Much like the smartphone refusenik who spends years telling everybody they’re perfectly happy with their Nokia 6700 before finally rocking up with a brand new iPhone 5, Facebook have finally decided to stop ignoring a major part of social conversation and fully embrace hashtags.
The social network has announced plans to introduce clickable hashtags across the site, while users can search for specific hashtags and compose posts direct from the hashtag feed.
The only real surprise is this has taken so long. Plenty of users already use hashtags in their status, even if they’re somewhat redundant given you can’t do anything with them.
So why Facebook’s change of heart? And what does this mean if you’re running a page or campaign on the network? Here’s a few thoughts on how it’ll benefit Facebook and brands.
1. It allows for a truly integrated campaign
Twitter uses hashtags. Google+ uses hashtags. The Facebook-owned Instagram uses hashtags. It’s one of the few social media signs that transcends networks.
If you’re running a campaign that plays heavily around a hashtag, the temptation could be to bypass or scale back Facebook activity because it’s a bit tricky to tie to that aspect of the campaign. And for Facebook that’s a potential loss of revenue.
Now there’s the hashtag option on Facebook it adds an extra element to a campaign. And brands may be more tempted to spend money making Facebook the hub rather than Twitter.
2. It’s all about search
Facebook’s Graph Search is imminent, meaning a deeper level of search and insights around all aspects of the network. There’ll be a huge amount of conversation to sift through.
Just like Twitter, hashtags provide a way to anchor and classify seemingly disparate conversations. And just like Twitter, it makes it all that easier to sell advertising around them.
3. Better data, faster
Following on from the previous point, Twitter excels in producing data around their hashtags and knowing how conversations trend and behave on the social network is a major selling point for brands.
With Facebook, that kind of data isn’t readily obtainable. Introducing hashtags means better insights into conversation trends on the platform. And, yes, that means better data for advertisers.
4. Tapping into the general conversation.
Hashtags have become part of the conversation between brands and the public. TV shows display hashtags routinely on-screen and adverts regularly have hashtags plastered all over their assets.
Pushing the hashtag to its limits, singer Robin Thicke’s recent video for Blurred Lines (below) is plastered with giant #Thicke and #BlurredLines hashtags throughout.
It’s a huge level of cultural conversation that currently bypasses Facebook completely. Suddenly, Facebook becomes a lot more relevant and immediate, especially around second screening, as it looks to reclaim the position of global watercooler.
Hashtags are a simple move, and a logical one given how familiar the community are with using them.
But as with anything Facebook does these days, it boils down to money, and the social behemoth has just offered up another level of data and analytics that will be very attractive to brands, agencies, and marketers looking to spend money on the site.
It’s quite possible Facebook itself doesn’t know the answer to this question. Despite selling $5 billion in advertising last year, the social network has yet again overhauled its advertising offering, streamlining the number of advertising features from the 27 it currently offers to less than half.
Out goes promoted questions and offers (otherwise known as Facebook’s coupon offering) but, more significantly, all adverts will automatically become social stories in addition to the regular advert. Previously, advertisers had the option to add or specifically opt for this feature. Now it’s default.
Facebook users can expect a subtle rise in adverts in the news feed informing you what posts and pages your friends are liking and commenting on. The aim of Facebook is to make the advertising experience more seamless and, crucially, more effective on mobile.
From a marketing and brand perspective, streamlining the ad offering makes sense. Marketers have complained in the past the myriad of options can be confusing and unhelpful.
How Facebook users react to an increase of advertising in the news feed is another matter though. Certainly existing sponsored stories are reasonably easy on the eye and don’t immediately feel intrusive.
On the other hand, having a stream full of your friend’s activities on brand pages isn’t exactly a compelling reason to log into Facebook. As ever, the social network needs to balance its commitment to shareholders with the best experience for the user.
But for all the complaints on Facebook advertising, sponsored stories generally seem effective – certainly the results have been worthwhile for campaigns we’ve run at RF. The amount of likes and engagement generated often make the initial spend worthwhile.
And it’s a frustrating, yet an increasing inevitability, that if you want to ensure your key messages on Facebook get to your fanbase and beyond, advertising is generally a necessity.
The emphasis has shifted a little – as Peter Kafta says, previously marketers could amplify their results by buying more reach. Now you’re buying adverts and relying on Facebook users to spread the reach.
This isn’t to say advertising is the answer every time. I’ve seen fantastic results from content on Facebook that have required no advertising spend whatsoever. These are often visual posts with a clear call to action (and a purpose. I’m not talking about the updates you regularly see highlighted on the Condescending Corporate Brand Page).
