Tag : facebook

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376: How an Embarrassing Failure Led Me to Marketing Success

Back in 2004, I became an author. I released a book of 41 discussions of interesting Bible characters. In 2003, it was the highest-rated manuscript on a service that faith-based publishers use to find authors without agent representation. At the one publisher who legitimately considered it, the editorial staff loved my writing and the compilation; but their accounting and marketing teammates did not. I ended up using a self-publishing service to print the manuscript.

By commercial standards, the book was a flop.

Failure to Success WOTS7,904,412 different book titles have sold better on Amazon. A horrible salesman, I’ve sold fewer than 200 copies across all retailers; and many of those were copies I’ve bought to give to people. My church, where my wife is on staff and where I’ve lead multiple environments, sold one whole copy of Word on the Street during the years it was on their bookstore’s shelf. That wouldn’t be so embarrassing, except that more than 3,000 people attend our church on most Sundays.

Oh, it gets better: that bookstore’s manager found a signed copy of my book—at Goodwill. When Amazon showed a “collector’s edition” of the book, my curiosity pushed me to buy it. When the box arrived, I learned that someone else with a signed copy had hocked it. So, I had probably bought that same book twice.

My book’s failure became one of the most important marketing lessons of my life. It cemented an unpopular platform from which I’ve taught auction professionals for the past decade. It became one of the underpinning premises of the Auction Marketing Management designation program. See, one of the primary reasons my book failed turned out to be the reason so much auction marketing doesn’t reach its full potential.

The audience determines what gets read.

If the people we want to interact with our content don’t like it or engage with it, our message will not get heard. That applies to both authors and advertisers. No matter how much of ourselves we put into the creation, we don’t determine what people like, what gets absorbed, or whether something sells. No matter how much we believe in something, we can’t make the world want it.

Also, it doesn’t matter what our peers think of our work or how many industry awards we win. Editors loved my prose, but they got to read it for free. My capstone writing portfolio became the first to earn a perfect score from the Dean of Education at my alma mater, but she didn’t buy a copy of my book. I won an adult poetry contest in high school and a medal for writing achievement in college. My undergrad internship included authoring a magazine cover story about the first school administrator to participate in Florida’s voucher program. None of that mattered.

Thankfully, I got to see the big, fat failure.

I’m grateful it was so obvious. Many auctioneers don’t get that same opportunity. They don’t know how many postcard recipients didn’t become bidders but would have with different messaging or design. They don’t see how much money they didn’t make off Facebook scrollers who might have clicked on a better ad. They don’t know how much their auctioneer-centric email subject lines kept them from bigger commissions.

For auctioneers, the auction method is their instinctive headline. Auction and open house dates are the rhythm of their lives and get most of the real estate on their advertising media. I’ve even seen auctioneers put their office’s address in prominent or multiple locations—not the auction site’s address but their return mailing address.

The problem with all of these emphases is that those aren’t priorities to consumers. It’s not that this content isn’t important. It’s just that people only need that information after they already want what you’re selling. That tertiary information can be shown in smaller font lower on the piece—or on your website.

By the way, the same holds true when prospecting for sellers, who don’t primarily care how many years you’ve been in business. They don’t care if your chant won a bid calling contest, especially if you’re selling their asset online. They don’t know what those letters behind your name mean and don’t really want you to take their time explaining them. They don’t want clichéd, ambiguous tag lines or unsupported claims. They want empathy to their specific situation, their pain points. They want evidence that you consistently solve the problems of other sellers in their same situation.

Our audience wants the book to be about them.

Our prospects will give us only a few seconds to prove it’s about them. If we don’t connect to their need or want in that time, we may not get more time. It doesn’t matter how pretty the inside of the brochure is behind a horrible mailer panel. It doesn’t matter what’s in the email hidden behind an “AUCTION!!!” subject line. It doesn’t matter how robust the content is on the other end of the link from an uninteresting Facebook ad. All we’re trying to say doesn’t get said, if nobody reads it.

George Bernard Shaw summed it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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375: Your Direct Mail Is Trying Too Hard

Over the past three years, creating Facebook campaigns for auction companies has grown to become more than 20% of my billable work—and the only work I do for 29% of my client base. Because of my success with Facebook and the inexperience or tentativeness some auctioneers have in that medium, I’m often given free reign to choose the photos, determine the target audience, and write the advertising copy.

Facebook Clients

Candidly, that control scares me sometimes. From what I’ve heard from my clients, they regularly feel that same fear, too. The stakes are high; so are the costs of advertising. “This seller really needs this to go well.” We can’t afford to tell the wrong people, not to grab the right people’s attention, or to spend the money in the wrong place.

One benefit of this editorial control, though, is that I get to adapt the headlines to what I teach at CAI and AMM. Facebook’s limited space forces brevity. It makes me focus on only the most critical information a potential buyer would need to take the next step. Because my methods typically woo hundreds, thousands, or (in some cases) tens of thousands of website visitors to an auction, I continue to win that scary freedom of content generation.

Here’s a dirty little secret: every auction manager has (1) that freedom and (2) access to those guiding principles. That’s true of almost any and every medium you leverage to find buyers.

Your direct mail has the same job as your Facebook ads—and any piece of your advertising. It only has to get the prospect to the next step. More than likely, that step is to visit your website—even if the auction is conducted offline. In some communities, that next step might be to call, text, or email you. In a fraction of cases, the next step might be to attend an open house, broker seminar, or lender luncheon.

You don’t have to tell the prospect how many hours are on a piece of equipment or what the annual taxes are on a piece of real estate. You don’t need to transcribe driving directions or list all of the lots in the catalog. I know auction marketers who don’t include preview dates or even auction dates in their advertising. I already hear your “Blasphemy!” Technically, neither of those pieces of information are necessary for a potential buyer to know whether or not they want more information about the asset or benefit event at hand.

Overloaded Bicycle

Appropriate mystery is your marketing friend. You can show and say far more on your website than you can in any other medium. All that extra space is free. Pro tip: free’s a lot cheaper than bigger newspaper ads. That free space let’s you send postcards instead of brochures—and maybe afford to send them to more people.

Also, if you’ve got a Google or Facebook pixel installed on your website, the additional traffic from the curious can be used to direct digital marketing at people you previously could only reach in print. And, you can get more accurate data to build lookalike audiences—prospects who look demographically identical to the people on your mailing list.

Overloaded Truck

I’m seeing more of my clients pare their direct mail text to not much more than what fits into a Facebook ad. It gives the photos room to breathe. It often earns space for more and/or bigger photos—the elements doing the heavy lifting in advertising anyway.

Right now is where I typically get auctioneer pushback. I don’t shun that resistance. I get that it’s hard. This bucks status quo or, at least, auction industry conventional wisdom. This makes you feel like you’re under-advertising, under-performing for your seller. At first, it feels like you’re not fully using the space you’re buying. I won’t mislead you: restraint is stout work. Thankfully, that work is offset by a uniform message across all platforms, making the media creation and proofing process much easier. It also makes templates more efficient. It might even make your in-house or outsourced design less expensive.

If it helps, just remember who you wanted for a second date: the first date that intrigued you to know more or the one that dumped their whole life story.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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367: Are You Gambling With Your Future Commissions?

Last Monday morning, I released a controversial take on the firearms portion of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Several in the auction industry wrote it off as a Chicken Little screech, a tinfoil-hat projection. Others wrote to tell me how they had found my assessment true for them.

The potential of that post didn’t wait any longer than the following Tuesday night. I arrived home around 10:30 to find my Ads Manager on lockdown. My advertising account had been shuttered without warning and with no explanation. All of my clients’ ads had been paused.

Facebook shutdown

This was bigger than an ad not being approved. This was a total inability to advertise on Facebook without creating a new user account, getting all of my clients to update their access permissions, and re-creating all of the custom audiences I’ve made. From what I read online by others who had suffered this fate, even those steps were sometimes not enough to get back up and running, as Facebook has measures in place to protect against serial offenders.

One Facebook advertising vendor wrote a detailed article specifically on this situation, noting that even the appeals process was a long shot. Apparently, many advertisers don’t even get specific explanations of what caused their account closure. The appeals process could take days just to get a response, let alone resolution.

