There are certain benefits to getting involved with social media, and becoming an avid content creator.
This is true, especially if you want to stay well informed about your pet topics – which in my case spans content marketing (e.g., this monthly column), public relations, social media, and tech marketing.
By actively engaging and keeping an ear to the social media ground, you meet some great people, and discover invaluable content. It works the other way too – people find you (especially if you are good at what you do, and prolific and consistent enough to, heaven forbid, become an “influencer”). I think this gets to equal parts chance (and no, I don’t believe social media killed the serendipitous info discovery star, although others have said it did) and just using the tools that the rapidly evolving space has given us.
In this column I recount the story of how I happened upon a content curation solution and approach that can provide seemingly incredible results – one that found me first, while I was hot on the trail of great new tools.
(So, what about all those Facebook fans? Don’t worry, I will get to that! Patience, please – all good things come with time!)
A New Curation Platform Hits My Radar
The emails seemed to come from out of nowhere. Amidst all the social media distractions and junk I get in my inbox, daily bulletins from something called StratPlace suddenly started showing up earlier this year. They rose above the noise and got my attention with exceptionally relevant content, categorized (see “pet topics” above) and served up very nicely.
Right around that time, Steve Wick, former Accenture muckety muck and the founder of a new venture called IT Agility, got in touch with me via LinkedIn. He explained that his company was working on a new content curation platform, and he was contacting me given my coverage of the area and work in the field. It was more of an FYI since they were still in stealth mode at the time (no, I could not write about it just yet). I told him that I was indeed interested, and we agreed to keep in touch.
It soon dawned on me that the StratPlace newsletter – which had no apparent connection to IT Agility, at least at first – was being generated by the curation engine Steve had mentioned.
I contacted Steve again recently to get an update. He said that the company had come out of stealth mode, and casually pointed me to a story about them in TechCrunch. I clicked on the link, which revealed a headline that seemed almost too amazing to be true: How to get 100,000 Facebook Likes for your Fan Page.
(Now, patient reader, onto the Facebook likes and Fans, and how it was achieved).
100K Facebook Fans in 30 Days
I wrote back in March here that you can use content curation to blow out content marketing and lead social conversations. But the TechCrunch story seemed to take curation to a whole new level. It explained how a venture capitalist named James Altucher used IT Agility’s technology (which he called FanNewsCast) as the cornerstone of a multi-faceted campaign to ramp up his Facebook presence and in turn drive traffic to his blog. In addition to the results, which are nothing short of astounding, he lists how he did it.
James writes very well; here is an excerpt which lays the groundwork for his approach:
We have entered the “Choose Yourself” era. No longer do you have to wait for the big media companies to reach down from the heavens and bless you … Now, if you want to spread the truths of your brand, of your ideas, of your products, of your message, you have to create your own platform, you have to spread it across all media, and then you have to manage each medium differently…Your message has to be spread across the entire digital landscape and treat each medium as its own channel, with your message, formatted, designed, and massaged to have the greatest impact in that particular channel. For each medium, you have to ask: why this medium?
You can click on the TechCrunch link to see the full story; here is a summary of the steps he took:
1) James used FanNewsCast to set up tabs on his Facebook Fan page aligned with the topics that he blogs about on JamesAltucher.com: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Healthy Lifestyle and Inspiration. FanNewsCast curates and sends trending stories to each tab, giving people who are interested in these topics a reason to like the page, come back, and also visit his blog.
2) He also used FanNewsCast to purchase Facebook ads, at a cost of 7 cents per click that targeted his extended network. Essentially, he was able to mine his social graph and target friends of friends who are connected to his blog; the ads cost-effectively reached millions. When some of those people liked the page, others would see it in their news feed. As it turns out, the conversion rates were very impressive. This approach got him to the first 50,000 Fans.
3) James then used Optim.al to set up an ad campaign that efficiently targeted mobile users. It allowed him to test different ads and optimize them to lower his ad spend.
4) He hired The SocialPag.es to help with daily maintenance, e.g. for finding best quotes from his blog posts for reuse in ads, and for A/B testing.
James’s article goes on to discuss how the campaign evolved to include Twitter, Pinterest and Quora, how much this all cost before reflecting on the state of Facebook as a platform and an ad / content marketing medium. He writes:
And I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface …I feel like it’s TV in 1955…What other medium can I potentially target 700 million people (as one of my ads targeted) in an ad with a budget as low as $200. Altogether, my entire ad budget over the last month was about $6000. Then maybe $2000 more for the maintenance and upkeep.
So how important is the result of 100K (mostly) new Fans in 30 days? OK, we are not talking about millions, but it is an impressive number by any stretch when one considers that the Fan page was not about a celebrity or major brand.
More on How it Works
This is heady stuff for anyone who has an interest in content curation and social media marketing. I had to find out more, so I scheduled another call with Steve Wick.
It seemed clear that a key differentiator is FanNewsCast ‘s ability to spot and curate trending topics in so many categories (900 at last count; you may recall my post Trend Spotting in the Social Media Wild, which explained the challenges of doing something like this). But there was much more to find out.
First, I wanted to understand the connection between the StratPlace and FanNewsCast. Steve explained, and also provided me with a deck that expanded on the platform and approach. Here’s an excerpt:
StratPlace curates content for over 900 industry, consumer and professional topics; it identifies the most engaging content via our proprietary SocialRank score. FanNewsCast streams trending content to any destination (Facebook, internet, intranet, mobile, eNewsletters).
How comprehensive is it, and how fresh is the content? StratPlace currently indexes over 300 consumer interest subjects and sixteen major industry groups including 300 industry sectors, from 40,000 sources. So, it works well for both B2B and B2C. The index is refreshed every 4 minutes.
What channels does IT Agility pull content from? It tracks trending content across Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook (see this link for a demo page).
Why are the Facebook ads so effective and conversions so high? A lot of this gets back to the approach summarized above, and also the use of Facebook Precise Interest targeting.
I know this sounds like one big puff piece for IT Agility but let me assure you that I have no vested interested in or connection with the company, other than what I have stated. My only hands-on experience so far has been with the curated newsletter that magically showed up on my email doorstep (as it turns out, Steve’s team had configured it based on the topics I cover).
I asked around a bit, and picked the brains of other curation experts whom I know and respect. Alex Romanovich of Social2B said that he is well aware of IT Agility, and had very nice things to say about the company and its technology (Alex also shared his thoughts on the content curation landscape for my post on Flack’s Revenge, which offers a more general update on the content curation field).
There are so many takeaways here – about how curation can be used effectively, the benefits of IT Agility’s technology, and of an integrated approach to content and social media marketing. The story also illustrates the power of Facebook in targeting users with ads by their interests, drawing them in with relevant content, and mining your social graph.
What do you think? Are you amazed, or skeptical?