Posts Categorized: Marketing

Who Says You Can’t Buy Friends?


Recently, more than a few people have taken up the position that it’s a bad idea to “buy friends” on Facebook. And by “buy friends,” we mean to advertise to get people to “Like” your business page. Sure, it sounds icky, and seems to fly in the face of everything social media stands for: engagement, interaction, dialogue, etc.

Some reasons cited for not buying friends include:

  • Companies that help you buy friends are all spammy
  • Having fans that don’t interact can hurt your Edgerank
  • It’s better to earn fans than buy them
  • People you buy will never be as engaged with your page as people who find you organically

Are there companies out there who are “doing it wrong,” by buying friends? Sure. Are there some less-than-credible companies who are providing less-than-reliable Facebook advertising services? You bet!

Does that mean it’s a completely worthless medium? Absolutely not. In fact, when wielded properly, buying ads on Facebook can give a page a much-needed boost faster and more efficiently than simply growing connections with people organically.

Take, for example, American Estate Jewelry (full disclosure: AEJ is a former Evolve client). When we started working with this company, they had about 35 fans. Through a highly targeted campaign, we proudly boosted this to just over 1,000 in about two months for a relatively low investment. Today, well after the advertising campaigns ended, the fan page has more than 1,300 fans–the last 250 or so being won organically.

More importantly, engagement during the campaigns grew very rapidly, and keeps growing. We went from virtually no interaction, to several likes and comments per post every day (on average). This is clearly a case of advertising driving the initial introduction, with engagement produced through–you guessed it–relevant content.

The point here is that engagement levels change over time, which also means that Edgerank (Facebook’s method for determining what makes it to users’ individual walls), shifts over time. Like Google search engine results pages, Edgerank is not static! In terms of “buying friends,” having individual fans who are not closely connected to your brand might result in fewer Facebook feed impressions in the short run. But in the long run, as the business provides more relevant content on a more frequent basis, the more likely it is that those “bought” fans will see it.

For example, check out Nutella (not a client, but still one of our favorites!). Nutella has more than 11 million fans. In terms of engagement, though, roughly 2,000 – 10,000 individuals respond to any given post (likes and comments). Even if 20,000 people engage, that’s still only .18 percent of the total fanbase.

In case you couldn’t tell, we’re big believers in social media advertising. Why? Well, as Erik Qualman put it, “In the future we will no longer search for products and services; rather they will find us via social media.” There is no other medium currently available that allows marketers to target individuals the way Facebook does.

Our job as marketers is to help the products and services we represent find the right customers. The future of advertising, in many ways, is Facebook. As marketers, we need to be objective about our recommendations–but also recognize opportunities (for ourselves and our clients) to experiment a little.

We also need to recognize that buying fans (or any form of advertising for that matter) isn’t the be-all end-all of Facebook marketing. Instead, we should look at it as a small push down what could be a very steep hill.

Photo credit: Yes!Online

How to Sell Social Media

This is the second in our “How to Sell” series. You can read the first post in the series, “How to Sell Public Relations Services.”

With companies across the spectrum looking to incorporate social media into their marketing mix, selling social media should be relatively easy, right? Believe it or not, many companies still face several hurdles to incorporating social media into their marketing mix. These include:

  • Not fully understanding social, and therefore ignoring it.
  • Feeling like it’s something a lower-level employee can do (and therefore not giving it a plank in the strategy–or tying it to strategy at all).
  • Their agency doesn’t recommend social media solutions as much as they could (or should).

Many agencies focus on selling services with which they’re comfortable and have experience. They know they should be growing their social media practice, but can’t seem to quite close the deal. That’s where we come in.

Here’s what agencies need to do in order to sell more social.

Bake social into everything

This must go beyond simply creating a Facebook and Twitter page. That’s the price of entry, and not an idea in and of itself.

Marketing solutions need to demonstrate ideas for identifying, engaging, joining and sometimes building communities. That can be through creating interesting content, developing a company’s online presence, and exchanging useful information that create value for the client’s constituents.

Be social

Seems obvious, right? Social media may be new to some, but companies that want help with social expect an agency with at least a modicum amount of experience. Even if an agency doesn’t have experience, it’s people surely do (seriously, who isn’t on Facebook?). That means letting its employees be active on social networks. That also means giving up some level of message control (which is perhaps the largest hurtle for many traditional ad agencies).

