Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Messenger Bots That Drive Website Traffic
In 2016, after working as a marketer for tech startups and with a few clients of her own, Natasha was planning to launch a social media marketing agency with her co-founder, Kyle Willis. To stay on top of everything happening in social media marketing, she watched F8 (Facebook’s developer conference) remotely, where they announced Facebook Messenger bots.
At the conference, Facebook showed enterprise examples, but right away, Natasha wanted to start testing whether Messenger bots would be effective for her clients, which were small- and mid-sized businesses. She thought if she could learn to market with bots really well, she might be able to make her new agency stand out.
After about 4 or 5 months, Natasha’s bot marketing was going well for her clients. As is common with bot marketing, her clients had high open and click rates. They also had good conversion and retention rates. Since getting started with bots 2 years ago, Natasha and her agency have built about 100 bots.
Today, in addition to her chatbot agency, Natasha and Kyle run School of Bots, which launched in January 2018. They created it as a resource for chatbot marketing and strategy, with free articles, videos, and interviews with thought leaders. Their goal is to provide up-to-date content in a niche that changes quickly.
At the same time, Natasha and Kyle launched the Chatbot Agency Accelerator, which teaches people how to build their chatbot agencies and add chatbots to their offerings. Although they didn’t push this program, it’s taken off. They’ve grown the community, and Natasha has been doing a lot of speaking engagements.
Listen to the show to hear Natasha share what some of her hopes were as she became an entrepreneur.
Why Use Messenger Bots?
Natasha thinks right now is the perfect time to build a bot for your company or clients because, with all of the buzz about bots, people know about them but may not fully understand them.
Although WhatsApp surpassed Messenger in terms of number of users, Natasha still recommends focusing on Messenger because its users still send more messages per month than WhatsApp users do. Also, Facebook Messenger works with chatbot platforms like ManyChat and Chatfuel, which are designed for non-coders and make it easy to create a chatbot and get results.
Right now, other platforms like Slack, Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp are still just like email in terms of how you can use them to market to users.
Messenger chatbots are also a great way to drive traffic to your website now that the Facebook algorithm no longer prioritizes social posting. With a chatbot, no algorithm is controlling what people see; you can control the conversation between your page and the user. Thus, driving traffic with a chatbot is much easier than it is with a regular post to your Facebook page or even an email.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts about chatbots versus email.
How to Grow Your Bot List
Natasha shares ways to grow your bot subscriber list via your website and social media. On your website pages, you can add personalized slide-ins and chat icons. A slide-in is like a pop-up window that says something like, “Would you like to receive a message the next time we share a blog post? If so, opt in on Messenger.”
The chat icons look similar to a live chat icon that says, “How can I help you today?” With chat icons, you can have a conversation on your site via your Messenger bot. The person never has to leave your website to interact with your bot, and the chat tool looks very similar to the live chat features that people are used to.
These features let you capture people who visit your site before you begin driving them there. You can add slide-ins and chat icons on your home page and every blog article page. This tactic is similar to the one used to capture emails with a lead magnet. You can even combine email and bot subscription requests, and test delivering the second part of a lead magnet or a discount code via bot.
To add slide-ins and chat icons to your website, you use a bot-building platform like ManyChat. The process is fairly easy. Facebook Messenger gives you a little checkbox you add to your website. Then, when people are on your website, they simply need to select the checkbox to be added to your Messenger list. If you’re combining email capture and bot subscriptions, you can add the box to a form.
For your bot-building platform to connect your website and Messenger bot, your website needs to be set up with the platform that you’re using. To illustrate, after you set up ManyChat on your site, it allows any checkbox from its platform (and that you add to your site) to connect a user to your bot. However, if you use a form created via your email provider, the process is a bit more complicated.
Natasha also notes that Messenger bots require a two-step opt-in. After a user opts in via the checkbox on your site, the user still needs to respond to the bot in Messenger in order to be subscribed to it. Messenger bots work this way so that advertisers can’t blast people’s inboxes.
For the second step of the opt-in, the best approach is to ask users what communications they want to see from you. Bots make it easy to segment your audience in deep detail, and you can start doing that right away. Natasha creates a subscription dashboard that asks if users want to be notified about blog articles, sales, or interviews. People can subscribe only to what interests them.
In addition to slide-ins and chat icons, your website can also include special links that direct people to your chatbot. You can also add these links to your emails and social media profiles on Instagram, YouTube, Medium, and so on. These links direct people to your bot. Because the link tracks where people came from, your bot can send a specific message based on that.
