The Reality of Facebook Promotions

Promotions and ads work on scale

by Jason Falls |
Ad

Most businesses don’t have tens of thousands of Facebook fans. Most don’t have hundreds of thousands of website visitors. So it’s easy for the social media expert in your neighborhood to follow the hippie’s and tree-hugger’s version of social media and say Facebook advertising and promotions are bad.

In the end, though, it’s all a numbers game. The more fans you have, the more potential click throughs you can get on a Sponsored Post. The more your audience is incented to share a coupon or a deal with their networks, the more conversions you’ll see. The more numbers, the less inclination you’ll have toward the purist’s way of thinking.

We ran a little experiment during my first week on the job at CafePress. I wanted to see what a simple promotion via social media would do. How many fans would it reach? How many click throughs would we get? Could we possibly derive revenue from social media?

The Level Set

Our promotion was a Share-And-Win construct. Our website visitors were offered a small layover banner that asked them to share CafePress.com with their networks (Facebook, Twitter or Email) and they would be entered to win an iPad Mini. The winner was a random drawing of all entries. The contest lasted one week, from Friday, Dec. 7 until Friday, Dec. 14.

Keep in mind that this is peak season for online retailers, so we knew we were biased in that we had more people on our site shopping for the holidays than are normally there during other times of the year. But we were not promoting the contest at all – just hanging the layover on the site and if you saw it, you saw it. If you didn’t, we didn’t tell you about it.

The share-and-win post on FacebookThe only promotion of any kind we did was when we, ourselves, entered the contest (certainly recusing ourselves from winning) and, thus, shared CafePress and the contest with our networks. You can see mine here.

It’s also fair to know that, according to Compete.com, CafePress.com registered six million unique visitors in November. If you’ve ever tested your on-site analytics versus third party ones like Compete, you know they are far from accurate. While I’m not at liberty to share specific analytics numbers from our efforts, let’s just say they are significantly higher than published estimates. But we’ll use six million as a baseline.

The Metrics

Our promotion attracted 2,900 shares … or entries in the contest.  (I’m rounding off numbers for convenience sake.) Keep in mind those shares were people who saw the overlay on the site, clicked and entered. We didn’t drive anyone to the contest through other means. Those 2,900 shares drove an additional 3,000 contest entries from their fans/networks. The circulation of the promotion drove roughly 9,500 additional visits to the site.

But what those visitors did while on the site is what’s interesting. Our number of transactions and revenue from social channels jumped 21 percent over the week before. The conversion rate and per-visit-value jumped in the mid-teens percent. And even if you want to say that we should have expected a lift as peak holiday shopping rises, we went back and corrected based on the same week last year and still saw an 11 percent lift in the week’s revenue from social channels, seven percent lift in visits and 10 percent lift in transactions.

So we can reasonably conclude that one small, non-promoted promotion gave our bottom line from social channels a boost of around 11 percent over the same week the year before.  Certainly, there are some other factors involved, but no specific Facebook or Twitter promotions were interfering with our numbers during that week. So, as contained as our measurement was, we’re comfortable with that number.

We saw more shares of the contest on Twitter, but a higher click through and conversion rate on Facebook. We saw a decidedly higher click through and conversion rate with email shares than the other two options. In fact, transactions generated from an email share were more than double in value on average than those generated from Twitter. Email was about 25% more effective in driving order value than Facebook.

The Takeaways

The point of this experiment was to find out what we could do naturally, with no promotional strength behind a given promotion. Certainly, our success with something like this will fluctuate based on time of year, economic conditions and the like. But it gives us a benchmark from which to work.

For you and your business, I hope you can now see that in the great numbers game that is advertising in all of its forms, even a soft promotion on Facebook can turn a handsome profit. And you can also emulate experiments like this to level-set your social efforts.

Before you go out and recruit a bunch of fans and run a bunch of promotions remember this:

  • You’ll see better numbers per order and better volume in orders if you have quality fans or followers. Don’t just add fans to add fans. Go for quality over quantity. (We’re going to work on that in the coming year to improve our numbers!)
  • Promos and deals will drive visits and conversions, but only a portion of your audience is interested in them. Vary your content to ensure you’re feeding the value for your audience, as well as offering them value in purchase opportunities. (We’re going to work on our content mix, too.)
  • Know that Facebook users are mainstream and mainstream isn’t stuck on some utopian notion that brands and advertising have no place on social networks. It’s a balance you have to strike, but sometimes people just want a deal, a coupon or a prize.
  • Twitter is a lower value network, but we think this is because Twitter is used by most as a broadcast mechanism. Therefore, users are accustomed to tuning out promotions and much of what companies will post. That, coupled with the “follow everybody” mentality of the platform and you’ve got depreciating returns compared to more manicured networks like Facebook and Email.

What are your thoughts? What would you do to improve a share-and-win promotion like this? Have you tried one with your company? If so, share some metrics or concerns with us in the comments.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).