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Study: Most Facebook brand posts written at 5th grade level or below

What do you get when you analyze 5,800+ brand Facebook pages and nearly 1.6 million total posts?

Depressed, I assume.

But you also get some interesting insight into social media content. The Marketing Maven’s Guide to Facebook took this approach, and the results can be found here.

Some of the highlights from the study:

• The majority of brand Facebook posts (67.3 percent) are written at a fifth grade level or below.

• Lunchtime posts are most popular, but after hours posts (5 p.m. – 1 a.m.) see higher interactions per hour.

• Posts with photos are 37 percent more effective than posts with just text.

• Fewer than 1 in 6 posts contain hashtags, but those that do see 60 percent greater engagement on average.

• Posts with exclamation points more than double engagement.

Digiday took particular exception to the idea of most posts being written at a fifth-grade level or below, noting, “Facebook requires that users be at least 13 years old, or in seventh or eighth grade.”

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The Facebook reach problem: Pay to play or walk away?


Facebook has come under a lot of scrutiny lately for seemingly forcing brands to pay to reach their fans.

One of the first reports on this issue was a March 3 article by New York Times “Bits” columnist Nick Bilton. In the article, “Disruptions: As User Interaction on Facebook Drops, Sharing Comes at a Cost,” he offers evidence suggesting Facebook’s algorithm changes have indeed affected reach.

Bilton wrote:

I recently tried a little experiment. I paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company’s sponsored advertising tool.

To my surprise, I saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours. It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for.

Facebook quickly responded via a blog post, which is no longer accessible, stating:

There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true.

The post goes on to “explain” how Facebook’s algorithm works, in an effort to refute Bilton’s claims.

The full text can be found in a article titled, “Facebook: No, We’re Not Suppressing Posts To Force You To Pay For Promoting Them.”

A mere two days later, Bilton’s claims were further validated when Social@Ogilvy published a report providing evidence that organic reach for brands had decreased by as much as 49 percent from October 2013 through February 2014, and as of March hovered around 6 percent. For those with more than 500,000 “likes,” the news was grimmer.

This Social@Ogilvy graph demonstrates the decline in reach:

Since then, many articles have been published on this subject, and most marketers agree that brands are being forced to make a decision: Pay up, or bow out.

Assessing your options

There are a few approaches brand managers can take to overcome this issue.

1. The first and most obvious choice is to pay to promote your posts.

I’m not suggesting you pay for “likes,” unless you want to reach a vast audience of fake accounts in Syria that will never engage with you.

I’m suggesting you pay to boost the posts that are most important to your channel in order to reach your fans. If your content is stellar, you might even earn some new fans.

This tactic has also come under fire by a number of key influencers, but I’ve seen firsthand the effectiveness of this strategy.

When I paid to boost a few posts for SecureState, an information security company, I saw an uptick in engagement and reach. I verified the accuracy of Facebook Insights by comparing its reporting to HubSpot’s. It was clear that paying to boost the post worked.

As a result, my recommendation to Access’s clients is to pay to boost the posts that you really want people to see, and track it outside of Facebook Insights.

My other recommendation is to stop creating brand-centric content. People don’t want to be sold to, and they don’t care how great a company says their products are. They want to read about what interests them, so create content that is interesting and helpful.

Never forget you’re competing for attention among your fans’ friends and family. Is your announcement about attending a trade show more interesting than Jenny’s new puppy? Probably not.

2. Forget Facebook, and move to a different platform.

For most brands, this is simply not an option; nor would I ever recommend it. Though if you’re just starting out, and you’re not a B2C company, then you may want to focus most of your attention on LinkedIn or Twitter. Though be warned, nothing in life is free; eventually all social channels will shift their operations toward monetization.

3. Optimize your posts to maximize the organic reach you still have.

Start by auditing your content. Look at several posts over a period of time, and take note of those that performed well. Determine what commonalities those posts had, which of your top posts performed the best, and what time of day earned the best engagement.