To visualize this, in your Instagram bio, you can add a link to your chatbot. When someone clicks it, they go to Messenger and your bot can say, “Hey there, welcome from Instagram! Thanks for following us. Do you want to get notified when we share a new post?” or whatever offer you’re running at the time. That’s typically how it would work.
In email, Natasha recommends split testing links to your website versus your bot or offer two options in the actual email. Your email might say, “If you want to read our latest blog article, click this link to go to Messenger or click this link to go to our website.” In this way, you can slowly onboard your audience to your bot. With email campaigns, people can get confused so it’s important to move slowly.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts about the different email providers businesses use.
How to Drive Bot Subscribers to Your Website
After people subscribe to your bot, sending them to your website for a specific reason is important. Natasha emphasizes that you can’t simply ask subscribers to check out your website; you need to give them a reason to do so.
If your site has several articles or videos about a specific topic, your bot can mention the series on the topic and lead people through each article or video. After a user says they’re interested in the series, the bot can say, “Here’s the first one. Click here to see it or listen to it.” The link would send them to your site.
Between each article or video, you can implement a delay in the conversation and engage with people about your content. The delay can be a full day, an hour, 30 minutes, or however much time you want to give them before the bot says, “Hey, what do you think about it?” After you engage with a user about the content, add another delay before you share the next piece in the series.
You can also automate bot notifications about new articles on your website. The easiest way to implement this automation is with RSS feeds. (Both Chatfuel and ManyChat can work with RSS feeds.) Alternately, you can use Zapier or Integromat to set up a trigger when new content appears on your site. Then you can use that trigger to send Messenger broadcasts.
I ask how Integromat is different from Zapier. Natasha says the two services are functionally similar, but Integromat works with hundreds of apps. Most of the time, as long as you’re using a big provider, it works with the app you want to integrate with your bot.
Natasha also mentions a few other ways to drive traffic to your website. On Facebook itself, you can drive traffic with Facebook ads or an organic Facebook post. Simply connect the bot to your post so when people comment, your bot will send them a message. Or if you include chatbot links in email campaigns, you can customize the link so it’s specific to a lead magnet or new blog article.
Listen to the show to hear Natasha discuss repurposing a blog article into chatbot content.
Bot Campaign Example
To show how a bot campaign that drives traffic can work, Natasha shares an example of a recent product launch campaign that generated $48,000 with no paid traffic. The campaign combined three assets in order to grow each one: an email list (Natasha uses ActiveCampaign), the School of Bots Facebook group, and the School of Bots chatbot.
Right before the product launch, Natasha and her team ran a free 5-day boot camp that showed people how to set up agencies systematically. More than 600 people registered, and although that isn’t a huge list, everyone was incredibly engaged.
Instead of using a typical website form or an ad for registration, School of Bots sent people to the Messenger bot. The process started with the message, “Hey, welcome to the boot camp!” Then the bot checked whether it had the user’s email address and then asked users to either confirm or provide their email address.
This ability to check for an email illustrates one of the beauties of bots. Because the bot can check everything that you’re talking to the user about, you can avoid repeating yourself or talking about things that are irrelevant.
Next, the bot offered a $97 bot template for free to anyone who referred friends to the boot camp. This tactic allowed School of Bots to get lots of organic traffic to its Facebook group and email list. People invited 5-10 friends, even though School of Bots asked them to invite only one.
The invitation process also worked via the bot. The bot asked users if they wanted to invite a friend. They could respond Yes or No. If they clicked Yes, the user received instructions to comment on a post in the Facebook group that told people about the boot camp and how to register. In the comment, the user had to tag the friend who was invited to the group and add the hashtag #template.
With this invitation system, the expectation was that the friend would also go through the bot, and School of Bots could capture the friend’s email as well. Also, because you currently can’t automate a process like this with a bot, someone from the School of Bots team had to manually check who should receive the free template. However, you can deliver a freebie automatically with a page post.
About 60%-70% of the boot camp registrants participated in the referral incentive. This figure illustrates another important aspect of bots. Because bot conversations are intimate, people need the option to say No. For instance, if you’re collecting an email or offering an incentive, it needs to be okay that someone doesn’t want to provide an email or participate in the incentive.