The worst case scenarios would’ve cost me significant time and money. I was looking at losing the fastest-growing segment of my business, the only cost-effective tool I have for some auctions. I stood to lose confidence from my clients, prospects, and the professionals in my continuing education classes.

The exceptions from the horror stories I was reading came to those with a long track record with Facebook advertising, large Facebook spends, and a humble appeal. Thankfully, all of those criteria applied to me. My appeal email also explained how I had recently written a blog post to exhort others to comply with their advertising guidelines.

I went to bed at 1:30 Wednesday morning, anticipating tough conversations and difficult work when I returned to the office. Five hours later, I awoke for some urgent pro bono work before breakfast. Before I got out of bed I checked my Facebook Ads app on my phone to discover that—miraculously—not only had my account been reinstated, but my clients’ ads had all resumed.

I jogged upstairs to my office. My inbox held two emails from Facebook: one welcoming me back to good standing and the other explaining why my account had been shuttered. I kid you not: firearms violations.

Ironic, right? I still don’t know what post or ad triggered the closure. It might have even been my unpromoted post of last Monday’s article. Apparently, the situation struck Facebook’s evaluators as bigger than just an unapproved ad, which I’ve encountered multiple times for clients. My activity was unacceptable behavior.

So, hear me again. Putting firearms in your farm, estate, and liquidation auction catalogs has the very real potential of hijacking your Facebook advertising for your non-firearm assets.

If you believe in Facebook as a marketing tool, consider playing by their rules. If you acknowledge that culture is moving away from newsprint to digital media, understand that adaptation is more than just a format issue. If you want to keep cost-efficient mass promotion in the tool box, consider how you use your tools.

While my company will gladly still design direct mail, newsprint ads, and banner ads for auctions with firearms, I will no longer create Facebook advertising for auctions with guns in the catalog. The stakes are too high for me. Take time to evaluate whether they are for you, too.

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365: How Some Auctioneers Are Playing with Fire(arms)

Recently, my clients and auction industry peers have seen more ads denied by Facebook. The reason? The ads don’t comply with Facebook’s policies on firearms. What you need to know is that none of the ads in question included any images or mentions of guns, ammunition, hunting, or even “sporting goods.”

I’ll explain why in a little bit, but first I want to briefly show you how we got to this moment.

In Facebook’s first three years, it offered little-to-no paid advertising and thus little-to-no advertiser limitations. Organic content multiplied mostly with user policing through content reporting.

In 2007, Facebook started selling their user base to advertisers. Restrictions developed for drugs, prescription drugs, tobacco products, questionable supplements, and “adult products or services.” Societal, political, and user influence eventually pushed Facebook to put age restrictions on content for firearms in March 2014.

Twenty-two months later (January 2016), Facebook banned all private sales and commercial promotion of firearms transactions. While Facebook permitted personal posts regarding firearms and business pages & posts related to firearms, paid promotion began being disallowed with few exceptions sneaking through the cracks.

As advertisers tried different tactics to skirt the system, Facebook added to its purview. More euphemisms got added to the banned list of terms. Eventually, Facebook’s automated tools began searching the web pages to which all ads were linked. Any firearms image or reference on the other end of those links got those links black-flagged for any paid advertising.

Facebook timeline

That’s how my clients’ ads for lawn mowers, antique tractors, and comic books couldn’t be published. Estate sales, farm liquidations, and other auctions with guns anywhere in their catalogs couldn’t be advertised on Facebook because of the gun lots they contained. I even tried linking to a single item in the auction and to a page of search results in an auction catalog that would exclude the lots that had guns in them. No dice.

Facebook next step?As of right now, the best way to advertise an auction with guns is to create a separate catalog for the guns. This way, you can run Facebook ads for the other lots that will sell or sell higher because of Facebook exposure. The gun catalog can be promoted separately via email, direct mail, newsprint, etc. (Lists of both gun dealers and people with hunting licenses are not only available but reasonably priced.)

This is a hassle but nowhere near as big as the hurdle the auction industry might be facing. As you can see in this January 2017 featured answer in Facebook’s Advertiser Help Center, the potential next step in this progression will be for Facebook to refuse links from entire websites or Facebook business pages that have any objectionable material.

What this could mean is that any past auction lot could get your entire site black-flagged from any future Facebook advertising. This is an extreme forecast; and as a Facebook marketing vendor, I hope I’m wrong. At this time, it’s only conjecture; but it’s enough of a possibility that we should be preparing for that potential. That means:

• wiping past auction catalogs that contain gun content,

• moving your firearms to a separate website,

• branding your firearms sales separately, and/or

• partnering with a gun dealer for completely separate firearm transactions

Critics of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have pushed against his pragmatic, libertarian approach to the content on Facebook. It has taken international tragedies and media firestorms for Zuckerberg to introduce more policing, more human content reviewers. [Many would be surprised to know that Zuckerberg’s personal political contributions skew Republican (58% to Democrat 42%—to four Republican candidates and two Democrat candidates), as do Facebook’s political action committee’s contributions (56% Republican, 44% Democrat).] 1 Restrictions that took thirteen years to put in place are most likely not going to be reversed, at least not anytime soon.

What’s very clear is that Facebook isn’t getting more gun friendly. Social, legal, and governmental pressure keeps mounting on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. 2 Courts have validated that Facebook’s restrictions do not infringe on first or second amendment rights. This genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

While separating guns (including non-firearm versions like glue-, spray-, and barcode guns) from other lots will be a difficult task, it could spare more draconian remedies down the road. Even if you decide not to make any of these preventative changes now, make sure you’re at least having the conversation with staff, partners, vendors, and/or even your elected officials. An ounce of prevention just might prove a pound of cure.

1Is Mark Zuckerberg a Democrat or a Republican?” Tom Murse, ThoughtCo.com, March 25, 2017.

210 more Pulse nightclub plaintiffs join lawsuit against Google, Facebook, Twitter” Jared Morgan, Guns.com, April 5, 2017.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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Why You And I Must “Uneducate” Ourselves

Has someone ever asked you why what you do is even necessary?

That’d be a “yes” for me. The most recent time was in a booth at a small-town Applebee’s. One of my auctioneer friends asked why my brand management module at the Auction Marketing Management (AMM) designation is included in the course. He softened the question by adding “as a friend” and “no offense,” but he didn’t need to do so. I didn’t take offense to it. In fact, that’s a question I’ve asked myself, which made it easier to answer.

AMM has gotten the reputation that it’s a Facebook seminar, when less than 25% of the content addresses Facebook. Others (particularly the graduates) have expanded AMM’s description, calling it advanced marketing education. While we do teach tools and technology like Google Analytics and Facebook re-marketing, the bulk of the education is actually spent on advertising principles that were true during both the Reagan and the Lincoln administrations. The resource mentioned most often from the front of the room was written in 1932.

I can’t speak for John and Robert, the other AMM instructors; but I would contend that we spend much of our time uneducating the room. By that I mean that we have to lead people out of counterproductive advertising strategies and practices that have become engrained into the industry. We do that because using new technology with old approaches just multiplies the audiences for bad advertising.

So, the simple answer is that rebuilding a holistic approach to marketing has to start with replacing or upgrading the footers. That’s where my module comes in handy. That’s also why my content comes first—before the fantastic tools and tactics that John, Robert, and I demonstrate. It’s not that my module is the best. (It’s not even my favorite.) It’s that brand management determines what auctioneers do with the rest of the content.

For those who haven’t attended my AMM module, it can be summarized with one sentence: every business decision is a brand decision.

What you sell is a brand decision that leads to marketing choices and specific advertising selections. Whether your auction is online, simulcast, or offline will change your calls to action, your advertising timelines, and maybe even your target demographics. Your online bidding platform will determine your goals in Google Analytics and create interesting strategic conversations about links in digital ads. The ethos of your brand will influence how much you spend on design and photography—and the visual styles of both. The personality of your brand will guide your headlines and advertising copy. Your personal and company goals will impact the systems and priorities of your business development, including your social media and marketing roles.

In short, brand management gives you the filters through which to view everything else in your business. It’s healthy for all of us—me included—to be regularly reminded of that truth and shown how to apply it.

