In this episode of Copper State of Mind, Abbie Fink and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk about business communication on Facebook and whether the platform is still relevant in 2022.
Read Abbie Fink's blog post for this episode: "How to Grow Your Brand on Facebook"
If you enjoyed this episode, check out the PRGN Presents podcast, hosted by Abbie Fink, featuring conversations about PR, marketing, and communications with members of the Public Relations Global Network, "the world’s local public relations agency.”
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Copper State of Mind is a project of HMA Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm in Phoenix.
The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B podcast network in Arizona.
There was a time not so many years ago when social media was almost synonymous with Facebook. It was the platform that had gained the most traction, that had grown the fastest and the biggest, and had begun to dominate the social media landscape. Now it's 2022, and is Facebook still the one platform to rule them all or have things changed in the way we communicate? Here to talk about this is Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations. Abbie, how are you? What's on your mind?Abbie Fink:
Well, I'm doing great. Thanks. It's interesting when you talk about Facebook. It really was the be-all, end-all when we first got excited about doing social media. We talked last time about LinkedIn being a very focused business-to-business platform, but Facebook was this place where individually we could connect with old high school friends, college friends. We thought we could talk with celebrities and things who had pages. It really started as this place for person-to-person exchange, and you really did know most of the people you were interacting with in Facebook. It was this big class reunion kind of feel. Then as businesses started to see how many people were paying attention to it and were engaging on it, smart for Facebook, they started thinking about ways for it to become more of a business platform as well. But is it still that way? I think that, like any good strategy, you have to keep evaluating it and looking at it and determining if it's still a good place for you to be. The numbers would net out to the answer yes, it's still relevant. It still needs to be something you think about. But as we've talked about, it's not just a numbers game. We have to figure out what those numbers represent, who are those individuals, what are they doing with the content that's on there, to determine whether or not Facebook is a good place for you to be. And if it is, how are you going to use it to elevate your brand, grow your audience, not just how many numbers come to your page, but really what those numbers do with the information that you're sharing.Adrian McIntyre:
I think this is a really good opportunity to remind everyone that there are numbers and there are numbers. Take radio, for example, traditional over-the-air radio, FM and AM. There are sales representatives out there right now selling time on the radio, just as there have been for the last 80 years, and they will tell you numbers about the listenership on that station. When you really drill into those numbers, however, you begin to realize that just because those numbers, which may be accurate for the total listeners, and they may be accurate even segmented by drive time, for example, but they're not necessarily there to listen to your 30- second spot. The numbers are being driven by a few high-profile syndicated shows. And if you're thinking of having your own radio show, you may not get that listenership, even if the station itself is able to demonstrate those numbers according to what used to be called Arbitron ratings and are now Nielsen ratings and so on. So just because Facebook, like any platform, still has the largest number of monthly users or daily users doesn't mean those people are there for your stuff, and you have to begin to develop some nuance in thinking about, are we in the right place with the right message for the right folks at the right time, the things that professional communicators are in the business of. Abbie, how has your personal use of Facebook evolved over the years?Abbie Fink:
That's a really good question. It has changed tremendously in terms of the way that I did... It was almost exclusively personal for me when I first started. It was to connect with friends or family. It was to be able to see photos of friends' kids, or whatever it would be. It really was, like we all joked about, what I had for breakfast this morning was the big news of the day. For me personally, it has evolved to be a little bit more of my platform, if you will, to share some of the things that I believe in and some of the messages that I personally want to share, not so much political messages or things like that, but things that are important to me, that shape who I am as an individual. I use it to guide conversations over to my business page. If I've shared something on the HMA Public Relations Facebook page that I think is interesting and relevant and might be of interest to the people that are on my personal page, I do a little bit of sharing that way. But I have really decided... If you create your own strategy, personal strategy, for how you're going to handle your social media, my personal strategy is about using