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How To Use Inception Marketing on Your Blog

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

Have you seen Inception yet? For those who haven’t, all you need to know is that it follows a team of thieves who access dreams in order to steal information for their clients. The term “inception” refers to the notion that information can be implanted in, rather than taken from, a person. An idea can be planted so that it feels organic to the dreamer, and when he or she wakes up, the person will take certain actions without questioning his own motives.

A similar concept can be used with the advertising that supports your blog. We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, but if you had a way to skip over it, and use advertising in a way that let you wake up a week or two from now with more devoted readers than you have today, would you be willing to make the effort?

Enter: social networks

“An elegant solution for keeping track of reality.” – Adriane

For a long time, the targeting process for advertisements was limited to basic parameters: age, gender, location, and context. Now, we have social networks. What used to be the outer limits of a consumer profile now constitute the baseline of information most people consider “safe” to share online.

And, thanks to social networks, many more will share specific likes and dislikes, their employment history, educational background, and more. All of this can be pieced together into a audience profile that has real dimension to it.

Gathering information from Facebook ads

“If we are gonna perform Inception then we need imagination.” – Eames

There’s something special about Facebook ads. Before you jump ship or question whether Facebook is appropriate for your blog, consider this fact:

There are over 500 million people on Facebook.

The total of the populations of the United States, Australia, Canada and Russia combined is only slightly above that figure. How many readers would you need to consider your blog successful? I’m pretty sure you could find at least a few thousand people who are interested in what you have to say—provided you’re willing to make the investment to locate them.

In order to use the Facebook ad platform to its full potential, you need to understand the differences between Facebook ads and search ads.

The most notable difference is the targeting techniques these ads use. The strength of Facebook’s ad platform comes from its ability to target users via the “Likes & Interests” section of a user profile. Search ads are targeted to the information a user is actively searching for in a given moment.

So, for example, I see Facebook ads for the Golden Girls box set because Facebook knows from my profile that I’m a fan of the Golden Girls. (Just … don’t tell anyone, ok?) Google or Bing will show me ads for the same thing—but only if I ask for them by performing a search on those terms.

The beauty of Facebook ads lies in the quality of the information you receive in the reporting data generated when someone clicks on your Facebook ad. Unlike a search ad’s reporting data, Facebook’s reports provide access to detailed demographic data plus a Responder Profile report, which details the nitty-gritty of the common interests of the people clicking on your ad.

The end result

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” – Cobb

Bloggers can create an Inception-like effect using Facebook advertising. We can use the ad reporting data to create the illusion that our blog or our website is, and always has been, beloved by its audience.

We start the process of inception by using the Responder Profile. This profile will vary from ad to ad but is typically similar to this:

The Responder Profile is your toolbox when it comes to learning how to approach your users. Review this data, learn to love it, and wring the life out of it by incorporating it into all the techniques you use on your blog.

For example, let’s imagine you have a blog about home improvement and hope to monetize it, but you need to build your readership. You have some basic audience demographic information to get you started, and you decide to target an ad that includes keywords like, “home improvement,” “decorating,” “construction,” and “home repairs.”

Your ads start running on Facebook, and two weeks later, your Responder Profile tells you that people who include those keywords in their profile, and clicked on your ad, also tend to share interests you never even thought of. Facebook’s report lets you know that 60% of the people who like “construction” also like “Uncle Fred’s Light Beer.”

Suddenly, Uncle Fred’s Light Beer has some power to it. Perhaps you can use that as a targeting parameter: if Uncle Fred’s is what connects Group A to Group B, then Group B may like your blog, too. You can study Uncle Fred’s marketing techniques and apply them to your own campaigns.

Furthermore, you might decide that Uncle Fred’s should probably be mentioned somewhere in your blog content—probably with the same level of humor, or using the same language, that your intended readership uses.

I used this technique recently on a page I was running for a client. After I saw my first Responder Profile, I realized that my initial approach to the target audience was likely bordering on offensive: it was a little too young-sounding. I also noticed that many of our users shared the Bible as their favorite book, and had a penchant for the Blue-Collar Comedy series.

