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Undressing The Secret Of Facebook: Paid Organic Is The New Black

[Authors note: 12-6-2013: The post below is nearly two years old. Funny. Today there is a raging tempest in a teapot regarding FB's recent comments admonishing marketers to buy ads because organic impressions are declining. This is old news, SRSLY. Since this post, paid-organic social marketers have been making a meal of feed, mobile and RH rail page post ads. In many cases, results scale at a higher rate than than purchased reach. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past and that it helps you let go of any angst surrounding the "big" revelation from FB. Two words: Ho, Hum... -MW]

Goodbye, pure Facebook EdgeRank organic tactics. Hello, pay-through-your-nostrils-rank! Professional Facebook marketers have felt a distinct change coming on for months. Here’s the bad news first: It’s getting much harder to drive organic impressions in the newsfeed, ticker, and from fans visiting a brand’s page. The precipitous drop has become more acute since the advent of the timeline, ticker, and increased Facebook adoption. The thinning of organic opportunities is only going to get worse as FB rolls out news feed ads. The good news: You can buy the feel of organic dominance. Yes, really.

In this post, we’ll outline a cocktail of paid ad units in Facebook, which drastically amplifies organic prominence within sponsored results. Yep, you heard it right. For those with short attention spans, here’s the bottom line: Run ongoing Page Like and Page Post Like Sponsored Stories. Promote individual page posts with Page Post Facebook Ads. For Places pages, run persistent Check-In Sponsored Stories. If you’re marketing a Facebook application, run constant App Used and App Shared Stories.

If you don’t, in an effort to save money, you may be wasting a lot of precious time for a small percentage of the organic-like clout, otherwise attainable. Given the costs brands are willing to incur to create content, field a community manager, build applications, and incent check-ins, the incremental costs of using Facebook ad units to cause paid intensification of organic activity, is the least of the expenses.

Read on for gory details, a peek at some soon-to-be-released data and priceless advice on constructing the three Facebook page amplification ad unit flavors that, until everybody catches on, will result in exponential magnification of users seeing and interacting with your page and the content thereon.

Facebook Organic & Second Degree Of Separation Marketing
When a user likes a brand’s page and content, interacts with an application or checks in at a Place, that user’s friends (the brand’s second degree of separation) see that activity “rank” subject to EdgeRank, the algorithm that rewards content users engage with. This effect has been powerful because humans, by nature, care what their friends like. This second-degree propagation is becoming thinner. For one thing, the more friends attained and brands liked a user has, the quicker the ticker blows by. Also, the increased ad count limits the space FB has to display various organic units. There is only so much physical space and, of course, FB makes money on ads.

Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, when enabled, replace that missing second-degree organic prominence. The effect of marketing with Sponsored Stories deployed vs. not is profound. We think brands can’t afford NOT to use Sponsored Stories. Paid degree of separation marketing is what’s now and next.

Emergent Data
Last week at PubCon Hawaii, BlitzLocal CEO Dennis Yu shared fascinating conclusions and data gleaned from analyzing 11,365 pages, 5,744,550 admin and user posts, 76,202,654, Facebook users spread over 75 countries, 91,009,142,252 organic impressions, 27,969,233,010 paid impressions, and 1,142,652,653 viral impressions adding up to a sampling of 120,111,027,915 total impressions. This graph, from the study, highlights the dramatic rise in paid impressions and decreases in organic that have taken place since last October.

Couple this emergent reality with the fact that three out of four brands in the study did not advertise, and it becomes obvious that an opportunity is at hand for early adopters (if there can be such a thing in Facebook).

Three Must-Use Ad Units For Amplifying Pages
To get maximum distribution among your brand’s second degree of separation, you need to run ongoing Page Like and Page Post Like Sponsored Stories. It’s also extremely beneficial to expand circulation of individual page posts using Page Post Facebook Ads.  Let’s have a quick look at each of the three ad units.

The Page Like Story lets friends of users who have liked your page know about the action. (Descriptions are from Facebook’s SponsoredStoriesGuide_Oct2011.pdf.)

