Driving with your eyes closed (PDF Whitepaper)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

There’s something crazy going on in the world of Facebook marketing.

There are thousands of people at brands and agencies working on Facebook Pages – generating content, managing communities, reporting to clients, managing teams. Entirely new businesses and departments have been founded to manage and grow companies’ social presence. Millions of people reached, and billions of impressions.

And yet, most decisions are made on the basis of instinct alone.

At the same companies, everyone else is judged quantitatively, using data. Search and display advertising. Finance. Even something as subjective as creative is subject to consumer surveys about brand recognition and sentiment. For these teams, it’s clear what success looks like, because it’s measured.

But what does success look like for a Facebook Page? What does failure look like? When new hires are made, how is their work judged, and how do they demonstrate the impact of what they’ve achieved to their bosses and clients? How does the CEO know what’s working and what to invest in next?

We think everyone managing Facebook Pages can benefit from actionable analytics, and the benefits are even greater for large teams and organizations. You probably already get it and see the benefits, but it’s not always easy to push everyone else to realize what they’re missing and convince them to do the right thing. To help you out, we put together this whitepaper to help explain how actionable data makes each person in the organization’s job easier. Sure, we’re biased, but we’ve witnessed first-hand how analytics drive companies towards the fast build, measure and learn cycle that’s essential to Facebook marketing.


Introduction

 
Facebook analytics didn’t used to be important, but they are now.

In the early years of Facebook Pages, interns, new hires, and whoever was young and tech savvy managed brands’ social presence. They trusted their instincts about what was working and might work, and others rarely asked for reporting or accountability – sometimes the CEO or client would ask about how many Likes their Page had, but that was about it.

These new people, with titles like “community manager” or “social media specialist” floated in-between PR, in-house marketing, account management – no one knew where to put them, or what questions to ask. With no one asking questions, and a huge first-mover advantage, there wasn’t a meaningful need for analytics for Facebook Pages.

Fast-forward to 2012, and after five years of Facebook Pages, brands and agencies are starting to develop teams and departments dedicated to social. There’s finally some leadership and clients are demanding more. At the same time, Facebook marketing is getting harder, with more Pages and Apps competing for space in users News Feeds, and an increasing percentage of impressions happening on mobile devices.

But despite the industry maturing, there’s still a huge problem — most companies don’t have any way to quantify success or failure on Facebook.

The people who used to work in their own silo now have expectations, management to report to, clients that are asking more advanced questions, but decisions are still being made on the basis of intuition. Agencies and brands trust recent graduates to reach millions of people, but don’t give them the tools to get a competitive edge. CEOs push social marketing initiatives, but don’t have access to data to inform their decisions. Account managers don’t have tools to demonstrate success to their clients. Everyone, not just the person who is hands-on, needs analytics to succeed.

We think the value of analytics grows exponentially as teams and companies grow, and there’s a place for analytics at every role in an organization. The better your team, the more they’ll thrive with meaningful and actionable goals defined by metrics and analytics.

Let’s break down a few scenarios of how analytics help each person at a brand or agency succeed.

At PageLever, we’ve seen this happen time and time again. As soon as brands and agencies make room for metrics next to intuition, it’s suddenly easy to identify and quantify success and failure, and take action right away.


The New Hire

“My boss said I’m in charge of managing this Facebook Page. I guess I’ll start Googling how to do that.”

Nearly everyone we’ve ever talked to who has been tasked with managing a Facebook Page has had to figure it out themselves. They turn to blogs, forums and Q&A sites to ask:

“What type of content should I post most often?”
“I heard that I should only post once a day, otherwise people will unlike the Page. Is that true?”
“I saw another Page post a 1000-word message along with an image. Does this actually work?”

Unfortunately, the flaw of blogs, forums and Q&A sites is that every Facebook Page is different. There is no magic bullet answer to read online, and what works for one Page is often terrible advice for another.

There’s really no other industry where it’s acceptable to hire a new person, put them in a position where they can reach thousands of current and prospective customers, and have them rely on their ability to search for answers on Google to decide how to speak to this audience.

Analytics are a learning tool for new hires. They show what has worked in the past and empower them to test new ideas and validate them with data.

Giving new hires access to great analytics tools helps them demonstrate real, measurable success, which is crucial to employee retention and validating them as part of the team.


The Executive

“Social is integrated into everything we do, but I can’t see how well we’re actually doing.”

Nearly every business is now making social marketing and social media a focus.

By this time, most CEOs have dealt with a few social media crises — an accidental tweet, a particularly loud and unhappy customer, or any short burst of customer outrage. Monitoring and sentiment analysis tools play into this fear and worry about what people are saying about the brand.

But many executives are rarely exposed to the more meaningful, often positive metrics that show the long-term benefits of Facebook marketing.

We think a big part of this is that most executives don’t have access to simple, actionable data. They can either get the full firehose or nothing. With this choice, it usually ends up being nothing ­— CEOs and VPs are busy people.

The executive team deserves an executive summary of Facebook data, not just about a specific Page, but performance as a whole.

How can we expect executives to be visionary and make smart investments in Facebook marketing if they don’t have access to data to inform their decisions?


The Director

“We need to hire another person, but I can’t justify the expense.”

