Q&A with MarketingSherpa: Ensuring Facebook doesn’t tear down your wall

I was recently interviewed by MarketingSherpa director of editorial content Daniel Burstein. The interview was in support of our whitepaper 10 Facebook Promotion Myths.

Download our Facebook promotions whitepaper

Click the pic to download our whitepaper on Facebook promotions.

Daniel Burstein: In reading Facebook’s guidelines, sweepstakes and contests seem like the biggest way to run afoul of Facebook, since there are some pretty strict limits. However, I see marketers violating these guidelines every day. How strict is Facebook at monitoring and punishing violators?

Matt Simpson: There are multiple examples of pages being shut down for violating the promotion guidelines. Scandinavian Airlines is a good one. Our Facebook rep says, “We have people constantly monitoring the site for promotion violations (…). If someone is caught, the page is taken down, and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.”

Obviously, it’d be impossible for Facebook to police every page. I tell social media marketers that shutdown is a risk, not a certainty. How open are you to losing your investment in the campaign? How open are you to seeing your page shut down? How open are you to telling fans that the rules of the contest or sweepstakes they entered just changed?

Of course, no one watches your page as closely as your boss and your competition. The latter observer has a vested interest in you following Facebook’s promotion guidelines … and in tattling when you don’t.

DB: How do you tell if you’ve been penalized by Facebook? What are the initial steps to getting your account reactivated? Do you lose all data and friends when it is deactivated?

MS: We’ve never seen a page shut down because we follow the rules! That said, I’ve had contacts verify our Facebook rep’s description that “If someone is caught, their page is taken down and they are asked to reach out before we can re-enable to ensure they are clear on the issue.” It’s my understanding that you don’t lose your data or fans. Your page is just invisible until you address the issue and earn reinstatement.

DB: What are three key steps every marketer can take to avoid getting penalized again (or in the first place)?

MS: Here are three questions to ask yourself before launching your promotion:

  • Am I seeking virality? If the premise of your promotion is to go viral, it’s a huge red flag. That’s not to say that a creative concept and well-built technology won’t drive organic growth. But don’t expect to spam the news feed and get away with it.
  • Am I using Facebook functionality? Be careful here! Do not ask fans to post, like or comment on content on your wall or photo albums. Do not use “like” buttons as a voting mechanism. You must run your promotion through a third-party application.
  • Am I collecting contact information? At the end of your campaign, you’ll have to contact your winners to distribute prizes. Remember to collect their contact info in your promotion app, because you cannot contact them through Facebook.

DB: Given the need to follow Facebook’s terms and conditions, what factors should marketers weigh when deciding whether to hold a promotion on Facebook or not. For example, I see many print ads that used to send traffic to a brand website, instead sending traffic to the brand’s Facebook page to enter a sweepstakes or contest. Would they just be better off holding promotions on their own site? In the end, what value does a Facebook fan really have to a marketer?

MS: The concept of collecting fans with an iPad sweepstakes on Facebook is very 2010! It’s a snoozer. Plus, how many of those iPad fans stick around to engage with your brand after the sweepstakes ends?

As marketers, our objective should not be to build a Facebook promotion. It should be to create passionate bonds with consumers by delivering social and interactive engagements. Currently, Facebook offers the best platform for delivering that kind of engagement.

By social, I mean that the engagement should offer frictionless sharing and visibility into how my friends are engaging. By interactive, I mean it should be more than a contact form. For example, I should be able to submit content and browse, vote and comment on others’ content. Ideally, I’d also collect a marketing opt-in such as an email subscription or Facebook like.

Interactivity is easy to deliver on a website. However, no one delivers a personalized social experience like Facebook. Fortunately, the Facebook Graph API enables you to add Facebook-esque social elements to experiences – including contests and sweepstakes – on your website. We often see this referred to as “connecting with Facebook.”

The next frontier is to deliver social and interactive engagements on your Facebook page and on your website simultaneously, with or without Facebook Graph API.

Why force consumers to log in to Facebook.com or connect with Facebook on your website? These steps are barriers to engagement.

Why your new Facebook Timeline is not a better expression of you

I ran into someone on Facebook the other day. Someone I hardly recognized. Someone from the past. That someone was Matt Simpson circa winter 2008.

Facebook recently unveiled its new layout for user profiles called Timeline. It’s pretty darn slick. The slickest feature is a menu of dates that lets users bounce quickly down the Timeline from recent posts to posts made in, say, winter 2008. Facebook’s algorithm initially sorts posts in a given year by importance until you drill down for a chronological view.

Timeline: The new Facebook Profile

It’s my new Facebook Profile! The menu on the right lets you quickly jump to dates in my past.

Now, a little back story. When I joined Facebook in winter 2008, I was not in a good place. Facebook reflects that. Some of my posts were angry jabs at the economy and Corporate America. Some were depressing lyrics from Pink Floyd, to whom I listened relentlessly as I tried to “figure things out”.

