The PA Farm Bureau’s Bill Zeiders is not that long out of Lebanon Valley College and he is now Director of Digital Media and Marketing at PFB. What he zeroed in on at the 66th PFB annual meeting was social media and specifically Facebook and the tools available to help people leverage their network and maximize their reach. An added plus in Zeiders’ resume is that his degree is in Historical Communications. You don’t often hear of that. What are historical communications?
Sometimes called emerging media or digital communications, they are dedicated to a public relations effort in a specific field of endeavor. There is a touch of history involved, as the name implies.
Part of that deals with Edward Gibbon, author of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon was roundly criticized in his own lifetime for not taking a position in his account of what brought down the greatest political and dictatorial force on the planet in its day. He simply reported facts, and that is what has made it the superior account it still is at present.
“I think if we boil it down,” Zeiders says, “you can get ‘likes’ but what do we do with them? How do we get action out of those likes?”
At its core, social media is about creating potential. Every relationship you have on social media is about potential. A good campaign builds likes, and likes are important, but the next thing is turning it into something useful.
Suddenly, Zeiders introduced the term “slacktivism,” a hybrid word comprised of slacker and activism. For example, a few years ago UNICEF essentially said ‘Like us on Facebook and we’ll vaccinate X number of children against polio.’ “What does a ‘like’ do for UNICEF?” Zeiders asks; “nothing on its own. It doesn’t help them as a single action. It makes people feel good to say ‘I liked it, and I changed my profile picture in support of it. Then I watched six hours of TV (maybe Game of Thrones); therefore I had a good day.’”
However, he says, that doesn’t help anyone. “A lot of people will be on social media who will say ‘I liked your campaign. It was really great.’
‘Well, did you come to our campaign?’
‘Oh no, I’m not into that.’”
In other words, you have to turn that potential into some kind of action. For one thing, not all brand awareness is created equal. Chipotle, for example, has been in the news recently for less than favorable reasons. And there are those who would argue that all publicity is good publicity because it keeps your name out front. Not necessarily. The idea is to do something that grabs attention in a good way, giving people a positive feeling about your product or service or business.
You should know that you can run an ad on a Facebook page for as little as $1 a day that can drive ‘likes’ to your page. There are free stock photos you can pick from if you lack the time or know-how or wherewithal to do something creative with graphics. “If I wanted to focus on people interested in agriculture in a 50 mile radius of, say, York County; and I also wanted to target people who make $50,000 a year or more, and have two kids, and have X amount of debt, and like to shop for Italian leather shoes, I can probably do that,” Zeiders says as he references Facebook’s demographic targeting tools within Facebook ads. The point here is that you need to know who you are going to target with these ads. Who do you want to come to your page?
Scattershot approaches just don’t work. “It’s up to you,” says Zeiders, “to give them a reason to keep coming back to your page, to engage with your page, product or message.” You should want to share content that is worth talking about, something that is interesting to your audience, that they in turn want to share with their friends even beyond the fencerow.
Also, it would behoove you to have a personality! Think about what your product or your organization’s personality is. To some extent, this also depends on your audience to a lesser degree. “And don’t try to fake it,” Zeiders cautions. “Try to be genuine.”
That’s not always easy. Years ago, I chatted with Miss Pennsylvania (1965). She said the best and worst advice she ever got was to be ‘yourself.’ The advice was good because you should be genuine, and the advice was bad because “you don’t always know what ‘yourself’ really is,” she said.
Conversely, Zeiders warns that you shouldn’t be robotic either, “just posting every hour on the hour. ‘Come to our store. Come to our place. Please come to our event.’”
Finally, you should optimize for action. The first step in that process is to reckon exactly what it is you want people to do. A good Facebook post usually has some kind of call to action. “And I would probably advise you to limit that to one thing,” says Zeiders. “It will be ineffective if you say ‘click on this website; also send for our newsletter; also come out to this event; also send me your phone number…eventually people will simply stop hearing.” Once decided upon, then optimize toward that action. Make content that is focused on your goal.