As I interacted with the community over the next few days, I took on a more at-home tone. and made sure that the content I provided had a sense of humor (sometimes at the expense of usefulness). Our interaction rates went through the roof. The more I knew about these users, the easier it was to approach them on their own wavelength. This, in turn, helped me learn even more about what we needed to be offering our customer base.

Ultimately, you can use Facebook’s Responder Profiles to take on a virtual version of your own client’s personalities. The effect is that your blog’s visitors will feel at home communicating candidly with you, following your work, and buying from you, without ever questioning why they feel so comfortable.

And when people like you that much, they become brand advocates. It only takes a few of them to spread the word about your site among the people they know—and beyond.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” – Eames

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

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Comments

  1. I have used Facebook ads in the past, but, because of the comparatively high cost, I have stayed away recently.

    This article has convinced me to give them a second try…. with more targeting.

    Thank you!

  2. “There are over 500 million people on Facebook.”

    There are lots of folks on Facebook, but I seriously doubt that there are 500 million of them. There are probably 500 million *accounts* — and I have 3 of them, for different purposes. I recently saw a high-profile blogger advise everyone to get at least two accounts, one for personal use and one for business use. Since I have 4 side business, I will probably be setting up 2 more, although I will have to come up with a good way to keep them straight.

    And I haven’t even mentioned that I find Facebook to be mostly a noisy nuisance. I visit my accounts maybe once a week.

  3. Riaz Sidi says:

    Even though I didn’t really like the film – let the backlash begin – I can appreciate these words of advice.

    I think it truly makes sense to be the home your readers are looking for by decorating it with their favourite colors.

    It helps to bridge the gap that would have otherwise not been understood.

    I am definitely going to be trying this method.

    Thanks!

  4. Mars Dorian says:

    Sweet !

    I have seen this incredible movie. It’s amazing how you combined the essence of it with blogging – kick-assley done Tommy !

    I especially like your Facebook tactics because I have never considered doing something similar – until now ;)

  5. Paying attention is more valuable than most people ever expect. Fortunately, we have tools like Facebook advertising to help us. Tragically, most people still fail to realize the paying attention part.

    Now we need to fix the apathy and skepticism that paying attention to people really matters.

  6. Brenda says:

    Very interesting article. It makes sense of the swirl of information that is going by on FB.

  7. Ian says:

    This post should be required reading for people who think the Facebook ad platform is just another PPC account. FB has a strong product that should appeal to marketers, and the marketing insights one gains by experimenting with Facebook can help target campaigns on other platforms such as AdWords.

  8. David Graves says:

    I’ve looked at using Facebook ads before but it’s one of those things I seem to keep putting off. I’ve come close but never actually done the deed.

    Thanks to your informative post Tommy I will ad Facebook ads to my to do list. Whilst I’m at it I will also ad Inception to my films to watch list.

    You’ve sold me on both.

    Thanks!

  9. I had a dream once that the Golden Girls killed my family. Stayed away from the show ever since. True story.

    I think one of the big take-aways is that whether you’re engaged in Facebook ads or PPC campaigns, you can’t just stick the ads up there and expect them to do their job. You need to massage the campaign, monitor patterns and get to know the people who are clicking and entering your network.

    Great post, my friend :)

  10. that is true. Facebook ads are quite expensive. I will definitely try this..

  11. Tommy -

    Cool concept – I like it and I haven’t seen the movie :) . Every time I read your stuff, I get closer to fixing up my facebook marketing. Tx for this.

    Dennis -

    ps- great quote – “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

  12. Jess C. says:

    Awesome stuff, Tommy. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I love the way this was written… It takes a lot to get me through articles focusing on Facebook, but you totally rocked it!

  13. jason says:

    What an interesting concept. I wondered if Inception would create a buzz in other mediums, and this certainly counts. Great post!

  14. You mentioned, in our pre social media (Facebook) existence, our advertising efforts were limited to only a few variables such as age, gender, etc. But really, what has social media done, but made the information gathering process easier, faster and economically feasible?

