A Question for Marketers: Is It Social or Is It Media?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly users. Given that reach, it’s hard to classify Facebook as anything other than a mass media outlet. Compare Facebook’s reach to some of the most-viewed television broadcasts:

  • 600-650 million people worldwide watched the Apollo 11 moon landing live on TV (about 20% of the world’s population in 1969)
  • 750 million watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana marry in 1981
  • 2 billion-plus people watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing (about one-third of the world’s population in 2008)

In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told the first Facebook Community Summit, “Our full mission statement is: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can’t do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together.”

How’s that working out for us?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”  Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Cohen states:
“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear … On the Internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.”

My Facebook comment about the speech: “Why shouldn’t social media platforms be held to the same standards as other content publishers?”

Someone replied,

“But they’re not content publishers … they’re conduits for publishers. On FB, you and I and Joe and all kinds of media are the publishers. Think of the phone companies. They can’t be held responsible for what people say over their systems.”

My response:

“I guess that depends on whether you put the emphasis on social or media.”

And of course, most phone conversations are private (at least for now) while most Facebook posts are not.

I sent The Guardian’s publication of Cohen’s speech to my children, two of whom have given up their Facebook accounts. My daughter replied,

“Did you learn about this on Facebook? If so, irony is dead.”

Actually, I did. RIP Irony.

How to Sell $38K of Subscriptions in 10 Days

If you’re a paid circulation magazine, you know that selling subscriptions online can be a challenge. However, I’d like to share an example of one publication that recently sold over $38K of subscriptions in just 10 days — and the subscription campaign strategy we used to do it.

If you run a paid circulation magazine, you know that selling subscriptions online can be a challenge. However, I’d like to share an example of one publication that recently sold over $38K of subscriptions in just 10 days — and the strategy used to do it.

The magazine we’re talking about isn’t a huge, national publication like Consumer Reports or America’s Test Kitchen. It’s actually a relatively modest, regional lifestyle publication and a member of CRMA (City and Regional Magazine Association).

The publisher’s website isn’t geared at all to drive subscriptions. They have no paywall in place, no digital subscription option, and no way to easily create effective landing pages. They also have an email/marketing automation system that is difficult to use at best.

Yet the team there overcame all of these challenges and, together, we ran a very successful campaign that generated $38K of subscriptions at an initial subscription price of only $11.

A Huge Boost in Paid Subscriptions

The magazine I worked with typically sells 10 subscriptions per day through various channels. However, during the campaign, that average jumped to 69 subscriptions per day … nearly 7x more. Look at the data and you can clearly see the day the campaign started and ended.

Subscription Campaign Success: Chart 1

In the 10 days prior to the campaign, the publisher sold $1,995 of subscriptions. During the 10-day campaign, however, they sold nearly $7,546 of subscriptions. So how does that equate to the $38K I mentioned above?

The publisher’s subscriptions include a non-optional, auto-renew program. That means that they don’t have to re-sell these subscribers every year. Thus, each auto-renew subscription is actually worth approximately $56 over the lifetime of the subscriber.

When you look at lifetime value, the magazine normally generated $5,620 in LTV revenue over a typical 10-day period. But during this 10-day campaign, they generated over $38,000 in LTV revenue … a 7x increase.

Subscription Campaign Success: Chart 2

How the Subscription Campaign Worked

The campaign offered a 50% discount on the normal annual subscription price and made it very clear that the offer was only good for 10 days. This combination of a steep price discount and the urgency of a limited time helped contribute to the campaign’s success.

But the other major factor was how well the publisher drove awareness of the discount and the limited time through all available channels that the magazine had: email, ads on their website, and social media. They also spent $1,000 in Facebook/Instagram advertising targeting a specific demographic in their geographic area as well as re-targeting website visitors and Facebook page followers.

Unsurprisingly, email was the biggest revenue driver accounting for 50% of the directly attributable sales. Ads on the publisher’s website drove 25%, with social media and Facebook/Instagram ads combining for the remaining 25%.

The Campaign Was Part of a Larger Strategy

It’s critical to note that this campaign was part of a larger audience development strategy that we’ve been working on for a while. The campaign wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as an isolated subscription sales effort.