Great community managers and social media experts are getting expensive. Look at any job board these days, and everyone is trying to hire for a postion that interns used to fill just a few years ago.

Most directors we talk to wish they could hire a bigger team to develop richer social content and experiences, instead of spending all day posting, moderating and monitoring. But this is a qualitative argument, and business demands quantitative answers to questions like:

Will a new hire help us to reach more people?
Will a new hire help us get new business?
Is Facebook really a big enough marketing channel for us to invest more in?

Analytics help demonstrate how much is at stake, how much work goes into managing and growing a great Facebook Page, and where the pain points are that having an extra person would solve.

Each organization tends to have a different social metric to justify new hires, based on the nature of their business.

For some, like Pages representing retail brands, the metric is response time. How quickly are we responding to customer service issues coming in through Facebook and Twitter?

For others, it’s about content. If there were more content, how much more frequently could we reach our audience? If we were able to increase the quality and virality of our content, how much more exposure could we get through people sharing it?


The Client

“How do I hold our agency accountable? Are they helping us make a big impact, or just following the herd?”

If you’re looking for outside help managing and growing your Facebook Pages, setting goals and expectations is essential if you want to get your money’s worth. While it’s the agency’s job to optimize for efficiency and scale, it’s your job to stay on them and make sure they’re getting you results. Too often, clients get burned by agencies who offload Facebook Pages to an intern, knowing that as long as something gets posted everyday, they’re off the hook.

It’s time to start asking questions like:

We talked through strategy last month — how do I look back and know if it’s actually working?
We want to stand out and be different – are we making an impact on Facebook, or just following the same playbook that every other Page does?
Since we hired you, how many more people are we reaching on Facebook every month?
Are we getting negative feedback? How many people unlike us each week?
How many friends of fans are we reaching, and how much conversation does this generate? Are we succeeding in getting people to talk about us?

Relationships with agencies and consultants are built on trust, but have to be backed up by results that are clear and measurable.

Up-to-date data should be easily accessible to clients and go beyond vanity metrics. Don’t get blinded by success theater – hold your partners accountable using data, so that you’re the one in the driver’s seat setting a high bar for goals and expectations.


The Creative

“Facebook is such a small format, it’s tough to tell what works.”

The creative director wanted a billboard, but has to work with a thumbnail image on Facebook.

Yesterday she was working on a takeover campaign for ESPN, filled with animations and interactive content. Today she’s trying to come up with a campaign that can be squeezed down and still capture attention on an iPhone. And her deadline is tomorrow ­— the Page needs a steady stream of content, not the next big idea.

While the industry has had time to develop best practices for creative in digital and interactive marketing, Facebook is relatively new and still changing rapidly. There aren’t rules and rubrics for what does or doesn’t work, and what worked six months ago may not work today.

Creative people need data to focus their imagination on what works.

At PageLever, we’ve seen lots of visually stunning images and videos fail on Facebook. Work that looks great and succeeds at capturing attention, but isn’t social and doesn’t drive users to take the next step of adding comments and sharing with their friends.

Most often, this happens because the content was made in a bubble, and no one told the creative department what was already working on Facebook.

By giving the copywriters and art directors the ability to understand which content already works, and allowing them to quickly test and validate ideas, it becomes easier to consistently generate social content that not only looks great, but fits with the user experience of the News Feed and Timeline.


The Account Manager

“My client asks for a report every week. I can’t keep up.”

Facebook has made life hard for account managers. The platform is always changing, regularly adding new features and creating new opportunities for marketers. As Pages and ads become more sophisticated, the need for efficient reporting tools will continue to grow.

Most account managers can already automatically generate reports for search and display campaigns that are tailored to their clients needs, but they’re left in the dark when it comes to Facebook. Meanwhile, clients want to know exactly what is going on with their Page, asking questions like:

How many new Likes did our Page get last week?
How much of our audience are we reaching?
Are the people we’re reaching on Facebook the same people we’re selling product to?

A great Facebook analytics tool allows account mangers to choose exactly what metrics their clients can access, save the time of manually generating reports in Excel, and make clients smile.

At PageLever, we’ve met many incredibly bright account managers who are bogged down making data look pretty, when they could be taking on new accounts and spending time with their clients. It’s time to give account managers the tools they deserve, so that they can do their job and make sure clients are confident, happy, and most importantly, renew their contract next year.


Summary

Analytics are for everyone.

Analytics aren’t just for the end-user. While only one person might be hands-on with a Facebook Page, many more people are responsible for the health and success of the organization. Metrics and data help people make smart decisions all the way up the chain of command.

Use analytics to make your case internally. Facebook is such a new platform that it’s not always easy to justify new hires or pull time away from expensive designers and developers. But numbers don’t lie, and can help you argue for the resources you need to do great work.

Set quantiative goals that augment your qualitative instincts. It’s essential to understand what success looks like on Facebook, in order to replicate it. Qualitative judgements are great for coming up with hypothesis, but they’re only proven once validated by data.

Build, measure and learn. Every amazing Facebook marketing team runs small experiments in order to test their ideas at a small scale, and then uses metrics to understand which aspects worked. Was it the call to action? The image? The timing? Then they take this learning and go bigger, backed by the confidence of knowing that their ideas have already seen initial success.