Facebook, social networks, strategy, twitter

My snarky advice to buying likes & followers…


Sometimes my emails make great blog posts.

A respected friend of mine was recently asked by his client if they should personally buy likes and follows.  Noise maker that he is, he invited our thoughts on the matter.


After a number of emails flew by… I entered the debate.  I decided to add my two cents.  To which, proud moment, @schnitzelboy said “and that’s why i wanted LDS to weigh-in.”

My response:

“Okay.. time to waft in..

I absolutely *hate* these get rich quick schemes.  Of course, I do support paid ad support for social – not from bots but from ad placements with users self selecting their participation.

In the early days, when I won some social media management business back in 200x – we were horrified to discover hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of nonsensical twitter followers & following that had naught to do with the brand advocacy, current consumption or future intent WITHIN  Canada.  Although they did not use a get rich quick scheme as your website below – they followed anyone who even mentioned the brand, anywhere in the world.  We learned quickly that year how to dump a following – note – Twitter has limits!

I think having some sizable critical mass goals are admirable and necessary for starter brands but these schemes are not the way to do it.    I don’t think going ‘organic’ alone is the way either.  Social media grows exponentially and the first part of the hockey stick is long & boring without some kind of interference.  Some targeted paid, integrated marketing, very clever content can help shorten the hockey stick.

If this is an individual asking, slap them on the side of their head.   Those with experience can look at the velocity of their accounts – no. tweets vs. followers, etc – and see something is amiss.  Social can do a lot of brand / reputation damage when you fake it to make it.

analytics, Facebook, insights, metrics, social networks, visualizations

The curve of your #FACEbook; 4 common #facebook #insight curves demystified

By now, I’ve looked at many, many Facebook insights curves working with various brand pages and I’ve come to notice a pattern in what I see.  Here is an explanation of four common Facebook insight curves or charts.  Understanding these patterns will help with understanding the success of Facebook pages.  This is likely of most interest to community managers or analytic geeks.

First a quick recap of the main units of measure on these charts.

  • People Talking About This or “TAT” includes all engagement metrics that Facebook allows – liking a post, sharing it, commenting, presumably any liking per comment and *liking a page*.  I don’t think it is the best measurement of engagement but it is what Facebook allows us to see.
  • New likes per week – indicates any new liking activity for your page.   Why Facebook adds “per week” on this unit and not the other, I don’t know.

Consider that these units of measure are presented as though they are daily activity – but they are NOT.  Each point on the graph represents a rolling 7 day week of data.  So that means the Sept 20th data is actually 7 days of activity ending on Sept. 20th (so Sept. 13 – Sept 20th).  Then Sept 21th is represented by data from Sept 14 – 21.  This is frustrating because true daily activity is muted somewhat.  I’m not sure why Facebook does this nor can I find articles on why using 7 day rolling data would be advantageous over using daily data.  If you have an opinion – please enlighten me!

Also consider that the TAT number contains any liking of a page – which is what the ‘new likes per week’ is all about.  So we are comparing two curves, one containing the other curve within it so we have to deduce that the visual gap between the two curves represents the “success” of the content.

Of course, a liked post can be generated by cheap, low involvement engagement e.g. what is your favorite colour vs. answering a consumer inquiry.  I see tons of ‘cheating’ questions – to the tune of “like this if you put socks on in the morning” – and community managers report that as successful content because facebook monkeys click “like” on the post but it does nothing for building deeper connections with a brand page.  [rant]   So despite charts, there will always be a need for further analysis into the context of the engagement.

Onto the curves.

The Newbie Chart

This is the chart to an unidentified, brand new facebook page.  Our natural cues to its newbie status would be the start of content & number of facebook likes on the actual page (not depicted here).   In looking at this Facebook insights curve,  you see new like and ‘talking about this’ [TAT]  following together.  This is because for every new like, Facebook also records it within their  “TAT”number.  So the TAT number is driven almost entirely by new likes.    Then the community manager took a break – and with a young page, every thing – liking the page & engagement crashes.  But then content reappears which looks like it appeals to the existing fan base.   We see the curves diverge.

