Microsoft fluffs its Content App Sprightly

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If April came early, this would have been a nice joke. Microsoft released a content creation app called Sprightly on the Google Play store.

Initially I was mildly surprised that Microsoft Garage would incubate the concept for this app and release it as it is.

Now, it is billed as a really a tool for creating flyers, pricelist, catalog and eCards.

After I took it for a spin, I didn’t know what to say. I had to drown myself in absinthe and feast on rotted cheese to clear the memory of that experience.

I do not know what to say.

Microsoft isn’t the most creative company in the world. After a string of misses, they still do not understand what people want. Which makes me wonder if they are at all serious about content creation.

These are the folks who set the bar for Microsoft Office. Since then, they have wallowed in the mud, stepped on a few landmines and followed a sure path down hill.

Real World Applications

Why is Sprightly so bad?

Let’s say you wanted to create a catalog, of say four items to showcase on your instagram or Facebook page. The first thing you will realize is that you have no control over the cropping of your images, you have to crop your photo to the correct shape before using it on the template.

There are no tools to beautify the image either. So if you didn’t enhance your photo before you took it, you are pretty much fucked.

Then you have no creative control over the fonts used. It is as if the 21st century never happened. It has only ONE font option and you can have any color for that font as long as it is black.

Then you have the sad lack of creative layout for template choices.

I know. Microsoft is as creative as a culinary chef from McDonalds. They recycle ideas from the last century and hope you don’t notice but no one told them they got found out.

Content is all about Catching your Eye

This is where Microsoft gets it all wrong. By coming out with a vanilla grey Sprightly app, they think you should communicate in black and white.

The creative option is as rigid as adamantium. You can’t add borders, or for that matter use a different paper color. It is also is unable to make things attractive to the eye with creatively curated fonts.

All you do with the Sprightly app is to drop in a picture, fill in the descriptions and maybe the price and leave it at that. There is really nothing else you can do with it.

Is it simple to use?

Yes. If all you want is to drop a pix and add a price, yea. But that’s not to say that you can’t do this on other apps.

The multipage feature may sound brilliant but is hardly useful.

The flyer option is dead boring. How would you want an flyer that bores the hell out of people when you send it to them?

I suppose the idea behind this app is to integrate a host of services that Microsoft offers online but this addition is by no means cohesive.

You don’t fetch files from your skydrive or import excel files into your Sprightly document.

Maybe I am being harsh here after all, it is Version 1.0. Who knows what might happen with Version 2.

For now, I think that the app is probably suitable for the more geriatric members of Microsoft  who probably think that dropping a picture and adding a description is probably all you want to do when sending out a sales list or catalog.

As insane as it sounds, they might be right but I can assure you, the rest of us will disagree.

 

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Epic Fails in Social Media Content Marketing

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There was a time when Content for Social Media Management platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite and even Klout made sense in its hey day but not anymore.

The amount of effort (unpaid) that goes into creating content and then having no eyeballs to appreciate them is a reality we all have to deal with some day. You now have to get on board with all social platforms, be online 24/7 to answer queries and find the time to manage your real business while at it? That’s true too. Forget the hired hand who blogs for you. He won’t do it for free so that in itself is a cost factor.

All social media platforms will give away some freebies but these freebies do not always justify the effort you put into creating content for your followers.

Your efforts are bound to fail if you don’t want to understand that content marketing is like any other advertising or advertorial campaign that is backed up with plenty of ad spend. Here’s why.

Facebook Organic Reach is a Costly affair

Facebook is like the high class hooker from New York. If you don’t have the money then there is no honey. Social Media Management platform gurus will always tell you that you have to decide on your objective and strategy for Facebook but NEVER tell you that you need to budget lots of cash for this effort.

Yes, creating content takes effort. But signing up to a Social Media Management platform is not going to get you the eyeballs you need for branding of conversion success. The platforms cautiously omit telling you this as they want you to take the bait, hook, line and sinker before you realize that your budget isn’t enough for a year long campaign. How much does it cost? Let’s assume you are doing this on your own for a small business, spend probably US$100 a week on promoted post to your followers on Twitter and Facebook. That’s US$400 a month, and let’s throw in that package from Hootsuite, which at the lowest is US$120 a year. That’s about US$5,000 a year, excluding the cost of a hosted site. And this is just for a a small business. Let’s factor in a 3 fold ROI to justify that return on investment. You need to pull in US$15,000 in revenue returns to your small business to spend that sort of cash.

