Insider Facebook Marketing Secrets

I love my job.

Today I’m filing my column from 38,000 feet, on my way to San Francisco from New York. As usual, I chat with the folks next to me. Turns out the guy to my left is on the marketing team at Facebook, helping companies use the platform more effectively and get better results. “Sweet!” I say. “Can I interview you?”

I ask him -- what else? -- how to use the platform more effectively to get better results. Of course, it’s not a simple answer. “Good Facebook marketing includes everything from smart Page posts, to ads, to platform ideas and integration (sharable stories, etc), to apps. And it’s growing all the time,” he says. 

“As an example, Doritos has been running a Super Bowl campaign for years where people get to make videos and vote on them. It used to be hosted on YouTube, but this year it’s on Facebook, because it’s easier to share and vote on [there]….We were able to change the language at the end of the videos from ‘Replay this ad,’ to ‘vote for this video now,’ and votes went up 25%.”



This kind of rapid adaptation works for content as well as functionality. The old way of thinking for marketers was, get your campaign perfect and then release it to the wild. With something like TV ads, you don’t have much choice. But in digital, you get so much feedback; you can see how people are behaving and tweak it pretty easily. Obviously, this isn’t exclusive to Facebook -- just think of Oreo’s Super Bowl blackout success -- but it certainly represents a paradigm shift.

“The trilogy is targeting, ads, and measurement,” my Facebook source suggests.  “Make sure you’re targeting the right folks, make really smart ads, and then measure everything so you can adjust accordingly. Data settles arguments. You don’t have to guess anymore; you can actually see how stuff’s performing. If you’re unsure, just test it -- if it works, boost it, and if it fails, kill it off. Or A/B test: release ads with different images or copy and see which one works better. But make sure to save part of your budget to boost posts that are doing really well.”

I ask him the biggest mistakes marketers make, and I love his answer: “People get distracted by Facebook metrics -- likes, comments, and shares -- so they do stuff that’s not really relevant to their business, like post pictures of cats.,” he says. “Start with your business objectives and work backwards -- don’t start with vanity metrics. The smartest thing you can do is design your story for Newsfeed, because that’s where the majority of people spend the majority of their time. But respect people’s Newsfeed -- don't spam them. People hate that. Put your human hat on, not just your marketing hat.

“That being said, you still want people to like, comment on, and share your stories. People sometimes build apps that take you out of Newsfeed into an experience that kind of dead-ends. Your friends can’t see it and it can’t really grow. Compare that to the viral loop that happens when 20 of your friends comment on something; you’re obviously much more likely to check it out. If a bunch of your friends have liked a TED talk, you’re more likely to watch it.”

Do’s and Don’ts? “Don’t do an app unless you have to, and if you have to, make sure your app generates stories,” he cautions. “Do design for Newsfeed. And do design for mobile: make it a lightweight interaction. Think of the screen size. Don’t have a really complicated picture that’s not going to reproduce small. Make it thumb or finger-friendly.”

Additional suggestions: “Make sure you’re not posting irrelevant stuff, even though you’re designing for Newsfeed. You’ll just annoy people. You’re better off having a higher quality fan base with a lower number of people. If you have a competition to win a million dollars, of course everyone’s going to enter it. You might think you’re building your fan base, but there’s no point building a huge database of useless people. If you work in sales, you’d rather talk to 10 people and sell three things, than talk to 1,000 people and still only sell three things.”

We talk about targeting. “Everyone’s like, oh it’s [Facebook’s] a billion people -- but you can get really specific with your ads and who you’re going to hit. We’ve got a thing called custom audiences, where if you have a database of unique identifiers (email addresses, phone numbers, loyalty numbers), you can target the people in that database who are on Facebook. So you can do lighter-touch interactions with your loyal fan base without pushing emails onto them all the time.”

Final words of advice? “Sometimes people say it’s hard to market a boring product. But that’s just a lack of imagination. Red Bull makes a fizzy drink a cultural icon by connecting it with extreme stunts. Oreo got over 300,000 likes in 24 hours with their rainbow-filling Pride post. That’s marketing.”

And, with that, it’s time to fasten our seatbelts, bring our seats back to the upright position, and put away our electronic devices. See you on the other side.

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