March 14, 2013

Facebook paid sponsored content meets you only halfway

Photo courtesy of diTii (Creative Commons)

Increase your breadth and depth for greater marketing power

Chris AbrahamAfter reading Disruptions: As User Interaction on Facebook Drops, Sharing Comes at a Cost by Nick Bilton in the New York Times (and Facebook‘s detailed fact check), I thought I would spend $21 for your amusement. I would sponsor three Facebook posts.

For my first, I sponsored a post rather spontaneously and organically to see if anyone might want to join my virtual rowing team, Team Grotto, and join a virtual regatta, the 2013 World Erg Challenge. Why not, right?

Right afterward, I was alerted that my latest piece was posted on The Huffington Post — Children Naturally Want to Show What They Know — about my experience co-teaching, co-learning, and collaborating with high school students when I co-taught one of the first accredited online creative writing courses.

So, what the heck: I dropped $7 to sponsor that one, too.

Broad appeal: education, kids, learning, and something I personally wrote on the Huffington Post.

bigBump-300x339Finally, I became postmodern and wrote a sponsored post about writing a sponsored post. I pointedly asked if anyone saw this “nothing-sandwich” of a post just because it was sponsored on Facebook.

Well, it turns out, after a few hours, that while sponsorship is surely a big dose of steroids to the Facebook system, the sponsorship model only meets you halfway — you can blood dope as much as you want but if you don’t put in the training, Facebook sponsorship is not going to win you the Tour de France or hit 70 home runs in one season.

My first sponsored post on rowing had zero traction. The focus was too narrow and, even though I had an ask, the ask wasn’t appealing to anyone except my hyper-athletic friend Raman Frey.

In fact, the traction was so slick that Facebook didn’t even offer me a pop-up bragging about how much the sponsorship garnered for me.

My second sponsored Facebook from my Huffington Post article knocked it out of the park, garnering 10 times as many views from sponsorship than organically. However, the broad appeal of the engagement might well have performed well anyway. Though I know for sure that sponsored posts do tend to bubble to the top, the appeal was relatively universal.

The link was external with an auto-populated image.

The link went off to the Huffington Post, a super-popular site. And, since the post was mine, and I have 4,734 friends and an additional 439 subscribers, I can safely assume that these 5,173 folks are at best batting for me and at worst are my allies.

Finally, when I went PoMo, I wrote, “I just promoted three Facebook posts today, just to see what happens. Let’s see what this nothing-sandwich post does if it’s promoted, shall we?”

By its nature, this sponsored post is a little bombastic, disruptive, and tantalizing. It calls folks out to engage and comment and contribute — even though there’s no link and no image — two very important aspect of organic EdgeRank.

Sponsorship is not enough


I was trying to come up with a conclusion that wrapped up nicely into a “the first was too hard, the second was too soft, and the third was just right,” but it doesn’t work because the second one received the biggest sponsorship bump. Being realistic, the second one was, in fact, too soft: Most content marketing isn’t so perfect.

The Huffington Post sponsored wall post was like playing T-ball.

Most folks don’t have a globally recognized and promoted platform like the Huffington Post. The content has a broad appeal and has nothing to do with my work per se.

Maybe the lesson is that you need to be willing to extend your brand and your voice well past your single-minded brand promotion strategy and that giving more than you receive (or being perceived to) is more important than shameless self-promotion.

Maybe work on your depth and breadth a little bit — spend some of your valuable content-generating time revealing something about your past, your passions, your interests, your process.

If being causing disruption is your deal, then own it — but if you’re just doing it for attention, you’ll eventually burn people out and drive them away

And maybe “just right” can be boiled down to knowing and engaging your audience, perfectly. Being open, earnest, curious, present, and interested.

Baiting does work a few times but it always ends up sounding like crying wolf: Are you being bombastic, disruptive, confrontational, and controversial because you care or because you enjoy stirring up the crowd?

If being causing disruption is your deal, then own it — but if you’re just doing it for attention, you’ll eventually burn people out and drive them away. If that’s your M.O., you’d better be really funny, interesting, compelling or smart-as-hell. If you rely on acerbic, you’d better be cooking with gas.

Anyway, let me know what you think about my little experiment — I look forward to chatting about this in the comments.Chris Abraham is a partner in Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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