Facebook has zero organic reach. Twitter won’t give you the time of day too if you are not going to pay so signing up for a promoted tweet is a must.

People who start on Facebook do not understand that each post cost them money to show to your followers. These are the same blokes who liked you page in the past but come back to play candy crush with their online pals on Facebook. Do they notice the notifications on their menu? Nope. So the best way to reach them is to force feed a post onto their timeline.

Here is how Facebook wants your moolah.

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Every FB post (unpaid) to your followers will yield roughly 1 percent reach. That means if you have 1000 followers, you post will reach about 10 people per 1000 followers. To get your post on all their timelines, you have to spend money. Lots of it…and this is just to build awareness.

All FB post to your page is best suited for branding and awareness building. It does not help you get more followers. To get more followers, you need to promote your page which is actually a subset of their advertising master plan. You have to advertise either on the timeline or on the sidebar [sidebar advertising isn’t available on mobile platform].

If you are interested in a straight out conversion from your advertising budget, you need to advertise to a regional or country specific audience. This is where you measure ad spend versus return on investment (ROI).

In old world advertising terms, if you spend US$100, you should get at least US$300 return in investment (3 fold ROI). This unfortunately doesn’t quite gel these days in any social media marketing plans if you take into account the money you have to spend on FB or Twitter, and at the same time sign up with a Social Media Marketing Platform [at a cost of over US$120 to US$600 a year depending your requirement]. So once you go down this path, you have to take into consideration the amount of money you have already spent without even going into the advertising details of each social media platform.

Facebook is not responsible for the quality of eyeballs you get on their platform. In the old world advertising, you advertise with a magazine like Tatler or Monocle because the people who read it are…well, are your specific target audience who would buy a whole wine cellar as a hobby. That means these eyeballs command a premium if you advertise with them. FB and Twitter is by no means a quality platform as any Tom, Dick or Harry can start multiple profiles as seen in the Click Farm business. Instead, you are given a choice of location, target age and probably some of their more fanciful hobbies as a potential audience profile.

Getting followers for you blog, Pinterest board, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter can be done in only two ways. The paid way is to get people to click a link to your content and become a follower. The other is the splatter method.

The splatter method is when you follow people to get them to follow you back. It is like a follow for follow tag currently popular with some folks hoping to break into to the social circles. I call this a splatter method because you have no idea who you are following most of the time, except maybe that they like what you like or live within the same locality as you do. This is not quality advertising for your content as people who have similar interest as you do may not live within a 1000 miles from you. So unless you are running a brand awareness campaign, or offer online shopping, chances are those post will be ignored. But all this takes effort on your end to search and add them.

Videos give you Better Reach on Facebook

Here is another clue. Video is the next big thing on FB. They have even tried to introduce self streaming videos to the annoyance of mobile users.

Posting videos to your FB page will automatically give you a 5 percent reach as compared to a link or text post. So for every 1000 followers, you have a chance to reach 50 of them for free. You want more eyeballs? Sign up for their Premium Video Ads for ROI.

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But before you say it’s a good deal, let me ask you, how much time and effort did you spend on shooting, editing and planning for that short video? Is 50 eyeballs enough to satisfy that need? Go figure and write Santa a note about getting some Facebook credits for next Christmas.

Twitter is no different than Facebook

Yes, unfortunately that is true. You pay for what you get and in the end, you just gotta justify your ad spend. Twitter’s organic reach is hovering at an all time low. It just fails to suck up those eyeballs and convert that into measurable ROI.

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That’s why these folks are betting big on ‘live’ streaming since that is a buzzword they can still use to justify their dollar denominated advertising plan. Vine videos haven’t taken off in a big way except with college kids and people with too much time on their hands. Instagram has video to further add to the basket of eyeballs wanting moving images and finally, there is live video which could be the future for Twitter on Periscope.

Tumblr isn’t for Everyone

The young of heart may be your next target niche but no one told you that Tumblr is still a very American centric social and content discovery platform. You are not going to reach out to that same age group in Japan, Korea or for that matter Vietnam using Tumblr.

