What social advertising medium should a content startup be using? Between Sponsored Posts, Promoted Tweets, and everything else, what’s the right strategy for a new journalism business?
Yes, it’s the most annoying answer in the world, but it really does. The biggest thing people often forget to do (including myself) before undertaking a social marketing strategy is ask themselves the most important question:
What do we want out of this?
Give yourself very clear goals. Do you want to increase traffic to article pages on your website? Do you want conversions to email signups? Are you okay with all the engagement taking place on the Facebook Brand Page itself? Is the goal an unspoken legitimacy based on number of Likes or Followers? Do you want people reading your existing articles or just want to build an overall brand voice?
The great promise and lie of paid social media advertising is this idea that the platform is the end goal in itself. You don’t win Facebook, it’s just a tool.
But fear not, it’s really inexpensive to experiment.
We began the Ehip News adventure saying things like “you take Facebook, I’ll do Twitter and LinkedIn.” I cringe thinking about that. The good part is that we’ve maybe spent a total of $300, and even utilized a free $100 Twitter Ad credit and learned a ton.
What we’ve learned:
Those little ad unit to the side. This has been one of the most odd, fascinating, and borderline suspicious parts of the journey. We began buying ad units to promote our brand page. It’s CPC, so you pay per click through to the page. Facebook doesn’t get involved in charging you for the Like itself, as the promise is they’ll direct the user to your page but the Like should happen organically. As our content was emerging market-focused, we targeted areas like India, the Philippines, the Middle East, East and South Africa, etc.
The Likes rolled in those first few weeks, from the very regions where we want to build audience. We were ecstatic, and I hate to admit, people let us know there was an external legitimacy bestowed upon us from the thousands of Likes. However, the Likes drove almost no traffic to our site. The profiles themselves were extremely odd as well (random people with maybe 100 friends and 3,000 Likes).
Result: seeming legitimacy from Likes, but an untargeted, suspicious, not organic and personal fan page.
You can pay as little as $5 to sponsor a post and Facebook will tell you exactly how many people’s feeds your post was visible in. There’s been some controversy on whether Facebook cuts down unpaid reach, but they insist promoting can only help you (and for normal, unpaid posts the algorithm is unchanged).
We’ve regularly seen a large uptick in ‘engagement’ (people Like-ing a post) for each promotion and an almost 10x increase in people who’ve viewed the post. Again, a number of people oddly Like an article post with almost none of them clicking through to the article itself.
Result: Seeming ‘engagement’ but no traffic or discussions.
You can pay to have specific tweets promoted into people’s timelines. Twitter will show you how many times your tweet appears in the target audience’s feeds, and you pay by the click. This is intuitively effective if your goal is site traffic, as you only pay when someone clicks through to an article.
Result: We were also pleasantly surprised with the time spent on site and many people clicked through to other pages. It’s logical as someone directly chose to visit a specific piece of content that piqued their interest.
You can have your account promoted in the corner of the Twitter home page of targeted users. Here you directly pay for the number of additional followers gained. Unlike some of the shadier “get 50k followers for $100″, these are real accounts and only result from someone choosing to follow you.
We experimented briefly with this feature, but after the Facebook Ads fiasco, didn’t press too hard. Even after gaining a few hundred followers over a week using this, there was no effect on site traffic or even Tweet engagement (favorites, RTs, mentions). We occassionally get tweet engagement from followers gained during this exercise, but its overwhelmingly from Twitter followers we’ve organically gained.
Results: Similar to Facebook Ad experience. Could provide external legitimacy, but waste of money and time if goals are site traffic and true engagement.
There’s no better way to learn than to do. The price tag of $300 was a bargain in educating us and forcing us to think through what our strategy should be. Our goal was always quality traffic (email signups, time spent on site, clicking through to other articles) and in the end, Promoted Tweets were the winner of the four approaches.
It also reminded us that in the end, there’s really no better way to increase brand awareness, traffic, and audience engagement, than to say interesting things.
Oh yeah, if your goal is quality traffic, also go try Outbrain.com.