Professional Development Series
Nick Footer: Founder and CEO of Intuitive Digital
We had the pleasure of interviewing Willamette MBA alumni Nick Footer about the continuously emerging market of paid social media advertising, how he got to where he is and where he thinks it’s going.
Tell us about your previous work experience and how you got to where you are at today.
So, way back in the day – by this I mean 2006 – when I was in college, Facebook was the new shiny object. I just geeked out on it; I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Along with a few other networks you might have heard about, like Myspace, I spent as much time trying to figure out and learn how a business could use these networks to get in front of consumers. Obviously, during that time the networks weren’t designed or optimized for this, but I still did a bunch of my undergrad work on social media, then went to agencies and did everything I could there.
Advertising really started on a lot of the channels like Facebook when they realized they’d need to make money to go public. They started focusing on ad capabilities and all of it was terrible. FB ripped off the same model forum sites had been using, just a bunch of banner ads down the side. The entire strategy was: get a bunch of eyeballs and people will pay. Paid advertising was pretty shitty when it started. It’s gotten better, but in large part, all they’ve done is a better job of hiding the fact you’re looking at an ad, coupled with better targeting. Actually, Facebook has bought a bunch of different companies just to feed in consumer data to improve targeting accuracy. It’s kinda creepy, but also smart.
Like IBM did by buying insurance companies to feed the health records data to Watson? Yes, exactly like that.
What’s changed from an agency perspective?
Five or six years ago, I wouldn’t recommend paid social to any of our clients. But I was also working with small businesses with small budgets so there were better places to spend their marketing dollars. Today I recommend paid social to almost all our clients. It still has problems, but with the additional targeting capabilities, you can get a good return on investment.
When would you not use paid social?
Facebook sometimes isn’t the best for super B2B. LinkedIn has gotten better but you need a large target audience both geographically and in volume to eventually get to the right people.
What challenges do you face in posting quality content within your field?
The biggest challenge is what used to work 6 months ago doesn’t work today and what’s working today won’t work in 6 months. The industry is evolving faster than it ever has and I think this will continue for at least the next couple of years.
Can you give us an example of this?
Sure, let’s stick with Facebook as an example. Content posts where you’re just sharing linked content with a blurb to drive web traffic specifically is dying.
What’s working now is content that’s literally engaging with or trying to get responses with your audience. So actual comments back and forth. This increases its edge rank and helps it show up organically in people’s feeds.
Does that work when you’re asking consumers to engage with a brand?
It’s definitely more difficult as a brand. We’ve seen some success with letting people know who the social team behind the brand are. It’s not faceless IBM, it’s these three people managing IBM’s Facebook account.
Other than the obvious mechanic differences, what other important ways do you think paid social differ from organic?
The difference for us is that is that we do all our testing organically. Once we find the most engaging content, that’s the stuff we then use in our paid campaigns. This has a lower cost for our clients because we’re cherry picking the best.
Also, you always need to think about who you’re targeting. Targeting your potential customers is what paid content is for. With organic, you’re targeting people who’ve already liked your page.
Let’s talk about the difference in B2B and B2C.
In B2C providing specific offers, usually, a discount code or coupon continues to work well. We have an online pet store that’s just murdered it on Facebook. In large part, it’s because they’re offering 10% discounts to people who’ve liked their page.
B2B isn’t rocket science either. It’s normally trying to provide thought leadership and content. We’ve done a lot of white papers and also had great success with getting people signed up for video drip campaigns. You’ve got to make it easy to engage with the content. We make sure we have a really low risk for signing up; all that’s required is an email and these are short videos, 90 seconds and you’re out. We’re also doing Youtube and other remarketing based on them.
What do you think is coming with paid social?
For me, I hate interruption marketing, but that’s still really the only way that we’ve been able to do it. I see a continuation of that through in-stream video, specifically geotargeted and very specific to content. So, if someone snaps a video and says, “I’m outside of this club!”, people who open that up will get a specific ad from that club. It’s going to get creepier in terms of AI knowing what we’re saying, where we are and who’s viewing it through crawling the voice content or the image. To me that’s really going to get pushed is our line of privacy.
Obviously, there are also other smaller platforms. If you have a specific demographic or psychographic which aligns, these can be really effective. There’s probably going to be more of those as Facebook trends down. This opens up some places in the future.
What’s your favorite thing about social media marketing?
What I love most about social media is the ability to communicate directly with your end consumer. Prior to social, you had to pay hundreds of thousands (if not more) to have the type of communication you can now have organically through the internet.