The audience development strategy focuses first on building their email list. We create high-converting lead magnets that are promoted to their target audience with Facebook and Instagram advertising. Once an email address is captured, the person is then presented with an opportunity to subscribe to the magazine.

This allows the publisher to quickly build up their email list for free. They make as much money in year-one subscription revenue as they spend on advertising. When you take into account auto-renew lifetime value, the publisher actually makes money while building their email list.

Why is this important?

Their new email names converted at a higher rate than their old email names. The publisher’s pre-existing email list was larger than the new, lead-magnet-generated email list. But the new names converted to paid magazine subscribers more than 3x better than pre-existing names.

What’s Next?

While this campaign was off-the-charts successful, it’s not something that can be done more than a couple times per year. If you do it more often than that, you will condition your audience to wait for a big sale and campaign response rates will fall off dramatically.

Working with the publisher, we plan to do this type of campaign a couple times each year. In the interim, we’ll continue to build out their email list rapidly. They’ll add more evergreen lead magnets and will continue to promote them via Facebook and Instagram. We’re also testing the response rate of other programmatic networks like Google, Taboola, and Bing.

This strategy works with paid circulation publications, e-commerce sites, or membership sites. It can even be adapted for controlled circulation publications with some modifications. It takes work, patience, the right tactics, close monitoring, and perhaps some system changes. But the right combination of ongoing email list development and focused, intense subscription campaigns is a powerful combination for any publication.

Using Content to Nurture Leads

The difference between just publishing a blog and content marketing is less about what you create than it is about how you use what you create. In other words, it’s what happens after you click the Publish button that determines whether you’re really a content marketer. An example of this can be found in using your content marketing as part of your lead nurturing efforts.

The difference between just publishing a blog and content marketing is less about what you create than it is about how you use what you create. In other words, it’s what happens after you click the Publish button that determines whether you’re really a content marketer. An example of this can be found in using your content to nurture leads.

Helping smooth the path from discovery to purchase for prospects typically starts with great content, so I don’t want to underplay the importance of generating truly useful information for your audience. But making the leap from “free publisher” to effective content marketer depends on the rest of your plan.

Using Content to Nurture Leads

The first step of that plan must be promoting your content to get it in front of your audience. This is a topic worthy of lengthier discussion; for the moment, I’ll just say that email, social media, and just about any regular point of contact you have with clients and prospects should be part of your promotion efforts.

As you’re promoting your content, you must also be aware of when your content will be most useful to prospects. That is, at what point in their buying process will they find what you’ve written most valuable?

This means not only having a knowledge of what a typical prospect’s buying process looks like when he or she is buying your product or service, but also having content that addresses the questions and concerns that are raised at each step.

Once you have that matrix of content built, it’s time to integrate other tools into your content marketing program. Key among these will be email. Following up regularly over time is a key part of successful marketing of any kind. We all know that our first contact with a prospect isn’t necessarily going to be at a time when that prospect is ready to move forward toward a decision. A drip marketing campaign, as it’s sometimes called, is key to maintaining a presence without being intrusive. The goal is to stay recognized and useful until your solution is most relevant to the prospect.

Prospective Profiling

Prospective profiling is the next step you should consider. In a nutshell, prospective profiling is the use of tech tools to customize the calls to action and content on your website based on the past behavior of site visitors.

The goal is to make use of what you already know about a prospect to a) avoid annoying him or her with redundant questions, and b) to ensure that you continue to offer useful information. Few things are more annoying than returning to a website to be greeted by a pop-up window offering the same white paper you downloaded yesterday — and requiring you to fill in the same form fields to get it!

Prospective profiling allows you to offer the next logical piece of content (from the prospect’s perspective) while asking for more information about them and their needs. For example, if you already have their name, email and company, perhaps you now ask for their title, their budget, or their expected timeframe for making a decision.

You wouldn’t ask for all of these things at once — the drop-off in conversion would be too steep, particularly if you don’t have an established relationship with the prospect — but asked over time, the questions are less intrusive. And you still are able to build a much more complete picture.

Closing the CRM Loop

This all gives you the ability to feed data into a lead scoring system tied into your CRM tools. Unless you’re still working from spreadsheets, you’ll want to work closely with both your website developer and your CRM consultant to implement a strong progressive profiling program. With you driving the process from a marketing perspective, you’ll be able to build a system that uses your content to nurture leads consistently from first content through conversion.