it predominantly for my personal opinions and what I want to share, but recognizing that I am linked with my business profile and that Abbie is associated with the company, I have to be careful about what I talk about and that I make sure that it aligns with the other things that we do from a business perspective. But from a business side of things, you're absolutely correct, there are millions of pieces of content being shared on Facebook each and every day. Millions of people all over the world are using Facebook, and with some fashion. It's too big of an audience to say, "I want to be on Facebook," that that is not the end of the conversation. We really have to think about the tools and processes that Facebook provides to us, to customize the messaging, to really narrow down the focus, to really look at demographics, to look at time of day, share a voice, the things that... You mentioned buying radio. You still think about, "What time of the day do I want to be on? Who am I trying to reach?" Facebook has a lot of opportunities to be able to that. One word we talk about all the time is strategy. What is your strategy going to be for incorporating Facebook into your marketing communications strategy? Facebook in and of itself isn't a strategy. It is a tool in your overall communications toolbox that you can use, and deserves to get the kind of attention. It's an investment, not necessarily because you're going to put money behind it, but you definitely have to invest the time to make it work for you and be successful for you.Adrian McIntyre:
It's become so much of a nuanced play. One thing we absolutely have to encourage everyone to do is get in there for yourself, both as yourself and as your business, and really start to engage and discover what is happening now, because what is happening now is very different, and has changed many times significantly. We could wax nostalgic, and I could tell you about how I opened my first Facebook... My first Facebook post was in October 2006. I was still a graduate student, so I had access to it before the general public with my university address, and how things have changed over time from when you were posting on friends' walls, and everybody saw everything, to what it is today. But that doesn't help anybody. The point is now you've got to understand the nuance, and the nuance includes things that are unique to Facebook, and that continue to be valuable if executed correctly. Facebook groups, for example, are still a very valuable way... There's features available in the groups product that are not available anywhere else on the platform, and can, depending, again, on your goals, your messaging, your methods, et cetera, can provide a place of real engagement. Having said that, and working closely with several small businesses who struggle to get engagement on the platform, having a group with one to 2,000 people in it, who chose to be in it, doesn't mean that even 20% of them are seeing what admins are posting in the group. So there's give and take. Finding that way to use the platform as it evolves is really important. Years ago, people were hand-wringing a lot about the decline in organic reach for pages. It used to be everyone saw what you posted on your page. Now almost nobody sees what you post on your page, unless you're putting some ad spend behind it to boost or distribute through other channels. But that's a valid strategy if it's the right thing for you.Abbie Fink:
It goes down to the... This is not a... Well, I'm going to say it's not a numbers game. It is, but it's not. It's not about how many people so much as who are the people and what are they doing, and so what you do to engage with those people that you want. Facebook groups is maybe one of the most unique and maybe the most beneficial in terms of creating engagement. I'm in a few of them myself. Some of the ones that I am in, I went to a website to look for information, I got what I needed, but an option was "Join our Facebook group to join with others, like-minded people," whatever, however they push me over there. And the dialogue that's happening in those Facebook groups is consumer to consumer. "I use a product. I don't know, can I do this with it? Can I do that? Has anybody tried, anybody experienced?" In a different way than you would if I was putting something in the chat box that's on the company's website, which will get me back a very solid answer, but it's the corporate response, versus if I'm in a group with you and I post a question, and Adrian responds as an actual user of the product and tells me what his experiences were, it's a very different way of doing it. Now, those are monitored and managed. You don't just set it and forget it. It still has to have something. You want the dialogue to be kind and forward-thinking and respectful, so you want to have some rules around what you do so you don't get inappropriate information being shared. But it allows the business to still operate publicly. They've got their website, they may have their traditional Facebook page, but they've created this point of entry for their consumers to engage with each other, and acts as that trust factor. This is a group that all came together. We would be sitting around the kitchen table chatting about something; we're doing it in this online space. Yes, you can monetize some of these things. You can add some dollars behind it to boost the post, so