We used our Facebook and Twitter feeds in a rather precise, but extremely underutilised fashion until midway through 2013. Until then, we had usually usually only made posts to accompany posts made on the blog, or to spread the word about prizes or nice media mentions that we had received. As such, we didn’t particularly place much importance on Facebook and Twitter as media in themselves, perhaps due to a belief that the bulk of the customers who we thought would be most interested in and would use Paperight weren’t super active on social media.
This, of course, was a mistake that we realised a bit too late – to survive, Paperight obviously had to appeal to social media users, too.
I had dabbled with creating conversation plans before Marie, our marketing manager, arrived at Paperight, but the ones I made either were too clunky, unimaginative, or just simply didn’t come together well because I was too busy creating designs for physical materials. There was too much for me to do otherwise, in other words. Press releases, for example, were perceived to be a much more important way for us to gain visibility, although we had no definite sales metrics to support the assumption that press releases created sustained consumer interest in Paperight.
We began to run Facebook conversation plans in July 2013, around the time of the launch of the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. We paired excerpts from published work with related advertisements or visual accompaniments, and tagging the contributors who were featured in the images in the posts themselves. This resulted in more shares from the contributors and their parents and friends. We also started spending modest sums of money on advertising on Facebook, targeting potential readers of the Anthology. The combination of advertising and a conversation plan, in which engaging content was scheduled every weekday, increased our Facebook Likes at a much quicker rate than we had achieved before.
The added engagement on our Page opened us up to the potential of advertising on Facebook – with the caveat that, although our imagined customers weren’t all on Facebook, it didn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to engage with those of them that were. It also meant a slight change in messaging: although we had mostly pushed the accessibility angle in our press releases, we began to push the price and convenience angle, especially with regard to matric exam packs and study guides, which were much cheaper from most Paperight outlets than they were from bookstores.
This greatly informed our approach to our campaigns for the rest of the year, which focused on the comparative cheapness of Paperight materials compared to their bookstore equivalents. We pushed this aspect hard with the products we featured for the rest of the year – which were mostly exam study guides for the matric season, and cheap fiction and self-help titles to augment and diversify the product mix. Advertising around this time focused on parents of matrics and matrics themselves, with messaging focused on helping learners to get fully prepared for their exams with our exam packs and other materials. These campaigns had a good reaction, but we also found that they were fully season-dependent. After the first couple of weeks of exams had finished, engagement took a sharp turn down.
We found, overall, that without advertising, Facebook posting was very unlikely to engage with many, never mind most, of our fans. Even with advertising, I can say anecdotally that it was mostly the same group of people who liked multiple posts, giving us the illusion of engaging a lot with our fan base, but, in reality, it wasn’t really the case. Facebook is an incredibly nuanced tool; easy to dabble in, difficult to master.