Even though Tumblr maybe way better than WordPress.com in some ways but in the end, you still have to pay to get discovered.

Ever since Yahoo bought them out in May of 2013, featured ads has been appearing in user’s content stream. This is both good and bad news.

The good part is that hashtags can still be used a strategy to find your future or potential customers and generate the sort of brand awareness you need to start. However if you want a straight cut ROI on your ad spend. You probably have a better deal signing up with Tumblr to show those ads.

Pinterest is Instagram on Steroids

Let’s face it. Starting a board on Pinterest is a time consuming affair. You can either curate or create content for each board. Who gets to see these boards? Only fellow users who are out to get more pins.

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Since Pinterest is image centric. You can’t help but draw similarities between them and Instagram. Both require User inputs and that’s you I am pointing at.

Both work the same way and since each board is in itself the description of the pins, you can’t help but think that the board itself is a hashtag of sorts to categorize content.

Pinterest also has promoted pins, and with it an advertising plan to suit your target audience. The same can be said of Instagram when they started to introduce promoted content (advertise content) to specific region of users.

There is no such thing as a Free Lunch

I like to call social media campaigns as a Freemium Advertising Gateway as you have to ante up on those dollars to find some sort of success.

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The only free social platform that is devoid of any advertising right now is Google+. That’s because Google has much grander ambitions than to charge you for your post as they have the search engine to back that all up.

Getting a ROI on investment on any social media marketing campaign will cost you money. Don’t think it is cheap as even Americans feel it is far too expensive.

If you can spend the time to crate content but can’t spend the money to promote it, you are doomed. At every level, you cannot think for one moment you are getting a free lunch. That’s why Social media has become a Freemium platform. Once the social media networks hooks you, they hope you get dragged under the water with their advertising masterplan.

Success in any business can only be measured by ROI. How much you aim to get out of it in the end to sustain your business empire is crucial. It’s not just about eyeballs but quality eyeballs. This sad fact, unfortunately, is lost in translation as one grabs onto social media…thinking it was the elusive pot of gold to their online success.

Start with a Web Presence

A web presence is a web site. If you haven’t got the time of day to do one then social media marketing isn’t for you. There are plenty of free hosting sites which can of course establish your de facto web presence. My own recommendation is strikingly.com, which gives you a free web page for your product, company, portfolio in the simplest design terms. It has easy to use templates and you just key in the text and fill in the pictures. I will give you my reasons why this should be the first step towards establishing your own web presence first before any social media marketing can take place, but you already know that having an actual web site speaks volumes about your online dedication. So take the first step. Start your web presence with a site before attempting social media.

No Brainer Web Presence with Strikingly.com

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I get asked a lot about having web presence and technically speaking, it is one of the most boring and common question that I face.

People often think that for the time spent of Facebook, that should be enough. Well, technically that is a social presence and it’s not entirely the same as having your own website.

A web presence is really about having a website that says it all. It can be for your book, company, service or nanny services in which you provide real hookers for menage a trios outing.

You can call this an online brochure and for those who have no idea on what to do and where to start, there is always those free web sites on blogspot or wordpress.com which caters to your varied content needs.

But many of you do not need a CMS to have a web presence. There are so many alternatives to this, like in the case of wix.com and squarespace virtual real estate packages that come preloaded with templates for you to switch to.

Strikingly Dot Com

I have a site here and don’t pay a dime for it. But my site is my own calling card of sorts. I have test driven a whole load of these other hosting sites in the past and I have to admit, these dudes at strikingly have done a good job. And no, I have not been paid by them to say otherwise.

First, you have those clean templates which you can use for almost any type of site for any web presence requirement. Some are so well done that you’d only find it as a paid CMS template on WordPress.

imac-4e2a6cf4d4f2c2f58f978754e565c9c1Test driving it is free, and you can also have a free site as well so no hidden sign up fees for those who do not know if they would end up liking it.

For those who want to customize their needs to suit, say their books, seminars, portfolios, etc. You have to option of paying for an annual plan which to me, cost as much as you would in setting up a paid hosting service on WordPress.

Strikingly also offers great design options that are also mobile friendly. The templates have improved in time and today, you even have the option of adding a blog space to your site if you so wish.

