinkedIn Matched Audiences

LinkedIn’s rollout of Matched Audiences is welcome news to higher education marketers who understand the importance of tailoring their message to specific audience segments. The LinkedIn Matched Audiences include three new tools to reach audiences that matter most to your organization. These include Website Retargeting, Contact Targeting, and Account Targeting.

LinkedIn Website Retargeting

Website Retargeting requires the placement of a lightweight JavaScript code on your website. Once the tag is installed, you can define specific audiences based on pages they’ve visited on your website.

This feature is particularly useful for helping to identify potential students and their program interests.  For example, if a LinkedIn member visits a college website and researches communication degrees, they would become a member of an audience of people who have visited that specific web page, which allows marketers for that college to serve ads specifically tailored around communication degrees.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn has seen much success with this type of retargeting. Over a period of six months, LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting.

Contact Targeting

Contact Targeting offers the ability to market to prospects and known contacts by uploading email addresses or connecting to your contact management platform. Most colleges have extensive lists of prospective students who have requested information, attended open houses, or otherwise demonstrated an interest in the institution. These lists can then be matched through the LinkedIn platform and be used to deliver tailored content and convert prospects.

Account Targeting

Through Account Targeting, A list of company names are uploaded and matched against the nearly 12 million company pages on LinkedIn, which lets you support account-based marketing programs by reaching decision makers at your target companies. Although there might be cases for incorporating Account Targeting for marketing in the higher education vertical, Website Retargeting and Contact Targeting seem to be the better fit for reaching prospective students.

Dynamic Ads

In addition to the new forms of targeting discussed above, LinkedIn also offers Dynamic Ads, which dynamically populate with LinkedIn member profile images and relevant content based on skills, interests, and career history of the individual member viewing the ad.

LinkedIn points to a recent successful use of Dynamic Ads by ESCP Europe, the self-described World’s First Business School with a variety of campuses in different countries.  ESCP Europe was looking to generate high-quality leads for a Master in European Business (MEB) program.  The institution incorporated dynamic ads, pulling in LinkedIn member profile pictures, and invited prospective students to connect. This strategy allowed ESCP Europe to deliver more than two million impressions to potential students and resulted in more than 40 enrollments in less than a month at a conversion rate that was two times higher than its average.

It is important to continually evaluate your marketing strategies to maintain a strong presence in the highly competitive field of higher education. Check out the new features in LinkedIn to see how they can help you reach your marketing goals in the new year. And contact True Interactive to help you manage your online marketing – it’s what we do 24/7.

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Mobile

When Google announced in 2015 that more Google searches were taking place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries (including Japan and the United States), marketers experienced the beginning of a major shift in the way they reach their target audiences.

Since 2015, mobile has become an even larger piece of the search puzzle. (According to Hitwise, mobile searches account for 58 percent of all search activity in the United States.) Businesses (including True Interactive) continue to refine our digital strategies, including search campaigns, to better align with an increasingly on-the-go search audience. Meanwhile, Google has made great strides sharing features that that allow businesses to better target the mobile search segment. Those features include mobile bid modifiers, mobile preferred ad copy, the ability to show ads in mobile apps, and location extensions, among others.

In addition, Google continues to change its algorithms to reward content that is optimized for mobile – which means businesses need to make it a higher priority to ensure that their landing pages are mobile friendly.

Optimizing the Content of Your Landing Page

Optimizing your landing page for mobile means understanding first that behind every mobile device is a person. People using their mobile phones for search purposes are often literally on the go. The mobile audience is composed of busy, multi-tasking, need-it-done-now people. It is important to respect their limited time and attention.

This insight has an impact on how you view your landing page. For example, instead of directing customers to a home page containing a wide variety of products or services, look to more closely align keywords and ad copy. This strategy helps better define the searcher’s intent and will ensure they are directed to a landing page that most closely fits their search query.

For example, if someone searches for “women’s Nike cross-training shoes,” the best experience for the searcher would be to land on a page specifically displaying women’s Nike cross-training shoes versus a page displaying all women’s cross-training shoes or all Nike shoes.

You might be tempted to simply drive ads to a general landing page and have users drill down to specific pages, which is certainly the quickest and easiest way to integrate your digital ads with your landing page content. But doing so will hurt your conversion rates. Searchers typically find it more difficult to navigate sites using small mobile screens instead of larger desktop/laptop monitors. If your ad drives traffic to a landing page that requires multiple clicks before the searcher reaches their ultimate destination, the likelihood of the interaction ending in a conversion decreases with each subsequent click.

A Client Example

For example, for one of our clients, a hotel, we performed a test with searchers who were looking for “hotel discounts.” First, we drove those searchers to a home page that contained general information about the hotel, as well as a link to the “special offers” page. Then we tested an alternative landing page that sent searchers directly to a special offers page – resulting in a marked improvement in conversion rates.

It seems obvious that people searching for hotel discounts are most interested in seeing current deals offered by the hotel. By sending people searching for hotel discounts directly to the special offers page, we eliminated the risk of them leaving the website before checking out the special offers page.  We also saved searchers the effort of locating the link to the special offers page and a few extra clicks as well – a big plus for people looking to complete a transaction quickly and easily on their mobile devices.

Not all keywords are specific enough to truly understand a searcher’s intent, but for those keywords that contain more modifiers, make sure you are taking full advantage and directing searchers to the most appropriate landing page. Remember, for the on-the-go, mobile audience, time is money. A few modifications to landing pages will save your customers time, and help boost your bottom line. Contact True Interactive. We’re here to help you build your brand.

