If You Say "Facebook is Not a Direct Sales Tool" You're Not Using It Correctly

September 4, 2014

If You Say Facebook is Not a Direct Sales Tool You're Not Using it Correctly

If you still say "Facebook is not a direct sales tool" you're not using it correctly. And you don't understand how the marketing world has dramatically changed.

At a recent arts conference there were evidently some sessions where presenters said "Facebook doesn't sell tickets" or "we just use Facebook for branding and awareness."  

We are in a new world where social storytelling and smart digital targeting are cornerstones of marketing. And those organizations that don't know how to do it are going to keep falling further and further behind. Spreading this misinformation is just going to keep our sector amongst the dinosaurs who think we can keep interrupting our way to ticket sales by buying traditional media.

At our consultancy we've run hundreds of Facebook campaigns that deliver ROIs from 100% to over 1000%. Facebook is, at least right now, a near perfect environment for arts marketers. Over 70% of US internet users have a Facebook account (57% of users age 50-64 btw) and more than half of users log in daily. Facebook is a visual medium. The targeting capabilities are unmatched and every click, view and interaction can be measured and tied directly back to sales so you can constantly be optimizing and improving your campaigns. Also, Facebook is one of the most effective places to reach users on mobile. In our smart phone obsessed world one out of every five seconds on a smartphone is spent on Facebook. Reread that.

A few rules must be followed to be successful. Please pay attention here, doubters:

1. You have to invest.
If you don't spend money on Facebook you won't make money on Facebook. Each organic (non-sponsored) post, at best, will reach around 5% of fans. Whether you think that's fair or not, Facebook has the audience and you need to pay to reach them. Just like the newspaper used to. Most arts orgs are severely underfunding the medium. For some large NYC organizations we can easily spend $5,000 per week and see a 3-10x return. So spending $20 here and there won't cut it. This is a serious revenue generating platform for your organization so fund it like you used to fund the newspaper.

2. You have to measure.
Most who say "Facebook doesn't return" are not properly measuring results. Set up Facebook conversion tracking on your website so you can tie everything back to ticket sales. Set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for every campaign. For example, if your campaign objective is increased brand awareness and acquisition, then your primary KPIs should be engagement (likes, comments, shares, photo clicks, video views) and site visits; conversions (sales) in this example are a secondary KPI.

3. Do not "boost posts."
Boosting is for lazy marketers. It's like sending an email "blast" to your full list and a list of email addresses you illegally purchased instead of taking the time for deep segmenting. Get to know the Ads Manager interface and all the amazing ways to target users including remarketing, uploading email addresses, and lookalike targeting, as well as deeply segmented interest/demo targeting.

4. In most cases, do not buy likes.
If you are appropriately sponsoring strong content the likes will come. Buying likes is wasting money, because you will eventually have to pay again to reach these people (see #1 above). Also this tactic often results in less engaged fans (versus someone who liked you because they saw a piece of engaging content).

5. Use thumb-stopping imagery.
You must invest in strong photography, videography and other imagery. Otherwise you're wasting your time. The most scarce commodity is attention. Without good images or video you're not going to get anyone to pay attention to you. Also use the proper image dimensions. This image is one of the best thumb-stoppers ever:

Jacob's Pillow

6. Write pithy text with a clear voice and strong CTA.

Like this:

Jazz at Lincoln Center


7. Use the 70/30 rule
70% of posts should be non-sales messages. Do these correctly and you earn the right to post 30% sales messages. Your 70% posts must be deeply engaging. The best ones elicit a human emotion. Think about how you read Facebook. Perhaps taking a break from work. Or at home on your couch watching TV. What's going to get you to pay attention? I'm not saying this is easy, but it's critical.

Like this:

Lincoln Center

And this:

Jacob's Pillow

Is this all easy? No. It takes long-term planning and strategic investment in the right people, the right training and the budgets to support transitioning an arm of your marketing department into a media company that produces compelling content.

Want to see it done well? Here are some arts orgs to watch:

Jacob's Pillow
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Lincoln Center
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
New York City Ballet

Western Union quote hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk.

Social Media Strategy


Erik Gensler
Capacity Interactive

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