Ultimately, as with any social campaign, it really depends what you – or your client – wants. If it’s just likes, then you can spend your way there, although just watching the numbers rise isn’t exactly the most cost effective or smartest way to spend your advertising budget.
If you’re looking to go deeper whether it’s engagement, conversion, or some other form of ROI, then the tactics will naturally be tweaked even if the principal is the same as ever: keep testing, analysing and adjusting and make sure you consider other social networks as well.
Ultimately, your strategy is only as good as the social network and the tools it provides. And if occasionally Facebook seems like it’s not entirely sure how best to deliver value with its advertising offering, then it’s often left to the brands themselves to figure out the best way to interpret these changes.
The mighty blue whale of social announced the provision of greater analytics for social ad campaigns this week. The changes are to the analytics that marketers can see when measuring campaigns. Previously, insights showed who had clicked on an ad / liked a page etc. New functionality will show expanded metrics that help comms professionals track how the campaign performed against wider marketing initiatives e.g. Clicked ad, liked page, completed survey, bought product, shared on wall.
This is good news for PR and social media professionals using Facebook advertising to support their campaigns as previously the insights fell short of what clients were used to in terms of delivering a result against a specific call to action. It also lets us see what has been achieved as a result of a paid campaign versus what was happening anyway as a result of ongoing Facebook activity.
From Inside Facebook:
Previously, it had been difficult for marketers to understand what sort of effect their ads had beyond building a fan base since Facebook did not provide information about what users did after they clicked on an ad. This change seems to be part of a continued push to de-emphasize Likes as a campaign goal, and instead encourage marketers to focus on engagement within the platform. Today’s announcement does not affect Facebook’s pricing model. Ads are still sold on a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression basis….
Under the old system advertisers could only get data about the number of people who liked the page as a result of the ad. They could visit a separate page insights dashboard to see the total likes, comments and shares for a post, but there was no way to distinguish which actions came organically versus through paid media.
In response to the Robin Hood Tax ad, which is one of the best campaigning ads I have seen for a while, I thought I would post some historically very effective political and advocacy ads. I’m also currently reading The Political Brain, by Drew Westen that looks at the role of emotions in political campaigning. It has been an eye-opening read, so this also gave me some inspiration for this post.
This list is by no means definitive and if anyone wants to send links to some campaigning ads, that would be great, I’d love to watch them.
This post will focus on a few advocacy ads, starting with the Robin Hood Tax ad that has been the focus of the media of late. It is a very simple ad, two voices, one face but plenty of emotion. Bill Nighy plays a leading banker who ends up squirming in response to the questioning about why a Tobin Tax shouldn’t be created. Squirming bankers is something that reverberates with a good portion of the public at the moment. This campaign plays to the slightly divergent emotions of good will and revenge brilliantly.
This next ad scares the heck out of me, although I’m not sure how effective it is. Shock ads, as I have written before, have the tendency to decline in effectiveness over time simply because of people being desensitized. I’m not sure anyone would be able to put themselves in this guys shoes, unless they have been in the same situation.
This shock ad from PlaneStupid, the organisation that focuses on climate change issues caused by the global aviation industry, is different from the previous one however. Shocking - yes. Disturbing - definitely. Effective - most certainly. Polar bears dropping from the sky crushing cars and smashing into buildings may seem like an odd choice, but it is actually very clever. The stance is that every person on a trans-Atlantic flight creates 400kg of carbon. Most people can’t conceptualize what that means however. A polar bear, which is also an icon of climate change devastation, is imaginable. Therefore this appeals to our sense of wanting to save these animals, horror at their gruesome deaths but it also puts our carbon footprint into a physical and understandable context. It was filmed in Canada, but it could be any city, again personalising the imagery.
The final ad is one that has screened on UK screens recently and was the subject of a number of complaints, but is far more subtle that the polar bear ad. Act on CO2 is a non-departmental government body that is the public face of the Government’s climate change policy. This ad simply shows a father telling a bed-time story to his child, but it is a story of the effects of climate change and includes drowning pets and other disturbing results of unabated climate change. But this ad is clever in the fact that it appeals on a personal level to adults and children. This ad scares children, hence the complaints, but it also contextualizes climate change for them ensuring they understand the potential of doing nothing. It also will frighten adults on a parental level - how can I let my child live in a world like this, what can I do to prevent it?
As I said, this isn’t a complete list, but it just a tester. I’d love your thoughts and if you want to send me other campaigns, feel free. I’ll post the political ad blog in the next couple of days.