    I remember reading “How to Swim with Sharks without getting Eaten Alive” by Harvey Mackay twenty plus years ago. He took info gathering game for sales people onto a new level with the Mackay 66 (66 questions) that could take years for the rep to fully fill out.

    Your assessment of the Facebook potential to do this, well kind of, virtually immediately … is intriguing. Maybe the ultimate solution is to merge the old with new to perform the “True Inception.”

  15. That looks amazingly useful! Thanks a lot Tommy, I’ve been ignoring Facebook for too long I think.

  16. Edge Girl says:

    Nicely done Mr T and I am so happy to see how easily you communicate some of the concepts most people miss when it comes to Facebook.

    BTW if you have not read Tommy’s blog–go there now!

  17. Shane says:

    Tommy. This is not only an excellent post but i can say without a doubt hack the network “works”!

    As a beta tester of the guide it taught me things I never knew possible with facebook. And as for inception marketing, I like to also think of it as reverse engineering marketing.

  18. Lisa says:

    Tommy,

    Nice mention of responder profiles. Seems like so many people have such tunnel vision on clickthroughs on FB ads that they ignore the good market research available via reports.

  19. Piff Huxtable says:

    What is the 10,000 hour rule?

  20. I’ve not really done a whole lot with my Facebook presence as a whole, but this gets me thinking … it may be time to do some experimenting and branching out. Thanks, Tommy!

  21. Sorry, this most be a dumb question but what is the 10,000 hour rule?

    I have been considering trying facebook advertising myself and this article farther helped me with that decision – thanks

  22. Sonia Simone says:

    Really cool connection, Tommy, thanks! I think I have a mental block about Facebook, need to dive into it a bit and see if I can shift that. :)

  23. Facebook is indeed a powerful medium for boosting one’s business. Especially for bloggers it is a boost. But I am too taken back by the price of Facebook ads. Must try them sometime.

    Thanks for the article.

  24. Jason Dudley says:

    Scott, the 10 000 hour rule is a rule of thumb that states it takes approximately 10 000 hours of focused practice to become a master at any difficult skill, whether that be guitar or horseback archery.

    That is approximately 3 hours per day for 10 years, or 5 hours per day for 5 years.

  25. Tommy Walker says:

    @Nate and Jill

    I’m surprised to hear your concerns about Facebook’s pricing. From what I’ve seen, with the appropriate targeting parameters the cpc is considerably less. I’d be curious to see what your targeting parameters were in the past. The cool part about their ad platform too is that if your ad performs well early in it’s life, Facebook will adjust your cpc to be extremely low and give you higher placement. In one case study, this was as extreme as someone getting 695 new “fans” for only $0.95

  26. Tommy Walker says:

    @sonia

    Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In doing research for this technique I’ve found that there are three camps when it comes to Facebook. Those who love it, those who don’t care, and those who absolutely loathe Facebook.

    The problem I think stems from a few years back, before Facebook’s ad platform. The advice then was “hang out in groups, network with people, you know the same old general stuff you hear about meeting people online. Problem was, the marketing community kind of killed the old groups, because they drove all of the “civilians” out. It became a case of everyone was selling and no one was buying, and instead of the community looking at itself in the mirror, they did what most people do and blamed the platform.

    I’m only going to speculate and say that the marketing community was one of the major reasons why Facebook introduced the Pages system. Problem was, by the time they did it, a significant portion of the marketing community had given up and moved on to the next shiny platform, Twitter.

    Some stayed behind and I think this is where the divide in the marketing community happened.

    Of course, this is just my take on it. I could be very wrong, but it seems to make sense…

  27. angela says:

    “What used to be the outer limits of a consumer profile now constitute the baseline of information most people consider “safe” to share online.” i definitely agree with that,it’s true

  28. Great post. I think social networking has completely changed the advertising playing field. Facebook ads are highly effective.