The School of Bots boot camp was 5 days of Facebook Live videos plus a daily workbook. After the boot camp, School of Bots launched the Chatbot Agency Accelerator, which was its first official product launch. The program had been in beta and for sale, but School of Bots hadn’t pushed it until the launch.
About half of the sales happened in the first 48 hours, and the rest toward the end of the launch, which lasted 14 days. Natasha credits the chatbot funnel for bringing in a lot of the leads. The Facebook group added about 1,500 new members, and School of Bots added about 900 new email subscribers.
Although the campaign wasn’t huge, it generated $48,000 because people were so engaged. The conversion rates and engagement rates were much higher than they would be for a big list. This campaign illustrates the power of intimacy and how much that increases engagement. Moreover, engaging with people over a period of time, like the 5-day boot camp, helped the product launch.
Listen to the show to hear Natasha share examples of her bot messages.
Dos and Don’ts for Promoting Your Content
Natasha shares how to handle everything from timing messages for users in different time zones to Messenger’s rules for selling to how to prepare for the future of bots.
Bot Etiquette: When you’re messaging someone, they usually receive a notification on their phone. Most of the time, you want to be careful about the time of day people receive that notification. If you have users across many time zones, pay attention to the platform you’re using. Certain platforms allow you to send messages at certain times or accommodate different time zones.
Natasha says an exception is if your message is time-sensitive. If you’re closing your cart or doing a live interview at a certain time, don’t worry about time zone. In the end, people have opted into your messages, and they know some messages might be inconvenient for them.
When you do manage time zone, Facebook collects that attribute for you. In your chatbot platform, you can see the time zone people selected in their Facebook settings and program your bot to send a message (such as a note about a new blog post) at a specific time, such as 9:00 AM for the user’s time zone. With the tagging available in bots, you can send only the articles users want to see.
Because messaging platforms are an intimate channel where people talk to their friends, family, and colleagues, any business on the platform needs to be wary of crossing boundaries or coming across as too aggressive. Messenger is the first of these platforms to use bots, but soon this point will also be relevant to other platforms like WhatsApp, Line, and Telegram.
Just as Natasha mentioned in her earlier example, a key way to respect people’s boundaries is to always give bot users a way to say No. Also, even if people don’t want to share an email address, you still need to give the user content and an option to talk with you.
Messenger Rules for Selling: When you’re selling with Messenger, you need to follow its rules. If you don’t, you risk being removed from the platform. Be sure to research the terms and policies, and what types of messages you can send to people and when, so your bot continues to be in good standing with Messenger.
To illustrate, if someone hasn’t interacted with your bot for 24 hours, you can send them only one message that’s promotional or drives people to a sale. You want to choose how you use that message carefully. After you use it, you can no longer send people notifications about a cart closing or a discount code, because that content qualifies as a promotional.
However, this restriction applies only to promotional messages. Sharing educational content, such as a new blog post, doesn’t necessarily violate the rules. In the end, the restrictions on promotional content help keep the platform valuable to marketers.
Messenger Bots Versus Email: If you use Messenger bots in the right way, have great conversations with people, and follow the rules, the bot can have better ROI than email. That’s because a bot allows you to have a small but highly engaged list, which leads to a high conversion rate. Engagement matters much more than list size.
Because Messenger isn’t saturated with marketing messages right now, people see your messages there more than they see your emails. However, Natasha recommends marketers continue to grow their email list. Instead of leaving email in favor of Messenger, you can add Messenger to your opt-in forms. Then you still have a way to connect with people who don’t use Messenger regularly.
Your email list is also important because you own it, whereas you don’t own Messenger.
Multiple Uses of Bots: A common misconception is that you can use a bot for only one thing (like answering frequently asked questions) and need another bot to do anything else. However, bots are dynamic tools, and you can do almost anything you’d like with one bot.
Tagging is part of what makes bots so flexible. If you create your bot so people can subscribe only to the content topics that interest them, the bot tags their preferences, and you can use those interests for a big campaign or use case down the road. The tags allow you to differentiate between what you send one group versus another, and bots make organizing and editing tags fairly easy.
Future of Bots: ManyChat is just starting to expand to WhatsApp and a couple of other platforms. Right now, it’s hard to say how bot-building platforms will work with those platforms.
Although it would be amazing if ManyChat added discoverability across platforms like Messenger and WhatsApp, the platforms might want to stay separate. Today, you can combine resources within Facebook by downloading your Messenger bot subscriber list, entering the emails and custom audience information you have into Ads Manager, and running ads only to your list.
