I bought a dress because of your Facebook ad, but you may not know it

A model walks down a fashion show runway in a red and black dress
“Stop Looking! Fashion Runway 2011” by Henry Jose, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

I recently bought a dress online following this flow:

  1. See dress on a Facebook ad, fall in love with it, click on ad
  2. Ad takes me to a company page, I’ve never heard of the company before, this makes me wary of purchasing
  3. Conduct a Google search for reviews of dress
  4. Finding nothing, go to Amazon and look for the dress there. Find positive reviews, including photos of actual people wearing the dress
  5. Opt to purchase on Amazon because:
    1. Amazon has standardized recourse/return methods if the purchase goes bad
    2. I can easily track the shipment
    3. I had a gift card from my birthday I wanted to use up
    4. It was the same price as the initial website

If you’re the business selling the dress, using simple Click-Through Rate (CTR) tracking methods (# of people clicked on ad, % purchased after clicking), you’ll never know that the Facebook ad “worked.”

If you’re using “Last Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the purchase came from Amazon. Amazon played a role, but it wasn’t the whole story and didn’t prompt the purchase.

If you’re using “First Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the Facebook ad did all of the work, ignoring the role of the web search and Amazon.

To really understand the full journey, you have to look at a broader set of data and how various advertisements and marketing promotions play critical roles in your sales.

 

Further reading: Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

 

Pitbull’s Twitter & Facebook contains ads: A rare look at celebrity social media marketing contracts

Rapper pitbull performing with dancers on a stage
“Pitbull (Austin, Texas, 2015-02-07)” by Ralph Arvesen, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This week, after a long, contentious battle over making the contract public, the rapper Pitbull published his 1 million dollar contract with the State of Florida via his twitter account.

Most contracts between talent and agency are usually confidential, but because it was with a governmental agency, it could be public domain (hence the contention). What we do know for sure, however, is that it offers us a rare glimpse of one of these contracts and the role of social media advertising from celebrities.

Under section 4.3, Social Media and Email we find:

4.3.1 Social Media

A. The Contractor will provide Talent’s digital services team to make in aggregate a minimum of two (2) social network posts each month on each of Talent’s various social media channels. (e.g., 2 Tweets, 2 Facebook posts, etc.) in support of the VISIT FLORIDA mission to promote tourism; and including the social media hashtag “#LoveFL”. The manner and method of these posts shall be in accordance with Contractor’s organic approach to assure the authenticity of the posts and to avoid over-saturation (e.g., December may include myriad posts and January far less) and with due consideration of Contractor’s activities and demographics and to avoid any alienation of Talent’s fans given the general non-commercial nature of Talent’s social media sites. Where appropriate the posts shall include the presence of Florida photos in a manner consistent with Contractor’s past activities. The Contractor will include a creative written call to action to drive traffic to VISIT FLORIDA’S Facebook page (e.g., “Like VISIT FLORIDA’s Facebook page) when posting on Pitbull’s Facebook page.

B. Contractor will provide reporting that includes proof of all social media network posts as indicated above. 

4.3.2 Email Contacts

A. The Contractor will work with VISIT FLORIDA staff to drive social media and email traffic to allow an aggregation of at least 500,000 email contacts for potential solicitation by VISIT FLORIDA for tourism activities/information. The Parties will work in good faith to create terms, conditions and procedures to assure that collection of all data is in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, including without limitations the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). All aggregated emails and user data acquired by VISIT FLORIDA in connection with Contractor will be shared with Contractor. 

What we can learn from the above:

  • It’s not really Pitbull posting on these pages. He, along with most public figures, has a “digital services team” posting on his behalf.
  • Celebrities get compensated for posts on social media sites. I’m sure Pitbull loves Florida, but the reality is, he’s getting paid to post on their behalf.
  • Some celebrity social media posts are ads, and they don’t want you to realize that. Reading the above, it’s obvious VISIT FLORIDA wanted the posts to be “authentic” and not come across as ads. This is an ethical issue for me, I’m not a fan of ads that are designed so people don’t realize they are ads. But, it’s prevalent with celebrities and social media.
  • The goal is to capture your information. VISIT FLORDIA’s goal is clear, they want to capture email addresses for at least 500,000 people for purposes of marketing to them. And they aren’t alone; most similar promotions are all about information capture.
  • And your information will be shared.  Not only is VISIT FLORIDA capturing people’s information, once they have it, they are going to share it back with Pitbull’s marketing team so they can also market to those people. This is very common as well.