  29. Tommy Walker says:

    @mars

    Your comment kick-assley done (great word btw) I’m glad you like this tactic. This is actually the foundation for my marketing technique because I think it gives you a sick advantage knowing how to engage your target market BEFORE you even say so much as hello.

  30. @ TXCHLInstructor (October 14th, 2010 7:16 am)

    I am glad to see that since you consider Facebook a “noisy nuisance”, that you have not decided to add to the noise or confusion with your four Facebook accounts.

    For somebody who criticizes a network for noise, you seem to have a lot of interest in it while creating accounts and reading + commenting on blog articles about it.

  31. Tommy Walker says:

    @ian

    I agree with you all the way up until you say that it can help with targeting on Adwords. While I think that would work in certain situations, it would be a bit of a stretch simply because of the two different mindsets, and data pools, you get from each platform.

    Facebook ads “Responder Profile” will show you the common profile interests between users and in many cases a good percentage of those interests might be unrelated to what the actual product your page is selling. The purpose of the report is not just to narrow your targeting parameters so you can get more bang for your buck, but so you have a solid idea of who you’re talking to.

    For the most part, I would say this information can be pretty useless for Adwords because those ads are targeted by what a person is actively searching for. Knowing a person’s all time favorite movie is mostly going to be useless in this scenario. (though I suppose you could get soooome traffic by targeting older movies to get attention for newer ones hmmm…)

    BUT

    Adsense on the other hand, now that’s a different story because of the contextual nature of that platform. If you know the profile of your ideal customer, if you’re able to put yourself into their mind and determine what websites more of your ideal customers would frequent the most you can start running Adsense campaigns on those sites and really start being everywhere your ideal customer is…

  32. Tommy Walker says:

    @clay

    Once you start using this technique, those two weeks become a virtual hell.

    But you’re right, what used to take years now happens pretty quick.

    If you look at the technology that Facebook has recently rolled out (new groups, places, facial recognition) and really look at what their ad platform can do already, it will be no surprise if Facebook doesn’t start delivering Minority Report type ads in the near future.

    Imagine, you check into a clothing store and you get a push ad for an outfit that is “so you” because it incorporates styling of your favorite musician and favorite movie and matches up with what is in your profile already.

    This may be extreme, but is it really that far off?

  33. Wow Tommy! A bit creepy, but very cool. I will definitely be looking into this more because I’m sure there are PLENTY of frumpy mama’s on FB that I need to reach!

  34. Jason says:

    The real problem is with ad immunity – even by targeting against demographics based on likes and dislikes, interests and non-interests, we are a growing culture of internet savvy content producers and readers – and the “ads” are things we increasingly avoid both to keep our own online presence looking clean, and as consumers because it’s just….distasteful

  35. Carolee says:

    Facebook ads are something I have been hesitant to try. Maybe I’ll give it a go!

    Thanks for the awesome info!

  36. Hope you are a stockholder/affiliate for Inception because now everyone on Problogger is going to want to see it:)

    I’m assuming the quotes are from the movie–clever!

    Now, I’ve never thought about the Facebook ads before. I’ve never thought about the “Responder Profile” as being a marketing goldmine with hidden nuggets of information. On the one hand this is a warning to guard your privacy, on the other it filters annoying ads and targets things I might actually be interested in.

    Thanks, your post gave me many new ideas to consider.

    Have to say, sometimes I don’t even know what I like/don’t like. I can’t imagine any computer program figuring that out no matter how many profiles.

  37. Tommy Walker says:

    @Jason

    I see what you’re saying about ad immunity, but I can tell you from experience that if you’re using the right combination of headlines, images, and text than you make it very difficult for your ad to be ignored BECAUSE it’s so targeted.

    Your ads can’t be mundane, use images and text that will resonate. Use the white space in the images creatively, use words that incorporate your targeting parameters in the ad. Keep it simple, don’t try to make the sale from the ad, just try and get the click.

  38. Hi Tommy,
    I saw the movie and in August I wrote an article on my website on how people can use Inception in their own lives to help solve business develoment challenges.