Not everyone blogs. That much is true.

Some might not have much to say while others will wear you to the bone with their text. To create a successful web presence, it’s a toss between the two but people ultimately are visual creatures.

This is where the Template organization and usage comes to play. If the User Experience (UX) for the site sucks. You can be assured your visitors will opt out faster than they found your site link.

LinkedIn with Strikingly

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Here is another good reason to build your own resume/CV without the confusing and often badly designed UI of LinkedIn.

I am not a fan of LinkedIn because the UX feels cluttered. Even if they sell themselves in a social manner, I never found the value of browsing someone’s LinkedIn file unless I was looking for people to hire.

Strikingly has a auto-import feature that will layout your LinkedIn profile into a proper web portfolio. Just import your profile and key in the missing details. It looks far better than the jumble mess you find in LinkedIn.

Cost Versus Effort

For as little as US$96 a year, you can have your own domain and email forwarding plus 50GB of traffic. Now, ask yourself….how the hell would you exceed 50GB of web traffic unless you are running a porn site?

And let’s not forget about the cost of having a designer or a webmaster of sorts to set up a CMS if you don’t already know how. Strkingly is a snap to set up as its visually designed templates allow that freedom to not hire someone who has better brains than you to set it up.

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For example, to use forms, you have a visual interface to create it. No more having to install a plug-in on the CMS to get it running. Plug-ins will crash and depending on their security compliance code, can let hackers break in. But you wouldn’t know that unless someone told you about it.

Now Squarespace offers you loads more in terms of blog, e-commerce and stuff you probably won’t end up using for the same price. However there is no free ‘site’ option like in the case of Strikingly where you can create micro-sites to link to your own personal web presence.

Visual Content Matters

For me, having a visual web presence is far more important as people normally do not know what to write or say on a web site. I am sure you can pen a few words about what you wish to communicate to your visitors but trust me, having the right pictures to go with the site is all that matters.

The human attention span of the average web surfer is about 100 words. If you don’t hook someone for the next 100 words, he will click the nearest link to a porn site.

Visual marketing plays an important part of that psyche. It has to flow well. Look nice and the colors have to gel too.

A pure white and minimalist template often times do not work (sorry square space but you suck) and people might say that’s the safest option for your pictures to stand out. Going one up the ladder would be to be attractive than to be safe. How a UX is designed becomes important if you want to hold those eyeballs.

People on the Internet have a truckload of choices in which to spend their time on. Trying to be Zen in your layout just isn’t one of them unless they suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

So start your web presence in baby steps. I know you hate to jump in and realize that you can’t swim. That’s how it happens sometimes so you have been warned. To build your own site with strikingly, start here.

Twitter wants to sell you stuff thru Twitter Ad Pages

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So content marketing doesn’t matter anymore now that Twitter has dedicated itself to serving you ads.

The new service is aimed at grouping all the tweets and retweets into a cohesive page for everyone to see and click the buy button in the process. In other words, all the details of the product is there within Twitter and there is no need for hot linking that to a separate entity like a Facebook page or microsite.

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Retail Fatigue Personified

It is relatively easy to build this up but what I must warn you of these days is retail fatigue and User Experience (UX) issue. For me at least, Facebook adverts are getting more intrusive but for others, they can tolerate it. Tumblr has transitioned to this mode as well and so did Instagram. Paid advertising is the way to go when you got the eyeballs.

So what is your content worth these days?

Online retail fatigue is when you get tired of these adverts popping up on your newsfeed and with it, you get tired and give up on it altogether.

True. There are two groups of people, those who are out shopping and those who do not know what they want but are willing to buy something. But that generalization can’t be applied to everyone who surfs the Internet can you?

Where is the old fashion community building tools? Is that dead too now that Twitter has advertising pages which you can land on?

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Twitter Users can react in the most Unkind Way

Here is something brand PR has to prepare for. Your preferred hashtag can be hijacked just like what happened to NY Police Department.

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There are so many Twitter fail campaigns when it comes to using hashtags. Users will retweet and tweet your preferred hashtag and along with it comes the political and environmental messages. The same can be said for someone out to hijack ot sully your brand by associating it with fictional claims. Would you have time to fight the fire when it starts?

