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February 2012

New FB Ads Push Marketers To Rethink Wall Posts & Agencies To Play Nicely Together

New facebook premium ads
Media, PR, Creative and Social Agencies Beware.  Your overlap is about to get much more real.  And Facebook's new ads are going to push brand managers to make you coordinate far more intimately than in the past.

Facebook has a good deal of ad revenue riding on marketers getting their platform right.  In the early days of Facebook, brands and agencies didn't know what they were doing.  Facebook taught the industry how to market on Facebook.  And Facebook now looks to be pushing us to write better Wall posts.  It is a well know secret that most Facebook Brand Pages have low engagement with their Wall posts.  Really low engagement.  The new Facebook ads appear to be a strong push from Facebook to marketers to take their wall posts more seriously.

According to a leaked powerpoint doc (see this GigaOm post), Facebook's new premium ads feature selected brand wall posts.  For better or worse, many major marketers are handing over their page management responsibilities to employees with very minimal professional experience, in my experience often ranging from fresh out of college through three to four years of professional related experience.  Massive advertising buys on the other hand are often overseen by seasoned professionals with a strong background in copywriting.  As a result, ads are often more polished than page posts.

This isn't to say that page posts are not well written.  However, page posts are often less purposefully written than ads.  As a result, page posts go largely ignored and Facebook's great algorithms minimize the brand's exposure to users who demand less clutter in their streams.

This new format is going to push brands to write better posts, posts that are well suited to both the Wall as well as media.  This will necessitate stronger alignment across media buying and page management teams.  This may even lead to media, creative and page management agency consolidation.

Facebook needed to take this step, to put a carrot and a stick behind better community engagement.  Because with repeat user engagement Facebook will lose their position as the go-to platform for meaningful a community/relationship oriented marketing.  And there is a lot of money on the line.

Yahoo! Mail And Nudity In Advertisements


Yahoo mail

Twitter customer service is pointless if it can't deliver an end-to-end user experience.  Take my recent interaction with Yahoo! below:


For the past few weeks Yahoo! Mail has been showing what to many would be considered an indecent advertisement in their right hand skyscraper unit.  This is a locally targeted ad for the Israel market.  This ad shows a woman's nude behind (though with the odd coloring it could well be a close in on a sculpture).  I found the ad to be in poor taste, particularly given the broad user base of the site.  My wife also saw the ad and has been trying to figure out how to get the ad off of her Yahoo! Mail.  This was particularly offensive to her as she receives a good deal of spiritual inspiration from emails she receives from her spiritual mentors (mostly former teachers).  

Together we searched Yahoo and Google for quite a while, looking for the proper form to report an inappropriate ad to Yahoo!  We couldn't find the right form.  Apparently because they don't have one.  

When we recently mentioned this to friends in the neighborhood, they all had the same experience.  They had seen the ad, found it objectionable for the context and couldn't find a way to report it.

So I took to Twitter.  In the past the Yahoo! Mail Twitter team hasn't always been 100% effective, but they generaly got the job done.  I tweeted to the Yahoo! Mail team asking how I could report this ad.  I was in a positive mood and wanted to help.  They twice sent me to this page - - a form for reporting spam and email abuse.  There was no option to report ad abuse.  We could not submit the form without including the message header, the sender, etc.  This clearly was not the right form.  But we filled it out anyway, using N/A for all almost all of the fields in the form.

And then we hit send.  And nothing happened.  

The page reloaded with a blank form.  Was our form received by the system?  I don't know.  There was no on-screen confirmation or message received landing page.  Just a blank form.  It's now almost 30 minutes later and we haven't received an email confirmation of our complaint.  Is Yahoo! listening?  Does Yahoo! care?

Putting your customer service on Twitter is a great way to actively engage the community.  But when this service fails to deliver a positive end-to-end experience, it serves little purpose.  I was a proactive and engaged fans of the platform, yet I was directed to a poorly designed, impersonal form.  

I invested my time in Yahoo!  It remains to be seen whether Yahoo! cares to invest their time in me.

UPDATE: Social media is a funny thing.  I know a number people who work at Yahoo!, but did not engage them as I wanted to experience this journey as a regular Joe.  An old friend and Yahoo! employee has engaged in the conversation on this blog and elsewhere, and correctly pointed out that Yahoo! is compliant with industry standards.  I would be happy to speak with the team at Yahoo and share their response in full on this blog (as appropriate).  The overall issue discussed in this post is one that challenges most ad networks.  While there are safeguards in place, things happen and there unfortunately is not yet a great system for user-generated feedback regarding third party ads on most major sites or networks.  As a user and as an advocate, I tried to provide feedback.  Let's see where this feedback takes us.