    If you wish to include the link it is here.
    http://growyourwellnessbiz.com/how-to-use-inception-and-dream-incubation-to-solve-problems-at-work/

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.
    David

  39. @Mark Aaron Murnahan The main reason I have FB accounts is to prevent anyone else from using my name or pseudonyms. I visit one of them (the one I keep for my Lions Club affiliation) several times a week, and sometimes even post relevant information on it — and I ignore about 40-50 “friend” requests a week from people who are not in the Lions Club.

  40. Tommy Walker says:

    @ David

    Thanks for sharing your link, unfortunately I don’t own the post any more, but I appreciate you taking the time to share your work with us :-)

  41. Troy Roark says:

    I’m in the ‘inception’ period of getting my new blog to the masses (didjaseewhatijustdidthere?). Anyway, I haven’t considered using any kind of Ads to draw an audience. I’m extremely niche (Real Estate in a limited Geographic area), which might mean I need Facebook ads more than I imagine??? I plan to explore this, thanks to your article.

  42. I didn’t know Facebook ad contains so much information. Running ads wildly is like putting drops of water in the sea. But if you know people’s interests, it’s easier to approach them. Social networking really reaches a new level. You said, there are 500 millions people on Facebook. No wonder the founder of the site is a billionaire.

  43. Tommy Walker says:

    @Troy Some of the most creative uses of Facebook ads I’ve EVER seen were for the real estate market. In one example, they used the ad platform as sort of a micro listing showing a picture of the house and a small description, with a link back to the realtor’s site.

    When you click on the ad it brings you to a landing page that has asked you to “Like” the real estate agent’s page to find out more about the property they were inquiring about. Once you “liked” the Page, a form for the contact information appeared and a person could inquire about the property. It was brilliant!

    I think there’s a lot of great opprotunity on Facebook for real estate agents AS LONG as they’re not too salesy. No faster way to turn people on Facebook off than taking the “used car salesman” approach.

  44. Tommy Walker says:

    @Fables you’ve hit the concept right on the head !

  45. Tommy Walker says:

    @TxCHLInstructor I see your point about the “noise” factor, but that’s exactly what the Ad’s platform eliminates, because it’s targeting based on an individual’s profile interest.

    There couldn’t be any better way to pull the strongest signal from the noise.

    As far as having multiple accounts go, I do to, to keep my ad accounts separated (though Facebook does have a special ad account for that) my only concern is that I hope you’re not trying to run any business from one of those profiles, as that is against the Terms of service and can get you banned.

    The method I’ve talked about in this article is meant to direct traffic to a Page or an App.

    If you want to interact with multiple groups of people using one profile without getting your streams crossed, Facebook just introduced their new groups feature http://facebook.com/groups which will let you create specific groups that keep your conversations public to those in the group and hidden from everyone else… I wrote an article on how to set them up and what they can be used for here http://bit.ly/9rl7iR

  46. Angela says:

    I’m going to explore this, thanks to your article. i’d like to share it, can i?

  47. Tommy Walker says:

    @Angela

    Of course you can!

  48. Been willing to study a bit further Facebook ads and I am glad I ran into this post, very nice tips. Will be sure to give more thought to it, thanks.

  49. Tommy Walker says:

    @Gabriele I’m glad you got something out of it :-) Feel free to ask any questions if you run into any trouble.

  50. Brenda says:

    It shows a lot of poise and maturity that you realized your initial approach to a certain customer base might be offensive, and then tailored it to better fit their affinities. A lot of people would just have written them off as out of it and figured it was just their problem if they didn’t appreciate the style. Well played.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Being adaptive, especially in today’s world is absolutely vital :-) Branding isn’t really about how you want to be perceived by others, it’s about how others perceive you. This allows you to find out where you might fit into their psyche and build from there.

      Nothing in this world is ever truly “their problem” if you’re marketing because either a.) you’re going after the wrong target market or B.) not really listening to the right target market. Both of which can be solved, sometimes it’s just a matter of taking a step back and going “ok, what could we be doing differently here?”
      this is where we can usually find the most growth :-)