Looking ahead, Natasha is curious to see whether WhatsApp will add similar functionality. For instance, if you’re using a platform like ManyChat, maybe you’ll be able to download your Messenger list and then capture those same people on WhatsApp. Also, when you think about Facebook’s whole family of apps, Instagram will likely have its own messaging capability.
Because Messenger is just the start of bots, Natasha recommends creating a bot even if you don’t know what you want to do with it. You’ll learn how messaging and marketing come together. Then, as this area of marketing grows to other platforms, you’ll be ahead of the curve. You’ll already understand how to communicate with people on those platforms.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts about growing Social Media Examiner’s email list versus a bot list.
Discovery of the Week
NotaBene is a cool note-taking app that makes it easy to gather and share ideas.
NotaBene stands out from other note-taking apps for several reasons. First, you can set up contacts for people to whom you frequently send notes on the fly. For example, you might add team members as contacts. Also, you can share voice notes, photos, screenshots, and text with any contact seamlessly. You don’t need to open another app. It’s a one-stop shop for taking and sharing notes.
NotaBene is simple and easy to use. It has a microphone button for taking voice notes. After you use it to record a voice note, you can send that voice note to a contact via their email. The contact receives your voice memo as a WAV file and a transcription of your message so they can listen to or read your notes. You can bundle photos and screenshots into the same note, too.
NotaBene is also great for sending notes to yourself, especially if you use a system like Trello or Evernote that gives you an email address. After you set up that email address in NotaBene, you can tell it to send a note to your Evernote or Trello board.
NotaBene is free and available for iOS and Android.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how NotaBene works for you.
Key takeaways from this article:
What do you think? What are your thoughts on driving website traffic with bots? Please share your comments below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Artificial Intelligence for Marketers
Early in his career, Mike learned that he loves helping business owners see what’s around the corner. In the 1990s, Mark worked for a helicopter firm in Hawaii. In exchange for flying lessons, he helped the firm computerize. (His boss flew the helicopter in Magnum P.I.) In 2004, Mike learned how Google AdWords (now Google Ads) helped small businesses and did campaigns as favors.
A few years later, Mike started his agency. His focus on future tools and techniques put him in the right place at the right time. This focus also led to Mike’s interest in artificial intelligence (AI). About 3 years ago, he realized businesses will need to move from reading and listening to more sophisticated ways of interacting with customers, and learned all he could about the topic.
In learning about AI, Mike wasn’t focused on how to build AI-enabled technologies. He was interested in knowing how to use AI so he could figure out how it’s relevant to business owners. Specifically, he spots the business problems and helps businesses identify which of those problems require AI. He also knows which off-the-shelf tools use some AI and which don’t.
Listen to the show to hear Mike share a story about flying a helicopter into a Kauai canyon.
Why Artificial Intelligence Is Important to Marketers
To explain why AI is important, Mike shares a comparison from Andrew Ng, an AI and machine learning expert. Andrew says AI is the new electricity. Just as electricity started being used to power everything 100 years ago, AI is being added to everything now. The advent of electricity changed everything, including transport, factories, and more. Similarly, AI will change the knowledge economy.
For marketers, the coming changes are important because your business will benefit from being aware of AI-based tools and techniques before your competitors are. If you work on the agency side, you want to help your clients lead with AI. Although marketers don’t need to understand AI in great detail, they do need to know enough about AI to spot opportunities.
The Hollywood version of AI features robots with guns turning us into paperclips. The reality is more mundane and incremental.
We’re a long way off from AI that can run Google campaigns or send your kids to school and cook dinner. However, artificial narrow intelligence (also shortened to narrow intelligence or ANI) is likely to start replacing an increasing number of human tasks.
You can think of ANI as incredibly smart software. Mark thinks, in a very optimistic version of the future, smart machines will enable us to do things that we can’t do today or will do tasks we can do much, much better. In other words, ANI will enable us to hand over menial tasks so we have more time for creative, strategic, or compassionate work.
Listen to the show to hear Mark and me discuss hype versus reality of other future technologies.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Mike defines AI as the science of making things smart. It includes robotics, natural language, vision, and much more. Machine learning refers to computers that can learn without being explicitly taught. Machine learning is an area of AI that’s taking off right now, especially a subcategory called deep learning.