This is a strategy you should employ for all social media channels, whether or not you pay for promotion. This will amplify your reach, drive further engagement, and boost your SEO rankings.

4. Diversify your portfolio.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to create and curate a mix of content on a variety of social media channels.

Facebook is no longer the only game in town. Just last year, Google+ was named the second-largest social network. And don’t believe the rumors that Google is carving it up after Vic Gundotra’s departure; as of right now, it’s not.

Every channel has its own strengths and weaknesses, so figure out what type of content works best for each and build a strategy around that.

5. Build a time machine and go back to the days before computers.

Hey, if you can do it, it’s an option. Also, could you please take me back to my prom night? I’d like to change a few things.

The hard truth

Facebook’s not going anywhere, and hopefully neither is your brand. So, approach this problem head on by employing a variety of the tactics listed above, or by paying someone like me to do it for you. Whatever you choose, simply posting about your great new offering is no longer going to cut it.

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3 marketing strategy lessons from Dad


With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I’ve been thinking about some of the advice I’ve received from my dad over the years. 

My dad’s an engineer, so my pulling marketing strategy lessons from his insight may be a bit unexpected; still, here are three nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned from him:

1. Not everyone will appreciate your sense of humor. My dad is great at puns and bad jokes. (Based on Father’s Day cards I see, I think a lot of dads have this “skill.”) He’s received countless eye-rolls from me, but that doesn’t stop him from telling them. He is who he is, and every once in a while he’ll still catch me off guard and get a genuine smile from me. In the same way, remember that not everyone will appreciate everything your business shares, from social media updates to media pitches. Keep your brand identity consistent, and appeal to your primary target audience.

2. Know your audience. Speaking of targets, it’s important to know your target audience. Something my brother clued me in to when I was in high school is that getting what you want from Dad takes a different approach from wheedling stuff out of Mom. This was important for me to learn, so that when I proposed something like a family vacation or study abroad, I could frame it in a way that he would respond to better. Do you know your company’s target audience and what they respond to best? It can be tricky to figure out sometimes, but it’s important. Remember to look at your Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to see what types of content your followers engage with best. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your customers questions. Ask them what they like about your business and what you can do better.

3. Repeat your message over and over again. When it comes to marketing strategy, this isn’t a shock, but it’s always worth repeating. When I think of my dad, certain phrases come to mind, like, “Sleep fast.” I’ve always hated bedtime (and still do), but he repeated himself so often that to this day, when I’ve stayed up too late I tell myself to “sleep fast.” That message definitely sank in. You want your company’s message(s) to sink in to your target audience, too. Remember to repeat yourself over and over, so that when they hear certain key phrases they think of you.

Have you learned any marketing strategy lessons from your Dad? Please share them in the comments below, and have a nice Father’s Day. Emily Sidley is senior director of publicity at Three Girls Media, Inc., a boutique public relations and social media management agency located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. A version of this story original appeared on the company’s blog.

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7 reasons to try out new tools—without wasting time


Whenever a new online tool hits the , you’ll find somebody ready to tell you why you shouldn’t waste your time with it. 

Critics have different reasons for rejecting the latest app: It serves no legitimate business or marketing purpose, it’s not ready for prime time, the potential risks haven’t been determined yet, it’s a flash in the pan, and so on.

When Snapchat was new, it was dismissed in marketing circles. What value was there in pictures that “disappeared” in 10 seconds? Besides, there was nothing like a brand page for people to follow. Now, Snapchat is fast becoming a standard marketing platform. Suddenly, there’s a cottage industry in articles and posts extolling Snapchat’s virtues, presenting case studies and listing innovative ways to use it.

Some companies that were first to test Snapchat’s waters—such as Rebecca Minkoff and Taco Bell—have developed big follower numbers. For McDonald’s and Taco Bell, Snapchat is a battleground for brand advocacy in the breakfast wars. Gary Vaynerchuk calls it his most valuable marketing tool.