The Contest Driven Chart

Contests are the easiest way to ‘cheat’ at Facebook fan (like) growth.  So many many do it and wonder why their community isn’t reflecting the people brands care about.  At the same time, it is a tactic – a reasonable fast one to gain critical mass.  Critical mass allows brands to get into a decent social graph – reaching friends of friends – otherwise the brand is in a room talking to itself.   With a contest under belt,  its a crowded party but possibly in the wrong bar, with the wrong crowd.

So focus on the right half of this chart – we see two bumps with the gray ‘new likes’ line following the TAT line.  This is reflective of new people entering a contest.  It could also be a curve that reflects good content that encourages people to also like a page, but since we know the contest is going on, then know the curve.   At the same time  – there is a bit distance between the curves which indicates that the content either resonated with contest goers (it did, its the Swiffer ‘my man cleans’ t-shirt, Oct. 15) or that the contest asked visitors to do some kind of monkey task (it did, Swiffer’s advertising ‘show us the love or at least like us’).

The ad supported chart

Up, down, up, down… likely in concert with two waves of facebook advertising spend.   To me, the first bump suggests the first ad worked harder or was supported by some kind of like incentive.  The curve drops when the stimulus is removed, and re-appears with ad support (confirmed as I’ve seen the ads).    I don’t see this as a healthy facebook curve at all.  It is artificial – because it is not sustainable without advertising.

The ‘my content went viral’ chart

This is Red Bull’s facebook page – after its sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the stratosphere.   A brilliant capture of content from a brand, in my opinion.  Here we see the facebook curve coming off an ad spend, then the big bump on the right is the release of photos related to Felix.  The content is heavily shared – and although this is a rolling seven day picture, it seems to have been shared over time – given the evidence of new little spikes in the curve top.   As for new likes per week – there is traction.

What is interesting is that this chart represents a community of 32 million.  So the “new likes” are not what is driving the content here – it is the content being shared among the existing fan base – or so I expect.

Another ‘my content went viral’ chart

UK Bodyform’s very interesting video response to a disillusioned man was well received.  For a little community – the content got a lot of eyeballs.  It did not translate well into likes – although there are a few new likes at the right.  It may be that this community did not have a lot of content prior to the video – so the community saw this as a one time contribution, albeit awesome, but not enough to like the page.  That said – this is a page for feminine protection which wouldn’t get much public liking anyways.

I hope this helps with your perspectives on facebook insight charts and your measurement of facebook pages.  Drop me a comment if there is a curve pattern that I could include.

digital strategy, Facebook, fans / loyalty, influence, social networks

Project Butterfly – Palmerston Group

What does it mean to be social?

This is precisely the question that @danielberkal and Seattle’s Cole + Weber United set out to answer in 2011.
Presented at social media week [#SMWTO], this study is deeply insightful and organized in thought – so much so that I am often sharing the story of Daniel’s presentation around the office and to clients.
What does it mean to be social?  To be interesting and interested.. in an age where social media plays such importance.   In my POV, brands are reaching a coming of age – that ‘doing social media’ is passé and that being social is what’s next.  But how to do this is wonderfully explained by his study.   And it is a presentation that is thought provoking to those who understand a lot about digital as well as for this who know nothing.  It transcends quite nicely.
Conducted in five cities across the US, Daniel & co. invited ten strangers to ‘speed friend’ to understand what makes people want to friend.  Next, he studied individuals with ‘social gravity’ (some would call them social butterflies, and yet, social butterflies do not like that label).  For his team to pursue the butterfly, they asked participants to think of the one individual among their friends or colleagues that people wanted to spend the most time with.  They then only studied individuals who, through multiple, unconnected sources, had been identified more than 3 times.  He goes into great depth into the characteristics and behaviours of people with social gravity – all the while annotating the work through film.   Finally, he takes this study into the online world to compare, contrast and offer valuable lessons for brands in social media.
It is well worth extra effort to see his whole presentation.  In Toronto, he is speaking at NXNE, June 11 – 17.
engagement, Facebook, social networks

Pro-site: why build a website in this day & age?