Thanks for posting the contract, Pitbull (team):

I appreciate Pitbull’s team posting the contract. I think they saved themselves a lot of further public relations headaches by doing so and, as the title of this post says, it gives us a rare glimpse into one of these contracts.

With that said, what it shows is disheartening; there’s no more of an illusion that celebrity social media accounts are an ad-free zone. I think most people know this, intuitively, but having such concrete evidence of it public makes it hard to ignore.

 

Implementing change series: Combine active and passive strategies for high-impact results

Implementing a new project, cultural change, movement, etc. is never easy. But one thing that can make it easier is to define each of your strategies as either active or passive.

Dog actively chasing a ball
“photomarathon15” by Delphine Savat, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Implementing a new project, cultural change, movement, etc. is never easy.  But one thing that can make it easier is to define each of your strategies as either active or passive.

Passive vs. Active Strategy

Most of us are familiar with the line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” This is the classic example of a passive strategy; they build the place for people to enjoy, but they make no effort to encourage people to come. The idea is, if it’s there and people want it, they will find it. While it makes for an inspiring movie, it’s only partially true when it comes to implementing change with results. These types of passive, or indirect strategies, do help support the overall strategy, but they must be mixed with active strategies as well.

An active strategy is much more direct; if you do this action, you can expect a specific result related to your goal directly from that action. For example, in a business, if your goal is to increase sales, branding marketing (image ads, corporate sponsorships of community causes) would be passive to making a sale, while sales representatives asking for purchase, coupons, special sales offers etc. are direct/active strategies.

Examples: Politics and OER

One example that I think can hit home for everyone right now is politics. Instinctively, we all know that complaining about politics or debating with our contacts on social media isn’t going to lead directly to change. We may change a mind, eventually, but that isn’t going to solve the larger issues.

  • Holding a demonstration or protest: Most people would think that this is active, but, since it usually won’t lead to changing someone’s mind or changing an outcome, it’s passive
  • Calling your elected representatives and asking them to vote a specific way on a bill: Active
  • Venting on Facebook: Passive
  • Donating to an organization who will directly go and advocate for change: Passive for you, but active in the sense that you are financially supporting someone else to directly ask for change (which you may not be able to do on your own)

In my work for Rice University’s OpenStax, I consult with colleges and universities to encourage faculty to transition to Open Educational Resources (OER), including free textbooks. As part of this process, each school writes a strategic plan that includes specific strategies they will complete to encourage faculty to adopt. 

The question I always ask them is: Does this strategy involve you directly asking faculty to adopt an OER? If the answer is yes, then you have a active/direct strategy, if the answer is no, then you have a passive strategy.

  • Having a display of OER textbooks on the campus. The faculty will see them and look at them and consider adopting them: Passive
  • Going to a faculty member’s office and asking them to pilot an OER:  Active
  • Hosting a faculty panel discussion about OER: Passive
  • Having a sign-in sheet at the above panel and following-up with each attendee afterward individually to ask them to adopt an OER: Active
  • Offering grants in exchange for adoption: Active

Combining Passive and Active Strategies for Results

The key is not to eliminate passive strategies, the goal is to mix both passive and active strategies in a way that creates momentum.

For example, this blog post is a passive strategy, but if I send it to people so they know the difference between the two types of strategies and then use that to help them incorporate both into a strategic plan, that creates momentum. If the protest/demonstration you hold drives PR and traffic to your website, you can use that traffic to ask them to sign-up for more information, sign a petition, etc. thus turning that passive strategy into a way for you to move forward with more resources and support.

The most important thing is that you identify and consider your combination of passive and active strategies and plan for effective results.

Social media isn’t free advertising

I regularly run into small business owners that want to do social media because it’s free advertising. In some ways, the statement that social media is free advertising is free is true, but, in reality, it isn’t.

 

Effectively using social media for your business requires strategy

Effectively using social media for your business requires careful planning and strategy. Often, people create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for their business without putting much thought into it. Although you may gain some “likes” or “followers” that way, it’s not the most effective way to build your brand and sell your product or service on there. In order for your social media strategy to turn into a brand-building/selling advertising tool for you, you’ve got to create an effective strategy behind it

 

There are a  lot of great books and online articles on how to do this, the top one I recommend is The New Rules of Marketing & PR

 

Time=Money

I’ve yet to see an effective social media strategy that doesn’t require careful planning and writing/designing posts and monitoring and responding/interacting in a timely manner. It is a conversation, after all, and how would you feel if you walked up to a customer service counter and had to wait there a week for a response?

