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Business Led by Technology: How Mobile Commerce is Dominating Total eCommerce Activity in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 4.26.49 pmThis is a guest contribution from online journalist and entrepreneur Megan Ritter.

Every year, tech companies continue to roll out dazzling new smartphones and tablets into the market. Depending on personal preference, people have the option to choose from an iOS, Android, or Windows device, and you don’t necessarily have to break the bank anymore to have the latest and greatest in technology. Simply put, today’s tech makes even the most grueling daily tasks, like banking, as easy as tapping a screen a few times. 

And while we continue to jump back-and-forth between the sizes of our devices (big to small, to big again), both smartphones and tablets are evolving to meet at a 7-inch “SmartTab” form factor, allowing the two different functioning capabilities of a smartphone and tablet to become one. In addition, there will be wearable smart devices, so there will be multiple ways that a person can participate in mobile commerce.

Mobile Tech: Pros and Cons

The number of features built into a tiny device like a smartphone are nearly endless, and with those features come plenty of opportunities, particularly for those in the mobile commerce industry. The bulky PC desktop and even the laptop have largely been shrunk to a fraction of their size, and now a mobile phone can perform nearly all the functions of a PC or a laptop. Mobile commerce allows the consumer to purchase from a business at their own convenience. Retailers have adjusted their services to cater to the mobile customer, including redesigning their websites to cater to mobile visitors along with company-specific apps.

Consumers who participate in the on-the-go, mobile shopping experience expect the entire process to be quick, so it is essential that businesses also make their websites easily accessible and compatible with mobile shoppers as well. Near field communication (NFC) can also assist in mobile commerce. This allows a mobile device to broadcast information over short distances and uses this technology by taking your digital financial information to make payments online. 

However, there are a few roadblocks to be overcome regarding this technology—many devices still do not have NFC, and those that do are a bit more expensive than a regular smartphone. These barriers to entry are causing both consumers and businesses to find cheaper alternatives in the meantime while NFC is being phased into smartphones.

Mobile Revolutionizes Marketing and More

Mobile devices have also caused a marketing revolution. No longer can marketing be done by traditional methods alone—many businesses should have a strategy where they can market their products and services via mobile device. Businesses have started using QR codes so that people can use their mobile devices to find out more about a certain business and its products and services. Mobile devices also play a large part in loyalty programs—you can get discounts or free products for checking in on Facebook, for example.

In addition to business, pleasure and entertainment have become largely active on mobile devices—many games today offer the option of in-app purchases, and people can easily watch their favorite shows, movies, and YouTube videos in the palm of their hand. If technology can tell us anything about what consumers want, it’s convenience. That means that you need to make your brand’s services available when your customer wants them, and by making your business mobile-friendly, you’re giving them a reason to keep coming back. 

Director, Anybody?

People love using their smartphones to consume content; now they can use it to create content as well. Whether it’s a seven-second Vine or a YouTube video a few minutes in length, creating content via mobile devices will increasingly become the norm as their specifications come to match those of several devices: desktop PCs, cameras, and even sound recording equipment. You don’t necessarily need a studio or a movie set to become a content creator—just whip out your smartphone and let your creativity (and your device) get things rolling.

The Next Step

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. As the demand for mobile commerce increases, businesses must adapt to their consumers’ wants and needs, which will lead to new innovations in the field. Unlike some previous inventions, however, all of us can participate, and we should all be trying our best to move mobile commerce forward for the economic benefits and the sake of innovation.

The 6-Step Guide for Crafting an Effective Content Marketing Channel Plan

CREATE AN ACTION PLANThis is a guest contribution from freelance writer Kanika.

With businesses employing multiple channels for marketing, it can quickly get overwhelming. To stay across everything without losing your head, you really need to have a plan of attack for each channel. Only then will your business be able to get the best results from its marketing projects, campaigns undertaken across various channels, and comprehensively achieve its marketing objectives.

You have to ensure that the content created suits its targeted audience and is appealing and informative enough to hold the people’s attention. But the same content cannot be presented on different channels in the same format – t has to be moulded and revised to best fit into a situation, so it can deliver the goods. This is so important for the success of a business’s marketing projects and campaigns.

Follow this 6-step approach and you will be well on your way.

 

Research your chosen channel

Before a business goes ahead with putting its content on a chosen channel or channels like Twitter, Linkedin, etc., it needs to conduct deep research on various factors. The timing of publishing a content, what type of people it wants to target, the tone of content, and team members who will be writing it, and the budgetary limitations all need to be looked at. You also need to consider an estimated number of people who will respond to the content, what action you want them to take, devices people would be using for seeing the content, their time of accessing it; whether they would be at work or holidaying, and similar other factors. Only then will you be able to mold the content to best fit a situation and hold the interest of your target audience.

Choosing the right channel at the right time

It’s great that a business can maximize its content promotion efforts and use every available channel for promoting itself, its products, and solutions, but you need to use these tactically. Choosing some channels over others is best, as it enables a business to devote enough time and energy on few specific channels rather than spreading too thin across all. This is helpful for those businesses who have a limited number of personnel for doing various tasks like content creation, SEO, etc. For maximizing their output, it is better to selectively utilize a couple of channels you think will work well. After that, you can try others – but just starting with every channel and leaving many of them silent is not going to work. Moreover this will burn out team members who have too much work to do than they can easily handle. Failure to follow up with maximum channels is bad for a business’s reputation. People who have posted their comments and are waiting for ages to get their questions answered will get annoyed. This does not do much for your reputation – dissatisfied people can be pretty vocal about being ignored.

 

Formulating a content management plan

A business has to get created quality content in a time bound manner and this can be done by making a content management plan and executing it systematically. It has to devise a content strategy which will decide what type of content needs to be created for various channels and which type of audience will be targeted by the content. The team members who will be writing the content, submitting, promoting and marketing it, have to be identified and assigned their respective tasks. They should clearly know the deadlines of their tasks and milestones. Once content has been submitted and promoted on various channels, the results obtained need to be analyzed. This will help a business to know if its marketing efforts are succeeding as intended or do they need to be improved. This will give an idea what new or extra it needs to do for achieving the desired results. Thus it can better plan for its future content marketing projects. 

Executing the content management plan

After the content management plan for a project or campaign has been formulated, it needs to be executed in a streamlined manner. Activities of team members assigned with various content creation, submission and promotion tasks have to be coordinated. Their progress at their tasks needs to be tracked and critically assessed. A business has to know if they are completing their tasks within the stipulated time or if they taking more than required time for their execution. This helps it to know if a project or campaign will be completed within the allocated time and budget. If a business discovers some inconsistencies in the smooth functioning of such projects and campaigns, it should be able to take corrective measures in a timely manner.

This calls for improved organization, communication, collaboration and precise monitoring of tasks and projects. This is something which cannot be achieved manually. The reason being team members are often based in different locations and it becomes difficult to update them on latest developments happening in such projects. It becomes difficult to keep them at same page over a project. So better solutions are needed – and usually web-based.

Web-based project management tools enable smooth and proper execution of content management projects. These will improve communication and collaboration among globally dispersed team members so projects can be completed within time and budget. 

