Logan Ludwig is 13 years old. Like other kids, he likes to play Guitar Hero and hang out with his friends on Facebook. 58 days ago he found out that his grandfather, a decorated police officer of 19 years, was dying of stage 4 lung cancer. Because of a loophole, his employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, had denied him benefits and cut his pension from $3000/month to $700/month. Officer Ludwig was forced to sell his home, declare bankruptcy, and live in the basement of one of his son’s homes.
Logan was broken-hearted for his grandad and fishing buddy. He made a Facebook page for Officer Ludwig, which spread like wildfire among his extended family, fellow police officers, cancer survivors, and even Metro employees. He used a combination of Facebook ads and fan page management techniques to grow the user base to 16,000 fans, now increasing at 3,000 fans a day and attracting media attention. Some call this the “BP moment” for Metro Transit.
He did so without any need of programming skills– no custom tabs, FBML/HMTL tricks, or Facebook application development. He did follow some basic Facebook marketing principles, which can be found in our Facebook Pages guide, and had some coaching from his father, a veteran of Internet marketing. This is what Logan did and why:
CHOOSE A GREAT PAGE NAME
Once you choose the name, you can’t change it. If it’s too long, you’ll see the triple dots. If it doesn’t resonate with emotional meaning, people won’t become a fan. If you’re choosing a page name for SEO value only– to inject as many keywords as you can– you’re misguided. Logan chose “Officer Ludwig”. It’s short, conveys authority– and it’s personable. Facebook users want to interact with people, not nameless entities. Further, your page name automatically becomes your ad headline, so it better fit in that context. And since most people still don’t realize that those 3 messages on the side of the page are ads, an ad that says “Officer Ludwig”, has Officer Ludwig’s face, and has a personal greeting from him will draw attention!
If the page title was “Washington Metro Abandons Injured Officer” (which you might choose if writing a news headline or page title to rank in Google search), his mission would have failed. That’s how simple and critical a page title is.
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BUILD UP SEED CONTENT
The chicken and the egg of web promotion is that you need great content to attract users but that if you don’t have users, great content will sit there unnoticed. Logan sidestepped that dilemma by pre-loading just a few items– a couple wall posts and a few photos. He didn’t put in a custom tab, since he doesn’t know how to program, nor did he do a video landing page– which also requires sophistication that most users don’t have. He did change the page admin settings to allow posts by fans and the page itself– which you’ll see later is absolutely critical to igniting viral growth.
CREATE A DUMMY ACCOUNT
Creating a fake account is technically against the Facebook terms of service. However, Officer Ludwig doesn’t use Facebook and is not in a condition to be using a computer. Further, if Logan’s own user account was admin on the page, any comment of his would show up as the page admin, not himself. And because he wanted to comment as both the page admin and himself, he used the two browser trick– using Firefox to be logged in as admin on the dummy account, then being logged into his personal account via Internet Explorer. He can alternate between the voice of the page and that of himself, which also serves to increase the Post Quality Score, also critical to viral growth. More on that in a bit.
(This trick is not endorsed by the editors of this site.)
RUN ULTRA TARGETED, ULTRA PERSONAL ADS
Officer Ludwig being a highly decorated officer– 54 commendations in his career– is well-known in the Washington DC area. So Logan ran ads using Facebook’s workplace targeting, showing messages to DC police officers with “officer down”, “signal 13″, and other vernacular that fellow officers would identify with. He spent a couple days with his uncle, a police officer, and other officers, so he could get the lingo down– to find what combination of messages would resonate. How many advertisers a multiple of Logan’s age don’t spend time understanding their audience base so they can find the right messaging?
As we mentioned in the first step, choosing the page title of “Officer Ludwig” brought immediate relevance to his ads. If you’re a police officer and see such a message on your profile, with a picture of Officer Ludwig in uniform, then you’re quite likely to click on it. Since you probably don’t know it’s an ad– doesn’t look like one– it has significant credibility. The key to the initial testing phase is to get a VERY HIGH click through rate, just like you would in Google PPC. This gives the rest of your campaign a tail wind.
His ad CTR was over 1%, while most advertisers are in the 0.020% range– 50 times worse. At a few pennies a click and up to an 80% click-to-fan conversion rate, he’s paying a nickel a fan. For $100, he got 2,000 direct fans in the first few hours. This doesn’t include the additional viral fans, which he got for free, because his Post Quality Score was so high.
The thin blue line protects their own. Police officers all over the region began to express outrage at how Officer Ludwig was being treated– posting their comments, sending the page to friends, and asking how they could assist. Logan kept the page regularly updated to keep engagement high. As evidence of strong initial engagement, note the 18.8% feedback ratio on this piece of content:
This sends a strong signal to Facebook that the page content is interesting, which helps it to show up in the news feed of friends of fans. Check the feedback rates on your posts– are they less than 1%, which means you’re not relevant or perhaps even spammy?