Image source: Brodie Vissers

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

Search

Google has made great strides developing tools that help advertisers find their target market. Using some of those tools is important. But make sure you don’t forget some of the fundamental best practices to ensure campaign success. A good example is the use of negative keywords in your paid search campaigns – a tried-and-true tactic that can improve your ability to target your paid media considerably.

To refresh you: Google defines a negative keyword as a type of keyword that prevents certain words or phrases from triggering your ad. When you identify negative keywords in your campaign, you lessen the likelihood that your ad will appear for irrelevant searches. When I audit paid search campaigns, one of the most common mistakes I find is the failure to add a robust list of negative keywords.

Finding Ideas for Negative Keywords

Reviewing search query reports will almost always result in negative keyword ideas. In the higher education space, I often see searches around student log-in information, campus living options, and school sports teams. All those searches are fodder for negative keywords. In the retail space, I often see searches including “How to,” “How do I,” or “Can I use.” In many cases, these types of searches result in ad clicks, but not conversions. So such searches are potential sources for negative keywords to add to your campaign.

Some searches are easy to identify as irrelevant. But other negative keywords may not be as obvious to discern.  If you are questioning whether you should add a new negative keyword, I recommend reviewing 12 months of AdWords data if available. Using a Search Term Report, you can filter for searches containing the search term or phrase in question. If you are tracking conversions, you can see how many times those types of searches resulted in conversions, how much spend was accrued, and the cost/per conversion

That data should make it easier to decide to add a negative keyword to block specific searches from triggering your ads. While you are reviewing the Search Term Report and looking for potential negative keywords, take some time to review the search queries for new keyword ideas as well.

Uncovering New Terms

Of course, it’s important to form your negative keyword strategy in context of a general keyword strategy. The Search Term Report is a great tool for doing so. I like using the Search Term Report to do complementary analyses for keywords and negative keywords. I might use the report to find general keywords as follows: often, I uncover new terms that searchers are using to find my product. For example, they might use my modified keyword along with some other descriptive words that might be good keyword additions to my campaign. For example:

  • I might have “+product +x” as my keyword, but I see a repeated pattern of people searching for “lowest cost product x,” “best product x,” “product x for women,” etc.
  • Or, perhaps your product is being used for a purpose not previously known. For example, “Using product x in a garage,” “product x for boats.”

It may be beneficial to add some additional keywords based on your search query results and test performance.

Finally, with the increased popularity of voice searches, you will most likely be seeing longer search queries in your reports, which could offer you valuable insight into ways to better tailor your current set of keywords.  By eliminating spend on irrelevant traffic with a robust negative keyword list, you should see an improvement in paid search performance. And that’s how you turn a negative into a positive!

Image source: Wilfred Iven, https://stocksnap.io/author/775

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Marketing

Some recently published statistics demonstrate the rising influence of Instagram. For instance:

These statistics are surely music to the ears of higher education institutions looking to reach their target markets.  Most colleges have Instagram accounts, which help them gain an organic following with visual content. In addition, Instagram offers a paid ad format to target people based on a number of factors, such as whether someone has shown previous interest in a school through a website visit. With Instagram advertising, institutes of higher learning can also target an audience based on interests, behaviors, age, gender, and education level as well as a variety of other socio-economic factors.  Let’s take a closer look at Instagram advertising.

Available Formats

There are currently four available ad formats:

  • Photo ads (Single photos available in square or landscape format).
  • Video ads (Up to 60 seconds in length).
  • Carousel ads (users can swipe to view additional photos or videos).
  • Stories ads (complement your feed content with ads on Instagram Stories).

Canvas ads (A full-screen ad experience) are currently available in Facebook and should be offered in Instagram in the future.

Instagram continues to revise its targeting options. We recommend ongoing testing of audience performance as a best practice.

Advertising Tips

While it is important that the ads/videos used on Instagram remain generally consistent with the design and feel of other marketing campaigns to maintain brand identity, keep in mind that Instagram is a social platform. So tailor your ads to align with the more laid back lifestyle feel of Instagram. Be sure to include a logo. And use images that are interesting and visually appealing, as many users view Instagram as an inspirational platform.

Instagram can be an effective outlet for showcasing the best features of your institution to potential students.  Well-conceived imagery can help students easily visualize what it would be like to attend your place of learning. Here are some tips for getting the most out of Instagram ads:

  • Promote your faculty by using images along with a personal quote or an endorsement from a current student. If a quote is pulled from a relevant article, it can be linked through the post itself or via the Instagram bio.
  • Feature campus sponsored-activities throughout the year – for example, images from move-in day, picnics, concerts, prominent speakers.
  • Highlight your campus community by including promotions about clubs, intramural sports, Greek life, and so forth.
  • Reach out to sports enthusiasts with ads promoting your various collegiate teams and information about upcoming games or highlights from key wins.
  • Consider testing a story ad that follows a day in the life of a current student to profile the student experience.
  • Put the beauty of your campus on full display through a video or series of images. Highlight those features that would be most appealing to potential students – high-tech classrooms; well-appointed dorms; favorite gathering areas such as the student union and campus quad; or a sports arena that’s filled with students supporting school teams.

The key to successfully engaging with a target audience is to help them envision themselves being a part of your school, whether it’s sitting in a classroom, walking across the quad, cheering in the stands at a sporting event, or being a part of a fraternity or sorority. And, don’t forget to include a call to action button in your ads such as “Learn More,” or “Contact Us” to ease the communication process.  A picture is worth a thousand words — so incorporate Instagram and create a visual marketing punch. Contact True Interactive for more insight into using Instagram to reach your audience.