I recently got a visual representation of my AMM module’s role. Two exterior walls of my house had sunk into Virginia’s “shrink swell” soil and created substantial damage on the interior of my house. Before we could resurface the concrete floors, repair the drywall, and repaint the walls, we had to make sure my house wouldn’t sink any more. Last week, RamJack installed nine helical piers under my foundation. After securing my house, the crew then used jacks to recover some of the distance my house had dropped. 

We had to get the foundation back where it should be before we could work on the aesthetics of our home. Knowing that this process was coming, my wife and I have held off of some of curb appeal projects for our house—how our house is advertised to passers by, if you will. The professionals recommended that we now wait six to nine months before making interior changes, too. Apparently, it takes that long for our house’s structural components to settle into their new normal. In other words, we can’t do the advanced things until we’ve got the underpinnings re-secured.

The same is true of our businesses, our marketing models, and our advertising—advanced or rudimentary. That’s why I teach a brand management module at AMM, and that’s why I hope to see you in my class someday.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Isn’t Enough

This year, I’m intentionally reading nonfiction books from people with a different worldview than I hold: different life stages, different ethnicities, different belief systems, etc.

Recently, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, an in-depth look at dating in the age of texting, social media, dating sites, and hookup apps. The current realities struck me as daunting. It made me thankful to already have a committed relationship wrapped up. (The day this post releases is the nineteenth anniversary of the day my wife first told me that she loved me.) So, I’ve been out of the dating game for a long time.

Well, I have; and I haven’t.

You could say I’m a professional matchmaker. Everyday, I help my clients court buyers. We’re trying to find people who want what they’re offering. We’re hoping someone out there finds what they have is attractive.

Just as with today’s dating scene, much of that wooing starts online—through Facebook in particular. It turns out that the realities of successful online dating apply to our commercial courting.

Being on the right platform at the right time doesn’t guarantee a match.

Currently, around forty million Americans use online dating sites, but fewer than 20% of these site users find their true-love needle in those haystacks. The percentage is much lower when the criteria is upgraded to marriages. So, being in the right place at the right time isn’t enough.

Facebook has about 1.5 billion users, but just having your advertising there isn’t a guarantee for success. Facebook rewards ads that get quick and frequent interactions and practically hides the advertising that doesn’t (and makes it more expensive). If you don’t know what you’re doing on Facebook, your haystack can grow that much more intimidating.

Unlike the passive lead-qualification process of dating sites, Facebook matching is more active. With the capabilities of its lookalike audience tool, expanding the perfect selection is not only possible but easy. If you’re boosting posts instead of strategically launching targeted ads or posts to custom audiences, you’re
(1) not benefitting from many of the free, premium tools available,
(2) not taking advantage of advanced targeting options, and
(3) wasting money.

Content matters.

Successful online daters know how to appeal to specific candidates, and they adapt their photos and descriptions to appeal to those potential matches. Apparently, the people who get the most dates and the best matches avoid generalities. They don’t hide realities and eccentricities. They pre-sort out the unqualified candidates by candor and specificity of their content. They take strategic pictures from specific angles. They don’t overshare details but instead create intrigue.

The most successful Facebook campaigns I manage for my clients focus on the recipient’s needs and wants instead of the generic auction construct. Instead of cliches and generalities, we highlight specific aspects or items. We tailor the message and/or photos from one ad to the next—for the same auction—according to who will see it. We use only enough content to get people to take the next step.

Right Place Right Time insert

I regularly hear from auctioneers who believe they’re giving their sellers the best marketing possible just because they use specific media like Facebook. They assume the ensuing bidders they register and the prices they achieve are the best the market has for their sellers. I’ve also talked to auction marketers who previously thought they were successful—and were by relative standards—but who’ve recently seen their sales numbers jump after they changed their media mixes and their advertising content. (Twice, I’ve received emails that reference “blowing up our website.”) These professionals didn’t change what they sell, just how they sold it.

Like our American culture that has adapted in how to meet potential romantic partners, these progressive auctioneers have evolved according to cultural realities and consumer demands. If you’re trusting that being in the right place at the right time is enough, know that those pragmatic auction marketers are connecting with more and better prospects than you are.

They might even be stealing your dates.

Sources consulted for statistics in this post:
“5 Facts about Online Dating,” by Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson (Pew Research Center), February 29, 2016.
“Online Dating Statistics,” by Statistic Brain, July 1, 2016.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Facebook’s “Next Best Thing” Helps Us Little Guys

The combination of the Facebook pixel and the Lookalike Audience tool is one of the most incredible marketing innovations since the Internet was invented. I don’t know of anything that has democratized business so much in my lifetime. Now, mom ’n’ pop organizations and even sole proprietors can spool their customer bases to rival that of Fortune 100 companies and then unleash Facebook’s machine learning process to hone that list into a mind-boggling resource.

Unfortunately, for many of my clients, even just installing a code into their website header is a big ask; and many new companies don’t have the few hundred customer names required to start a Lookalike Audience.

Thankfully, Facebook invented the next best thing within the past couple months. I’ve been experimenting with it on behalf of several clients, and it’s killer.

Within the Custom Audience menu—where you upload lists and/or connect to your website pixel traffic—advertisers can now create an audience of people who recently interacted with your Facebook content. You can even indicate specific interactions, though I don’t.

Custom Audience Facebook interactions

For auction companies who sell the same or related asset categories, this audience is extra valuable. It functions similarly as the pixel, except that you can’t create lookalikes from website traffic that originates from other digital and offline sources. Also, you can’t create an audience that got to a specific action on your website like a pixel can. This new audience allows you to get people who interacted with your advertising but didn’t go to your website. As of right now, that’s something the Facebook pixel can’t do.

In only a few weeks of testing, I’ve found it to help both click through rates and cost per click. For one auction company, we recently had two auctions within a month for the same seller with the same inventory. Our average click-through rate jumped from 3.1% to 4.7%—with one ad hitting 7.8%. Our average cost per click dropped from $.47 to $.34.

These gains don’t cost anything, either. Like all of the other audience tools, Facebook gives this one away for free to help your ads be more relevant.

If you sell an asset category where your buyers might be sellers, this tool allows fantastic cross-marketing opportunities. In my early testing, this new audience has been successful for consignment auctions. For one of my clients who works a lot in agricultural real estate and equipment, I used to achieve really good results serving ads to people who liked their company Facebook page. I’ve switched those ads over to this audience—since recent activity trumps a one-time thumbs up.

You can designate this interacting audience for up to 365 days in the past or as short as you’d like. For auctioneers, you can create timelines that capture traffic going back to specific auction campaigns.

So, here’s to us small business marketers getting even more access to Facebook’s users! Here’s to us capturing our advertising traffic in a new way. And here’s to the marketing and re-marketing potential now available at our fingertips.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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350: What Kind of Facebook Advertising Should You Use?

The biggest confusion I encounter when teaching people how to advertise on Facebook is the difference between an ad, a promoted post, and a boosted post. Part of that confusion comes from Facebook using similar buttons and terms to describe all of them. Don’t be fooled, though. These are very different tools with different purposes for savvy advertisers to use.

Origination

One of the biggest differences between the three is where the posts are built. Ads can be created only within Ads Manager (or Business Manager). Posts can be created only on your business page’s timeline. Ads do not show on your timeline at all, which often leads my clients to ask, “Did you build the ad already?” Both ads and posts can be scheduled for a specific release time.

Organic Distribution

Ads show organically only to the Admins and Editors of your page. Posts show organically only to 2-10% of the people who have hit the like button on your page.

Paid Distribution

Both ads and promoted posts are distributed through Ads Manager (or Business Manager). The confusing part is that the first step for both is to click the green button that says, “Create Ad.” Boosted posts are distributed from the “Boost” button under the post on your Facebook page. Boosted posts do not have all of the targeting and optimization options available to ads and promoted posts.

Content Formats

Ads can distribute with a photo, photo carousel, slideshow, or video. Ads can also leverage the Facebook canvas tool or the adaptive single-image tool. Boosted and promoted posts can be single images, a photo album, a video, or a link. On the photo albums, you can determine which top images get shown in the collage preview.

