Archives For digital strategy

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook is experiencing some kind of bug that is affecting brand page post impressions.  As you can imagine, some brands are growing frustrated as there’s hardly anything being done about it.  It’s been a month now, and no resolution in sight.  It is almost on monthly basis now, Facebook manages to anger and annoy either its users, app developers or the advertisers.

I started drafting this blog post soon after the Roger Ebert fanpage going down story broke. So the urgency to publish it, couldn’t be greater.  The marketers who solely rely on Facebook as their primary marketing channel and brands that use it as their central online hub for all their online activity are about to get a rude awakening.  As relying solely on Facebook can and will bring your marketing and social media engagement efforts to its knees.

This is not an anti-Facebook post, but rather a cautionary article.  Yes, facebook should be part of your marketing mix, yes you should connect with fans on facebook and you should use it to help build your company, product and/or brand awareness, but don’t make it your online hub.  There are a number of reasons to approach Facebook with a plan B in your back-pocket.

Terms of Service

Facebook’s Terms of Use (ToU) aka Terms of Service (ToS) is mess.  Seems like Zuckerberg and his legal team never know what to put in.  And when they do update the Terms, they seemed to be in a need of always hoping to clarify some parts. Why don’t they just make it clear in the first place? I understand that ToU evolve over time, but Facebook never seems to get it right.  I can’t even think of any other company that had to make so many ammendmends and backtracks on new changes to their ToU in such a short time.  Backlash and petitions are well documented.

Too Much Control

Just when you think you have a solid business model and a common place to connect with your audience, Facebook can simply pull the plug on anything at a whims notice, if any at all.  The common denominator is mostly because something doesn’t fit Facebook’s mantra (read: draconian terms of use), or their business model. So, putting all your eggs into one basket (read: facebook) will have a detrimental effect on the survival of your business, as was the case with Blue Noodle. A Toronto based company that ‘helps casual social game publishers monetize in-game advertising.’ Most of their efforts were focused on the Facebook platform. An anonymous Blue Noodle employee was quoted on a CNN Fortune blog article Investor immorality: The strange case of Blue Noodle :

“All seemed okay until January, when Facebook announced that game publishers would be required to use Facebook Credits as their exclusive currency. We had put most of our eggs into the Facebook basket, and that was like a shot through the heart,” says a former Blue Noodle employee who requested anonymity. “There wasn’t really a Plan B.”

Blue Noodle is partly to blame as well, but this incident illustrates the type of effect Facebook changes can have on 3rd party developers’ and partners’ business models.

Furthermore, facebook has a history of shutting down popular fanpages, groups and profiles.  In addition to Roger Ebert’s page going down mentioned earlier, they also shutdown a fan page for Realtors which had over 47,000 fans, and Robert Scoble’s profile in 2008. Facebook can give you all the tools you need  to connect with your audience and marketing insights you need carry out effective campaigns. But at the end of the day they ultimately have the final say if you get to use those tools or not.

Lack of Customer Support

If your profile is disabled, fanpage goes down or app isn’t working, how are you going to get help?  Is there a number to call? No! For a company with such a large base of developers and high-spend advertisers, you’d assume there would be a better way of getting instant help.  But there isn’t.  Some users take their questions and frustrations to Twitter where in some cases it generates so much buzz that Facebook reps are forced to respond immediately.

No Respect For Users’ Privacy

Facebook is locked in constant battle with users over its privacy controls.  One of the most annoying and frustrating things most users find with Facebook, is the default position of ‘opt-in’ to being set to ON whenever they introduce a new feature.  More recently, Facebook introduced a face recognition feature which groups similar faces together to make tagging of your friends easier.  This angered and annoyed many users as the feature was ‘on’ by default without users’ knowledge.  A history of disrespect for users’ privacy has led the lawmakers to ask Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe Facebook. If Facebook’s leadership has no respect for their users’ privacy what do they have to ensure you trust them with your brand?

Unethical Business Practices

This post is full of examples of Facebook’s bad behavior, but the incident involving Facebook paying off a PR firm to smear Google takes the cake. These kinds of tactics are usually reserved for dying, spineless and desperate companies.  Is Facebook really that insecure about Google’s latest attempt at ‘social networking’ with Google+?

Spam and Phishing

Spam and Phishing is nothing new.  As the users shift their time spent on internet to Facebook, so do the spammers and scammers. These illegal activities come in different forms. Some are disguised as legitimate applications, others are just links or fan pages.  Spammers and phishers can quickly hijack latest craze, event or even a brand, and disguise it as a legitimate app or a fan page.  If Facebook scammers can exploit Steve Jobs’ death and take advantage of naive and unassuming Facebook users, what’s there to stop them from hijacking your brand?

To conclude, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Facebook as a marketing channel and a place to connect with your customers, fans and followers.  However, I would be wary of treating it as the only online marketing channel and a central hub of all your online activity.  Instead, you need diversify and setup a hub of all your activity elsewhere.  A place where you have more control and that connects to your other online properties, including your Facebook fanpage.

