There are many reasons to hate Mark Zuckerberg’s blue and white time-wasting website. For example, the same acquaintances and relatives who filled your E-mail inbox with chain letters in 2001 are now on Facebook, circulating those same letters as pictures with text superimposed on them. Your friends all post nothing but party pictures, wedding pictures, or baby photos depending on their stage in life, and the ones who never got married mainly post toxic political opinions, miracle cures for cancer, or listicles from Buzzfeed.
And if you’re trying to use Facebook for business purposes, it only gets worse: you may have spent lots of effort getting customers to “like” your page, but they will only see your posts if you pay to promote them anyway. It almost seems useless.
Whatever your reason for hating Facebook, that’s no excuse not to use Facebook for marketing, says Dan Beldowicz, a social media expert. The secret is to use “dark posts,” posts that are never published on your company’s Facebook page.
Beldowicz will host a free webinar Tuesday, June 10, at 1 p.m., about how to use the power of dark posts to get around Facebook’s annoyances and actually accomplish something with your marketing dollars. The webinar, titled “Facebook Marketing for Facebook Haters,” is sponsored by the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation. For more information, visit www.wcec.org.
“The way Facebook works now, most people have a profile page. Either they like Facebook or they don’t, but they feel they need to be there,” Beldowicz says. But a placeholder Facebook page likely isn’t doing anything.
Many businesses have noted a low return on investment from social media efforts. Business Insider recently ran an article about how Huge, a digital design and marketing firm, had spent 45 days crafting a single Twitter post for President Cheese company. The Tweet: “Sharing a Camembert with friends? (How generous!) Get the best flavor by serving at room temperature. #artofcheese” had only been “favorited” twice by the time the magazine published its article.
Similar tales of futility have put people off of social media posts as a way of promoting their businesses, but Beldowicz says there is another way. “Just because people hate Facebook doesn’t mean it’s not where your audience is,” he says. “So long as your target audience is there, you should be there too.”
Beldowicz recommends using “dark posts” to get around the food pictures and “Which Harry Potter Character Are You” quizzes that inundate most people’s Facebook walls. A dark post is a message that is never published on a company’s website, but which customers can click through to from ads elsewhere. They often appear on users’ news feeds as “sponsored content.”
To create dark posts, a company doesn’t even have to have a publicly visible Facebook page at all. A dark post takes advantage of the Zuckerberg Empire’s vast data mining operation rather than your own ability to win Facebook friends and influence people. To make a dark post, you pay Facebook for advertising — either paying per click, or per thousand views. The cost of running an ad varies depending on your budget and how many people you want to reach (anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars per click.) Your post will then show up on the news feeds of very specifically targeted people who don’t necessarily “like” your own page.
For example, a surfboard store might pay to promote an advertisement to surfers who live within 50 miles of the store. The “dark posts” can also target people who have visited your company’s website in the past, but who may not have been there in a while. People can comment on a sponsored post just like any other.
Beldowicz likes this approach because it takes advantage of the power of social media to reach very specific people while avoiding the pitfalls of having to win “likes” to get eyeballs on your page. “You can leverage Facebook without having to participate in it,” he says.
Beldowicz grew up in New Jersey, where his father was a retailer and his mother was a psychiatric nurse. He majored in management with a concentration in engineering at NJIT, where he also ran an adventure travel company. After college, he went to work for an engineering company. He soon moved over to the marketing side of the company and later did consulting work for the social media campaigns of Kiwi Shoe Polish and auto dealers. Now Beldowicz runs his own social media training courses for digital marketers out of Howell.
According to Beldowicz, the biggest mistake companies make when launching social media campaigns is not knowing their audience or understanding what they want. Instead, many companies constantly post things about their companies — not something customers generally care about.
A second mistake is thinking Facebook is a complete sales tool. Beldowicz believes social media campaigns are more effective when they are the first step in generating a sales lead — that is, the social media campaign puts them on an E-mail list, which builds them into a viable lead. “You have to inspire people to take some kind of direct action,” he says. “It’s about getting in front of people at the right time, and with the right message, and taking them out of the distraction-filled Facebook.”