Makes me wonder if the PR agencies of the world are willing to vet the hashtag streams 24/7. I am sure they will….for a price.

So before you write that cheque for a Twitter only campaign, which promises to convert your tweets to direct sales, remember that your competitors can send out their own team to haunt you. In the book of dirty tactics, there is no such thing as fair play.

Any sort of direct promotional effort on Twitter will be out of your control when the negative viral impact becomes apparent.

How Twitter is following in the footsteps of Weibo

To avert any further disasters on its stock price, Twitter is following China’s Weibo to get ahead in the social network business.

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Weibo’s micropages has been hijacked by Twitter for adverts and buy conversions while rich media, from GIFs, short videos and live streaming are already in place to the next wave of content sharing. Copying these innovations is hardly new, after all, if the Chinese can steal design concepts from Apple, why can’t Twitter steal content concepts from Weibo?

Twitter has much to fear from its Chinese rivals if it doesn’t evolve. Stock price aside, Twitter has to garner much more active users who seem to be flock to other social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. In terms of real user growth, the rest of the world isn’t entirely sold on Twitter alone.

For me, the biggest let down is really the Twitter Mobile App.

The landing page when you land on is your newsfeed. I just want to see my profile page to know that I have landed in the right page but you don’t get that.. If Twitter copied the user interface for FB, it makes a whole better sense.

Twitter is more of a mobile platform than one that works on desktop PCs.

All they have to do is to make package the UX of the desktop web version into a mobile app. For example, trending stories don’t show up on your mobile newsfeed page unless you use the desktop browser version. Why can’t they have a left to right or right to left swiping gesture to implement these content feeds? Like swipe left to retweet…?

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The user experience matters and it’s not about having more promoted tweets or ads because as long as people are not actively tweeting on this network, they are definitely spending time post to some other social platform.

Facebook Pages is officially targeting Social Media Marketing Platforms for a Take Down

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Facebook is at it again, taking another shot at business pages by destroying your Social DNA. In recent past, Facebook has messed around with its new algorithm to make it more difficult for business pages to build their EdgeRank or Social DNA. The latest blow comes in the form of two new rules which will take down your content development and marketing efforts. In its latest post on the changes, Facebook engineers has doubled down on two critical factors that make up your EdgeRank.

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Like-baiting

“Like-baiting” is when a post explicitly asks News Feed readers to like, comment or share the post in order to get additional distribution beyond what the post would normally receive.

People often respond to posts asking them to take an action, and this means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed. However, when we survey people and ask them to rate the quality of these stories, they report that like-baiting stories are, on average, 15% less relevant than other stories with a comparable number of likes, comments and shares. Over time, these stories lead to a less enjoyable experience of Facebook since they drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.

The improvement we are making today better detects these stories and helps ensure that they are not shown more prominently in News Feed than more relevant stories from friends and other Pages. This update will not impact Pages that are genuinely trying to encourage discussion among their fans, and focuses initially on Pages that frequently post explicitly asking for Likes, Comments and Shares.

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Frequently Circulated Content

People and Pages on Facebook frequently reshare great content, but people tell us there are occasionally instances where photos or videos are uploaded to Facebook over and over again.  We’ve found that people tend to find these instances of repeated content less relevant, and are more likely to complain about the Pages that frequently post them.  We are improving News Feed to de-emphasize these Pages, and our early testing shows that this change causes people to hide 10% fewer stories from Pages overall.

What’s clear now is that Facebook is clearly on the war path with Content Marketing Platforms such as Hootsuite, Buffer and a host of Social Media Marketing platforms which are taking away advertising dollars away from Facebook. If you post often, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will get featured. And if for some reason the same picture gets shared, chances are it won’t be shown.

Where is my Social DNA dude?

For Facebook Pages,  your Social DNA or EdgeRank needs these two the most. First, let’s examine Like-baiting. This is what makes your content relevant where you can reach out to an organic audience. People who have never heard of you will hear of you from their friends who repost and comment on your content.

Your content is worth sharing, that sounds cool but Facebook doesn’t want that anymore. Instead, any form of Like-baiting will be taken down in the Newsfeed Algorithm. Regardless of what they tell you that your Pages post are safe, there is no denying that Facebook’s new newsfeed content algorithm will affect you. First, what is a genuine post and what is not? Can the new algorithm decide on such a difference? If you were a bakery making a new line of cakes and wanted your audience to like them, would that constitute like-baiting? What about a Pages contest that ask you to like and share it with your friends? Is this illegal now?