You might like to try some of these:

Basecamp: A popular project management tool enables enhanced management in projects in a simple manner. Team members remain well aware of any new activities happening in projects.

ProofHub: Team members can communicate, collaborate fast and transparently with this enterprising project management tool. This tool enables smooth implementation of projects and these can be completed as scheduled.

Trello: This collaboration tool boosts communication and collaboration among group members by making it smoother. Work, projects can be better organized and managed with this solution.

Asana: This project management system enables team members to work together without using emails. Their efficiency improves and they are able to achieve more at work with minimum effort.

Molding content as per the context

After content has been created, it has to be molded so as to fit into the right context. A business may witness new developments like it launching new features or solutions, redesigning its website, upcoming festivities like Christmas, New Year and others where it becomes quite necessary to mold the content to best fit to a given situation, context and the targeted audience. Thus the business would be able to present the latest and updated information to the people and they will respond more actively to the business’s needs. 

6. Creating an editorial plan

For properly using a chosen channel and for getting the maximum results, a business needs to create an editorial plan. This will get mapped to its global editorial calendar. The editorial plan enables a business to determine velocity, tone, intended action and structure for the content it needs to put on a specific channel. As an example, a business wants its Twitter page to consist of following things: 


Velocity: One post per day
Tone: Conversational, friendly and occasionally laced with humor
Intended Action: A business wants subscribers to click through to its guest post
Structure: 140 worded post with a business’s logo

An action plan means you get your business marketed effectively and quickly. I hope these six steps have helped you.


Kanika is a freelancer content writer who likes to delve deep into technology, tools, and making people aware about utility of such aids through her informative write-ups. In her spare time she enjoys sketching, cooking, travelling and spending time with her family and folks.

Solving the Content Management System Standoff: Drupal, Joomla or WordPress?

CMS Comparison Graphic

This is a guest contribution from Kyle Metcalf, of Rackspace Digital.

Choosing the right vehicle all depends on the trip you have in store. Just as you wouldn’t take a Formula One racing car off-roading through the Rockies, a rugged 4×4 Jeep wouldn’t stand a chance on the track against an aerodynamic one-seater.

Similarly, the same approach should be taken when it comes to choosing the best open-source content management system (CMS). Whether you’ll be running a company blog or a site that’s jam-packed with graphics and video, making the right choice depends on your content. Of the three open-source choices, each one has its own advantages, and making the right choice will be a crucial step in creating a dependable website that delivers an engaging user experience. 

Checking out the contenders

If you’re in the process of building a new site for your business or revamping your current one, you’ll need to begin with some questions. Are you presenting a purely informational help site or an ecommerce marketplace? Will your content be staying the same for long periods of time, or will it need to be updated multiple times a day? Keeping these questions in mind will help you match up your online goals with the characteristics of these three open-source CMS choices. No one wants to spend more than they should, so knowing the essentials of these three platforms can help you make the best choice.

Drupal: Sophistication and usability in one package

Robust is one way of describing Drupal. Both the White House’s website and the British government’s site, data.gov.uk, utilize Drupal, which provides a sophisticated means for delivering video, text and images in a user-friendly design. The following are the top reasons for using Drupal: 

Advanced content: Large-scale multimedia websites have some serious drawing power, yet they need a platform that will be sturdy enough to handle these capabilities. If you’ve got a site in the works that will showcase different kinds of content, this will be a good way to go.

Multiple sources of input: If your site is an ongoing collaboration among many different employees, you’ll need a platform that will enable a variety of input from different users. If you’ll be posting new content around the clock from many contributors, Drupal will give you an effective means for doing so.

Stability and flexibility: A large amount of traffic isn’t a bad problem to have, as long as you have the capability to handle it. Drupal is built to provide a stable performance with a great deal of content versatility. It also can be scaled up or down to accommodate your needs depending on the flow of activity to your site, such as traffic spikes during certain times of year.

Drupal is best for those with a strong background in Web development, and for a complex multimedia site that will need to be SEO-friendly.

Joomla: Your online storefront starts here

Of the three, Joomla’s the latest arrival to the CMS scene and occupies the middle ground between Drupal and WordPress, offering the best characteristics of each. Let’s take a look at Joomla’s top benefits:

Simplified installation: Even if you’re not pressed for time, you’ll be able to get this up and running quickly and easily. Although Joomla isn’t for beginners, its setup is user-friendly and straightforward.

Versatility: Whether you’re planning to build a basic site or jump into the digital marketplace, Joomla will allow you to cover many different options. You can also create forms and surveys for collecting info from site visitors. Whatever you have in mind, you’ll find the right extension for it among the thousands that are available for customizing your site.

Easy management and updates: For those with solid tech experience, Joomla will allow you to make updates to content or design quickly through helpful control tools. You’ll be able to have all the administration tools in one place for generating and tweaking content efficiently.

Joomla is best for ecommerce sites or organizations who want a solid but basic site that features multimedia. It won’t require the expertise that Drupal demands but still demands some development skills and will be a dependable solution for those looking for something less complicated than what Drupal offers.

WordPress: 20 Million and Growing

From its beginning as a humble blog platform, the latest edition of WordPress now boasts over 20 million users and is the basis for everything from The New York Times blog to the Lollapalooza website. For those interested in creating a simple blog or getting their new startup online, WordPress will be a straightforward choice. The following are the best reasons for choosing WordPress:

Ease of use: You don’t have to be a coding whiz to use WordPress. Its accessibility is part of the reason why it’s such a popular format and can be easily customized to create the right look and feel for your business.

Plugins abound: If you already have an idea of the user interactivity you’ll want, you’ll likely find a WordPress plugin that will take care of it, many of which are available for free. Internal linking and embedding external video can all be handled perfectly to increase the usability of your site, whether it’s SEO or broadening your social media activity.

Help is always available: As an open-source tool, and a popular one, WordPress has an enormous community of users, so finding help when you need it is easy. Whatever version you use (each one’s named after a jazz musician), you’ll be able to find answers to questions from experienced users online.

WordPress will be a good choice for simple websites for small to medium-sized businesses and text-heavy blog sites. 

And the Winner Is . . . 

Once you’ve gathered the facts and weighed the possibilities, match up your goals with the available systems and then prepare for a winner to emerge. Consider the content you plan to generate and what your audience will best respond to, as well as your own coding skills. More information on which open-source platform is right for you can be found through an open-source CMS infographic provided by hosting service Rackspace on each of these three open-source CMS tools. 

Great content can be the deciding factor in winning over a consumer, and making the right choice when it comes to content management will help make a good first impression. Making sure you have a strong foundation for your site will be the first step in creating an effective website that will be the nerve center of your online marketing goals.

Kyle Metcalf is the General Manager of Rackspace Digital, focused on delivering best of class services and support around WCM and commerce applications.

