Is smart use of Facebook saving the Labour Party 90k per month?

It’s not often that we’re grateful there’s a general election in the offing, but this week it’s provided an absolutely fantastic example of the power of Facebook, when it’s used smartly. The example comes from one of our UK political parties, but the principles absolutely apply to any organisation.

Initially, my eye was caught by a story about the Conservative Party spending over a hundred thousand pounds per month on various advertising and promotional activities on Facebook.

Invoices obtained by the BBC apparently show spends of £122,814 in September 2014, and £114,956 in November:

(Click the image for the full story on the BBC website).

So clearly, that’s a lot of money, but that’s not the really interesting thing about the article. Further down, a digital expert who’s quoted as currently working with the Labour Party on their online marketing, says

“I understand that the Labour party has been spending less than £10,000 a month on its own Facebook presence”.

Now, the spin provided in the article is simply that Labour spend less because they don’t have the resources that the Tories do, due to being linked with fewer (they imply) evil millionaire megalomaniacs stroking white cats in their mountain lairs. Or something.

But then I remembered something that had been very viral in my personal Facebook feed lately, and wondered if possibly the story was slightly different.

I wondered if, perhaps,  the Labour party don’t NEED to spend anything like that amount, because they’ve come up with a clever way to use Facebook which ensures that their content spreads organically, AND they are able to collect voters’ email addresses (one of the elements that there was a line item for in the Conservatives’ invoice) without any additional cost.

Maybe some of you have seen this in your Facebook feed? It’s been anonymised to protect the privacy of the originator:

Clicking on that newsfeed item takes the user to a website which looks like this:

Are you seeing how this is working, yet?

Person A publishes their “how many people have my name” result, and it appears in Person B’s feed, because they are Facebook friends.

Person B fancies getting their result, so clicks on the newsfeed item. On arrival at the website, they’re invited to hand over some minimal but important personal information*, and once they have “their” number, they are able to post that back into their own Facebook feed.

Whereupon, presumably, persons C and D notice it and decide to click and…you get the idea. Viral in its purest form.

And because it’s organic (ie, friends are sharing it with each other, voluntarily, through their news feeds) it won’t be costing a penny. There will almost certainly have been some initial spend in order to get the ball rolling – presumably where that 10k per month comes in – but unlike the Conservatives, Labour aren’t reliant on putting the pounds constantly into the top of the Facebook slot machine in order to get those all important email addresses out of the bottom.

The perfect viral storm on Facebook

All credit to the Labour party here, they have thought through every aspect of this process, and exploited the Facebook environment perfectly.

The basic concept (finding out how many people with your name are registered to vote) is simple but clearly catchy enough for many people to bother engaging with.

The website is carefully designed so that you fill in your details as quickly as possible in order to get your result.

And the graphics and text which go back into the user’s newsfeed with their result, speaks directly to the next batch of contacts (“How common is your name?“, not “I found out how common my name is” or something similar).

Impressive, right?

*re that personal information: here’s the small (really quite small) print from the bottom of that webpage. Assuming you read beyond the big red “get your number” button because, yeah, we all do, right?!

Simple, powerful, unique

If this one example isn’t enough to convince anyone out there of the kind of power that clever use of Facebook can unleash, nothing will.  Let’s look at the resources used:  A simple, one page website capable of collecting some basic information. A feed from publicly available electoral roll data. Some creativity to tap into people’s curiousity about themselves and their names. And access to the single biggest concentration of UK citizens, and their social ties, that has ever existed.

UK Social Media Statistics for 2015

The turkey’s eaten and the tinsel’s down (although we’ll be eating chocolate until June), so it must be time for our annual roundup of UK specific Social Media Statistics. Which sites are doing what as we head into 2015? Who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s just generally losing it?!

UK Social Media in 2015

In general, what we’re seeing from many organisations is much less in the way of dismissive “social media is trivial” stuff and a more positive view of whether it’s relevant for professional businesses. This is good news for both us and them! Even better, we get more enquiries where people are really starting to question *how* social media fits in to what they do.

Now, the numbers. As in previous years, we’ve  tried to ferret out the best data we can find for you on user numbers, trends, and demographics for social media in the UK.

And as in previous years, it’s been an absolute *&!^ing headache. Only more so. As the social media industry grows, ironically it gets harder and harder to find convincing, properly credited data for what’s actually going on with the usage of the various sites.

The sites themselves are absolutely shocking at releasing any kind of detail (at least, to the general public); if things are going well, we might just get a “X million user milestone globally” headline. Which is not a lot of help to anyone outside the US, as the US makes up such a dominant portion of the user base.

Sites which used to provide reasonably regular and reliable data, such as Comscore and Socialbakers, have either not updated their content for years, or are increasingly monetising it so that it’s only available to paying subscribers. Which is understandable, but again not much help to general marketers. In fact, it’s been so difficult to find ANY detailed data that we were tempted to end this post here, with an appeal to Twitter, Pinterest et al to get some analysis done and share it with us poor marketers!