Note: To all the GMail people out there, I know.  I almost switched, twice.  But switching is a pain, I didn't get the right Gmail address, I'm now locked into this poor GMail address as it my Google ID, and I kind of like Yahoo! Mail.  While Yahoo! Mail isn't an incredible product and they have on occasion been very frustrating, 99% of the time the product works great and I've stuck with it until now.  As for the future?  We will see...

Why Social Commerce Rocks and FB Storefronts Fail

1 + 2 = Fail
Bloomberg drew all the wrong conclusions from a great set of facts.  The failure of Facebook storefronts has nothing to do with the marketing value or potential of Facebook, or social commerce as a discipline.  

Here's why:

  • Social commerce provides unique social value to the customer, the marketer and the community.
  • Most Facebook storefronts only provided value to the marketer.

The failure of first-generation Facebook storefronts doesn't speak to the value Facebook offers marketers or retailers overall.  This failure speaks to the lack of creativity and value offered by first-run platforms.  Smarter brands like TicketMaster and Delta Airlines are innovating beyond the checkout, delivering social innovation and more importantly, social value.

Here's to the innovators.

Making The Angry Hordes Work For You: Lessons From Ellen and JC Penney

Ellen one million moms
Earlier today the always insightful Geoff Livingston share a post highlighting the fear major corporations have of the angry mobs unfortunately common to social media.  While this point is certainly valid, I have long believed that there is tremendous opportunity in utilizing advocacy and common sense to redirect that angry energy away from the brand and towards a common goal. For example, a few years back when one of my clients faced charges of customer abuse, I challenged them with creating an industry-wide customer bill of rights, raising the standard for their competition while inviting the community to participate in this industry leading transformation.  

Few marketers have the creativity and fortitude to pull this off.  Ellen Degeneres and JC Penney just showed us how this was done.

Over the past week, JC Penney has come under fire from certain "family values" organizations for adopting Ellen as a spokesperson.  These organizations didn't just make statements, they activated their base of outraged parents, utilizing both traditional and social channels to rally their communities.  Classic social media firestorm, right?  

Not only did JC Penney and Ellen stick by one another, they celebrated their advocates and in-so-doing changed the conversation.  Ellen used her popular syndicated talkshow as a platform to celebrate the individual advocates defending JC Penney on their antagonist's Facebook Fan Page.  Ellen called them out by name and showed screenshots of the conversations.  In so doing, she sent a message to her own legions of fans - don't just support JC Penney, let these organizations know what you think.  She took the conversation from an attack on JC Penney to a discussion on these organization's pages regarding the real issues at hand.  They utilized their earned and owned media to activate their advocates and shift this entire issue onto their antagonists.  They changed the mainstream conversation from one of challenging JC Penney to challenging their attackers.

Kudos Ellen and JC Penney on a brilliant communications strategy.  Here's to hoping many more large corporations can take a chapter from your book, get inspired, and join our conversation.  We're looking forward to talking to you.

Video below:

The International Market Is The Next Great Piracy Frontier


Digital piracy thrives when there are no normative alternatives.  We as a society will only accept the risk and bother of illegally downloading content when the legal alternative fails to deliver an equally accessible and reasonable priced in an acceptable format.  

For the past 15 years, digital content piracy thrived because legal options were not viable.

  1. It was too hard to get to legal content in the formats we wanted.  Streaming and downloadable options were not available.
  2. Content was being bucketed into bulk purchases (albums) whereby we were forced to pay for content we did not want (the 7 songs nobody really liked) in order to access the content we intended to purchase (the 2 songs we cared for). 
  3. The product was defined increasingly irrelevant analog distribution metaphors such physical disks at physical retailers.  The cost of digital distribution is far lower than the cost of printing and shipping disks.  And so we as a society pirated music, tv shows and movies.  

Over the past ten years and the past few weeks in particular, we have heard an incredible amount about solutions for cracking down on piracy within the US and Europe.  I believe that the global piracy market is far bigger than the US piracy market.  And it is shame that the US content owners are pushing the rest of the planet towards piracy.

Global piracy occurs because content owners are enforcing artificial analog distribution metaphors, in this case analog boarders in a borderless digital world.  And much like the demise of the CD gave way to the rise of the 99 cent single, these artificial restrictions will give way to demand.  With or without legal options, the walls have already come down.

While the US market has developed meaningful alternatives to piracy at acceptably low costs, these alternatives are rarely if ever available to the rest of the global population.  With no viable, competitive and legal alternative, piracy is rampant.  Considering that many blockbuster movies pull in as much if not more international markets than they do in domestic box offices, there is a tremendous revenue opportunity here.

There is a mountain of money being left on the table.  