Of course, there was also joy. Facebook’s algorithm says my top story of 2008 was my engagement. The algorithm got it right. It was a special happening, despite its later dissolution.

When introducing Timeline, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Our job is to make this profile the best way to share everything you want and the best way to express who you are.”

Therein lies the rub with Timeline. It looks awesome and it’s super addicting. But it’s not a better expression of who I am.

The Matt Simpson of winter 2008 is not me. Heck, the Matt Simpson of last Sunday is not me. It’s where and when I was. It’s not who I am.

Reviewing one’s Timeline is like standing before the snow-capped peaks of Mt Rainier and admiring printouts of the map that got you there.

Zuckerberg described the old Facebook profile as a place where old posts “just fall off a cliff” after a week or so. What’s wrong with that? A list of short-lived posts is a much better expression of a person than random events of their distant past.

Old stuff falls off a cliff. That’s life.

Identification with distant milestones is living in the past. Not to say we should never look back and smile. Let’s just not get confused about who we are.

I’m not the guy who struggled through the winter of 2008. Nor am I the guy who excitedly held newborn nephews and nieces twice since 2008 or who overcame his fear to leave the stability of Corporate America in fall 2009.

A better expression of me is the guy who recently announced he was spending Friday night reading Moby Dick at a coffee shop, posted a photo of butternut squash sprouting in his fall garden, and expressed his gratitude to Bulbstorm’s tireless developers for launching another great product.

Wanna know where I was? Check my Facebook profile when Timeline goes live to everyone in the next week or so.

Wanna know who I am? Keep your eyes on my updates as they enter your news feed.

Or, poke me and we’ll get a coffee.

I know many will disagree with me. That’s ok! Do you think Facebook Timeline is a better expression of you? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Facebook advertising gets media attention but no dates

Mashable had some fun with my Facebook advertisement.

Mashable had some fun with my Facebook advertisement.

It’s been a hectic few weeks since I first revealed that I was using Facebook ads to find a date.

So hectic, in fact, that the experiment is currently paused while I field media requests, enjoy my upcoming birthday, and, ya know, do my day job.

Honestly, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the interest from friends, industry contacts, and the media.

Media interest rolled in slowly, with Social Times syndicating the article and Valley PR Blog offering its take.

I realized that the campaign was of interest outside the marketing world when Fox 10 asked to interview me in front of the Love sculpture in Old Town Scottsdale. It seemed cheesy, but fun. The video of my interview with Kristin Anderson is below.

Media interest exploded after the lovely Jolie O’Dell covered the story for Mashable. That article led to over 2,000 tweets and over a dozen more blog posts. Some have called me brilliant. Some have called me desperate and sad. Maybe I’m somewhere in between?

Since the Mashable article, I’ve had interview requests from all over the world. Portugal’s top newspaper sent 360 visits to this website in two days. Crazy! Still no dates. But, as I like to say, with this product it’s going to be a long, complex sales cycle.

So, thank you to everyone who’s expressed interest in my story. I apologize to the many to whom I didn’t reply. And thank you to my Bulbstorm teammates who’ve been very supportive through the craziness.

Facebook advertising for the single-and-looking

Facebook interest-based PPC advertising campaign for a bachelor with flair.

This ad image is performing best, perhaps because my face is partially-hidden.

I’m a single guy with specific taste. I’m only interested in women with the potential to become my intellectual and spiritual partner over the long term.

On any given night, these women may be in bars. Or coffee shops. Or yoga classes. Or laundromats. In the unlikely case that I’m in the same place at the same time, the only filter I’d manage to apply is physical. At first meeting, a woman is like a Facebook profile with her privacy settings too high.

But, interest-based pay-per-click ads remove the privacy shroud and deliver insight into her intellectual and spiritual nature at 75 cents per click. That’s about 10 clicks for the price of a cocktail that may or may not end up splashed in my face!

Facebook marketing for the eligible single

On April 2, I launched a Facebook ad campaign designed to find me a date. As a true marketing dork, I built 9 distinct ad versions for testing purposes – 3 creative variants and 3 interest-based targeting variants.

Demographically, ads targeted single women ages 28 to 34 within 25 miles of Tempe. Interest groupings were:

  • Yoga, Bikram Yoga, etc. (max reach: 940 users)
  • Buddhism, meditation, metaphysic, etc. (max reach: 580)
  • Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, etc. (max reach: 420)

For a landing experience, I created a Facebook fan page with free contact form and welcome tab apps. (Thanks to Mari Smith’s Big List of Apps!) Yes, it’s ghetto. My html skills are weak and Facebook’s iFrame bug is weaker.

Why not drive to a WordPress page or dating site profile? Well, Facebook grants a lower cost-per-click to advertisers keeping traffic on site.

Plus, users maintain grip on their Facebook security blanket when: A) an ad doesn’t include a fishy third-party URL, and B) the landing page keeps the Facebook URL and header.

Why Facebook instead of Match?