Facebook Week: Putting it All Together

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 3.33.11 pmIt has been an action-packed Theme Week here at ProBlogger as we delved into making Facebook work for you. We’ve been hearing for a long time now that bloggers and small business owners are both confused and frustrated with the platform – where they once enjoyed using it to interact with their audience, they now faced algorithms that meant they needed to work harder to be seen by everyone who had signed up to receive their updates. It has left a lot of people dissatisfied.

Organic Vs Paid

But all is not lost. As Darren mentioned at the start of the week, he has seen both organic and paid reach still holding strong with his Facebook pages, with a little behind-the-scenes strategy. He shared some of the things he was trying (and had seen success with) and came to the conclusion that his winning formula was: be useful, be visual, be interactive, be inspriational, and experiment to see what works. He also mentioned the decision to wade into the world of paid Facebook advertising, and that their return on investment well exceeded what was expected.

Popular Pages Successful Strategies

Tuesday saw a rundown of five popular pages on Facebook, and an overview of their interactions. We saw what got the most traction was visual content – both video and images – but also a focus on what people as humans can relate to. Their interests, heartwarming stories, educational content, and things that inspired seemed to be the most useful types of interaction for best engagement.

Which Posts get Higher Organic Reach?

After sifting through hundreds of Facebook pages, it became clear: whatever works on your Facebook page depends upon your own audience. While we discussed each type of post and how popular they are for inspiring engagement, (video and images again appear to be the most useful), it really does come down to monitoring your own Insights page to see when your audience is online, and what kinds of posts they’ve been interacting with the most. While images come up trumps for most bloggers, my own Facebook page ranked them last. So it’s definitely important to tailor your output to what your audience has been enjoying the most, not just taking blind advice.

So Tell Me About Facebook Advertising

Jon Loomer stopped by to give us his insights on Facebook advertising and marketing, and making it work for you. The ability to ailor the audience of your ads is incredibly specific, and he helpfully explains that while also breaks down the Boost Post myth, and the debate about which is more useful – that or Power Editor? (hot tip: it’s Power Editor). He also discusses what makes a great ad, and how to decide what needs to be seen in the newsfeed. The full webinar is packed with easy-to-understand information (but you do need to be a member of problogger.com to see it).

Darren’s Facebook Advertising Success

Our marketing guru Shayne Tilley gave us a detailed rundown on the experiments he’s been running with paid content on Facebook, outlining how to create the ads, what kinds of ads he’s been running (and which ones work the best), how much he’s spending, and what he needs to explore more. It shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is doubtful about giving Facebook their money, or are utterly confused about where to start.

We’d love to hear, though – what advice has been more useful to you? What else would you like to know?

Thanks for being around, we’ve had a lot of fun this week.

Facebook: The Lowdown on Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

Often when I float the idea of advertising amongst my blogging colleagues (including Darren) I get looks of skepticism, dismissal, and that blank empty stare of disinterest.

You might have that look on your face already.

In some ways I can understand that sentiment. As bloggers, for more than a decade we have leveraged our content as the main drawcard for attracting visitors to our blog through free means such as organic search (SEO), social media, and incoming links and referrals.

I say free a little loosely here, as yes you’re not paying money directly out of your pocket for these activities, but the time you spend on managing social and search for example stops you from doing other things. Things like crafting better content, creating a product, talking with an advertiser, etc, so it does come at some cost.

That said, this approach is a bloggers true competitive advantage, and we essentially earn money by selling ads or access to our audience to those who can’t figure out their own content strategy — we certainly don’t buy them! Right?

Well today I’m hoping to challenge that today.

You’ll never ever hear from me that advertising is a replacement for your content. Your content is the pillar and driving force behind everything you do. But what makes a blog truly valuable is the audience and community you build around it. This community is what and who you create your products and services for, it’s what appeals so much to advertisers.

Advertising when done right is a way to help you expand the community you have today. To accelerate your growth. To find new readers in different markets and to sell more of your stuff. Advertising has been around for a lot longer than blogging. And there’s a good reason for that — when done right, it works.

There are so many options when it comes to advertising your blog. You can spend (and burn) tens of thousands of dollars very quickly if you are not careful. Unless you’re in the top 5% of bloggers already, it’s just too risky to put that sort of coin on the table. That doesn’t exclude you from advertising altogether though, as there are platforms that enable you to take very small steps and grow. You can spend as little as $5 to see some value. You can then step that up to $6 when the return on investment is there and you are ready. You’re in total control and can extend you investment and your reach at your own pace.

Google Adwords and Twitter are good options for this, but the one that excites me the most at the moment is a platform you’re probably already using for ‘free’ right now, and that’s Facebook.

We’ve been using Facebook advertising for around 18 months on Digital Photography School. It started fairly haphazardly, and I felt we were more donating money to Facebook’s shareholders than delivering any real value. It was when I decided to spend the time to really understand how Facebook advertising is actually done did the penny drop and our Facebook advertising strategy was transformed. I’m hoping by sharing what we’ve learned it makes life easier for you so you’ll have the confidence you need to run successful Facebook ads yourself.

How we approach advertising on FaceBook for dPS

Now I don’t consider myself a Facebook marketing expert, and I know I have a lot to learn. I often say to Darren that I could spend an entire year tweaking and adjusting our ads and still not be done. But as I like to play with new toys, I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me, and thus our story begins …

Prepare

You’re about to spend some of your own money on advertising, even if it’s a small amount. Unless you’re cashed up, careful preparation is important to make every dollar count. When we starting looking ad advertising options, we broke down our own preparation into three groups: learn, plan, and get your house in order.

Learn

Darren and I were the first to admit to each other that Facebook advertising was a mystery to us both, but in the same breath we both knew it was an opportunity we were missing. We could either just accept that as fact or take the time to learn what it was all about. Darren had been following Jon Loomer for a while and shared with me some links. I subsequently absorbed a lot of extra content from Jon and was lucky enough to interview him in a Problogger Community Webinar recently.

My second port of call was with a person I’d know for some time, Jen Sheahan. I met her first during my time at SitePoint but she’s since gone on to create a Facebook advertising company of her own. With pretty big-name clients, she sure knows what she’s talking about.

Both Jen and Jon shared similar insight to me about how to approach my campaigns which I’ll cover more later, but one thing they both said to me clearly was to spend the time getting to know the power editor, as that’s where the gold lives. Since then the general Facebook ads manager has got a lot better, but I still tend to spend most of my time managing our campaigns in the power editor.

Some notes about the Power Editor:

Before we continue on into some real examples, there are some concepts around the power editor that I need you need to understand (or my examples won’t make any sense at all). They are:

Custom Audiences: These are collections / groups of people that you define inside the power editor. They can be saved as groups of Facebook target segments, e.g. people in the USA, female, with a house value above $500,000 who are not a fan of yours (and about a million other variations). They can also be groups that you upload yourself such as your email subscriber list, or customer list. Facebook will match the email address you provide with a Facebook user and contain them all in a group. Or it could be a user who visits your blog, or even a specific page in your blog.

Power_Editor

Campaigns: Campaigns are the starting point of your advertisement. Not only do they given them a name, they also contain your objectives eg Like, click, sale.

Ad Sets: These are the second level of your advertisements and contain all the money information. How much you want to spend (per day or single amount) and when you want to start and finish your ad.