Greed – With a Fear Chaser

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap …

I was minding my business playing an online game, when, between turns, I was presented with an invitation to enter the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and win $5,000 a week for life. I said to myself “Now that would make my life a tad bit better, so what the heck,” clicked, and started a long and winding journey. While it ended with the agony of defeat, along the way I was exposed to some of the cleverest marketing tactics I’d seen in a long time, and they reminded me of the power of personalization—and greed.

From the minute I registered for the giveaway, I received a steady stream of emails. Each one asked me to “click” or “accept” or “approve” some data point in some compelling way (ongoing engagement!)—and since I didn’t have time to read all the fine print, I definitely got the feeling that if I didn’t at least “do” something, that perhaps my chances of winning were in jeopardy. So, I was hooked. I opened each email and was led, like a horse to water, to drink from the fountain of hope.

“Verify your address so the Prize Patrol can find you!” one email proclaimed. Well gee, of course I want to make sure the Prize Patrol (PP) goes to MY house and not my crabby neighbor across the street! So I reviewed the data and clicked my approval.

“Confirm the location of your closest florist” another one requested (to make sure the PP could pick up my roses and ensure they were fresh when handed to me on camera). Shucks, the roses are all part of the big on-camera finale, so you bet I double checked the florist information and clicked my approval.

“Make sure we have the fastest route to your house!,” as the map from the florist to my front door was prominently displayed in the email. I actually took the time to carefully review the map and confirm that the route they had selected wasn’t circuitous, and again clicked my approval.

Alas, the final email gave me the disappointing news that I had not, in fact, won anything. But wait, there’s more!

Only a few days after discovering I hadn’t won a penny, I get an email that I was awarded the Badge of Honor and I was, in fact, entitled to a maximum number of 10 entries for $5,000 a week for life. And so the motivation continues …

All cleverness aside, my only criticism is that Publisher’s Clearing House sent too many emails, and after a while I became more confident in my ability to ignore them without risk. If you know anything about this promotion, you know its point is to sell you a magazine … or some other item (most are for just “3 easy payments of $X.XX!”).

Did I make a purchase? I must admit I finally broke down and did buy something, but when I win my $5,000 a week, I’ll be able to buy a lot more … And isn’t that the whole point?

Lavishing: A Branding Must Do!

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year. This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With over 1 million-plus books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles.

I was already familiar with the radically different publishing company called Twelve, and had used them as a model in some of my client work. One of the publisher’s key points of differentiation is that it purposefully publishes no more than 12 books a year.

This is a contrarian approach, as most of the publishing world simply does not work that way. With more than 1 million books published just last year (according to Bowker’s figures), most publishers release a plethora of titles. Most have their A list books/authors, B lists and C lists, and plan promotional dollars and energy accordingly. Out of all those millions of titles each year, only a few will trickle to the top of our country’s reading lists and generate worthwhile conversation, information, and entertainment. Most of the rest get lost in the shuffle until they are “remaindered” (like a funeral for a book).

But it was one verb in The New York Times description of Twelve that made me linger: “Twelve is an experimental boutique publisher dedicated to releasing far fewer books than a traditional publisher, with the implicit promise that an unusual degree of editing, publicity and marketing would be lavished on each book.” LAVISH. That really was the publishing company’s brand differentiator. The product developers (in this case publishers/editors and publicists) were lavishers.

Twelve’s mission statement declares: “Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works-that is our ultimate purpose.” They go on to share 12 Things To Remember about TWELVE … here are just a half dozen:

  • Each book will enliven the national conversation.
  • Each book will be carefully edited, designed, and produced.
  • Each book will have a month-long launch in which it is the imprint’s sole focus.
  • Each book will have the potential to sell at least 50,000 copies in its lifetime.
  • Each book will be promoted well into its paperback life.
  • Each book will matter.

For Twelve, lavishing works. Its books garner rave reviews, bestseller list success, and have won almost every publishing award available.

Lavish. It’s a powerful brand action. How might having a lavishing mindset make your brand more focused? Create more relevant products? Delight more of your customers? Why not spend a few minutes creating a “Lavish List” and just see where this verb leads you!

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.