Last night's Superbowl was a great game.  In the weekend leading up to the game popular pirate sports streaming site First Row was taken down twice.  Every time they went down, they relocated to a new domain and resumed their service.  First Row had five streams running of the pre-game!  The quality of First Row's streams leave much to be desired.  But with no legal alternative, this is where the world goes to watch their games online.

Yes, it was a great thing that the NFL, NBC and Verizon streamed last night's game.  But the only legal option for international streaming was a $19.99 playoffs package from  Much like music album that gave way to the single, the NFL is going to need to begin offering single game streaming packages to the global market.  

It's time we ended this game of whack-a-mole and built a longer term solution.  While Hulu and BBC iPlayer are great options, the global demand for content powers a pirate market that spills over into domestic markets with legal options.  The only way to combat piracy is to embrace digital distribution.  True digital distribution.  Global digital distribution.

If pirates with little financial incentive can make it work, I hope a multi-billion dollar industry can figure it out.

Lessons Learned: Susan G Komen Vs Their Public

There has been a bit of a social media/public policy kerfuffle over the past week regarding the Susan G Komen non-profit.  SGK has done an incredible amount of good and is an organization I generally hold in high regard.  Earlier this week word got out that SGK would not longer be offering cooperative services with Planned Parenthood.  And then things went south.

The public was concerned.  They took to social media.  They leveled accusations, highly charged political accusations.  They posted on Facebook and Twitter.  They swarmed the SGK Facebook page.  They demanded answers.  And SGK chose to censor their community, their public.  Not only did they not reply to the accusations of politicizing the war on cancer, but they deleted posts about this issue off their page. 

This censorship further fueled the fire of community outrage.  People expect responses, clarifications, apoligies and changes in policy where appropriate.  They expect to be heard and recognized by a cause they have supported with their time and money.  Censorship is such an evil activity, that the public views it an implied guilt.

A few hours ago SGK hit the media, replying to their community through the press.  They shared their perspective and shifted the blame to Planned Parenthood.  Regardless of who is correct or justified in ending the relationship SGK will walk away with a black eye.  Which is a shame considering the wonderful respect I have for this organization.  And this black eye has little to do with the end of the SGK/PP relationship, and everything to do with poor communications.

I'm quite certain that behind closed doors at SGK there were at least a dozen meetings over this past week to determine the right way to communicate with their community.  I truly believe that those that get social media within the SGK were likely against the censorship.  But the bottom line is, they failed.  And regaining that community trust will take time and effort, something I would hate to see diverted from funds that could have been used to help cancer patients.

SGK made four crucial mistakes:

  1. They viewed their community, their public as participants and not drivers of their success.  There is never a good way to address a crises, but not replying to anyone is a great way to imply guilt.
  2. They censored their community.  Taking down community posts from your Facebook wall is only acceptable when the posts violate the accepted norms of the community.  Just as users must learn to live within the accepted social norms of the community, so must brands.
  3. They were actively unresponsive.   SGK took days to address what they say is a misrepresentation of the facts.  The community demanded an answer.  Taking the action of censorship while being completely inactive in addressing the community concerns implies guilt to the community and public.  This may not be the case, but to the public it looks like the proverbial kid running up to his parent yelling I didn't do it before the parent even knows a window has been broken.
  4. They haven't engaged their community.  The responses I have seen from SGK have been entirely broadcast through traditional and digital media.  In digital channels, they issued a statement on Facebook and a video statement on YouTube.  Their blog is down.  Throughout this entire episode, SGK addressed their public as a group and failed to engage them as individuals.  This doesn't mean that they must reply to every single post on FB - that would be very much not advised.  But they have to start replying to some people, if only to show that they care.

What SGK SHOULD Do Today

SGK needs to both invest in community engagement, and let the public know that they care about them and are investing in this engagement..  

  • Correct the hero image on the video on your website.  It makes the organization look angry, which is a counter-productive stance at this point.
  • Announce the engagement for one month from now.  This will both (a) send the message to your community that you want to engage with them, and are investing in building solutions to address these communications failures and (b) give the community time to get over their initial anger.
  • Find someone in the communications team with strong social experience and begin participating in light community engagement.  Do not reply to all posts, but begin replying to at least 10 posts a day.  This will send the message that while you aren't yet set to answer everything, you are listening, engaging and care.
  • Set up a Town Hall on Google Plus and streamed into Facebook, with a few members of the community.  These participants can be pre-screened and should include a few people who were bothered by this episode.  
  • Invite the public to help SGK choose their partners.  This doesn't need to be a pure democracy, but it should include a decent degree of community participation/
  • Hire an experienced community strategist that can oversee all community engagement.  Community managers are great, but do not always have the experience or broad perspective needed to participate in crises communications planning.  
  • Review and revise internal action plans for crises communications in the online space.