it appears in front of people and increases your chances of being seen, and all the back end that happens there. But content still needs to be good. There still needs to be a reason for people to engage with it. You want them to do something with the information that they're seeing, whether that's... You asked me before we got online, what do I think... What can it be used for? I think it's become an incredible tool for advocacy and for fundraising and for putting out information and asking people to take action in an immediate way. I saw an interesting post. I clicked for more information. I believe in this cause. I'm going to make a donation, or I'm going to sign up for... or whatever that might be. There's this real opportunity for some instantaneous response. Watching it and paying attention to it, it moves quick by comparison with LinkedIn, that lingers a little bit longer because it's not a fast-moving platform. In the time that we've been on today, there's probably been 25,000, 30,000 posts in our circle, between all the groups that we are in. That's incredibly difficult to maintain as a consumer of it. But as a social media manager or the person that's responsible for it, you have to pay attention to where that conversation is taking, who's responding to it, what are you doing with it, and using it to create the connection from a business perspective to your brand. I don't see it... I don't see that purpose changing. I think it will still be there for that. As consumers, as users of Facebook, we control so much of how we choose to interact with it. From a marketing standpoint, we have to recognize that the consumer has all the control in that platform.Adrian McIntyre:
That's a very important point. I think most people don't realize the extent to which what you see in your own News Feed is a reflection of the actions you have taken on the app and on the broader internet, although there have been some changes in regulations, and certainly the iOS 14 update changed some of the reporting of data that allowed Facebook to do some of the more advanced things that were happening in the background. But what happens is you view a website that you're interested in, and Facebook will adjust what you're seeing, not only because there are retargeting ads, so that website's ads will show up in your feed, that's obvious, but there's less obvious things. You like certain types of posts, you engage in certain groups, you use certain words, and what you're seeing reflected back to you is a reflection of who you are. This can be an uncomfortable realization for people who would like to blame the platform and call the platform toxic. I will agree that there has been a proliferation of toxic content on the platform, and we may see some. I don't know, I don't have a very clear crystal ball, but we may see some further conversations about this as antitrust investigations and things get into some of what's been going on over the last five years or so. Fine. We'll watch that as it happens. But please know that what you're seeing reflected back to you is a byproduct of what you have, in fact, done. Your Facebook feed, Abbie, and my Facebook feed are different. Although you and I are like-minded on a number of things, we're probably not on many, many other things, and we don't have the same experience on Facebook. It's something that a business needs to really grapple with. Yes, it's an echo chamber. People see more of what they like. Socially, is that good or bad? Let's set that aside for a second. I think that's a valid question, but that's not really what we're here to talk about. Practically, be in the echo chambers of the people who resonate with your message and create content that gets them emotionally engaged. Please do it responsibly. But as you suggested, I think, we have to acknowledge that social media in general, and Facebook in particular, have become very, very good at working with our basest emotions. The whole entire platform has essentially been constructed that way.Abbie Fink:
As a consumer, we voluntarily put ourselves on Facebook. We'll talk about the other platforms in the weeks ahead. But we create an account, we log in, we post our whatever information, our breakfast pictures, or we went to this movie, or whatever it is we've chosen to do. This is a voluntary action. And for Facebook to remain, and really any of these platforms to remain, at no cost to entry... To participate in there, there's no cost. The only way for it to remain that way is... They have figured out how to monetize it for the business side of things, to support it financially, so that you and I as consumers can access it. It is a bit uncomfortable sometimes when you and I are talking about an XYZ product, and 20 minutes later, it almost appears out of nowhere into my feed, but it isn't. The way that we interact with the technology and such, that's not going to change. That's not going to go away. But I do think, as you said, there are going to be additional regulations, for lack of a better word, on what businesses should and can do with the information that they're looking at. The minute you go onto a search engine to find something, you can rest assured you will learn about that and all of the competitive products within hours the next time you go online. It is the way that it works. As a marketer, I'm fascinated by the way that works and the information that we can glean from