Ads: Ads is the ‘thing’ that facebook users will see. They hold the creative, and the targeting information, and how you will pay for the ads. eg. Cost per click, cost per 1,000 impressions. These ads can be both side column ads and in newsfeed ads.

Power_Editor

Custom Audience Pixel: This is a little snippet of code you put on your site to start creating custom audiences on Facebook to people who visit. When someone visits a page you send a little message to Facebook saying add this user to a customer audience under the settings you define. You can for example create a custom audience of all visitors to your blog (that are also on facebook) or all visitors to a specific or collection of pages. Or a combination of all. You can also specify how long to keep that visitor in your list (up to 180 days). If that’s confusing, don’t stress, I’m going to share what we use as a case study for you to start with.

Power_Editor

Conversion Pixel: This is a little bit of code that tells Facebook that a visitor has successfully completed the action you wanted. It might be to buy something, or it might be to sign up to a newsletter. You put this code on the ‘success’ page in your checkout / sign up process. For example the landing page someone sees after clicking the verification link in your email confirmation.

_1__Conversion_Tracking

Lookalike Audiences: This is an audience that Facebook creates for you based off an existing custom audience. So for example if I’ve created a newsletter subscriber custom audience, Facebook can create for you a audience that is similar to that group. I can specificy how accurtate I want to that be. The less accruate the bigger the target group will be.

Power_Editor

Okay so that’s the power editor. We can move on now.

Plan

You hopefully have an idea of the different types of ways you can target users and you have an idea of what you want them to do. It’s time to start planning all the different types of campaigns you are going to run.

Think along the lines of:

  • Customer and segments (who)
  • Actions (what)
  • Budget (how much)

With dPS we are currently running 9 main campaigns:

  1. Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  2. Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  3. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  4. Lookalike Visited any dPS page in the last 48 hours that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  5. Lookalike Verified newsletter subscriber last 7 days that does not like us | To like | $20 per day
  6. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To like | $100 total
  7. dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  8. Lookalike dPS eBook customer in the last 12 months | To buy | $100 total
  9. dPS fan | To buy | $100 total

Some other types of campaigns we have run

  • Promoted posts: We have experimented with seeing if we could get some viral momentum with updates on our feed. To day we haven’t had great success with that, but we will re-visit.
  • Promoted product announcement post: We have promoted posts that announced a new product to our fans and had amazing success. The campaign we ran for our posing guide was the most successful campaign we’ve run to date.
  • Target interest groups: We have done some target interest campaigns where we focus on people who, for example, like photography in the US. But we’ve not had a heap of success with this type of campaign.
  • Unverified newsletter subscribers: We ran campaigns to people before they confirmed their newsletter subscription but it was a lot more costly than tarting post verification so we’ve stuck with that.
  • Different combos of the 48 hours / 7 days delays: We have experimented with 1 day, 2 day, 7 days, 30 day and 90 day times on our campaigns which we then narrow that down to a couple of options.

Setting budgets

When we set budgets we tend to first run a set figure, so $10,$20,$50 after that we review and decide if we’ll run it ongoing. Only three of our 9 campaigns are set to ongoing at this stage. I also like to set budgets before I’m in the power editor as I like to see the total spend. $5 doesn’t seem like a lot when you are looking at the one campaign, but 5 X 100 campaigns you want to see up can add up pretty quickly.

Get your house in order

Once you have a plan for the types of campaigns you want to run initially it’s time to get everything set up.

Get your advertising account set up

You’ll of course need some way for Facebook to take your money so you’ll need to set up an ads account. Chances are if you’ve used the ‘donate to Facebook’, sorry, ‘boost post’ button in the past, you’ve already done this. As you create more ads over time, Facebook will allow you to spend more but you still remain in control.

Get your tracking in place

If you want to use custom audiences that include visitors from your site you’ll need to set up the tracking pixel. This was actually a little harder for me that I expected so I decided to commission a plugin to make that easier for wordpress users to install the Facebook tracking pixel. Best of all it’s free and you can download it here. Watch the video for details on how to use it.

Get your segments and custom audiences ready

Once you have your tracking pixel set up, you can start creating custom audiences. With dPS we have a lot. Audiences for all visits to the site across different time delays. Separate audiences for visits to our sale pages the list goes on. Initially keep things simple and create audiences for the campaigns you planned above. Then let your imagination run wild. Your custom audiences should include any lists you can upload as well such as your newsletter and customer list.

Once you’ve set up your audience it’s time to setup your lookalike audiences. When creating a lookalike audience you’ll be able to select your custom audience to base it off.

You would finally then create general target segments that you might use to target specific interests and types of Facebook users. Remebering that this type of segment is the one I’ve struggled most with trying to deliver value for spend. If you’ve made this work I’d love to hear more.

We now have to people to advertise to. The final preparation step is to…

Get your Facebook page in good standing

Now I’m kinda lucky here as I have a pretty savvy guy named Darren ensuring that the Digital Photography School Facebook page was in good standing. Great engagement, good visuals, and a constant stream of new content makes anything I wanted to do with advertising so much easier. Not everyone has that luxury, so you’ll need to make sure your organic activity and the setup of your Facebook page is in tip-top shape.

Create

Okay so we’re staring to round the final turn here and we’re close to setting live your first ads. Everything is set up, we have our audiences, we have our campaign plan, now it’s time to put them all into the the power editor…

Creating your first campaign

You start by giving it a name, then picking your objective and setting any custom fields you might need (dependant on the objective). You should already have most of that that in your planning. Once you have set up your campaign you then create an ad set that you link to a campaign, give that a name then set your start / finish times and your budget.

Setting up the ads

I’m sure by now you feel like you’ve come a long way, and you have. Now it’s ad setup time. You’ll need to enter:

Creative: There’s a whole different post on what creative to use on your ads and everyone has an opinion. But regardless of what others experience, experimentation is the key to finding what works for you.

Copy: There will be areas to enter limited text. Titles descriptions and buttons to your add. Again, just like copy, testing and practice makes perfect.

Placements: You’ll have to decide if you want the ads to show in the sidebar, the newsfeed, and on mobile. For a while I focused mainly on the newsfeed and mobile, but my recent webinar with Jon questioned the legitimacy of that, so I’m currently testing all options

Targeting: This is where you tell Facebook who to show the ad to. You’ve set up your target audiences already, so you don’t need to worry about all the profile stuff. Simply add your audience at the top, exclude any audiences you don’t want see the ads (and the same for fans at the bottom), and you’re good.

Charging model: The final step with your ad is to select CPC (cost per click) and big on that or CMP (cost per thousand impressions). I tend to stick with optimized CPM, but only because that’s what I was advised to, I do want to play around with that a little more.

You can run multiple ads under the one ad set, and I do that I a lot. But what I also find is that Facebook tends to decide which ad they are going to run out of the group very quickly. I think too quickly and that will result in one add showing 99.9% of the time and the rest only 0.01%. Not sure why that’s the case and the only way around that is to create multiple ad sets with single ads.