Should the agency itself get social? Evolve’s answer is Yes–and No. It’s o.k. to have a presence, but we believe the true power of social media is in people, not organizations. That’s why we believe it’s essential for agencies to loosen their hold on the reigns and let their people represent online. Guidelines, in this case, are recommended (but not rules). The bottom line here is that some agencies just need to adjust their thinking (and approach) towards how information is spread today.

Be open with clients and set realistic expectations

This might be the most difficult thing for an agency. Client-agency relationships can be tenuous, and they need to be cultivated and constantly maintained. No agency wants to risk losing a client by presenting an idea that the client won’t buy into.

But it’s the agency needs to both be open with the client about what is possible with social media, and what isn’t. By now, most companies know that social is not a panacea to its marketing problems. And most recognize the need for integration with other marketing activities.

Perhaps that’s why starting selling social ideas to long-term, existing clients might be the best place to start. There’s already a level of trust there, which the agency can then leverage to its advantage. The agency can take its past record with the client and use that as a platform to demonstrate new ideas that incorporate social media.

Why agencies need to do this?

To protect their business. The biggest threat to an agency today is not evolving (sorry, we can’t resist the pun). There is a lot of room in the marketplace for upstarts to come in a snatch up business from agencies focused on more traditional marketing solutions. And with the plethora of freelancers on the market, its easier for a small agency to start in social and work into more traditional avenues than it is for a more established agency to develop a social media practice.


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The Growing Importance of Filtering

Let’s face it: The world is getting noisier. Individuals and companies alike now compete with each other in a 24/7 attention economy. As our individual and organizational social networks grow over time, the amount of noise can become overwhelming. It can be hard for people to know who and what really matters to them. For organizations, it can be challenging to know who should be in their network, who they need to pay attention to, and what type of information is of value.

Fortunately, there are a bevy of tools out there to help individuals and organizations alike focus on who and what is important. Here are a few that we use on a regular basis.


We can’t extol the virtue of lists enough. Lists help us categorize our friends and connections so that we can more easily scan what’s going on. Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to create lists, and on Twitter, they can be made either public or private. For example, we maintain private lists of current clients and prospective clients so that we can quickly see their tweets and respond. We also keep this public list of media we follow on Twitter, which helps us stay informed. We also follow other people’s lists, so that we can get a sense of what’s going on in those categories without having to create our own list or follow a number of other people.

One caveat: People change jobs, your relationships change over time, and your interests and needs also may shift. That means that lists often require maintenance.

Social Media Clients

Just like many of us use Outlook for email, there are software platforms available to help you monitor and use social media tools. Many of these tools were started as a way to interface with and extend the functionality of Twitter, though some have come a long way and now provide the ability to access multiple social media sites (to varying degrees of functionalities).

Our personal favorite is Hootsuite. They have a free option, but we find the $5.99/month is worth paying for additional features such as integration with Google Analytics. Hootsuite can connect to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and a number of other social networks. It also allows you to add team members (with a paid subscription) so that you can easily manage corporate accounts as a team.

But what we like most about Hootsuite, however, is the ability to create custom tabs and columns that display all the info you want in one place. For example, we monitor the lists mentioned above simply by creating a tab that has all of our most important lists on them. You can also create columns out of Twitter searches, so you can monitor for keywords fairly easily.

Other very good social media clients include Tweet Deck and Seesmic, though you can find a treasure trove of social media tools over at

Social Media Filters

All of the above tools help us filter out noise and focus on what’s most important. There are also a several services that can do this for you.

Our favorite is Gist. Gist takes your connections from your social networks, as well as your email contacts and Gmail. You can access Gist through a wide variety of methods, including through Outlook or Gmail, in Firefox or Chrome (web browsers), or even on your Blackberry, iPhone or Android.

Gist will automatically analyze all of your contacts and will assign a value to them between 0 and 100, based on how important those contacts seem to be to you. It will also seek out your contacts on a variety of social networks, and once confirmed, will import that data (if public) into the system. You can then be able to see status updates from people and companies, sorted by their score.


Whatever tools you chose, it’s important to remember one thing: Things change very quickly. While one tool works today, new tools with new functionalities become available all the time. Don’t be afraid to experiment!