Buttons & Links

On an ad, the illustration (photos, slideshows, and videos) are all clickable to your website. So is the headline and link description. The viewer doesn’t see the URL, and the advertiser doesn’t need to include the URL in the text of the ad. In boosted and promoted posts, clicking on a photo advances the viewer to the next photo—not the advertiser’s link. URLs must be pasted into the text portion of your post and/or your photo captions. Posts do not have clickable buttons, either.

Facebook design comparison insert

Default Optimization

Facebook knows our tendencies as consumers, whether we’re likely to click on links or try to stay in the newsfeed. So, it allows advertisers to choose how advertising is targeted (“optimized”). The default setting for ads is link clicks. For promoted and boosted posts, the default setting is for engagements: likes, comments, and shares. Both ads and promoted posts can also be optimized either for impressions (showing to the same people as many times as possible) or unique reach (showing to as many people as possible). Boosted posts offer no options for optimization and are inherently aimed at engagements that keep the viewer on Facebook.

Distribution Platforms

Ads can be distributed to Facebook’s newsfeed, right column, Instant Articles, In-Stream Videos, or Canvas. They can also be pushed out to Instagram and the Audience Network (selection of editorial websites that show Facebook ads). Promoted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed & right column and to Instagram. Boosted posts can publish only to Facebook’s newsfeed and to Instagram.

Primary Measurement

Facebook’s default reporting tends to focus on total audience size and a single column of content results. For ads, the results are clicks to your website. For posts, results are measured in terms of combined engagements—likes, comments, and shares. Cost per engagements generally run much lower than cost per click. To compare apples to apples, make sure your reports for both ads and posts show the cost per click. Within Ads Manager (or Business Manager), you can customize which analytical data you want to see in your reports and in what order. Below is a recent sample showing the standard columns I use for my personal and client reports.

Anonymized Facebook report

Click to enlarge

Strategy

Ads prove a high stakes game of risk/reward. Single-photo and video ads have one first impression that must get someone to click to your website. Carousel and slideshow ads give you slightly more content to attract a buyer or client. Promoted and boosted posts offer the option of the photo gallery, which allows consumers to meander through your content before deciding to leave Facebook for your website. You can and should have different copy in the captions for each photo; and you should have a link pasted in the description, too.

Because of their content and distribution models, each kind of Facebook advertising has a different use. Ads align best with the pursuit of the most motivated consumers. Promoted posts appeal to consumers whose interest can be developed. Boosted posts are best suited for community awareness; that community can be either interest-based (fans of your Facebook page) or geography-based (people in a specific location).

Know that results will wildly vary. For the most efficient and effective Facebook advertising, you have to experiment with different Facebook tools and then measure their effectiveness.

Facebook comparison chart full size

Click to enlarge

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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348: 5 Ways to Make Your Direct Mail Effective in a Digital World

I’ve written about Facebook so much in the past year that an auctioneer recently questioned whether I was still in the direct mail business. The short answer: yes. The longer answer: no two external media go together better than Facebook and direct mail.

It won’t surprise most of my readers that an auction company hired me to design more than 120 different postcards last year or that the people on their mailing list purchased millions of dollars’ worth of assets from them in 2016. What might surprise you is that this client mailed each postcard to less than 1% of their mailing list database—or that this same customer spent at least three times as much on Facebook per auction than they did on that very successful direct mail.

If your direct mail isn’t that efficient or effective, consider making some of the following adjustments.

Use first class postage to a few instead of standard mail to many.

Outside of Every Door Direct Mail, there’s rarely a reason an auctioneer should use standard mail. The USPS is allowed to take weeks to deliver it. It’s particularly sketchy when it crosses state lines. If you can’t afford first class postage, trim your mailing list. The time savings of switching to first class postage will give you extra days (or even weeks) for taking photos, writing copy, and processing proofs with your designer and seller.

Don’t mail to satiated buyers.

What is the buying cycle of the asset you’re advertising? If someone just bought a primary residence from you, there’s no reason to send them residential auction postcards for several years. Unless you’re marketing to investors or dealers, a list of recent buyers in a particular segment won’t be as efficient as finding new people who need that same thing. Your best bet is to market to past bidders who didn’t buy. That data can be curated in a few minutes per auction with just an extra column in your spreadsheet.

Send teaser postcards instead of brochures.

You have to trust your website. It’s your marketplace, even if your auctions are still offline. If someone isn’t motivated to get more information on your website from your postcard, (1) they aren’t motivated to purchase and/or (2) you need better content on your postcards. Since we can only use one subject line in our emails and about three sentences in our Facebook ads, it should be fairly easy to know how to be succinct with direct mail.

Or mail prestige pieces to maintain premium brand identity.

While Facebook is certainly efficient at keeping your brand in front of prospective sellers, it’s limited in how far your content can be differentiated from that of other brands. Direct mail, on the other hand, can be different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors (including metallic and neon). If you want to create a visual expectation for your brand that is superior to your competitor’s media, direct mail can effectively prove that.

This isn’t just for luxury brands and expensive assets. You can set the bar for any asset category or price point simply by design differences, but you have to consistently mail pieces that look similar in order to build that visual brand equity.

Leverage segmented lists and variable data printing.

Most auction software allows you to sort your bidder lists by purchase history. It only takes a few minutes per auction to add asset category data for each of those bidders or buyers. You shouldn’t have just one real estate list or one construction equipment list, because there are a number of subcategories within each segment. Once you have your lists segmented, you can use variable data to tailor each piece to the recipient’s interest.

While I recommend Facebook solutions for a lot of advertising challenges, I’m still bullish on direct mail. Well, to clarify: I’m bullish on attractive direct mail that gets to a targeted recipient quickly with a succinct message. Thankfully, for me, so are my clients.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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337: A New Tool to Learn More About Your Offline Bidders

Facebook recently launched a new tool called Offline Events that auctioneers can use to gain insight on their offline bidders.

Business Manager Mini-menuHow it works

When you create an ad on Facebook through Business Manager, you now have the option to tie the ad to a specific offline event (an auction in our case). After the auction, you can upload a list of auction attendees to Facebook’s database; and it will match as many of its users as possible and tell you how many of the attendees saw one of your Facebook ads.

You can categorize the list as Purchase (buyers), Lead (bidders), and Other (attendees). In fact, Facebook requires you to pick one of those fields per list. For most auctioneers, it will be easiest to just upload all registered bidders; but it’s good to know you can get further analytics, if you want them.

Facebook will not give you the names or further information about the Facebook users it matches. It only aggregates the data for comparison. Also, it will match only as many as it can with the data you collect. The match rate will vary depending on how much contact information you gather.

Why it’s useful

While it might not be able to match every registered bidder whose information you collect, the good news is that it will never over-report. If someone saw advertising in another medium as well as on Facebook, this information can supplement current auction polling with real data. This tool is especially useful for those who don’t have proprietary online bidding platforms for which the Facebook Pixel can do all of this (after initial setup).

While I’ve not yet got to play around with this tool, its potential is exciting—especially for auctioneers who issue post-auction reports to sellers. The more data point you can use to validate your marketing strategy, the better.

Offline Events Overview

Who it benefits most

This will especially benefit those who sell the same asset categories over and over again and/or those who sell multiple asset categories but in the same geographic area all the time. It will be easier to find trends in this data, if you have bigger bidder pools (typically personal property and commercial equipment) or many auctions per year.

If you’d like to experiment with this tool, you can get a free, quick tutorial here.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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336: How to Get National Advertising on a Local Budget

Have you ever been asked to market anything that had a national appeal, but the asset value didn’t allow a national advertising campaign? It happens to my clients on a regular basis. My advice for that situation has recently changed, as a burgeoning technology helps solves part of that problem.

Let me give you an example.

One of my high-volume clients just booked a deal to sell the furniture, fixtures, and equipment from a two-year-old frozen yogurt shop near Buffalo, NY. Having limited experience with this niche asset category, John called me for ideas on how to attract the most amount of bidders to assets that together were worth only about as much as a new pickup truck. (I had zero experience with this asset type; so, I actually had more questions for him than he had for me.)

Before John called me, he had reached out to our mailing list guy and found a list of thousands of frozen yogurt stores in the country. National List Research was able to split the list into chains and independent operators and even provide the name of an executive for many of them. The bad news: a mailing even just to the independent operators would break his budget.