If your ad is about a click, think about your landing pages

You’re getting a very targeted click from Facebook when someone follow your link to your page. Spend time getting that landing page right for the user. We don’t send people directly to our sales pages for ‘buy’ related campaigns. We send them to a page we set up just for Facebook traffic. You can see an example of a current bundle we’re running right now.

Note about the conversion pixel: If you campaign success is conversions, Facebook will give you a tracking pixel for the campaign. As I mentioned earlier this needs to be put in your ‘success’ page for the action to be sent back to Facebook. The good news is that the Facebook plugin for wordpress you might have used for the tracking pixel also allows you to put the success pixel on any page or post of your blog. This will work only if your success page is on your own site. For example we currently use e-junkie on dPS and we can’t edit the ‘success’ page so we can’t track sales in this way.

We do however track success through analytics using the optional URL tags field in our ad setup.

By entering:

utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=promo&utm_content=us&utm_campaign=landscapebundle

It will attach campaign data (you’ll need to change landscape bundle to something else) to any sale Google Analytics records in it’s commerce area and thus we can report on a campaign level how many sales and how much revenue we make.

Power_Editor

We’re now all set up and ready to set our ads live. If your using the power editor you need to upload your changes (top of your screen). Once you do that you’ll send all the campaign data to Facebook. Facebook will review your ad and approve. I think there are two stages to this as I’ve had a few ads unapproved after being approved. Which is kinda weird.

Review your results

If you’ve set your campaigns to start straight away, you’ll actually start to see results pretty fast. You’ll want to leap to conclusions pretty quickly, but my suggestion is wait a least 24 to 48 hours for a more detailed story to be told. When you have a little more insight, that’s when you can take some action.

Reports are found in your ad manager where you’ll see what you’ve spent, your reach and depending on your campaign type, likes, clicks, reach clicks or conversions.

_1__All_Campaigns

You’ll be able to compare all your campaigns side by side to pause poor performances, increase budgets on your strong performers, edit ad creative and copy, change landing pages. These real time changes help you improve the performance of your current campaigns, but also inform you about the next campaigns you might want to run.

Darren and I will talk through campaign performance as often as we can. Trying to understand what’s working, making decisions on what to continue with and stop, and brainstorming on new ideas.

Our results:

From a ‘boost post’ perspective: The only real value we’ve seen from a boost post perspective is when we boosted a product promotion update. We had a result that was nearly a 500% return on investment in first purchase which is a phenomenal result in any anyone’s advertising book. Boosting content posts to help build a viral effect just hasn’t worked for us the handful of times we’ve attempted it. But we’re not done yet!

From a ‘like standpoint’: We’ve seen costs per likes range from 1 cent to over $1 (we stopped that one pretty quickly). On average it’s around the 7 cent mark. The impact of this is hard to gauge as the reach and traffic we get has just as much to do with the content and timing of the post as it does the volume of likes we have. So it’s difficult to know 100%. What we also notice is that when we are advertising for likes, our organic likes seem to jump as well. So in real terms that 7 cent per like might be a little understated.

From a sales standpoint: I haven’t actually run a campaign on Facebook targeting sales that hasn’t been profitable. The returns have been from $5 in sales for every $1 we spent to $1.20 in sales for every $1 we spent. We haven’t spend piles of money on the ads just yet but it’s very promising. I suspect that the more we spend the less return on investment we get, as we have to chase a wider audience but time will tell.

Expand

Once you’ve done the hard work to set everything up and your first couple of campaigns behind you, I’m sure your mind will be buzzing with ideas. Just like we were. Our approach as we look to expand our Facebook activity to fall into these principles.

Test and add budget to what’s working

Darren and I am both open to testing things in moderation. We’ll use small budgets on ideas and then add once we’re convinced it will work. We’ll keep doing that with who we target and what we ask of them.

Look for new segments and narrow the ones we have

We’ll continue to both expand into new segments, as well as be smarter in the ones we have. For example knowing what type of post you visited on dPS could inform me what type of advertisement image you’ll be receptive to, or what sort of product you might like.

Be careful on how many times you show your add

We’re also very cautious not to over-advertise to our audience. Facebook will continue to show your ads to people as long as you’re prepared to keep paying. There’s a figure in your campaign reporting you need to be looking at – ‘frequency’. That tells you the number of times an ad was shown to a user. We want to keep that to no more than five in a campaign.

_1__Campaign_Summary

You don’t have to advertise all the time

We also want to ensure we pause our ads from time to time. This not only give us a little break, we’ve found that short bursts net a better result than one steady steam of ads.

So that’s how we approach advertising on Facebook with dPS.

We feel we’re just getting started with our story here and I’m sure there will be much more to share over time. I’m sure there are a stack of personal experiences that others have had, I’d love hear. I’m learning something new every day too!

With advertising – before you give me that blank stare again, just remember, as a blogger growing your audience is important. It’s a big part of the value your blog holds. Advertising is a great way to support and help accelerate that.

There’s a reason business and people pay to reach your audience.

Shayne Tilley is the marketing guy for ProBlogger.net and Digital Photography School.  The author of the PB Guide to Online Marketing and a long time contributor to the blog.  When he’s not thinking of new and interesting ways to grow the ProBlogger sites, he’s either bashing up developers or hanging out with the swiftly.com team.

Theme Week: Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising, a Webinar with Jon Loomer

Sam Surname

Jon Loomer, the King of advanced Facebook marketing, recently stopped by ProBlogger.com to share his insight and specialist tips on all things Facebook advertising. Not just for business with big budgets, targeted Facebook ads and a little forethought can be useful for any kind of blogger wanting to reach out to readers. The full webinar is available for ProBlogger.com members (you can sign up here).

So what are the benefits of Facebook advertising for bloggers?

Jon says it’s really for anyone looking to drive traffic to a website. When you build an audience on Facebook, you’re sharing that website with people who have shown an interest in wanting to read it. As a bonus, many people who pay for advertising on Facebook also report an increase in organic reach.

Why should you pay for advertising when you can use Facebook for free?

  • It breaks through traffic plateau – go beyond the reach you’re getting now
  • If you have been working hard and not getting far, then it might be worth a try to see if you can catch a break
  • With regular sharing, you’re limited with the amount of people who will engage with your post – paying will reach people who still want to read your work – people who have been to your blog but don’t currently like your Facebook page, perhaps. It also assists in finding people with similar interests who might like your blog, but just haven’t heard of you yet
  • Helps to speed up the growth of your page
  • You’re being proactive rather than crossing your fingers and hoping to go viral

Boost Post versus Power Editor – Is one really more useful than the other?

  • The nuggets of gold in Facebook advertising and targeting are mainly found within Power Editor. but it doesn’t guarantee you success. You could still be targeting badly
  • The issue with Boost Post it is an easy button, often for real success you need to think a bit beyond doing that
  • At the end of the day, you want sales and subscribers, not just be seen in the newsfeed, so you need to use Boost Post a little bit more strategically. This is where you can use Power Editor to select a pre-chosen group to boost your post to
  • You can create and save target group lookalikes and custom audiences in Power Editor, which can then be used across Facebook advertising in all its guises
  • Learn Power Editor first, and it makes everything else easier

What about more sophisticated campaigns?