You’ll hear a lot of this. Engage. Engage. Engage. Especially from Digital Strategists, Social Media Marketers, Community Managers and the like. You need to Engage with your fans, Engage with your followers and Engage your subscribers. Its one of the top recommendations social media and online marketers give to businesses who ask, whats the point of social media and how do I get any value from it? In a nutshell, to get value you need to engage your audience.

Sure, everyone knows the meaning of the word engage, but how do you do it via social media? Engaging via social media is simply starting a conversation, it’s giving your fans, followers, subscribers, partners, current and potential customers a reason to talk to you. A reason to carry the conversation, a reason for them to tell their friends about you and a reason to build relationships with you. If you’re not engaging them, someone else is.

In the past month I’ve gone through the process of switching webhosts for my website and domain. With that move I also decided to start fresh with my blog, layout and the format.  I used as a primary landing page which displayed and linked to my various public online profiles, but as you can see that is no longer the case.  Although I will continue to use, but I am yet to decide which one of my domains I’ll use to forward to my account.

So, why the change? Simple.  I want to give visitors looking for me and my insights on marketing and digital strategy a direct path.  Most of my new visitors come from direct links that I share in my email signature, referring sites and other online profiles.  Although I write a great deal about marketing in the digital age, I am not concerned about ranking high on Google for marketing and social media related terms, at least not yet.  Of course I do get great deal of traffic from Google and other search engines, and I do follow best SEO practices, but my site and a blog at the moment serve a different purpose.

Also, this is my (moving websites) test run.  I plan on moving my personal training site and blog to the same server.  So, I want to see what this process entails and where I would encounter hick ups, if any.

Almost 78% of Canadians have access to the Internet and this number will only grow as more people gain access, broadband speeds improve and population grows.  Many things that we used to do offline 10 years ago can now be done online via our computers or mobile phones.  You can look up a business, watch a movie, shop, order pizza and even get a personal trainer to workout with you without ever having her visit you.  As many more businesses build their online presence the more crowded the digital space will get.  Differentiating yourself online from the shop down the street will be even more difficult.  Having a static website or a listing in an online directory will not be enough.  Small businesses need to go beyond that.  One of the ways small businesses can stand out is to take advantage of free online social media tools and platforms.  Seems like many small business are moving in that direction, but I haven’t seen any significant online presence from these 5 businesses.

  1. Local Business Improvement Area

    The whole purpose of BIAs is to support and promote businesses in the community and stimulate local economy.  Sure most have static websites, which are only updated when a new member joins or a major event is going on.  How about developing a digital strategy that involves actually connecting with the community, whether via Twitter or FaceBook or a simple eNewsletter.  How about providing regular updates on not just major events, but maybe special sales local businesses are running?  How about allowing local businesses share success stories?  How about profiling each business using video?  How about keeping an up-to date photo gallery?  The list goes on and there are so many opportunities here.

  2. Auto-mechanics

    I don’t know what I dislike more: going to a mechanic or doing my taxes.  I know mechanics work hard and do a dirty job, but they do carry a reputation that we’re all too familiar with; everything from questionable pricing to unnecessary repairs. I think it would be earth shattering if one mechanic just started blogging and connecting with with his community. He or she can share honest tips and advice on how to keep your car running longer, how to avoid price gauging or even take questions from site visitors. Or maybe even share cool projects they are working on, like car restorations. The opportunity here is huge because no one is really doing it. So, the first one to take advantage will come out a winner.

  3. Local Gyms

    This category is my favorite, not only because I am a part-time trainer but also because there’s so much gym owners and managers can do with social media and digital marketing. Individual fitness professionals are all over social media, but gyms lack social media presence. However, they do have the opportunity to harness the knowledge and expertise of people they employ. In addition to personal trainers, most commercial gyms employ massage therapists and/or a nutritionists, why not have those professionals contribute content as well? How about acknowledging accomplishments of their members and making them champions? How about workout videos? And so on. The possibilities are endless.

  4. Lawn Care Professionals

    These professionals have an arsenal of tips, tricks and good advice of how to keep your lawn and garden in a top shape. Like mechanics they can also capitalize on the opportunity of connecting with their site visitors, FaceBook Page fans and Twitter followers in so many different ways. From answering questions to sharing their work. For this industry, I would bet that before and after photos and videos would work really well. This type of content spreads fast.

  5. Local Grocers and Delis

    Small grocery stores and delicatessens can benefit from utilizing social media. Once again, there aren’t many using social media or considered digital marketing as part of their strategy to attract new customers. Their business depends on a specific demographic and marketing by word of mouth. If you’re the first East-European deli, for example, to get your business online and take advantage of all that social media offers, the digital space in this niche is your to secure. Besides announcing weekly specials, these family run businesses can educate their site visitors about different types of sausages and kielbasas, share traditional recipes and announce when rare products arrive.

The opportunity is clear. These 5 types of businesses can easily take advantage of readily available, free or low cost social media tools to attract new customers and build trust. Not only that, but these businesses have a lot of room to carve a spot for themselves in the digital space and become experts in their industry. All they have to do is share their expertise.