After a couple phone calls, we hatched a plan.

First, John bought the full mailing list of just the independent frozen yogurt shops along with their phone numbers. At 13 cents per person, that was a small expenditure.

Next, John uploaded that direct mail list to Facebook to create ads to those independent operators. Facebook matched about two thirds of those prospects. John could reach that complete national list of matches for about $20 per ad. So, we planned for a series of ads with different photos and headlines.

Then, John created a lookalike audience of Facebook users who demographically looked exactly like those independent operators.

Using a free Facebook pixel, he also created a list of Facebook users who visited that auction’s page on his website. Then, he had Facebook build a lookalike audience of people who looked just like the people who came to that page on his site. All three of these additional audiences got Facebook ads served to them—again for a small outlay. (John creates these three audiences for almost every auction.)

This YoBerry shop was in a Buffalo suburb; but the Northeast doesn’t have anywhere near as many frozen yogurt shops as the South does. Texas, especially, is chock full of them. John’s budget didn’t allow him to mail to the whole national list, but he didn’t know where the biggest demand would be. So, I recommended he run the first round of Facebook ads and then use Facebook’s and Google Analytics’ geographic reporting tools to see the aggregate data for those who visited the auction’s page on his website. That would tell him which states to select from his list for direct mail reinforcement.

The plan worked. John ended up mailing the postcard I designed to 253 of the 3,000 or so purchased names, saving thousands of dollars in printing and postage. Hundreds of people visited the auction’s page. Grafe Auction found scores of registered bidders from multiple states.

So, here were our takeaways from this low-budget experiment:

• Skip newsprint, unless it’s an asset only with local value.

• Use Facebook to help you sort your direct mail list.

• Leverage lookalike audiences to find the people that list brokers don’t have in their database.

• Implement a Facebook pixel to re-market assets to the original prospects and/or to serve ads to people who look just like your early investigators.

• Follow the data, not your instincts or industry status quo.

This complete process may not work for you, if you don’t offer online bidding of some sort. The individual tools we leveraged, though, are tools we use every day for live and online auctions. In concert, they solve a problem auctioneers regularly face.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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334: 6 Things That Make Your Facebook Ads More Expensive

I regularly get asked to estimate the cost of a potential Facebook campaign off the top of my head. That can be difficult because the cost of advertising on Facebook can vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors. (Even in the same campaign, some ads are drastically more expensive than others.) Because what my clients and I advertise ranges greatly in category, value, and geographic market, the audiences vary accordingly.

Facebook advertising is billed in terms of cost per click (CPC), but that price isn’t uniform. CPC is determined by algorithms and invisible auctions. Ads compete for eyeballs, as Facebook allows only a certain number of ads during a user’s time on the service. Facebook wants ads to be appeal to its users, so that they aren’t annoyed off the platform. Because of this, the world’s largest platform wants paid content to match user interests as much as possible; and engaging ads are rewarded with lower cost per click.

But enough with the ambiguous factors, here are six specific reasons some of your Facebook ads cost more than others.

Unattractive asset

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t buy what you’re selling. You’re just crossing your fingers it sells. Or maybe the item at hand is less attractive to its local area (like a snowmobile in Orlando) or in the current season (like a motorcycle in December). If someone is less likely to purchase something, they are less likely to click on an ad for it. This isn’t a matter of asset value—just asset appeal. I’ve seen ads for small, rural estate sales significantly outperform expensive commercial real estate.

Unappealing copy or photos

You might have a fantastic asset, but the ad copy doesn’t evoke interest in potential buyers. The fault can be the wrong message, too many words, or a missing call to action. Also, the photography could be unprofessionally captured or otherwise underwhelming. It’s not that all images have to be snapped by commercial photographers; they just need to appropriately match the current, reasonable expectations of the consumer public for that asset.

Compressed time frame

Because ads compete for space, forcing them into a small window of time means that Facebook has to push your ads ahead of others with longer timeframes. To win the auction, you have to outbid every other advertiser. So, cutting line costs more. Sometimes, it’s very much worth it, if you are advertising to people at an event: say during the Super Bowl, a car show, or even a competitor’s auction.

Highly-competitive time frame

Certain times of year attract more advertising, because more retailers are advertising their wares. Think: Black Friday. I haven’t tested it, but I would imagine the week of Mother’s Day and Valentines would be more competitive. If you’re going hyper local in a metro area, there might be more advertising during festivals or perennial times of tourist activity.

Your prospect pool and its Facebook habits

Some desired audiences don’t interact with Facebook as often as others. That might be a factor of age, Internet availability, population density, or something else. Or you might be chasing a frequent Facebooker from a specific demographic or geographic area that a lot of marketers are chasing. Either way, supply & demand will make getting in front of them more expensive.

How the ad is optimized

Facebook offers multiple formats for your paid content to be presented. Each is inherently optimized by Facebook for different types of interactions—only one of which is getting people to your website. Also, even those intended for website traffic can be optimized for largest viewing audience, multiple views per prospect, or people most likely to click on links. So, even premium content can be more expensive from a cost-per-click standpoint due to how that content is ordered.

While we should all pursue more relevant ads, it’s important to note that efficiency is a secondary goal to effectiveness. Regularly, in my Facebook reports to clients, the ad that is most effective (got the most clicks) isn’t the most efficient one (lowest cost per click) we used in a campaign. Again, I regularly have huge swings in cost per click in the same campaign, using the same images and headlines.

Some audiences are worth their heftier cost. It only takes one click from the right person to have a buyer and two website visitors to have an auction.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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Reach the Bidders You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

There’s a sneaking suspicion in many auction marketers—and definitely in their sellers. We wonder if there was a stone unturned, a motivated bidder that wasn’t reached by our advertising.

Did we cast a big enough or tight enough net?

Missing Bidders PosterWhat people weren’t in our mailing list broker’s database?
Who didn’t read the newspaper during the weeks prior to the auction?
Who didn’t drive past our sign out on the highway?
Did any emails go unopened or straight to junk folders?
Did we choose the right demographic selectors on Facebook?

The auction community prides itself in bringing the whole market to bear on an asset at once. We tell potential sellers that we’ll deliver true market value. We rightly trumpet our concentrated advertising campaigns.

Still, there’s that whisper, that gnawing question—especially when the auction price is low and even more so when it was an absolute auction. Did we find everybody?

One of the biggest developments in advertising over the past couple of years has been a partial solution to that mystery. This development has made mailing lists more powerful, web traffic more valuable, and Facebook just short of necessary for finding buyers.

Big Data for Small Businesses

In addition to the vast amount of data users give Facebook about themselves, Facebook also buys data from outside sources and matches that information to its user base. Bank and mortgage lender records. Vehicle ownership. Purchase histories. Web site visits. As a result, this data gets woven into an astounding web of connected dots. Using advanced algorithms, Facebook can then match people with common denominators.

So, after you find the people you think are likely buyers, Facebook can find people who look just like your intended audience. With Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, both purchased lists and in-house lists can be matched with people just like them for use in Facebook ads.

With the free Facebook Pixel code installed on your website, you can also now direct Facebook ads to people who recently visited your auction’s page or the page of a similar auction on your site. Then, with the Lookalike Audience tool, you can advertise to people who look just like the people who came to your website.

Over the course of your advertising campaign, as more and more people view your auction’s page on your site, Facebook can learn more and more about the people coming to your site and hone the audience of your Facebook ads.

Facebook Loop

So, whether you start with just a Facebook list of demographics [B] or if you upload lists to Facebook [A], you can create a set of ads that learn and improve their effectiveness over time. You can access an automated database that keeps getting more robust. Your advertising can reach people in the cracks between the groups of people you can find yourself.

An Impressive But Imperfect Solution

Is this Facebook solution circle a silver bullet? No. This is just one medium that reaches less than 80% of the population. Does this mean you’ll definitely find more and better bidders? No, but it’s a superlative start. It’s a more robust solution than what you’ve got now.

Could this concept confront our ignorance? Absolutely.