Website custom audiences are Jon’s favourite feature – it’s not just a matter of targeting anyone who visits your website, but also narrowing it down to specific pages they’ve seen, or articles they’ve read on your site.

So how does Facebook know what your readers are looking at?

Facebook provides conversion pixels, which uses cookie information from your blog. When they return to Facebook after your site, they will then see a targeted ad. Only one code is needed, but you can create many different rules that depend on visitor information. Even better, when you promote your new blog post, you can tell Facebook to exclude the readers who have already read it – effectively saving you money.

To take advantage of this, create a Website Custom Audience for every sales line you have, every landing page, every success page, every important blog post. Think about the categories of content you have that would appeal to different people, and tailor your ads to suit.

What makes a good ad?

  • Imagery, things that stand out, or that people can relate to. Faces, people their own age, professional images, proper image dimensions
  • Copy – what do you want from your ad? If you’re not selling, then you’re still being casual, useful, and wanting to get people to click on your link. Think of providing a call to action
  • Keep it short. You want to keep under character limits so Facebook doesn’t truncate your post, forcing users to click over to read the whole thing.
  • Ensuring the targeting is as relevant as possible

What else is on the webinar?

  • Jon goes into how to create a great Facebook advertising campaign and gives you steps to narrow down your needs so you can better strategise and target your audience.
  • Building a highly-relevant audience, and gaining their trust so you can market your products or services to them successfully
  • Targeting people depending on what page they’ve landed on your blog
  • Specific tips for Power Editor: how to create custom audiences, using tracking pixels
  • Links to articles that explain the complexities of Power Editor and how to harness it for your particular needs
  • How much to budget for Facebook campaigns
  • The difference between an ad set and a campaign
  • The lowdown on ad reports and how to track efficacy
  • Understanding lookalike audiences and how to target them effectively
  • Targeting fans, email lists, and anybody who has visited your website – highly-relevant people who already know who you are, but might not be following you on Facebook.
  • A discussion about the appearance of ads on Facebook in the first place. If they’re not going to go away, how best to work with them so you’re delivering useful advertising to its users, rather than irrelevant information
  • More detail on what makes a great ad.

Tune in tomorrow for our marketing ninja Shayne Tilley, who will take you through a list of Digital Photography School Facebook advertising that has seen real returns – and also the ones that didn’t do so well.

Have you tried Facebook marketing? Has it been useful for you?

Facebook Theme Week: Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips

Sam SurnameIt’s a war most of us as bloggers find ourselves in with Facebook fairly often: our desire to have our posts seen by our likers, versus Facebook’s desire to not overwhelm its users with thousands of updates every single time they log on.

With so many users on the world’s biggest social media site (Darren said this week it’s been logged as 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year), the potential for reader overload is astronomical. Facebook advertising executive Brian Boland explained a few months ago that Facebook now handles more pieces of information than ever before, mostly due to how easy smartphones make it for people to share. He says that there is “far more content being made than there is time to absorb it”, and for people with lots of friends and page likes, there is potential for up to 15,000 stories to be available every time they visit the site.

So what does that mean for Page owners? Well, it means that the Facebook News Feed Algorithm is designed to show your readers what is most relevant to them, not every single thing uploaded. What you need to do now is be relevant. And how do you know what is most relevant to your audience? You get familiar with your Insights.

What does your audience want?

For all the general advice we can give, it doesn’t beat your own personal experience, and the needs of your readers.

In your Insights tab, you can click on “Posts” and then “When Your Fans are Online”.

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As you can see, the Likers of my Veggie Mama Facebook page are online pretty much all day – but 8pm sees the biggest spike. If I want to catch the most of my readers, that would be the time to do it.

So now you know when your readers are online – the next step is to see what types of posts on your page they interact with the most. Click “Post Types” and get an overview of successful post types (including their typical reach and typical engagement rate). For me it’s video, followed by status, link, and then photo last.

Where to from there?

Make a plan to increase the types of posts your readers like, while still trying to stay useful, interesting, and entertaining. Facebook themselves say the most engaging posts you can create on Facebook are “short, original, benefit the person viewing the content, and connect to your objectives and identity”. But at the end of the day, you want real interactions with your readers, so being authentic regardless of post type should be your main aim.

Facebook also recommends video and images for the best interaction, especially those that depict humans and their relationships with others.

Video

Facebook’s recommendation to use video, and my insights listing video as the most popular post type, is consistent with the conclusions we came to yesterday about what worked on popular pages. For four out of the five pages we studied, video was their first or second most successful post type.

You can see here that a recent video shared on singer Beyoncé’s page has had incredible success. 222,000 shares (almost double the highest share rate from yesterday’s posts), 42,000 comments, and almost half a million likes.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.27.25 pm

So what makes it work?

  • it’s original – only Beyoncè has this particular video
  • it’s current – The 50 Shades of Grey book was a phenomenal success, and excitement for the new movie is ramping up
  • it features a never-before-heard Beyoncé track that fans would be interested to hear
  • both Beyoncé and 50 Shades of Grey are highly popular among their target audience
  • It also doesn’t hurt that mobile Facebook video autoplay would make this run automatically in people’s feeds, making it look like they’re interested in it (regardless of whether they actually want to watch it or not)

Images

It has long been said that images were consistently achieving the best results for people looking to increase their reach. Beautiful images, relatable images, funny images – as visual creatures, it appears that appealing to that sense is usually a winner.

There is little doubt that Humans of New York has nailed the use of images on Facebook. Primarily to showcase his photography work, Brandon’s Facebook page has become a legend. Every day, millions of people see and interact with the images and small snippets of conversations he provides.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.30.53 am

So what makes it work?

  • It’s heartwarming
  • It’s relatable – whether you are someone like that, or know someone like that. It might make you think of your parents or grandparents
  • Love is a language that transcends all barriers
  • It’s a beautiful picture in a beautiful park
  • The people are smiling – they’re obviously happy, and that can be contagious
  • Readers might think this will brighten others’ days as it has theirs, so they share
  • It’s also a bit cheeky and people love a bit of a joke.
  • It’s a little bit unexpected – often the elderly have assumptions made about them and their usefulness due to their age. To see them cheeky and joking around is pleasantly surprising.

While usually focused on people (hence the “Humans”), sometimes the unexpected on the HONY page works even better.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.09.36 pm

Text Status

For a while there, it was popular to try and provide useful or engaging text statuses, as they seemed to be the least penalised by Facebook (at least, less penalised than links, which could be seen as too promotional or salesy, and less penalised than overtly meme-y or spammy images). It gave rise to the question, or the fill-in-the-blanks. For some, it works really well. For others, it really can be seen as a blatant engagement grab, and quite off-putting.

So what makes a great text status?