 

Effectively planning, designing, writing, monitoring and interacting on social media takes more time than most people think and that’s where you find the “cost” of social media. Places like Facebook and Twitter may be free marketing and advertising tools, but time=money and, to utilize these tools right, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on them.

 

My advice

My advice to be effective but not have social media eat up all your time is to start with one platform, research and develop an effective strategy, and implement it.  After that is running well and you have a good feel for the amount of time it takes to maintain and continually improve it, move on to one or two more platforms.

Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Considering conducting a survey? Remember that what people say they do or say is important to them does not usually match their behavior

According to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (2012 Cohort), 73% of students say tutoring is somewhat or very important. But, only 29% of students participate in tutoring at their college.  So, students say tutoring is important, but that isn’t reflective in their behavior.

What people say they do or say is important to them does not usually match their behavior

This isn’t a new phenomenon and not shocking, but it does serve as a good reminder that what people say they do or say is important to them does not usually match their behavior. Why is this? There are a wide variety of reasons:

  • They understand it’s important, but it’s just not important ENOUGH. We have a limited amount of time and so many choices of what to do with our time. It’s not a factor of what is important to us, but what is MOST important to us. I may know that exercising six times per week is important, but, after a sleepless night, I might deem skipping my morning workout and getting some sleep as more important.
  • They may feel that a behavior is important for someone else, just not them. For the tutoring example, a student with a 4.0 GPA may truly believe that tutoring is important, just not for them. They may feel it’s very important for students who aren’t making a 4.0.
  • Sometimes, it’s not socially acceptable to say something isn’t important. As an extreme example, if you conducted a survey asking if saving the lives of starving children was important, I can’t see anyone saying no. But, in reality, there might be some people who honestly don’t feel that it is important. It’s just that they don’t feel comfortable expressing that view because it’s not socially acceptable to do so.
  • They don’t really know what their behavior is. We’ve seen this in study after study. People don’t know how many calories they consume or how much time they spend on Facebook. And, the infamous advertising question, “How did you hear about us?” they don’t know (for more on this, read Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI).

How this relates to conducting surveys

So, having people self-report what’s important to them isn’t usually the best way to conduct a survey because it doesn’t really reflect behavior.  Having people self-report their behavior is slightly better, but as I said above, it has limitations as well. The best way, and unfortunately usually the most costly way, to really understand behavior is to actually track behavior.

What this says to us in higher education

Well, the good news is, we’ve done a great job of telling students that tutoring is important. The bad news is, it hasn’t resulted in students actually taking advantage of  tutoring services. It’s time to rethink our marketing strategy.

What it says to us about our own lives

What’s really important to you? Do a time and money study and you will know. Track how you spend your time and how you spend your money for a month. I’ve done this before and trust me, it’s eye-opening.

Lifetime Fitness model too thin. This billboard needs to come down.

A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says "I can do it all in my lifetime"
A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says “I can do it all in my lifetime”

Dear Lifetime Fitness,

Normally I don’t use this blog to openly criticize advertisements and the companies that put their brand on them, but I find the above billboard for your fitness centers in Houston, TX absolutely appalling.

This woman is not fit, she’s anorexic-looking. Particularly, her arms are the size of small twigs. They can’t be real; they must be graphically modified. At least, I hope so.

We’ve done a lot of work as an industry to get away from using too-thin models and, instead, using models that are fit AND healthy (for examples, see Shape Magazine or Oxygen Magazine). Advertisements like this that show someone who is simply too thin to be healthy are a step in the wrong direction and outright harmful to the impressionable.

Please take it down immediately, replace it with a model that is a true portrayal of health and fitness, and figure out a way to do so in all future ads.

Sincerely,
Nicole Finkbeiner

P.S. If you are wondering why I chose this venue to bring this matter to your attention, it wasn’t my first choice. I was planning to send you an email and/or talk to you via your Facebook page. But, after reading comments on your Facebook page about unhappy consumers not being treated well by your customer service staff and seeing how Facebook complaints are handled on your page (most responses from your company are of the “We are sorry, but you, Mr, Customer, are wrong” nature), I decided to utilize my blog instead.