Recently, we’ve had dismissals of Whisper and Secret, though both have been the focus of interesting communication efforts. A TV series paid Whisper to add its images to the mix. When users whisper a secret using one of the specified keywords, a related image is dished up as the background. As for Secret, Vic Gundotra’s departure from Google was first reported as a Secret post.

When a new tool seems to be drawing an audience—especially your audience—there’s little reason to hold off on undertaking an experiment or two, and there’s plenty of justification for taking the plunge:

• You have a content strategy, not a separate strategy for every platform, so adapting your stories and messages to new platforms is not a drain on resources. 

• It’s no big deal if the platform doesn’t take off. There’s no huge investment to lose, and maybe it paid off for a while. You can apply what you’ve learned to other platforms. 

• By testing the waters before a platform gets big, you have a bit more leeway than usual, because mistakes there won’t get the same kind of attention that a gaffe on Facebook or Twitter would. 

• If your target audience includes early adopters, an app’s first user cohorts fill the bill. 

• If the tool becomes a hit, you’ll already have content and fans waiting when the hordes arrive. Think about Red Bull on Instagram, for instance. 

• You’ll undoubtedly reach some people you’re not reaching on other channels. 

• Your experimentation will help your in other communication efforts as you adapt to the acceleration of online change. 

To temper this enthusiasm, a note of caution is in order. 

Jelly, shrugged off as a communications vehicle by many of the initial reviews, was so quickly adopted that one commentator said he was uninstalling the app because his feed was so overloaded with marketing. Personally, I haven’t experienced this on Jelly; the number of questions shared by organizations in my feed is still in single digits. But overwhelming an app that’s still building an audience with commercial material could kill it before it has a chance. 

Short of flooding a community with branded content, experimentation should be the norm for our organizations, not something we let our competitors do first.

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4 types of competitors that brands must battle


I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve talked to executives who say they don’t have any competition. They talk about their unique selling proposition, their software innovation, or the new industry their business has created. 

When I hear this, the first thing I think comes from the public relations person in me: “There is no way I can put this person in front of a reporter to talk about the business, the industry, or anything.” The second thing is from the consumer in me: “This person is clearly not listening.” 

All companies have competitors. Recognizing this should be the second step in any marketing, PR, or social media strategy. (The first is identifying the audience.) There is not a single company, service, or product in the world that is the only choice a customer has, even if the alternative is doing nothing. 

There are four competitor groups, and because communication invariably exists in the context of one or more of these, it’s important to create messages and strategies for each. 

Direct. These companies or organizations are very similar to yours in multiple aspects of a product or service offering. They may or may not compete with all the same services, the delivery might be different, or they may have a different marketing strategy. Maybe you sell red apples and they sell green. You market the sweetness of your apples and the competitor highlights the texture of theirs. Sure, in some cases there is not a direct competitor, but this is not the only type. 

Indirect. Some companies offer a product or service that is different, but intended to solve the same problem. This might make it easy for consumers—maybe they either like apples or bananas. You’ll never be a banana, but maybe you can convince more people that potassium isn’t that important. 

Perceived. These are the most challenging types of competitors to identify, because they require your marketing team to stop focusing on your business and concentrate instead on the customer’s point of view. Monitoring is the only way to identify this group of companies. (Social media tools like Twitter are great for this and provide more insights than marketers had even a few years ago.) Apple-flavored gummy vitamins may have nothing on the real fruit, but maybe your target audience thinks they get the same vitamin C from both. 

Partner competitors. We hear a lot about strategic partnerships in the business community today, and they can be incredibly important to your communications strategy. Businesses are always changing, though, and the company that might have been your best referral source is now expanding because what you do seems like a great growth opportunity. Say hello to the grapple (looks like an apple, tastes like a grape).

PR and social media strategies are most effective when they communicate what’s different about a company, product, or service, not what’s better. That difference should be based only on a well-researched, honest, and objective look at all the competitors in your fruit basket.

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