Let’s look at Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. With more than two million fans, and a regularly-updated Facebook page, Ree connects with her readers in a variety of ways (mostly with images of her delicious cooking). But Ree has a quirky sense of humour her readers love, and often gets the text status exactly right.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.27.06 pm

Always self-deprecating, Ree likes to poke fun at herself and how she looks on her Food Network cooking show. Her penchant for overexaggerating also usually sparks a giggle.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.43.29 pm

Ree has a brother with special needs, and he is quite the character on her blog. Many of her readers can relate, and think he’s sweet.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.45.51 pm

Again, her quirky humour and casual, friendly demeanor really makes an impact. Thanking your readers for something is usually something they appreciate.

Consistency

People want to know there’s a human person behind the Facebook page, and that the person is interested in them. If the reader comments or otherwise engages with the content on the page, they want that engagement to be a two-way street. If you are a blogger, then make an effort to be around. Don’t just post and run – post and chat. Post regularly (but not so much that your posts get hidden as people get sick to death of seeing you) and be approachable. Facebook keeps track of the pages that each person interacts with, and boosts the visibility of the last 50 pages in the newsfeed. It’s ideal to be one of those last 50 interactions (which include engagement and profile/image views).

Authenticity

Not only will Facebook limit the reach of meme content in favour of more relevant (i.e. current news or shared interests) pieces of content, but fans will see through desperate grabs for likes or comments. It also pays to be thoughtful and aware of giving your readers what they want without appearing overly strategic. At the end of the day, you still can’t beat being useful, inspiring, visual, and interactive. And nobody will tell you what works on your Facebook better than your readers will, so get to know your Insights.

As Jon Loomer says:

Meh. Just share interesting content. Monitor your results to figure out what works.

(Jon will be back tomorrow with some super-useful tips from the other side of the coin – advertising and marketing on Facebook – it’s not to be missed!)

Do you think as a whole, bloggers are over-thinking Facebook organic reach strategy? Have you found reaching your fans frustrating? Or have you hit a stride that works?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Facebook Theme Week: Case Studies of Popular Pages (and What They’re Doing to Get Great Engagement)

There has been much discussion in blogging circles of late about Facebook and the effects their algorithms have on reaching all your “likers” with each of your posts. While Darren mentioned yesterday in his brief overview of organic vs paid reach that both have positives and negatives, the fact remains that many bloggers are still doing their best to increase their engagement organically. Today we are going to look at five popular Facebook pages and see what has been most successful for them when interacting with their audience.

Facebook

The most popular page on Facebook is actually the “Facebook for Every Phone” App, with more than 480 million fans. They haven’t updated their page since December 2013, but still rank the most overall. The second most popular page is Facebook itself (which defaults to whichever country you are in unless you opt to see a different one), but their engagement differs wildly with each post.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 3.33.11 pm What works for Facebook

Posts per day: One (but not every day).

What types of posts do they do? Videos, images, and links with images. They share motivational images and Facebook user information.

Most popular recent post: A motivational quote image. It garnered almost 140,000 shares, which was way over and above anything else on the page. It had just over two million likes, and more than 22,000 comments. This type of engagement doesn’t appear to be common, with the next-highest sharing rate being 64,000.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.48.08 pm

 

Least popular post: A shared link from the American Cancer Society, asking people for donations. It had 13,000 likes, and less than 1000 shares.

What gets the most engagement overall? Videos, by far.

Most popular topics: Motivational stories, Facebook user information.

Shakira

Shakira is a musician from Colombia, and is the most-liked person on Facebook. She was the first person to reach over 100 million likes, and ranks third in the most popular Facebook pages (just under an App for Facebook, and Facebook themselves). She has a super-engaged page, with fans interacting constantly.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.38.57 pm

Posts per day: One (but not every day).

What kind of posts do they do? Images, video, images with links.

Most popular recent post: A grid of images of Shakira performing at the World Cup Closing Ceremony, and a message from Shakira herself. 2.5 million people liked the image, almost 85,000 shared it, and it was commented on more than 42,000 times.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.38.47 pm

10556436_10152673650169560_2488786109078107775_nLeast popular post: A shared link from the World Food Programme asking people to donate to the Mwamba Primary School in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It received 75,000 likes and only 87 shares.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Videos of Shakira performing, or addressing her fans.

Most popular topics: Behind-the-scenes peeks into Shakira’s life.

Real Madrid CF

With almost 70 million likes, Real Madrid CF is one of the biggest pages of Facebook.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 3.43.18 pm

Posts per day: Between 3 and 9 posts a day

 

What kind of posts do they do? Mostly images and video.

 

Most popular recent post: A photo album of their star player Cristiano Ronaldo practising for an upcoming match. It had more than 300,000 likes, 5000 shares, and 3000 comments.

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Least popular post: A link (with image) to their online store. It had 37,000 likes, 764 comments, and 169 shares.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Photo albums of their players training.

Most popular topics: Players training.

I F*cking Love Science

IFLS is a site bringing science to the masses. Elise Andrew shares images, cartoons, science news and interesting tidbits that are designed to be accessible by everyone, not just scientists. IFLS might be trailing these pages in likes (although 17.5 million on a page updated by only one person is quite the achievement), but they are knocking them out of the park with engagement. Just about every single post has high engagement, and each type of post seems to do well.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.26.32 pm

Posts per day: Between 8 and 19, at a rate of about one update an hour.

What kind of posts do they do? Mostly images, followed by images with links.

Most popular recent post: An image quote about the use of the planet’s resources. More than 96,000 shares, 350,000 likes, and 3708 comments were generated. With the exception of the unusually high Facebook post share above, it is a higher share rate than any of the other pages mentioned.

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It appears that unusual or interesting images work really well for them – this post about fluorite got 22,000 shares, 240,000 likes, and almost 6000 comments in 16 hours.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.30.07 pm

Another thing IFLS fans seem to enjoy are geeky science puns. As you can see, this link to purchase a shirt got 37,000 shares in just 7 hours. With shares being the highest-ranked Facebook engagement (they appear to be more beneficial to your chances of higher organic reach than likes or comments), it’s clear that IFLS has a knack for creating viral content. It also goes to show content doesn’t need to be viral in a global sense, just viral to your readership.Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.27.14 pm

Least popular post: A straight link to an article about planets with companions having a better chance of harbouring life. Compared to the IFLS average, 8000 likes, 673 shares and 163 comments is ultra-low.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Images, by far. Especially if they’re punny.

Most popular topics: Health stories, animal information, and religion seems to get the readers fired up.

 

Humans of New York

Ask anyone what their favourite Facebook page is, and plenty of them will say Humans of New York. A page by photographer Brandon Stanton, it showcases the everyday person on the street, usually with a quote from the conversation Brandon has with them. It has quite the cult following, with 8.5 million likers and plenty of interaction.
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Posts per day: 5

What kind of posts do they do? Images.

Most popular recent post: An image and snippet of an interview with an older lady reminding people to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives. It sparked 37,000 shares, almost 350,000 likes, and 6000 comments.

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 3.24.58 pm

Least popular post: A link to buy Brandon’s latest book. 1000 shares and comments, and 73,000 likes.

What type of post gets the most engagement overall? Images with emotive or inspirational quotes from the people themselves. Half a million likes for this guy’s story.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 3.57.51 pm

Most popular topics: People doing and saying things you don’t expect just by looking at them.