Recently, I’ve noticed that several of my clients’ Lookalike Audience ads have significantly outperformed not only their uploaded lists but also the Facebook audiences built with the demographic selectors we chose for prospective buyers. In other words, Facebook knew who would visit these websites better than I or my clients did. For the decades of auction marketing experience between all of us, that’s humbling.

It’s also exciting. Now, our lists of past bidders and email subscribers are more valuable. Now, our web traffic can be more meaningful. Now, purchased lists don’t have to be exhaustive. We just need to find a critical mass to get the ball rolling.

Now, we can find the people we weren’t finding—even with our best laid plans.

Illustration built by request from Fiverr.com
Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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11 Christian Facebook Posts You’ll See the Morning After the Election

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have only exacerbated the most contentious election of our lifetime. I haven’t seen any stats, but it’s a safe bet that more people have been blocked or unfriended over the past few months than over any time during the last decade.

Still, there’s a sense that social media will grow more civil after the election results have been tabulated.

We can hope.

The vitriol won’t go out with a whimper. Regardless of who wins, I guarantee you will see more than a few of these posts the day after the election.

Lion King

“No matter who is president, God is still king.”

Expect heavy usage of the words “sovereignty” and “throne.” There’s no voting in heaven, after all.  Be on the lookout for photos of lions and screen captures from YouVersion like: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Praying Hands

“I’m praying for our president, regardless who is in that office.”

This one is closely related. There’s a good chance that this condescending reminder will join some version of “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual darkness in high places.”

Sodom Gomorroah

“America, we’re being judged for our sins.”

Don’t be surprised if there’s a mention of Genesis 19:28 or similar reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. This might arrive with a rainbow emoji to assure us that it won’t end with a Day After Tomorrow flood.

Not Safe to Go in the Water

“I thought it would be safe to return from my Facebook fasting. Boy, was I wrong!”

This will be posted by the same person that had to warn you that they’re leaving Facebook for a while. This passive aggression is typically framed as though Facebook involvement is their problem, but we all know their trumpeted exit was meant to be an indictment of those of us who stayed.

4 Horsemen

“Read your Bible. Jesus is coming soon.”

They may or may not reference the Antichrist. They might also include a link to an hour-long YouTube video showing how the timelines of Revelations and Daniel intersect with the 2016 American national election.

Sheeple with Two Evils

“I didn’t vote for either of these evils.”

This replaces the “Don’t blame me. I voted for [the candidate with fewer votes],” bumper stickers from our youth. By going the neither route, these folks are hoping to keep above the fray. Sadly, these posts will be bombarded with comments of people blaming them for not voting for the losing party.

Dead Voters

“I wonder who would be president if dead people weren’t allowed to vote.”

Extra points if you see this one with a photo of them wearing an “I voted” sticker—still, a day later.

The Vapors

“I need to get away for a few days.”

The vapors! Pearls will be clutched. Hey, everybody makes peace with fate in different ways.

Dirty Jobs

“Time to get to work to pay the new taxes for what we just voted for.”

It’ll be hump day, anyway. So, this one won’t be too out of the ordinary. Still, espressos on the house for everyone!

Group Hug

“No matter who you voted for, you are still my friend; and I will treat you with respect.”

This will probably be Photoshopped onto an unrelated photo from Google Images with a really poor font choice. They’re not asking you to tell them how you voted, but they are asking for affirmation. Be careful. If you comment, the notifications won’t end for a few days.

Taco Tuesday

“Man! I missed Taco Tuesday!?”

Someone will try to lighten the mood, pretending they don’t know anything momentous just happened. People Are Awesome and Upworthy videos will see record numbers of retweets and shares. Bloggers, this is the day to re-release your most hopeful post.

Those of you with the gift of prophecy, please tell me I’m wrong. I really don’t want to live with the ramifications of being right.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com
All other images linked to respective sources.

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322: The 5 Ways to Outsource Your Facebook Advertising

Over the past two years, I’ve become an editor or administrator of more than 40 different Facebook pages for businesses across the country. Recently, that quantity has been changing almost weekly, as more and more auction companies are hiring me to manage at least a portion of their Facebook advertising.

As a vendor, I’ve learned the advantages and disadvantages of the five different ways you can outsource your Facebook marketing. I’ve assembled a brief overview of each here, in case you’re wondering which option is right for your business.

Business Manager Editor Access

Using the Business Manager interface, companies can assign different levels of access to both employees and vendors contributing to their social media. In business manager, the Facebook pixel and billing are tied to the page’s account rather than to the personal account of each individual who places ads.

PRO: This is the most secure way of the five for bringing in additional marketers. You keep Facebook pixel stability, regardless of turnover. Billing is direct to your company credit card (especially beneficial if you collect credit card points). All admins and editors can see analytics.

CON: A bit more work to set up (more steps and more technical prowess required).

Additional Admin or Editor Access

This is the solution most of my clients choose. After you create your page, you can add employees or vendors as admins or editors under Page Roles, which is under Settings on your business’ Facebook page. Using Ads Manager, anyone on the team can place ads, use a Facebook pixel, create a custom or lookalike audience, etc.

PRO: It’s literally only four clicks to add a marketer to your Facebook team. You have all of the same advertising options as Business Manager. There’s still some control/access differentiation between admins and editors.

CON: All admins and editors need to install their Facebook pixels on your website for ubiquitous use.

Primary Admin Access

Some of my clients didn’t have a Facebook business page before hiring my services. They outsourced creation of their Facebook business page and asked me to add them as admins, so that they would get notifications on page activity and could answer inquiries via Facebook Messenger. Once everything is up and running, the back end works and looks the same as the previous option. Some gymnastics need to be done for the person who founded the page to demote themselves to editor and give you the only admin access, but it’s not difficult.

PRO: You don’t have to set up your Facebook page. You get notifications of page and advertising activity without needing to place the ads or even know how to navigate Ads Manager. You have all of the same advertising options as Business Manager.

CON: You are giving someone else complete control of your brand on the platform with more daily users than any other on the planet. All admins and editors need to install their Facebook pixel on your website for ubiquitous use. Billing is tied to individual users. Only the person who scheduled the ads can see the analytics natively (without screen capture or similar sharing)

Third Party Branding

I don’t offer this as a service, but a bunch of companies inside and outside the auction industry do. Instead of creating a Facebook page for your business and tying your advertising to it, another company places the ads through their page.

PRO: You don’t have to set up a Facebook page or handle your own Facebook advertising.

CON: Your sellers’ assets are being sold by another brand, which builds their interface—instead of your website—as a marketplace. Sometimes the ads are linked to your website; often, though, they are linked to your listing on that vendor’s website instead. To use any Facebook pixel advertising (if even offered), you have to give another company access to your web traffic.

Account Takeover

This is stupid—nothing short of unwise. I mention this option only because I’ve had three different entrepreneurs request this over the past year. This is where you give a vendor your personal Facebook login information to create a business page in your name, make you the admin, and then place ads on behalf of your brand.

PRO: You don’t have to set up your Facebook page. You get to see notifications and analytics in your Ads Manager without placing your ads.

CON: Your vendor could ruin your reputation and put your brand in hot water. They could commandeer not only your Facebook business page but also your personal Facebook profile. They can post as you, message as you, comment as you. They could change your password and lock you out of your own account.

Right now, Facebook offers the most targeted marketing to the largest audiences in the world. Your brand, your assets, and your services need to be there. Outsourcing isn’t always the best option. (In fact, some of my clients only outsource a portion of their Facebook advertising.) When an outside vendor can add value or ease your workload, though, now you’ll know how best to engage them.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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319: The Oddest Objection I Get When Consulting

I get a really odd response when I recommend that Facebook receive a sizable chunk of a marketing budget.

“Not everyone’s on Facebook, though.”

I’ve never heard a client declare, “Not everyone gets the newspaper, though.”

I’ve never heard an auctioneer say, “But not everybody opens their mail.”

The irony in my clients’ rebuttals is that Facebook is the most dominant channel in any medium in our country. As of August of 2015, 62% of the adult population and 72% of adults in the country who use the Internet are on Facebook.1 Two thirds of those Facebook users visit the site every day.2

By contrast, the most watched show on TV last year (Sunday Night Football) garnered 6.6% of the nation’s population.3 That’s 10% of Facebook’s daily reach, and it’s available only 17 nights a year. Plus, advertising to that small fraction of people would cost you just short of a firstborn child.

