July 02, 2012

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Email Drives Facebook Engagement Email is the principle driver of social engagement. New research suggests that the long assumed synergy between the two most ubiquitous digital platforms can be quantified and leveraged. Smart marketers are seeing spikes in all levels of engagement (likes, comments and shares) when e-mail blasts accompany or intersect social posts and Facebook promotions. For most of my clients the notion of sequential emails as stimuli for Facebook engagement is becoming a routine part of their communication strategy. Frequent use is the key building block of this synergy. Half of all Facebook users check their Timeline and Newsfeed daily. Almost half of social network users check their e-mail more that 4 times a day according to a study done by Merkle. So you can see how the two channels can easily work in-tandem. Another dimension of this interrelationship is the direct marketing notion of a multi-channel customer. DMers understand that people who connect with brands in more than one channel are genuine fans. They engage more frequently, buy more often and rack up higher purchase volumes. Many marketers suspect that there is a healthy overlap between their e-mail lists and their Facebook fans. This suspicion is confirmed by data indicating that when email drops to support a Facebook campaign or promotion response and engagement spike. Further evidence are surveys that show e-mail subscribers and Facebook fans both want deals plus early or exclusive access to information, sales or new products. It’s not an accident that savvy marketers embed social sharing icons in their e-mails and explicitly ask subscribers to become fans or access promotional tabs on a branded Facebook page. YesMail Interactive’s new study, titled Using Digital Market Intelligence to Drive Multi-Channel Success, argues “with each email message a brand sends out, its customer social engagement grows exponentially. Based on a study of email, activity for 20 leading retail brands, “we discovered a remarkable relationship that provides measurable data supporting the claim that multi-channel marketing consistently delivers better results.” According to the YesMail, Facebook engagement grew 50% when a email was deployed and 100% when a second email was sent in time and in synch with a Facebook initiative. In response to this finding they recommend these synergistic tactics: Deploy a promotional email with share buttons Launch on a Tuesday, Facebook’s most engaging day. For younger (A 18-34) audiences post at 10p-12a (ET) for maximum engagement Include a photo or video to optimize response Explicitly tell consumers what they should do and, if possible, offer an incentive. Email drives social engagement for brands. It’s not that surprising. Brand engagement in social platforms is not a natural or an organic thing. Social media is about connecting with friends and family. Most brand fans only visit a brand page once; usually to like or sign up for something. Only 9% of all Facebook likes are for brands, so the social relationship is tepid as a standalone channel. And given the fact that no more than 16% of brand posts get through to fan’s Newsfeeds, marketers need a breakthrough-striking tool to activate their fan bases. Just don’t tell Zuckerberg who thinks Facebook is everything.
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Open Questions About the Open Graph Facebook’s Open Graph has potential but is problematic. The risks or benefits of gathering and connecting data streams from across the web through the Facebook platform still isn’t clear to most marketers. The technology play puts Facebook at the center of data streams that will soon rival Epsilon, Equifax, Experian, Transunion or FICO. Soon Facebook will collect, hold and be able to slice and dice huge amounts of personal and behavioral data on hundreds of millions of individuals. The marketing potential and the privacy problems are obvious. The value proposition is even more problematic when you realize that Facebook is not a benign player. They intend to dominate database marketing by controlling the inputs and merchandizing the outputs. Seen through this lens there are two perspectives on the value and vulnerabilities of the Open Graph. White Hat Scenario Facebook the beneficent creates a technology platform to gather and stream information across all platforms. The evolution of the Social Graph into the Open Graph enables brands to track, engage and interact with consumers in many places. This begun with the migration of the Like button and continues to include actions done on 3rd party apps and on branded websites. Open Graph promises to take millions of unknown and undifferentiated brand fans and turn them into targetable segments, effective advocates and viral ambassadors that will penetrate new markets and build measurable connections between social interactions and sales. Open Graph aspires to be the universal social CRM tool that allows brands to monetize their fans and friends of friends. In Brian Solis’ terms, Open Graph will enable “retention to become the new acquisition.” No longer confined to Facebook, a brand now can capture and leverage word-of-mouth advocacy and brand loyalty across platforms. By connecting friends with friends and alerting friends about the interests and actions of their friends, brands build a referral network, which, when activated, is more impactful, more credible and more responsive than all other forms of advertising. Using this network gets a brand more content reach than the measly 16% that brands can expect on their branded Facebook page. The benefits of using the Open Graph are extended reach and credibility, broader and more nuanced access to the Facebook audiences they’ve already accumulated and cues for targeting Facebook ads better. Black Hat Scenario Facebook insidiously created the rope for brands to hang themselves. By connecting with customers and prospects through Facebook, brands cut Facebook into traffic and relationships they might not otherwise get. Since more real interaction takes place on branded websites than Facebook pages, Open Graph allows Facebook to bogart brand engagement by collecting data on its platform and on everyone else’s. Once collected, Facebook the beneficent will sell brands access to their own data using targeting tools derived from their own data sets. They will guarantee better results since they already filter content aimed at brand fans and keep access and reach artificially low. But for an additional investment in Sponsored Stories, Facebook will offer more impactful ads that work harder than regular Facebook ads or digital display ads. Once you buy into the Open Graph, Facebook has your data and your marketing budget by the short hairs. Today there isn’t enough Open Graph campaign data to make a judgment call. Facebook is mounting an effort to reach out to brands and agencies to orient them to the potential of the Open Graph and bring them into their ecosystem. But details of this “Shipyard” initiative are still sketchy. Facebook needs to capture this conversation quickly before it’s rivals derail their plans. They understand that Facebook’s developers are focusing on the data while most brand marketers are still trying to get their heads around the fundamental dynamics of social media engagement. The battle won’t be joined and the true scenario won’t get played out until brands and Facebook get onto the same page.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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