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, it depends on your readership. But the common thread between all of these pages’ successful posts is the human element. What are people doing behind the scenes? Who are they when they are relaxed? What’s going on in their real life? It appears that people like that glimpse into humanity, and they also enjoy a good joke.

Most of these pages saw real success with images on their own, without links. Links appeared to be less useful, especially if they were selling something, or asking for people’s money. The IFLS page still saw success when they posted image credit links in the statuses, but that might be because they’d been enjoying such high sharing interaction, driving up their organic reach in general.

I think it pays to look at your recent Insights to see what kinds of posts are resonating with your readers. Are you showing them enough of the human you? Are you being just that little bit different? Can they relate to your content? Are you being useful?

What kind of posts have you seen success with? Tomorrow we’ll be doing a case study on the types of things you can do for better organic reach. See you then!

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

Facebook Theme Week: Organic or Paid?

At a recent team meeting at ProBlogger HQ to plan the theme for our next ‘theme week’ here on the ProBlogger blog I nervously suggested that we should create a week long series of posts on the topic of Facebook.

As the word came out of my mouth I found myself almost involuntarily shuddering because I know that there’s a lot of mixed feelings among bloggers about the network right now and I half expect that we’ll get our fair share of ‘I’ve given up on Facebook’ comments on these posts.

However… while I know many bloggers and businesses owners are feeling the pain of changes of Facebook over the last six months I still think it’s a topic we could do well to explore in more depth.

Facebook remains the biggest social media network on the planet and continues to grow its active user numbers at a steady rate. According to Statista it had 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year and it’s still adding tens of millions more every quarter.

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While I would never argue that every blogger must be actively engaging on Facebook (each to their own) to ignore it as a source of traffic, brand building and community engagement would be almost as risky as to ignore Google (Alexa ranks Facebook as the #2 ranked site on the web behind Google).

So – as Stacey mentioned yesterday – this week we’re looking at Facebook here on ProBlogger.

Much of what we’ll be doing is ‘case study’ based by looking at the organic and paid approach of bloggers on their Facebook pages but before we do I thought I’d write a few thoughts to keep in mind as we tackle this polarising topic.

Organic, Paid or Both

Facebook have certainly been making changes of late to push page owners towards paying for reach and results on their pages.

This change in approach has caused many of us pain and left many bloggers disillusioned.

Interestingly I’ve seen bloggers respond to this challenge in a variety of ways.

  1. For some it has meant an abandonment of Facebook
  2. Others have persisted with their previous strategies to get organic reach but have adjusted (downwards) their expectations for what can be achieved
  3. Others still have taken Facebook’s changes almost as a challenge to work harder than ever on their organic strategies
  4. And lastly some bloggers have decided to not fight Facebook and begin to pay for reach

I totally understand each of the responses and over the last 12 or so months have at least considered each option.

As longer term ProBlogger readers would know the decision I made was to go with option #3 – to work even harder on growing our organic reach on Facebook.

Our Approach to Organic Reach on Facebook

Just under a year ago here on ProBlogger I shared some of the strategies I was using to increase the Digital Photography School Facebook Page reach and engagement organically.

While things have changed a little since then I’ve continued to experiment prolifically with that Facebook page and continue to see decent organic results.

If I had to summarise my approach on the dPS Facebook page 11 months later it would be:

1. Be useful – provide those who follow your page with content that is going to enhance their lives in some way. For us this is about providing helpful ‘how to’ content as 90% of what we do.

2. Be visual – I spend a lot of time thinking about the images that we use in our status updates. This is partly because we’re a photography site but mainly because Facebook is a very visual place. A great image will lift any status update a lot!

3. Be interactive – We recently had a week long period on our page where our page slumped both in terms of how much traffic it was sending to our site, how much reach we were getting and how much engagement there were in posts. I realised that I’d not been focusing as much on ‘interaction’ and follower engagement and resolved to add a few more ‘discussion’ oriented posts into our schedule. This definitely saw us lift but up our of our slump – to some extent.

4. Be Inspirational – While the majority of our updates are ‘how to’ or ‘informational’ in nature I find that throwing in the occasional purely ‘inspirational’ or ‘aspirational’ posts works. This might be adding in a quote that is meaningful, sharing a great photo, telling a great story. These posts may drive no traffic at all to your site – but they get people engaging – which has flow on effects.

5. Experiment – I treat each status update that I do as an opportunity to learn something about what works and doesn’t work with our readership. Try different types of updates (images, text based, link posts etc). Watch what happens when you do.

Overall the organic reach of the dPS page is decent, although I’ve definitely noticed the last month has been less consistent.

We Now ‘Pay to Play’: To Some Extent

The change to our Facebook strategy that we’ve not talked much about here on ProBlogger yet is that alongside our organic strategy, we’ve begun to experiment
with small paid campaigns.

Shayne will be sharing with you some specifics of the type of campaigns that we’ve been running on our page later this week but I will say now that we’ve had some success with the paid campaigns that we’ve run.

I know not every blogger will be in a position to pay much (if anything) for a Facebook ad campaign but if it is any encouragement to you the amount of money we’ve put into Facebook advertising to this point is not exorbitant (it has been in the $200 to $500 per month range).

Our campaigns have ranged from promoting our eBooks, to campaigns to grow our ‘likes’. Some of our campaigns have worked brilliantly – others have not – but the beauty of Facebook advertising is that you can set up limits on how much you spend on each campaign and can start small and then ramp up what is working and kill of what isn’t.

The ‘return’ on our investment has well exceeded what we’ve spent. The 2-3 experiments with selling our eBooks with ads have generated over five times what we’ve spent and we’ve also benefited in other ways (more traffic to our site, more ‘likes’ on our page and a flow on improvement in our organic reach and engagement).

I’m still cautious about investing too much into advertising but it is certainly showing some great results for us so far – more on this topic later in the week.

Never Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Before we get into some case studies for the rest of the week let me finish with a simple reminder to not put all your eggs in the one basket when it comes with driving traffic to your blog.

I fell into this mistake in the early days of my own blogging by relying too much upon SEO to drive traffic from Google and have seen many instances where bloggers have obsessed about a single source of traffic (either from search, social or referral) only to find that source of traffic dried up and left them with nothing.

Facebook could well be an amazing opportunity for your blogging but the opportunity is unlikely to be an indefinite one.

Experiment, leverage what you can, ride the wave as long as it’ll last but keep your options open and always use it to build the things you have ultimate control over.

Keep in mind the ‘home base’ and ‘outpost’ model that I’ve been writing about here on ProBlogger since 2008. Don’t abandon your blog for Facebook – rather use Facebook to help you to build your blog (and email list).

Ultimately Facebook will do what is in their best interests and will change the rules of engagement there to suit them. This will at times present you with opportunity but at other times will mean you need to adapt your approach.

So this week as we talk about Facebook I encourage you to read along with an open mind – but also resisting the temptation to obsess. Doing so in this balanced fashion will hopefully lead to some great opportunities!