So for what it’s worth, here are the few bits and pieces we have managed to put together, together with a little commentary on wider trends / changes affecting social media use for businesses in the UK this year.

Sources are noted at the end of the article.

UK Facebook Statistics 2015

Facebook is the one site where we’re pretty confident of the reason we’re not seeing much user data: very likely because there aren’t any stellar growth figures to announce. Where figures are being shared, they are there or thereabouts the same as last year; somewhere between 30 and 33 million.   Statista.com gives a figure of just over 30 million for the middle of last year.

A 2014 Ofcom report notes that Facebook remains the default social networking site for almost all UK adults who are online – 96%.

Some types of organisation who were initially a little slow off the mark, though, are now thriving on Facebook. The most obvious example of this is football clubs; Manchester United and Chelsea are now right at the top of the biggest fan page league for the UK, reflecting the huge leaps they’ve made in feeding their fans’ hunger for behind the scenes information.

From a business marketing point of view, the big change during 2014 wasn’t anything to do with user numbers or types, though: it was the ongoing changes to the News Feed Algorithm, which have made building a genuinely interested, qualified audience from Day 1 absolutely vital. Any organisation using Facebook should now be expecting to spend cold hard cash on it as a communications channel, and if that audience was poorly targeted, they might as well be chucking the £ notes straight down the dunny.

UK Pinterest Statistics 2014

We’re REALLY disappointed with Pinterest for not getting any numbers out there last year, particularly because it the last batch of data (mid 2013) was showing around 2 million for the UK, a real explosion on the previous data set. We have a ton of anecdotal evidence, and some data from our own clients, suggesting that the user base has grown significantly again since then…but we can’t prove it.

We know that the user base is disproportionately female (over 70%), uniquely among the big social media sites. We also know that Pinterest is a strong driver for conversion traffic (users who are likely to buy when they click through to your website) and that those conversions tend to be of higher value than for other social sites.

Meanwhile, a ton of new and useful features have arrived, including Analytics for business users,  and Pinterest’s advertising offering, Promoted Pins. For any brand with a strongly female purchasing base, and good visual content, Pinterest remains a great place to be. We just wish they’d tell us HOW great.

UK Twitter Statistics 2015

For a minute here we thought we had some better news on the data front here. An emarketer report has some (slightly dated) hard numbers, plus forecasts which would bring us up to date.

But. They are predicting  one quarter of UK internet users on Twitter by the start of 2015. ONS data tells us that there were 38 million adults online in the middle of 2014, so that would give us a figure in the region of …9.5 million. Which is significantly less than Twitter’s own figures given at the end of 2013, which stated 15 million UK users. *Sigh*.

There is, though, at least a bit of a breakdown on who those users are. And here it is!

 

UK LinkedIn Statistics 2015

OK so we’re not always huge fans of LinkedIn, but on user data they get to go straight to the top of the class. Thankyou, LinkedIn.

Right where you’d expect it (on the company blog), there’s a lovely update telling us not just that the 15 million user mark was passed in 2014, but also some interesting nuggets about who those users are, which sectors are most strongly represented, and even which of the UK regions they come from.

As they’ve already put it into a pretty infographic, we’re just going to send you straight there. Here it is: who are the UK’s 15 million LinkedIn Users.

UK Instagram Users 2015

The big news for Instagram this year is that the site overtook Twitter in terms of global users – 300 million on Instagram, as against around 280 million for Twitter. So d’you think they’d like to share with us how many of those users are in the UK? You guessed it….no.

What else do we know? Well, that 90% of users are under 35, and again a high proportion are female. They’re also more likely to live in urban areas than rural ones.

Obviously that global number is a big deal, and a huge achievement for Instagram. It’s also a bit of a challenge for businesses, many of whom are now wondering whether they should prioritise Instagram over Twitter. The short answer to that is “probably not”, and the longer answer can be found here .

Sources used for this post include:

BusinessInsider.com

Socialbakers.com

IBtimes.com

Statista.com

Emarketer.com

Why IPad giveaways on Facebook are a bad idea

All these people would like an ipad. Does that make them potential customers?

 

Last week, I was sitting in a traffic jam on one of London’s major roads. To my left is a huge development under way, several high rise blocks being clad in shiny glass and steel.

And around the outside of the site hoardings, a bright banner advertising off plan sales of the new apartments, and inviting me to “follow {the developer} on Facebook to win an IPad!”.

That developer isn’t alone, by any means; most weeks I notice more than one advert offering a similar “bribe”, in magazines, window posters, or even on Facebook or Twitter.

Those companies are not just using their Facebook Competition in a really lazy, poorly thought out way, but they’re actively making trouble and expense for themselves further down the line. Here’s why.

What’s the point of a Facebook Giveaway?

Back to basics, why does anyone give stuff away on Facebook? Unless they’ve woken up one morning blocked into their house by a mountain of unwanted IPads, it’s because they want to attract people to Like their Facebook page.

But that’s where it starts to go wrong. In fact, MOST companies don’t really want “people” to Like their Facebook page; they want potential customers to Like their Facebook page.