Here’s how you set it up. The pool of users can be pretty big and therefore expensive. For instance, if your brand’s page has accumulated 1,000 likes and each user who liked has 500 friends, the second degree of separation is 500,000.

We usually apply other FB targeting attributes to filter the second degree of separation by interests, location, gender, employer, degrees, and other targeting grid attribute. The result of trolling with this ad unit is that your friends’ friends like your page. It is not unusual to see a conversion rate of clicks to likes, in excess of 20-30%.

The Page Post Like Story lets friends of users who have liked any post on your page know about the action.

Here’s how you set it up. The pool of users is smaller than Page Like Stories, because fewer users have liked a page post within the last seven days than have liked the entire page forever. For instance, if your brand’s page posts has accumulated 300 likes and each user who liked has 500 friends, the second degree of separation is 150,000.

Go ahead and apply other FB targeting attributes to filter the second degree by any targeting grid attribute. The result of trolling with this ad unit is that your post-liking friends’ friends like your content, too. The conversion rate can be similar to Page Like Stories.

The Page Post Ad is a FB Ads unit that promotes a specific post on a page to anyone in FB, according to targeting attributes. It’s a fantastic ad unit for generating both traffic to the content bookmarked in the wall post and the page itself.

Here’s how to set it up. You have to be an administrator of the page your want to surface content from. Use the dropdown menu to cherry-pick the post you want to advertise.

A look at FB Insights analytics, after running the ad for a few hours on a couple of days, the reach is 17,572. Our community is about 1,300 people and typical reach would be a couple of hundred. It’s not unusual to see reach amplified over 2,000X.

It’s interesting to note that driving engagement of page posts by this method is further amplified by the Page Post Like story. The result of running this ad unit is traffic to the brand page, post likes and page likes (to a lesser extent).

  • Running the Page Post ad only results in fantastic visibility.
  • Running the Page Post ad in conjunction with the Page Post Like Sponsored story can result in seriously amplified viral behavior.

There are other Sponsored Stories and premium units that amplify nearly any action users can undertake by way of interaction with your brand. Some of them are pretty heady, including the ability to play video in the D.I.Y. UI. Stay tuned for current and future, D.I.Y. and premium ad units which, when applied, are the “new” organic. Paid organic is the new black.

Post image © Sanjay Deva – Fotolia (dot) com
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5 Comments

  1. Michelle Stinson Ross on February 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Zuckerburg all but spelled this out at his F8 keynote last fall. If your business is not spending money with facebook, you’re page activity is going to struggle to see the light of day. Better try Twitter.

  2. Morgan on February 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Totally agree guys – I’ve seen 10x CTR improvement on Facebook ads using the techniques above. There’s something a bit sick about paying Facebook for ads to drive people to other pages on Facebook, but hey, it’s a new world and it works like a charm.

  3. Michelle Stinson Ross on February 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Zuckerburg all but spelled this out at his F8 keynote last fall. If your business is not spending money with facebook, your page activity is going to struggle to see the light of day. Better try Twitter for true organic interaction.

  4. Erik | Gravytrain - Vancouver SEO on February 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Marty – great article and thanks for sharing Dennis’ insight in a quick, digestible format. This isn’t much of a surprise to those that have been working with client brands on Facebook over the past few months; the sad state of affairs is that they know you want the exposure that their site can provide and that you’re willing to pay for it. So, now you’re going to have to pay to get it.

    I can only expect that FB will become more laser focused on this over time. I also expect that if they roll out a content-network ad program similar to AdWords they will work heavily to ensure there is a bonus to brands who pay for ads that bring visitors to their FB page, as it benefits both sites.

  5. Paul Chaney on June 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I’m writing an article on Promoted Posts and came across this post via a Google search. I love your “bottom line” synopsis of how brands should use Facebook advertising. Oh, and the young lady in the image reminds me of a former girlfriend, cigarette and all! :-)

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