That’s the question that I get these days – from all around me – clients, agency side, my more mobile digital friends (though they don’t frame it as a question but a statement).  This question is so prominent that I encounter folks that assume a website should not even be on the table for consideration.  This assumption needs checking.

[an unpublished blog post i found from pre-xmas]

Certainly, the rise of social networking sites combined with the stellar growth of mobile apps are definitely putting the decision of website (and more so microsite) (and more so expensive, elaborate microsites) development in question.  But the website still has a place – and important one – and the size of its role depends on your marketing objectives and situation of your brand.

But alas, allow me a word in defense for the website.  Websites are owned media where a brand can control the online experience.  Social networking sites are earned spaces and often, like the case with Facebook, a brand’s efforts are frustrated by the agile development of a software service that does not cater to corporate pages.

Certainly – it’s much easier to drive traffic to a new website than it is to build a social network presence and keep consumers engaged.  As earned media – it can take time to build to momentum.  Social networking sites follow an exponential growth curve – slow start, quick finish – like a hockey stick.  This is a growth pattern that does not fit well within last minute campaign timelines.  I am not suggesting an either or approach, just that a combination of media types is needed to serve a brand and extend reach – and that a website is still an important part of the mix for many brands.

Interestingly, I’ve begun to examine sector share of time spent online from either Comscore or Nielsen.  It’s hard to find recent Canadian statistics but from the US – we see that social networking sites have risen 43% along with significant increases in online gaming (about 10%) and online video sites (about 10%, and 1% for search).   Almost every other sector from entertainment sites, to consumer electronics, etc has gone down.   The long tail – which is what I call everything other than portals, search and social networking sites, typically the wash of forums, blogs and corporate websites, is also down in time spent online.  But it is still the big pie slice – amounting to 34% (highly fragmented among millions of sites of course) (isn’t the long tail always a big pie slice) (excluding consumer electronics and travel).

Mobile is definitely something not to ignore – in 2010, smartphones have reached 30% penetration in Canada with blackberries at 75% market share and iphones at 25%.  Iphone users, however, access the web 8 times more than the blackberry user (my stats are from IDC and e-marketer).   The use of mobile to access the web is starting to trump out the old PC.   Depending on your target market – some segments are pretty heavy into the smartphone and so mobile is a fantastic direction.  And with the multiple platforms out there (android, iphone, blackberries multiple phones), building a mobile app needs careful planning.  In fact, some brands just need a mobile ready website not an app.  (it can still be an ‘application’ – its just delivered over the web vs. a downloadable app from an app store).

So there you have it.  A strong word for the website


Zuckerberg – “morally challenged geek or misunderstood genius” – Peter Foster, Financial Post

There is a fantastic article, Mark Zuckerberg’s close-up,  by Peter Foster in today’s Financial Post – definitely recommended reading for anyone who has seen The Social Network movie and is fascinated by the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg.

Peter reviews Mark vs. the Mark portrayed in The Social Network movie and in doing so gives a run down on the current financial situation facing Facebook.  Eloquently written, Peter reminds us that the ‘moral’ issue today is Facebook’s business model that proffers users information to buyers.   He writes:

A more fundamental “moral” issue, however, relates to the nature of Facebook’s business model, which is based on the exploitation of networks of alleged friendship to sell stuff. Read more: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/06/peter-foster-mark-zuckerbergs-close-up/#ixzz1AP8173l9

Note:  I haven’t figured out why the SEC would force an IPO on Facebook – is this because of Goldman Sachs?