How big the gap is between “people” and “potential customers” does depend to an extent on what your product or service is. If you’re selling multi million pound yachts (or expensive flats in London), it’s pretty big. If you’re selling crisps, it’s smaller – although some people may not particularly like crisps, yours might be so great that they do like them, and at least it’s fair to say that most people have a use for them (eating) and can afford them.

Most companies though, aren’t making FMCG products.

So what those companies are actually doing, every time they have some kind of generic giveaway, is building a big audience of people who like IPads. Great if you’re Apple, less so if you’re building apartments.

And as building that audience is just step one of the process, they then have a hard time keeping that audience engaged; after a few posts about yachts or flats, the “Un-Like” statistics will start going in entirely the wrong direction.

And then the bills start

But as I said at the beginning, there’s even worse news if you’ve built an audience that way. A year or two back, you’d have just wasted the money you spent on that IPad, and probably seen your hard earned audience dwindle over time. Since the Facebook News Feed algorithm changes though, it’s actually going to cost you money to get your posts in front of all those people who are never going to buy your product.

We know that “organic” (free, to you and I) reach has been decimated since the end of last year, so paying Facebook, at least some of the time, to get your Posts out there, is a necessary evil. That’s one thing if you know that your audience is a relevant and receptive one. As soon as you run a “generic” giveaway, you’re building up a mix of “people” and “potential customers” – and there’s no way to separate those once you have to start paying to reach them.

How to improve your Facebook giveways by 100%

To avoid this, businesses need to be a LOT more strategic in their choice of giveaway. In fact, the best possible giveaway item is one that will appeal to the FEWEST people -  but those people who absolutely love your product or service.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Going back to my developer, they could have offered the same value as the IPad, but in free conveyancing on your flat purchase. Completely useless to anyone not considering buying one of those flats, but very valuable to anyone who is.

Giving away your own product, or something very closely related to it (like the conveyancing) is usually the best place to start with a giveaway – not only does it guarantee that the Likers are keen on what you do, it’s also likely to have a lower direct cost to you than buying someone else’s product! It’s also a good idea to think about the things you can provide that money can’t usually buy. For example, rather than just giving away tickets to your event or show, provide some VIP privileges along with them.

So, start thinking smarter about what you can offer that will attract your die hard fans. It’ll make the world of difference.

The ONE thing that you must do on Facebook as a local business

There’s a really helpful research piece recently released by US Agency GO Digital, looking at a number of aspects of increasing sales through Facebook – we’ve put a link in at the bottom of this post and recommend that everyone running a local business (restaurant, shop, hotel etc) take a look through it.

But there’s one finding that REALLY stood out for us. The number one thing that potential customers want from you on Facebook, in order to help them decide to buy. It’s not zany, amazing content. It’s not having a huge army of Likers.

What’s the most important thing about a Facebook Page for your customers?

It’s customer reviews.

Why? Before a customer has experienced what you offer, they don’t really trust you. They’d quite like to believe what you’re telling them about your amazingly comfortable rooms or your incredible cocktails, but, well, you would say that, wouldn’t you.

They need to hear it from others who don’t have anything to gain or lose from their buying decision.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Consumers are constantly looking to increase the amount of information they have access to before they make a decision, even a relatively small one like where to eat out at the weekend.

They can get your opening times from your website (we hope!). They might find your insights into the business helpful, and they’d certainly love a special offer or two. But the one thing they really want to know is, am I going to like this. And often the only way to predict that is to see who else likes it, too.

Get those comments rolling in

So every Page in the Local Business category automatically gets a Reviews box, whether they like it or not (and plenty don’t). Unless you’re doing a terrible job at what you do and manage to really upset a customer, though, it’s unlikely to get a huge amount of use. You need to encourage customers to use it.

There are lots of ways of doing that, but they mainly fall into two categories: incentives, and opportunism.

Incentives are easy: you offer a small gift, preferably one which is more valuable to the customer than it is costly to you, in return for them reviewing you. So for a restaurant, you might offer a free glass of wine on their next visit. A hotel could offer a room upgrade if there’s availability, to their most active reviewers. And so on.

Opportunism requires a little more thought, and is all about timing:  giving the customer something to do in “dead” time.  The last thing you want to do is rely on a customer remembering to go to your Facebook page and give a review once they’ve finished interacting with you; unless their experience is extraordinarily, life changingly good or bad they are generally going to forget about you as they walk out the door, or at least by the time they get home.

Most people these days will have a smart phone on them, most of the time. So, if you’re a restaurant, why not give them a small card with a QR code leading to your Facebook page, and a request to review their experience, while they are waiting for the bill? Likewise in a hotel reception, have a big banner next to where people queue for checkout, or put cards on the nightstands. This alone should lead to a big increase in reviews, and coupled with an incentive will skyrocket them!

So, there’s how to make sure that any potential customer visiting your Page has access to exactly what they want in order to make a buying decision. The rest of the research is below, and there are plenty more gems in there too!