March 18, 2015 9:30 am

How Marketers Can Beat the Facebook Algorithm

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Controversial statement warning: The number of marketing messages consumers are exposed to every day is widely thought to range from 2,000 to 20,000! – In reality can we really pin down the true number? Probably not. But, putting that aside, lets take the lower end of the scale estimate of 2,000 marketing messages per day. That’s 14,000 per week, 60,000 – 62,000 per month and 730,000 per year! Now ask yourself, “how many of those messages are from my business?”.

With so many businesses clambering, begging and banging for your attention like a sprightly, super excited puppy baying for your affection, it’s tough to keep yourself in the consumers mind. “Mind” is the key word to note here. Psychology is the study of the mind and our behaviours and it is deeply intertwined with marketing. Great marketers know and leverage the relationship between marketing and psychology to great affect. Unfortunately not all businesses have the resources or know-how to do this to an advanced level; however, not keeping yourself on the top of your own customer’s mind is a big fat fail at Marketing Psychology 101!

Retailers with a great understanding of the psychology of marketing know the value of investing in social media marketing, loyalty schemes, building databases and consistently impressing customers. Put simply, it keeps them, not just wanting, but actively seeking to come back. The “Wow Offers” we see retailers promoting these days, such as “spend €25 and get €5 off your next shop”, always impresses and if you impress a customer they will remember!

At this point you may be asking “what does this have to do with the Facebook algorithms”. The answer: A lot! Bear with me here!

Cutting through the marketing message noise to reach your current customers over and over again to stay top of their mind is not just challenging, it’s expensive! Three of the best options available to business are Loyalty Programs, building customer databases and Facebook advertising. Lets look at these further.


1. Loyalty Programs

Loyalty Programs are effective but aren’t for all businesses and again can carry great expense. People love getting special discounts, something for free or feeling loved and Loyalty Programs are the perfect way for a busy business to ensure that they reward good customers to stay memorable. While carrying out research for a project last year we ran a focus group and found that, although the preferred structure and delivery of Loyalty Programs differed vastly,  consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of  them. A lot of participants discussed how they liked knowing that they were getting special discounts or advance notice of sales that others were not offered; while some told us how they viewed a Loyalty Program as a challenge. They were determined to get that 10th cup of coffee or burrito for free! Loyalty Programs that use some form of customer tracking mechanism, such as a swipe card or key fob, allow businesses to collect very useful and valuable data on a customer behaviour which can then be used for marketing tailored towards that customer .


2. Database Building

We strongly believe in database building at ZinMobi. There is a remarkable amount of power in having the ability to instantly reach the mobile handset all of your opted in customers at the touch of a button. If you have never built a mobile number/email address of customers before now then you’re missing out! It’s easy to do, low cost and super effective.

So, how can you grow your mobile/email database?

Growing (or starting to build) your business’s database need not be a daunting task! There are five simple tactics you can use.

  • Text-2-Win/Text-2-Join
  • Paper Sign Up Forms
  • Tablet sign up webpages.
  • Social/Website plugins
  • POS opt ins.

Lets look at these in more detail below:

a) Text-2-Win/Text-2-Join.

These do exactly what they say on the tin! Using posters, flyers, leaflets, social media, adverts in the local or national rag, etc. ask your customers to text-2-join your database or offer an incentive for them to join by running a text-2-win competition. The incentive is important as some people will need encouragement. Even if you decide to run a text-2-join instead of a text-2-win remember to highlight why it’s in the interest of the customer to join. ie. exclusive discounts and special offers, advanced notice of sales, etc. For the customer it’s easy to join or enter. All that’s required is for them to text your keyword to a shortcode. eg. Freetext JOIN to 50050!

b) Paper Sign Up Forms.

In-store Paper Sign Up Forms

Another happy customer signing up!

A traditional method yet still one of the best ways to grow your database. A client of ours grew their database from zero to nearly 200,000 in just over a year using the pen and paper strategy. Dispersing sign up forms at points across the store or near the till so staff can encourage customers to join is a great idea. Some of our clients run monthly raffles to encourage customers to fill out and return the forms. When a customer submits the form they are entered into a monthly prize draw, many also reward staff members that manage to sign the most customers up per week or per month!

Mobile Tablet Sign Up Webpage

Mobile Tablet Sign Up Webpage

c) Mobile tablet sign up webpages.

Sign up webpages on mobile tablet devices spread across your store is the 21st century’s answer to the paper and pen method! The main advantage of using mobile tablet sign up forms is the elimination of data entry costs associated with transferring the info you collected on paper into a digital format. The webpages can be customized to suit your brand and integrated with your online database so sign ups automatically populate into whatever system you’re using. In some instances you can also trigger instant confirmation SMS’s or emails to sign ups to confirm they have joined your database.

d) Social/Website plugins.