I see Mark Zuckerberg as the misunderstood genius – what I can’t tell from the movie is just how much of an idea was shared from the Winklevoss twins.  If it was only a conversation in a fancy private club, as depicted in the movie, then the $65M for a conversation is a pretty good return given they didn’t execute.  If they paid MZ while he blew them off looking at the code he did not use, then arguably the issue is larger.

In MZ’s defense (and I can’t help likely a smart a** who would re-calculate 18K + 1K = $19K for a condescending lawyer), the right idea is important but development and refinement of the idea to create a business and its online execution or activation is extremely difficult to nail.  I guess that’s why Mark Z is person of the year.   Now take time to read Time’s article – it certainly depicts Mark in a completely different light and at the same time, explains just what an amazing accomplishment facebook really is.

Charity / volunteer, Facebook, non-profit

How non-profits use social media for social good

If you are interested in using social media for non-profit fundraising, I trust you are aware that Facebook has a non-profit group whereby they share a lot of tips and techniques.

icon for FB washington - summary of non-profit use of facebook for social goodHere is a quick summary of some learnings from the Facebook DC (a page on FB) held a live interview with three very socially active non-profits with Clay Dunn from Share Our Strength, Sarah Koch from Causes and, part of a favorite page for me – Wendy Harman from the American Red Cross.

[ American Red Cross is a page with social media activities I greatly admire – see my post ” The new home page of 2011 is the tab in Facebook“.]

Although I caught only the second half of the presentation (stay tuned for replay link), there were some key messages delivered:

1. Showing the impact that the donations make is valuable today as audiences are exposed to a lot of donation asks.

2.  Don’t forget to engage with those people who are supporting the charity.  Allow them [I would say give them permission – figuratively] to submit photos related to the charity so that they feel they are part of a group that does something.

3. Consider how you use social media for “digital volunteerism” – a new term that I was not aware of.  How do you allow volunteers to contribute and support digitally?

4.  Allow for micro payments which have been easy asks but in volume contributes quite a bit.

5.  consider enabling people, either through communication or online tools, to form a donation wish and then solicit friends to help achieve that goal.  This is really the door-to-door solicitation taken online.  This may sound obvious but in the design of online experiences – this is a functionality to include.

For more tips on using social media for social good – consider reading a post on “The Science of Sharing

I’d also like to point out that Facebook itself does a good job of parsing its audiences into a number of facebook pages and then markets events and information across all groups.  I believe this is a good model for organizations that have non-profit groups as a secondary organization.

Facebook, location based marketing, social commerce, social networks

Facebook Places arrives to Canada – location based drive to bricks & mortar is here

Facebook Places in Canada

Location, location, location means so much more these days – with Foursquare making a drive to retail a real thing and now with Facebook Places – launched today in Canada.

I’m pretty big fan of foursquare  – I personally like seeing where my network checks in, getting rewarded for being a mayor, rallying my coworkers for the mayorship at JWT (outgoing mayor has to by the new mayor Tim Horton’s breakfast) and  trying to get that elusive foursquare swarm badge (50 people check in at the same place, at roughly the same time). 

Its often seen as a game for goal oriented people.  But lately, I can only see Foursquare for the opportunities to stimulate social commerce – that is making a connection between location based social activity and in-store commerce. 

Social commerce is a pretty hot thing these days and I’m fortunate to have some connections that are following this stream closely.  About six weeks ago, I narrowly defined social commerce as f-commerce or selling over facebook.  But now I can see how social commerce is a broader theme – how can you use location based marketing to drive to commerce.  As anyone who has faced the old ‘how do I get social media ROI question’ (which can be answered albeit hard) – I look forward to definitely answering this with social commerce.

Facebook Places launched today in Canada.  It allows me to check in, tag friends who are with me and see where other friends are [more here].  It can clutter up my facebook wall pretty fast.   I don’t immediately see social commerce in Facebook places yet – time will tell how adopted places become.  But its definitely worth watch the US adoption rates.