I know what you’re thinking. Why not just use Match, eHarmony, or some other dating site? Three reasons:

    • Match is too competitive. The economy of Match favors women. As a man on Match, I’m a buyer in a seller’s market. One female friend received 86 messages in 3 weeks on the site! Personally, I’d rather attract a woman before she hits Match’s meet market.


    • Match’s interest-based targeting sucks. On Match, I can filter by any number of physical fetishes from hair color to ethnicity. But filtering by spirituality or intellectualism is relegated to clunky keyword searches. (Sorry, but spiritual not religious is too vague to be meaningful.)


  • Match is too labor-intensive. To be effective, Match simply requires too much active attention. Facebook ads are set-and-forget. At this point, I have more money than time … especially at 75 cents per click.

OK, let’s see some ad data

Facebook interest-based PPC advertising campaign for a bachelor in a hat.

My Twitter avatar is performing worst of the bunch. Time for a change?

Let’s cut to the chase. In five days, my campaign drove 30 clicks and 5 leads via contact form for $19.39. By comparison, a Match membership costs $34.99 per month (with no guarantee of traffic or leads). The upfront labor costs are roughly the same.

Here’s a breakdown of my Facebook ads by interest:


Interest Imps Clicks Leads Spent
Yoga 8,592 5 ? $3.75
Buddhism 10,630 15 ? $9.43
New Age 8,523 10 ? $6.21
TOTAL 27,745 30 5 $19.39
Yoga 0.06% $0.44 $0.75 ?
Buddhism 0.14% $0.89 $0.63 ?
New Age 0.12% $0.73 $0.62 ?
TOTAL 0.11% $0.70 $0.65 $3.88

Yes, I’m a tad disappointed that I cannot track leads by interest group. If only Salesforce had a free contact form plug-in …

But Facebook ads are just creepy …

What are the ethical ramifications of the campaign? Is it creepy to target women with PPC ads? Are there privacy implications of interest-based targeting? What about eyes romantically locking from across a crowded room?

I don’t know. Thanks to Match, eHarmony, and others, America has come to accept attraction-based singles marketing. It’s modern day serendipity when your match stumbles across your dating profile.

Facebook interest-based PPC advertising campaign for a bachelor on a hike.

Women who dig yoga also seem to dig this picture of my on a hike.

Promotion-based singles marketing is a whole new ballgame. On Match, there’s no amount of money one can invest in order to boost profile traffic.

(For about $10, you can add a “guarantee” to a six-month commitment that adds a green highlight to your profile in search results.)

The times may be a-changing. Chas McFeely is offering a $10,000 bounty to whoever introduces him to his future wife. My cost structure is more modest, but I’m essentially paying Facebook to set me up.

So, is this campaign weird? Maybe. As one respondent to my ad said, “My opinion: creepy, invasive AND cool!”

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Interview with Social Times Pro, II: Facebook ads cost less, perform better than display ads

Why Facebook's Self-Serve Ad Platform Works

Social Targeting: Why Facebook's Self-Serve Ad Platform Works

I was recently interviewed for the report “Social Targeting: Why Facebook’s Self-Serve Ad Platform Works” from SocialTimes Pro lead analyst Tameka Kee (@geekychic). The full report is available for download to subscribers. Here’s an excerpt:

Case study: Facebook ads cost less, but perform better than display

As with search, it is important for a Facebook campaign to focus on user interests if it’s going to outperform display. But what if a brand isn’t exactly sure what its target audience is interested in?

Research shows that even minimal interest-based targeting can create effective campaigns, and because Facebook ads cost so much less than display, marketers can afford to experiment and optimize.

  • Target audience: Facebook users who saw the brand’s commercial spot
  • Flight time: Eight weeks; Sept/Oct 2010
  • Brands involved: CPG brand
  • Agency/Developer: Bulbstorm
  • Cost: Undisclosed

The CPG brand wanted to support its existing TV campaign with online ads and test the efficacy of Facebook’s targeting platform in the process. The campaign included display ads on Yahoo and other content networks, as well as Facebook ads; all creative drove traffic back to special landing pages.

The TV spots only ran in 12 markets, so that helped to narrow the Facebook target. But according to Matt Simpson, Bulbstorm’s marketing director, the brand only broadly targeted based on “general” interests. “We wanted to get a clean read on the performance vs. display overall,” Simpson said. The results were stellar:


  • Facebook ads generated 12X the impressions
  • Facebook ads generated 4X the CTR
  • Facebook campaign came in at one-fifth the price of display

Why it worked: Simpson attributes some of the Facebook campaign’s over-performance to “banner blindness,” or the idea that most Web users are so accustomed to ordinary display ads that they don’t even acknowledge them on a page.

The other factor was the Facebook ad’s pithy copy, as well as the socially-targeted environment. “Even without intense targeting, the ads only showed up to users that the brand thought had relevant social context.”

Copyright 2011 WebMediaBrands Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from SocialTimes Pro.