These plugins – also know as widgets – can be designed using your branding and embedded on your Facebook page or website. They are essentially small sign up forms for collecting data online. Much like the mobile tablet sign up webpage the data collected through the widget can be automatically stored in your online database.

e) POS opt ins.

Most retail business will have a POS system of some sort. Some offer users the ability to record customer data such as name, email and mobile and opt customers in to receiving marketing messages. This is particularly handy for a business that handles a lot of telephone or online orders and want to grow their database. However, always remember to get your customer’s permission before recording their details in this manner for marketing purposes.

Which of these options to choose really does depend on your business. Some businesses don’t have the space or footfall in-store to roll out paper sign up forms or mobile tablets so choose to use social/website plugins or advertise text-2-join campaigns using newspapers or flyers. For businesses with a heavy footfall, in-store sign up forms – either paper or mobile tablet – work perfectly! Fast food retailers that have a high proportion of telephone or online orders will probably find that collecting data through their POS works best for them. We’ve even seen some businesses use all of the above!


3. Facebook Advertising

Without doubt Facebook is a fantastic way to reach out to and engage with your customers, but (there’s always a but) did you know last year the organic reach of Facebook was 9%. This essentially means that when you posted a piece of unpaid content on Facebook it was only be seen by approximately 9% of the users that have liked your page. So, if you have 10,000 Facebook fans your post will only appear in the newsfeed of around 900 of those. From January 2015 more changes to the Facebook algorithm saw this rate fall even further! In order to get noticed on Facebook you’ll have to pay for it! If you don’t pay then prepared to be punished by the dreaded algorithm. The social networking site are also strongly encouraging businesses to create posts containing high quality content and are ready to punish business that do not by dropping their organic reach even further.

Paying to promote your Facebook posts and creating quality content can get expensive. As you can see from the above, you may have thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of Facebook fans but ultimately, you don’t own that data. It belongs to Facebook and how they chose to use it (or allow you to use it in the case in point) is up to them! Hence why I’ve put together this algorithm busting strategy!


How to Beat that Algorithm!

There’s no magic tricks or secret handshakes required here. The answer is quite simple really – Pay Up.. but incorporate your customer data into your targeting (I’ll come back to this bit shortly)! That’s right. You’re unfortunately going to have to pay up. Organic reach is dead and if you want customers to see and engage with your business or brand on Facebook you’re going to have to line Mr. Zuckerberg’s pockets a little.

A lot of brands and businesses wanting to engage with customers online go about paid advertising on Facebook a bit like shooting fish in a barrel – load, try(!) to take aim, fire! Trying to take aim at an audience is where it can all go wrong and lots of marketing budget can be wasted. Anybody that has used Facebook advertising knows that they offer amazing capabilities for marketers to define an audience (Ad Set) using layer upon layer of beautifully rich data such Age, Gender, Location, Interests, Education, Behaviour, Work, etc. This Facebook feature is awesome for marketers and I’d struggle to argue otherwise; but, if the goal of your campaign is to engagement with or reach out to current customer to keep yourself  top of mind then you could be wasting a lot of money by running these types of ads. Yes, you will almost definitely catch a good percentage of customers within the total potential reach but realistically how many of your current customers will be in this group compared with those that aren’t current customers?  Those that aren’t current customers but fall within the target audience you defined is very likely to be served your advert by the Facebook algorithm and therefore make up a large percentage of the your paid reach; and sadly, because of this, you’re spending money on them.


To help you get around this little conundrum Facebook have a fantastic tool called Custom Audiences. This is where the strategy to beat the Facebook algorithm begins!

Think back to a few paragraphs ago when I discussed Loyalty Programs and building customer databases of mobile numbers and email addresses. There was a good reason for doing so. In order to beat the Facebook algorithm and be super targeted in your Facebook advertising towards current customers you should use the data from either or both of your Loyalty Program or Opted In Database as part of your Facebook strategy. For those that have never heard of Facebook’s Custom Audience feature; it’s a simple tool which essentially lets you reach customers you already know with Facebook ads. It works as follows:

  • In your Facebook Ads Manager upload a list of email addresses and/or phone numbers you have for current customers.
  • Facebook will process the list and use the data to find any Facebook users it contains.
  • Your Ads will be served to the people found.

I think you’ll agree that this is a pretty cool feature for business and brands looking to target current customers. It cuts out a lot of budget wasted on serving ads to Facebook users that are simple not interested in hearing from or buying from you! Now you can hopefully see why having an existing Loyalty Program or Opted In Customer Database which you can use in conjunction with Facebook is extremely valuable. These are customer that have/still do shop with you and to ensure that they continue shopping with/come back to shopping with you it’s important to stay top of their mind to stop them forgetting your business or brand.


To summarise,

Beating Facebook’s Algorithm to cut through the unbelievable amount of marketing noise bombarding your exiting customers is actually very easy. All it requires is a list of your current customers mobile numbers or email address (whether that be obtained through your Loyalty Program or an Opted In Database that you build) and the use of Facebook’s excellent Custom Audience feature.


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