“But older folks aren’t on Facebook.”

64% of Internet users ages 55 to 64 use Facebook.1 Only 44% of Americans ages 55-64 read a newspaper.4 It’s safe to assume the percentage of adults who look through the classifieds of those newspapers would be significantly smaller still.

Not only is the quantity of newspaper subscribers shrinking (7% for daily papers and 4% for Sunday papers—last year alone), so is the quantity of newspapers themselves. A net of 118 U.S. newspapers closed their doors between 2004 and 2014.5 Multiple times in the past couple years, I’ve had to email a client to let them know that a newspaper they requested is no longer in print.

In contrast, the number of mailboxes in America isn’t shrinking; and neither is Facebook’s user base.

“Well, professionals and investors [rich people] aren’t on Facebook.”

2015 Facebook Users78% of on Internet users with household incomes above $75,000 are on Facebook.1 That happens to be the highest percentage of any income bracket.

Facebook will let you filter audiences by income, by net worth, by liquid assets, and by number of lines of credit. I regularly target lists of millionaires and multimillionaires on Facebook and get tons of traffic to my clients’ websites—for both commercial and luxury residential properties.

One of my clients auctioned a medical office building earlier this year. We had a direct mail campaign and ads deployed in local and business newspapers. At the first open house, every single prospect touring the property came from Facebook. They weren’t teenagers or minimum wage workers.

Am I saying advertising budgets should be almost all Facebook?

Absolutely not. No media saturates 100% of your prospect base. It’s good to cover as many bases as you can afford.

What this data should determine, though, is the priority order in your advertising budget. Actually, that hierarchy should be determined more by your internal data than by user statistics and audience size. If you’re polling your bidders at every auction and then tracking your offline & online media in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to tell which media work best for specific asset types in specific geographical locations.

I recently bet a client that, if their winning bidder came from one of a selection of out-of-state newspapers, I’d rebate all of my design fees. I wasn’t promising a bidder from Facebook. I just knew we could reach far more people and a much more targeted audience on the same spend, and I prefer efficient advertising over hail Mary throws. (They agreed.)

Most of the small business folks who object to my bullish stance on Facebook don’t have data to refute my assertions. They’re working off assumptions, anecdotal recollections, and their personal habits. (“I never get on my Facebook.”) Auctioneers who do test and measure and analyze have been moving more money to Facebook, Google, direct mail, and signs—away from newsprint.

I’m not telling you how or where to spend your money. I’m just letting you know that neither you nor I can trust our assumptions.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com
Chart linked to source.

1 “The Demographics of Social Media Users
Maeve Duggan, Pew Research Center. August 19, 2015.

2. “Facebook Passes 1.65 Billion Monthly Active Users, 54% Access the Service Only on Mobile
Emil Protalinski, Venture Beat.April 27, 2016.

3 “Here’s How Much Ad Time in NFL Games Costs Marketers This Season
Anthony Crupii, AdAge. September 15, 2015.

4 “Newspapers: Sunday Readership by Age
Pew Research Center

5 “Newspaper Fact Sheet
Michael Barthel, Pew Research Center, June, 2016.

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315: 2 Adaptive Advertising Technologies Auctioneers Can Afford

In my lifetime, the change in advertising technology has been incredible.

• Desktop publishing allowed auction companies to design their own advertising, and it pushed newspaper deadlines back a day or two.

• Digital printing shortened direct mail production by literally a week.

• The Internet afforded auction marketers the ability to update advertising information on their website with far less lead time than was needed for signs, newsprint, and direct mail.

• Email added the ability to quickly alert subscribers of news or changes.

• LED billboards made outdoor advertising faster to implement and less expensive to use.

• Social media offered the most targeted advertising in the history of the planet.

And now, advertising can literally change itself to adapt to its viewer. Two of these adaptive technologies are very approachable, and my auctioneer clients are regularly using both.

Facebook Ads (Not Boosted Posts)

One of the options for Facebook sponsored content is an ad that shows a single image to the viewer. The advertiser can actually load up to six different images into that photo’s spot. Facebook displays all of the photo iterations of the ad pretty much evenly to viewers the first day and measures which ones got the most interactions. The next day, it adapts how the images show to the public and weights how it serves them accordingly. On day three, it adapts again after considering how the public interacted with the previous days’ mix of images. This process continues until the end of your campaign.

Adaptive Facebook samplesWith some extra elbow grease, Facebook will also do this with other content in an ad set—switching out types of ads (video, slide show, single image, etc.) for the type that’s best performing.

Best of all, this adaptive capability comes with no additional Facebook charge. It’s in Facebook’s best interest for ads to appeal to its users, and they want advertising to be as effective as possible—to keep getting advertising revenue from advertisers.

By the way, I’ve regularly been surprised by which image got the most traction. On campaigns where I’ve targeted different ads to different target audiences, it’s interesting to see how each audience gravitates to different images or content.

Variable Data Printing

I’ve blogged about this technology before, but few of my clients leverage this tool. Rather than using plates on a traditional printing press to imprint a static design for an entire print run, each piece is imprinted digitally and customized according to the address printed on the piece. There can be as few as two versions of the piece; or maybe there can be a multitude of variations, depending on the database setup.

The basic premise is that different people on your mailing list get different versions of the postcard or brochure—versions tied to their interests. So, if you have a multi-property auction, the property closest to them might be featured on the mail panel. If you’re selling real estate and personal property, people on your real estate list will get a different version than people on your personal property list. If you have an ag equipment list and a construction equipment list, the catalog mailed to both lists can have the same guts but a different cover and mailing panel.

Setup for this technology runs anywhere from $35 to $50 at the print shop and a little extra on the design end. Depending on the size of your mailing, the cost difference can be inconsequential. The value it adds, though—with people getting mail their more likely to read—is very much noticeable.

With each new technological capability, auctioneers have needed to fit more tools into their marketing tool boxes, but they’ve also gained more and better ways to find motivated buyers and sellers. Is your advertising updating itself after you cut it loose? Is it adapting to buyer interests? If not, how much of a head start are you willing to give your competition while their marketing is?

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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311: Get Better Results From Your Facebook Advertising

I talk to auctioneers who don’t see Facebook as a vital marketing tool, because it hasn’t worked for them. After asking a few questions, it’s clear why their Facebook campaigns have reaped subpar results: they’re advertising to the wrong people.

“I posted the auction on my Facebook.”

While it probably doesn’t hurt for you to share your auction with your Facebook friends, few people on your friends list are potential buyers or even referrers to potential buyers. Also, Facebook doesn’t show your posts to all of your friends, anyway—only the ones who interact most with your content.

“I did a Facebook post on my business page.”

This is a baby step forward, but it makes several incorrect assumptions.

  1. Those who like your Facebook page are likely buyers.
  2. People who liked your page in the past because of a specific auction or asset are interested in others.
  3. Facebook shows your business post to more than 10% of your page likes.

For more successful campaigns, you will most likely need to post multiple paid ads. Each will have its own headline and copy, its own photo(s) or video, and it’s own audience. Here are some audiences my auction clients use to see fantastic results from their Facebook ads.

Locals (general public nearest the auction or asset location)

Most real estate—especially farm real estate—sells to someone local. The same holds true for estate sale assets. Facebook allows you to circle your advertising around a specific address. If you know the neighbors or locals won’t be buyers, Facebook also allows you to exclude specific geography.

Current or recent visitors

If you’re selling something to tourists—vacation real estate or boats, for instance—you can target people in a geographic area that don’t live there but are currently visiting. You can also target those who just left that area.

Demographic selectors

Facebook gives you scores of options from net worth and household income to pastimes and priorities. You can pull people who like specific brands, who work in specific trades, who speak specific languages, or who collect specific items. You can also exclude any of the selectors, like recent home buyers (who probably won’t respond to your real estate ad).

Fans of publications

Don’t want to pay to advertise in expensive publications? Can’t make an early deadline? Does the magazine publish after the auction? Does the publisher allow only the advertisers who use their online bidding platform? Then target people who have liked or mentioned the publication. That won’t equal the total circulation, but it’s a lot better than nothing. Not all publications are available, but the current selection comes in handy for a number of asset categories.