it. As a consumer, sometimes it's a little freaky. "Oh, how did they know?" Well, because I just did it. I told them how to know how to find me. We've talked about this in the past, about being responsible. As a business utilizing social media, there's a responsibility to it in how we interact with it. I also think as a user of it, we have some responsibility to it as well. Choose appropriately what you engage with. Determine what you're going to like. You can see something in your feed without having to click the like button. You can still look at it. You can still see the URL to go to a website without clicking from Facebook to do it. You can go on your own independently to do that. There's a lot of ways to manage that. Those are all being tracked. Those are all part of the statistical information that marketers want to see, is how much came from a particular platform, but we control how we manage this as a consumer. One of the things I want to... For me, all of our social media platforms that are in existence right now, and those that may have gone by the wayside, and those that are still yet to come, at this particular juncture, they are all voluntary in terms of participation. You can set your own rules and guidelines for how you're going to choose to do them and how you're going to interact with them and what you choose to share. Businesses are supporting it through their advertising dollars. And there is, to some extent, some inherent permission that comes with that, that I'm going to learn what I can from the people that are using this product and see how I can market my product to you. There's no reason for that not to happen. I think we can all agree that, from a business perspective, this platform is valuable. With vast majority of individuals having access to it in some fashion, it's too big to ignore it. It's too big to not have it be part of your strategy. How you do it, how you use it to grow your brand, how you use it to engage with your audience, that all becomes part of the strategic discussions that you have with your team, and who's responsible for it, putting not just the money behind it, but a real thought process about what we're going to share, and why, and what actions we expect to have happen, and what we will do with that once it does. That's not platform specific; that's across any of them. When we do that responsibly, we can use something like Facebook to really grow our business and grow our interactions, and see some success as a result of coming from this interface that we have with our consumers,Adrian McIntyre:
Let's talk specifically, as we turn towards the practical execution here in our final few minutes, about some of the features that business owners and their social media teams need to keep experiencing, keep playing with, keep testing, so that you have informed opinions about their utility rather than just something you got from reading headlines. Of course, we've talked about the distinction between your personal profile and your business page. That should be obvious to most folks by now. You need a business page to be able to unlock some of the business features, including the advertising platform, which still remains the most nuanced and potentially effective advertising marketplace available anywhere. But again, it takes some understanding of the targeting and the messaging in order to pull that off. So you've got your page. You've got groups. Groups are interesting and relevant, and can, especially around communities or causes, be very, very robust places for conversation with like-minded folks or folks committed to something similar to you. You've also got Messenger, and that is an instant communication tool which can be integrated with your website, can also work across platform with Instagram and so on. Of course, we should also acknowledge what maybe is obvious for those following along. Facebook acquired Instagram a number of years ago, and then acquired WhatsApp. Really, the three primary direct communication tools that are not SMS messaging are Facebook products. Within that ecosystem, I'll also add in there's a lot of frustrating things that have taken place as this evolved, because they used to have a Business Manager that then evolved into Business Suite, and you've got Creative... I forget what it's called now. Anyway, so do I make my posts in the Business Manager or in the creative platform or in the app itself on my phone? There's some practical tactical annoyances here, because as it has proliferated, the complexity has proliferated as well. But you need to understand the specifics of these different tools, these different tactics. Just having an opinion like, "Well, Facebook's not relevant anymore," is probably true for some applications and probably not true for something important to your business. So do some thoughtful inquiry and find out for yourself.Abbie Fink:
When you're developing a campaign strategy, a communication strategy, whatever it is... We want to raise $500,000 for our nonprofit organization, and we want to reach donors that are age such-and-such to such-and-such, who have the capacity to give at this level. We want them to be college educated. We want them to reside in urban areas in the United States. Okay, well, there we've narrowed it down. Now, how do we find those people? How do we market to those people? Is it an email campaign? Is it a website? Is it direct mail? Is it Facebook? All of those things. Facebook has demographic information available. It has a pretty robust and free analytic backend. If you are the business manager of the page, you can see a lot of where people are coming from, what posts they're engaging with, at what time are they doing that, what part of the country, what part of the world are they coming from. It's not about what can we create on Facebook. That's not the answer. It's all the other questions we need to ask, and then is Facebook, is Twitter, is Instagram, whatever it is, going to be the place that our audience that we're trying to reach resides? Then if it is, what do we do to make that platform work for us? As you said, there's lots of things within that that we can use to be able to do that. Unlike a lot of things that we have access to, social media as an entity allows us a lot of flexibility to make changes on the fly. If you produce a radio spot and you've got your flight of the next six weeks, and it's not working, you don't just quickly change that out. You've got to produce a new spot. You've got to get it back to the station. If your Facebook promotion isn't working, within an hour you can have something new you've created and load it back up there and get it going again, so it allows a lot of flexibility. You can test a lot of messages, subject lines, graphics. What does the photo look like? Should I be doing it over here, or should I be doing it over here? Is it this time of the day or that time of day? There's a lot of ways to use it that some other advertising platforms don't allow us to do, and really any other true marketing platforms. I can do a direct mail piece, and I've got to hope when it lands in your mailbox that you actually bothered to look at it before you put it in the recycle bin. I'll never really know until you bring it in or redeem it, or whatever the action is. Social media and the different platforms we have give us a real opportunity to modify, adjust, accommodate what's happening. Thinking about the analytics and what we can look at and what we can know about it from a marketing standpoint is tremendous. We don't have that in a lot of cases. Don't be so focused on any one of these platforms as the campaign. It's what are we going to talk about, and which one of these is going to be the best place for us to do that? It will evolve. All of these platforms are going to evolve. They have changed in the 10-plus years that most of us have had access to them. I suspect in 10 years, if we're still having this conversation, it's going to look a whole lot different than it does today. I don't think it's going away, and I think we just have to learn to use it and manage it appropriately for our own individual businesses.Adrian McIntyre:
One final thought that comes directly out of the point you just made, Abbie, is that with the increasing specificity of the targeting that's available on Facebook comes something that I think most businesses miss, which is the real opportunity there is not the way we used to think about things, where you create one campaign, one set of creative assets, the pictures and the words, and then you try to find the right audience for that creative by dialing down the targeting to specific areas. The real opportunity here, it is something that takes some effort, but it absolutely pays off, is to multiply the versions of the creative that you're running to specific demographics. For example, you can get hyper local and have cues in the copy or in the photo or in the video that indicate that... I happen to live in way north Phoenix, way up in Anthem. I could see an ad in my feed that said, "Hey, Anthem neighbor, XYZ," goes on like that, and I'm like, "Oh, this is for me." The same business could be running an ad that says, "Hey, Ahwatukee neighbor..." et cetera. Think about creating multiple campaigns, micro-campaigns, with creative that matches your targeting. That's where the real flourish and expertise and success can be found. You don't have to just take the one thing. You're not buying the radio spot or the full-page ad in the New York Times, or what have you. You really can create micro-campaigns, target them very narrowly to people that will resonate with whatever cues, could be geographical, could be identity based. You've got to be careful because there are rules about how much you can say about the identity of folks, but within those rules you can get quite nuanced and quite specific. So personalize it, micro-ize it. I don't think that's a word, but maybe it should be. Small-ify it, and then multiply the number of small, very laser-focused campaigns. That's where folks are finding great success.Abbie Fink:
All of that is bottom line for virtually any kind of strategy or any kind of campaign, is really taking it to the smallest common denominator that we are trying to reach and building it from there. Unlike any other platform that we have, social media gives us that opportunity. Facebook in particular is an easy point of entry. It's comfortable for the vast majority of people to be a part of it. If your business makes sense to be in this social space, Facebook is definitely something worth considering. There are tremendous opportunities to grow your brand on there, to interact with your consumers, and to really get down to that really one-to-one communication in a way that some of the other strategies may not be able to do.