Stories about TV advertising vs. online advertising always seem to catch my eye – as previous posts such as Its a generation thing and They call me mellow yellow will demonstrate – so it was with interest that I read the recent news story on NMA discussing Toys ‘R’ Us’s planned return to TV adverts.
Toys ‘R’ Us is running a social media campaign to promote the return of its TV ad character Geoffrey the Giraffe, launching both a presence for the character on Facebook and uploading older versions of the advert onto YouTube. However all this social media activity is merely part of a plan to build engagement online ahead of the TV launch this week. So is TV is the real star of the show?
Nowadays a brand running a social media campaign to advertise itself is nothing out of the ordinary but I did think it was interested that the company plan to relaunch the TV adverts. This decision comes as many other brands are pulling their TV advertising budgets and putting everything online.
I have not seen a Toys ‘R’ Us advert on TV for what seems like an absolute age though the fact that I am now having severe difficulties getting the ‘It’s a magical place..’ jingle out of my head surely shows how successful the adverts were for building recognition around the brand.
So what do we think is more effective? Is Toys ‘R’ Us just bucking the trend to dismiss TV advertising or is this part of a TV advertising revival?! The below stories suggest a bit of a trend developing…
A interesting post appeared on the BBC dot.life blog yesterday afternoon outlining the results of a recent panel discussion held by the Centre for The Study of Financial Innovation. This city think tank got together a panel of teenagers to try and delve a little deeper into the media habits of ‘Generation Y’.
The part of the discussion that really interested me was the teenagers’ response to TV advertising vs. online advertising. The media nowadays is full of talk about ‘the death of TV advertising’ and increasingly, as is the case for new jeans Gap jeans campaign [see earlier post], companies are pulling their TV advertising altogether to focus their budget on what they see as the more lucrative realm of online advertising. This comes as we are told that more and more people are consuming their media online both on illegal sites and on sites such as BBC i-Player. And yet according to this recent event ‘television seemed to have an enduring appeal for the teenagers.’ Moreover ‘television advertising seemed to be viewed with a degree of enthusiasm – in stark contrast to web ads.’ I know this study is by no means conclusive and is merely the opinion of a few ‘representatives’ of Generation Y but it does make you think…
Personally I would agree with the above opinions. At 23, while I do watch a certain amount of TV online this does not mean that I watch any less TV. In fact, most of the time I watch programmes online only if I have missed them on TV. Equally I would say that I am much more open to TV adverts than I am to online adverts – online adverts totally pass me by, they are on the periphery of what I am looking at so rarely do they earn my focus.
So what is the answer for advertisers? Advertising on TV or online? It would be interesting to learn some of my colleagues’ opinions on what works better for them. Can the answer really be a generational thing?
Much of my PR experience has been in business technology so the opportunity to use a celebrity to endorse a product/service has been thin on the ground. However, I am fascinated how brands choose celebrities and what effect they then have on awareness/sales/buzz and also on why public figures choose to endorse certain products – apart from the filthy lucre of course.
There have been two recent advertisements that have really surprised me - John Lydon for some margarine or t’other and Iggy Pop for a car insurance firm. Two of the most anti-establishment figures around in their seventies heyday and possibly the least likely people to pop up on TV advertisements - who would honestly have picked them as brand ambassadors? Yet both ads have attracted a lot of attention, and according to Brand Republic the John Lydon one has been hugely successful, with an 85% increase in sales. If you had said to Johnny Rotten in 1977 that he would end up hawking margarine on TV he would have had some choice words to say to you. And he would no doubt defend his right to do so now, but he remains an unlikely brand figurehead despite the campaign’s success.
The same goes for Iggy Pop and whatever car insurance it is he is flogging. I am not even sure that Iggy Pop is famous enough to do an ad like this. Anyone that had heard of him and knew his music would be vaguely appalled at the thought, whilst everyone else would be wondering who that weirdo is, ranting about the ‘gift of time’.
It is rare to see credible celebrities doing work of this nature but if it works I guess the brands aren’t complaining. Are these former punks really so short of a few quid though, that they are willing to compromise their musical legacy? Do John and Iggy really use the products they are endorsing (I think Iggy’s insurance premiums would be off the scale, what with all the, ahem, lifestyle choices he has made)? In a way it seems unfair that say, Eva Longoria can advertise ice cream and people don’t think any less of her (not that she looks like a choc ice has come within a yard of her) but for musicians and/or ‘edgy’ personalities it seems much more of a sell-out.
Or maybe other people aren’t as sensitive about punks in adverts as me.