Business executives

Whether you’re selling commercial real estate or business liquidations, you can target people based on their executive status. That goes for positions like president, vice president, CEO and others; but it also works for business owners and founders. You can also target executive and management positions in educational institutions and government offices. Facebook won’t grant you 100% saturation, but even a fraction is a good start.

Brokers, investors, and management professionals

Because you can target specific job titles, you can appeal to those who would benefit by bringing you real estate buyers. You can also select Facebook users who attach to the national associations for REALTORS, home builders, and mortgage lenders. For you commercial real estate pros, yes: you can select CCIM members, too. You can also target the investor class to supplement your end-user campaign.

Past bidders and lookalikes

Upload your list of past bidders’s email addresses or mobile numbers, and Facebook will allow you to serve ads to those it can match. You can take that one step further, and let Facebook find you people who look demographically just like your past bidders. This is a free service from Facebook. You pay only for the ads, not the matching.

Email subscribers and lookalikes

Likewise, you can match up to 50% of your email subscribers and direct ads to them. This allows you to reinforce your email and/or direct mail campaign with Facebook promotion, giving potential buyers more interactions with the asset and its headlines. Facebook can build a lookalike audience from these folks, too—again at no charge for the matching, just the ads.

Website visitors and lookalikes

After you install a free bit of code on your website, you can advertise to people who visited any page of your website. So, if you’re selling an asset similar to one you’ve recently sold; you can advertise to people who visited that former auction’s page. Using the lookalike audience tool, you can serve ads to people who look demographically like the people who visited that page. Taking that one step further, you can run (1) reminder ads for the auction at hand to people who already investigated it and/or (2) ads to a lookalike audience of people who’ve already visited this auction’s page.

Combinations

Finally, you can segment almost all of these lists by any of the other lists. You can also take any of these lists and sort it further by age, wealth, gender, geography, language, and much more. And you can save the lists for future use.

While there are groups or lists of people you can’t find on Facebook, there are a lot of specific audiences readily available to make your auction advertising more effective and efficient. Not all buyers are on Facebook; but there are more buyers there on any given day than in newsprint, magazines, or any TV channel. The specificity to which you can market on Facebook is unprecedented and unparalleled.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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309: 5 Reasons to be Wary of Automated Marketing

Most of the folks that attend my seminars represent sole proprietorships or family-size businesses. Based on the feedback I get before and after my talks, I sense that many auctioneers feel unable to keep up with the growing media landscape. In particular, they tell me they don’t have the time, energy, or expertise to manage their companies’ accounts for Facebook and other social media.

Auctioneers aren’t alone in this. Many small business folks struggle with this important part of the operation.

To capitalize on that great need, a bevy of startups and major corporations have created automated marketing tools and programs. Constant Contact will post your email content on Facebook. Hootsuite will publish free to up to five of your social streams with one click of the Autoschedule button. ZipRecruiter promises to reach hundreds of sites and post to social media for you—with one click.

These automated services deliver on their promise of ease but can’t and usually don’t promise efficacy. They’re wise not to promise that, too. The current social media landscape makes robo-posting incredibly less valuable than native interactions.

1. Organic reach is a thing of the past.

Most automation tools focus on posting on your behalf and assume that your followers will engage because they follow your brand. That assumption is optimistic at best, especially on Facebook where less than 5% of your Facebook fans see your unpromoted posts. Just posting isn’t enough anymore.

2. Each media has its own culture.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and email each operate in different ecosystems with different formats, different purposes, and different audiences. Savvy marketers leverage the unique characteristics of each medium and adapt their messages to each. They know that the same statement auto-translated in all languages at once will inevitably cause part of your message to get lost in translation.

3. Targeting and measurement is platform-dependent.

Automated posts can’t be targeted, tracked, or analyzed like native posts can. Almost every business needs to reach new customers—people who have not yet done business with them or engaged with their social media accounts. To reach those people and to more efficiently interact with more of your ideal customers, you need the native platform tools.

4. Authenticity is more attractive.

The best social media marketing is less about broadcasting and more about providing something for the viewer. That could be entertainment, a solution to a problem, or something for their wish list. Social media users can tell when a message is generated for multiple platforms at once, and that content looks less organic, less personal.

5. Customer service can’t be automated.

While immediate responses can be set up with autoresponders, full problem resolution typically works only with communication between two humans. With Facebook’s immutable rating system and with hashtags making social media instantly searchable for negative reviews, it’s more important than ever to monitor and address the concerns from social media in person.

You have to go where your customers are.

When auctioneers and small business people used to tell me they don’t have time for social media, I told them to just skip it altogether. I can’t do that anymore. 78% of American adults are on social media. Infodocket claims that one out of every five page views on the Internet are on Facebook. With lookalike audiences and tracking pixels—both of which are free tools—small businesses can find new customers like no time in human history.

Statistic of Facebook Users

Take advantage of education.

So, the bad news is that you need humans running your social media. The good news is that there are fantastic resources to train you or your staff how to do it—not just to make sense of it but to thrive with it. You can find a lot of tutorials for free or cheap online. You can find education tailored to the auction industry in the Auction Marketing Management designation, too. I volunteer to teach in that environment (and pay my own travel expenses), because I strongly believe that targeted marketing and adapting to cultural trends is what will keep my clients and companies just like them in business—if not thriving in their marketplace for years to come.

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289: Are You Throwing Away Income on Facebook?

Football Player Lego MinifigureIn the National Football League, commentators use a term to describe why players don’t make specific plays that would significantly increase their risk of injury. The announcers usually say it with a bit of smirk in their voice.

“He made a business decision.”

The player in question could have attempted a tackle or dove for a first down, but the long-term ability to make plays wasn’t worth the short-term opportunity of a single play. I’ve rarely heard a football player criticized for making that split-second decision. In fact, usually quarterbacks are criticized for getting hurt because they didn’t process this kind of situation quickly and wisely.

During this heated political season and the social unrest of the past few years, auctioneers and entrepreneurs have been inadvertently making business decisions. They’ve taken risky shots on social media. They’ve not processed the long-term ramifications of short-term humor and rhetoric. They’ve invested their personal brand into memes and rants and extra exclamation marks.

Political Teams

Whether we root for team donkey, team elephant, team buffalo, team porcupine, or none of the above, a short scroll through our social connections will tell us that we aren’t all on the same team. That’s actually a good thing. At least it can be. Diversity of opinions widens culture’s horizons and sometimes even leads to idealogical dialogue. Well, it theoretically has the potential for that.

Those conversations have merit in proper forums, most of which are offline. In contrast, social media tends to oversimplify nuanced topics and polarize communities through antagonism. The stock photos are either grandiose or intentionally crass. Often, the statistics are fictional or out of context. Rarely do we check multiple sources to verify a post before it’s shared, liked, or referenced.

The risks for this kind of engagement looms larger than potential egg on the face or estrangement from social connections. As small business owners or sales reps, we can actually reduce future income. See, potential clients—including auction sellers—are going to type a vendor’s name into the Facebook search bar. Unless we’re very careful with your privacy settings, they’re going to see our posts. Those playing on different political teams or even just different sides of a specific issue will now mark a mental strike against us. The opposing position might even unconsciously predispose them to disagree with our business suggestions. It’s a risk that rises proportional to the level of acidity or distastefulness they find.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon unpopular opinions or that we avoid sharing them. It just means that we express them differently. Proselytizing or personal growth is more likely within the contexts of face-to-face conversations, book club discussions, thoughtful letters, careful essays, well-researched & sourced infographics, etc. Raise a hand if a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post has ever changed your political stance on anything. If they’ve never worked on us, what hubris or ignorance does it take to assume they’ll sway others?

For each of us, some issues might be worth losing business to defend. How and when we defend them, though, can determine the amount of personal credence and professional respect we lose in the process. It is possible to respectfully disagree.

Multiple writers have attributed a quote to Michael Jordan that he actually didn’t say, but the invented statement holds a lot of merit. The global sports icon has (after retirement) endorsed and financially supported Democratic Party candidates including President Barrack Obama. Initially, though, he chose brand building over political involvement. The reason was summarized in this famous fictional line:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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