Logan tried posting other content– a music video about making wishes, which had only a 0.19% feedback rate:
And later he tried a picture of his grandfather in the hospital bed, which drew only 1.39% feedback, but got 217 likes and 143 comments:
At that point, the page had just over 9,000 fans, so the fact that there were 25,975 impressions meant that we had a 3 to 1 viral factor. In other words, this message was showing up strongly on the walls of friends of fans. If your impression count is not above your fan base, then you either don’t have the right audience, aren’t saying something interesting, or both. Hint: pictures are great on Facebook– text, not so much.
AD TESTING ROUND 2
48 hours into the project, once he had the local community cooking, he expanded the target to police officers across the nation. He also targeted cancer survivors. Odd that the Facebook ad system shows interest targeting as XX,XXX people “like” cancer, but that is Facebook’s generic way of showing how many people have identified with a cause. To have the word “like” broadly mean that you are a fan of a page, “like” to eat chocolate ice cream, and “like” cancer is perhaps too broad a use of this term. But as we’ve demonstrated earlier, Facebook’s terminology switch from fans to likes increases engagement rates dramatically.
The cancer survivors who responded to the ads were primarily female. And by running geo-targeted variations, Logan noticed a difference in language from cancer survivors from the Bible Belt versus California– in the former, the message of faith in God was a stronger theme than one of “fighting” against all odds. He then realized that messaging by geography mattered, so he adjusted his ad copy.
Married people with cancer were more likely to respond, so Logan created more variations, using the Facebook Responder Profile and Demographic reports to give guidance on how to segment further. Because the campaigns were bid on a CPC basis, as opposed to a CPM– due to a recent shift by Facebook to automatically favor segments with higher CTR– he could bid $1 per click and still pay a nickel. We surmise that average position in Facebook does matter a lot– probably more than it does in Google, as we’re dealing with only 3 positions instead of 10. So the high CTR is likely boosted from being in first position.
Not yet available to the ad account is connection targeting. According to the ad interface, the page has less than 20 fans– and therefore, when trying to target fans as well as friends of fans, Facebook’s ad platform won’t let Logan post an ad– saying there aren’t enough users.
We’ve noticed that Facebook can be a week or more behind in updating user counts– so if you’re a new page, your ability to retarget or connect with fans is somewhat limited. Perhaps in a week or two, Logan can send messages just to fans in the ad platform. One of BlitzLocal’s favorite ad strategies is a two step engagement– we run ads with the goal of getting users to become fans. Then we come back with ads targeted at existing fans to get them to take a deeper engagement. There are some activities, primarily in B2B, in which going from initial impression to conversion isn’t feasible in a single step. Hence, the AIDA funnel and Facebook’s amazing ability to allow you to align your marketing messages with users at each step in the funnel. More on tying engagement to different steps in the Facebook funnel here.
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ENGAGEMENT PART 2
With a base of 16,000 users just over 3 days later, the movement began taking a life of its own. Hundreds of fans began commenting on the Washington Metro page. Metro shut down the ability for fans to post, so many decided to hijack existing posts to show outrage:
The more Washington Metro deleted or blocked users, the more ravenous they became. Google’s search algorithm took notice– and now the Facebook page ranks #1 and #2 for “Officer Ludwig” in organic search:
SEO professionals have written extensively about how real-time search via Caffeine and the MayDay updates are giving social media results a lift. The engines value freshness and diversity– and we expect that to only increase. Often a well-optimized Facebook page will outrank the real page because of factors described here. You have a PageRank 10 website (Facebook) using its massive power to get not just people’s names, but pages and any other object now showing up in traditional search results. More fans equals more links.
To add fuel to the fire, Logan then ran ads targeting Washington Metro workers as well as members of the press (interest targets of “journalist” and “reporter” plus workplace targeting)– alerting them to the situation. The cost? A few dollars a day.
The story is still unfolding, but here’s what we’ve learned:
- For a few hundred dollars, even a kid can get major national attention that can bring nearly any organization to its knees.
Viral growth on Facebook usually requires some ads to “prime the pump” and provided that the cause is worthy, fans will take matters into their own hands.
- You don’t have to be technical to be able to achieve success– just follow the principles of effective Facebook advertising. Conversely, having a lot of money isn’t a guarantee of success either.
- Tools help a lot, but are not critical except in multi-product and multi-location projects. Logan could have used a custom tab to collect donations (of which many fans are offering), show a video testimony from the Chief of Police, provide a petition form, sell hats/shirts, or produce other actions. Instead, the page relies upon the wall and good old-fashioned page moderation. This project did not use auto-like or BlitzLocal’s automated page management at any point in time.
- Ad Click-through Rate is the major determining factor in cost per click, while Post Quality Score determines the viral factor. Your campaign must initially be ultra high in both CTR and Post Quality Score to gain enough momentum to take off. Officer Ludwig had a Post Quality Score of over 300 to start, which fell to high double digits later.
Dennis Yu is founder of BlitzLocal.com, a Facebook marketing agency for Fortune 500 brands and local resellers. He is an internationally sought after speaker and author. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.