Here, your social engagement will be nullified and there is no Content Marketing platform in the world that will save you from this. Good content gets shared. Engaging content gets commented on. Now that this is out the window for you, Facebook wants you to promote your newsfeed content for a better reach with $$$!

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spamming a popular post is possibly the only way you can get someone to notice

Frequently Curated Content is probably the best way to go viral. Different people who like your video will post in their own language. This localized type of sharing is what creates a bigger reach for content. Sometimes people repeat the content that you posted because Facebook has HIDDEN it from the newsfeed! Your friends never saw what you posted earlier and for that, it messes with the content newsfeed to ensure the same content won’t get seen unless of course you boost the post. This also means Facebook is demanding that you promote your post in your newsfeed by paying for it to be seen!

Facebook is all about Money

Social Media Marketing platforms are now taking a severe hit. Sad but true, you have no choice but to ante up on those Facebook credits just to stay ahead of the game. Even services like Hootsuite will be taken down a few notches. What use is your content marketing and management efforts when the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm doesn’t play nice with your content? You can share something that doesn’t show up on your fan’s timelines and even if you do, there is a good chance that it will be limited to just a handful of fans and not the broader fan base. Facebook does not tell you your organic reach per post.

Facebook has come out to say they recognize the big brand names. So if you have a smaller competing brand, chance are you don’t stand a chance. A big brand can throw a hundred thousand into a campaign and you miserly $100 isn’t going to get you a comment. The reach of an average Business Page post is in the ballpark of 8%. This means only 8 out of 100 people will see your post. The numbers go up once you ante up by paying Facebook to promote that post you made. More money means more fans will see the post.

What Brands does the Facebook Algorithm recognizes?

Based on current observations, the brands that enjoy a wider reach will be those like Musicians, bands, long dead book authors and team sports. Facebook prioritizes newsfeed items based on your hobbies and interest. As a new brand owner, you won’t enjoy these privileges.

Social engagement cost time and money. Content development cost money too. But now with Facebook jumping queue and coming to you with an outstretched hand asking for some dough, will you be able to turn them down?

What it Means for You?

Less casual posting, more money into content development. Save your ammo for the best content to post instead of just staying within eyeball reach. Create an online strategy for engagement to build and audience and , have a budget for Facebook promotions because you are going to need it! Set aside a few hundred dollars at least. US$300 is a good start and see where it goes. If that fails to make a dent, chances are you’re better off with Twitter, Pinterest, G+ and Instagram.

Remember that getting a LIKE for you Page isn’t going to generate a dime in ROI. That’s overly optimistic. You need to feed this repeatedly with each post. The budget for each content posted and the ballpark should be US$8 for those with 1,000 and up to US$50 for 5,000 fans or followers. This is the burn rate you have to live with. When you promote a post, Facebook determines this rate automatically and tells you to double down on those credit card details. There are no returns for this sort of investments except to build your fan base. A paid reach has a higher chance of success for any content that elicits a response from your followers.

Build up your EdgeRank or Social DNA from there and as you reach the optimum goal of say 10,000 fans. Having a bigger fan base is far too expensive to support unless you got plenty of money in the bank for Zuckerberg Inc. This means you need to develop loyal customers to your service quickly with each post and not carpet bomb the newsfeed with curated content. Curated content has very little room to outmaneuver the newsfeed algorithm. Once people see these and don’t react to it, your content will be wasted, this also creates bad Social DNA. You need to have reactions and comments in all your post to get a boosted EdgeRank. All this takes time and you can’t waste it on curated content. If you are going to put money into developing engaging content, do it with conviction. Those cheap stunts are not going to return any eyeballs and with the clock ticking on the time decay algorithm, chances are the post will be forgotten.

Online businesses advertising their latest wares on Facebook pages will have to pay up to get the newsfeed noticed. You can get around this by asking your followers and fans to subscribe to your Twitter or Instagram feed for updates. Reward them for following you. Facebook alone isn’t viable anymore.

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What Makes up your Social DNA on Facebook, the EdgeRank