To illustrate, how would a computer learn what a chair is? With traditional programming, you’d use conditional statements such as “If the thing has four legs, a seat, and back, then it’s a chair.” The code would need to account for chairs with and without arms, wheeled chairs, and so on. The resulting program would require lots of code, and if one line had an error, the code wouldn’t work.
Machine learning offers a new way to teach a computer what a chair is. Essentially, you give the machine thousands of examples of chairs and non-chairs (like tables, dogs, and trees) so the computer understands what a chair is and isn’t. Over time, the machine learns to infer whether something is a chair. Over the past 5 or 10 years, this technology has become quite accurate.
Today, you see this technology used to help people shop. When you hold up a product to a camera, the Pinterest or Amazon apps or Google Lens (via the Google Photos app on iOS) can recognize the product and try to find it for you. You can point a Google Lens camera at your friend wearing a dress, and it will find a bunch of similar dresses and tell you where you can buy them.
In addition to recognizing items, AI can make predictions. Amazon uses predictive AI to tell you things like, “People who bought this book also bought this book.” Similarly, Netflix suggests TV shows or movies that might interest you. Netflix even changes cover thumbnails using predictive AI. Based on your viewing habits, it predicts which thumbnail will appeal to you the most.
The machine learning in self-driving cars is also solving prediction problems. “Which lane am I in? Which lane should I be in? What’s that car about to do? What will that pedestrian do?” It predicts how other things around you will move, and thus which direction to drive and whether to accelerate or brake. Although this explanation is a massive oversimplification, it’s essentially what’s happening.
Another example is Siri for the iPhone. As more things include machine learning, Siri is increasingly capable of living up to its promise of being a personal assistant. Today, it can remind you to make a call. In the future, it might suggest you leave early because of traffic or sense that one meeting is running long and offer to let the next three people on your calendar for today know you’ll be late.
A great example is the demo of Google Duplex at Google IO 2018. In this video, Google Assistant (which is on more phones than Siri and thus has more data to learn from) books a haircut appointment and makes a restaurant reservation. Many people thought these demos were fake because the Duplex technology was amazingly good at handling a conversation that didn’t go the usual way.
After people began questioning whether the technology was real, Google rented a Thai restaurant in New York and invited journalists to spend the afternoon testing the technology for themselves within the scope of a restaurant reservation. The journalists were divided into groups that tried to throw off the AI, but the AI was able to handle their questions flawlessly.
How people adopt AI depends on whether they feel creeped out by computers doing human-like things or appreciate the convenience it offers. Some people believe AI would be looking over their shoulder. Others think it would be amazing to have a tool that can instantly recall someone’s name and their birthday, and then send them the right gift.
Listen to the show to hear how I discovered AI in the recent iOS update.
Artificial Intelligence and Marketing Campaigns
Algorithms like Facebook’s are a form of AI that predicts which articles or ads certain users are likely to click (although the algorithm involves much more than that). For more than 3 years, Mark has been running experiments against Facebook’s AI. Based on these experiments, he believes we’re at the tipping point where most of the time, the machine is as good as a human.
The algorithm does mess up sometimes, and when that happens, it tends to make huge mistakes. However, most of the time, it’s as good as—and sometimes it’s much better than—even the best human.
For marketers, the capabilities of AI have the potential to threaten the existence of their jobs or agencies. Marketers who still spend the majority of the day reporting and changing bids are especially vulnerable. These marketers are likely to either go out of business or have to work extra hard to change the way they do day-to-day tasks.
All ad platforms are incentivized to improve their AI. When they help marketers achieve their objectives, they’ll continue to use the platform. Also, AI that makes the ad platforms easier to use will bring in more business.
Today, a huge chasm exists between businesses that find online and social ad platforms too confusing and complicated, and businesses that can hire an agency or employee to handle it. The more these platforms empower everyday businesses to use AI to get more customers, the more business the ad platforms generate.
Mike says Google has always been focused on the user, the advertiser, and the stakeholders, and how these three intersect. For Google, the user is the biggest and most important of the three. Although Google must balance the needs of advertisers and stakeholders, Mike believes providing the best user experience helps do that because it encourages users to come back to the platform.
For instance, in the late 1990s, people left search engines like Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves for Google because it served better results. Today, Google is trying to make its platform better for advertisers. If only about 10% of the businesses that should be using a tool like Google Ads are actually using it, the platform has enormous room for growth.
Among small businesses, Mike thinks Google Ads can add customers who have thus far found the advertising platform too intimidating to use. Among large businesses, Google could take brand dollars away from traditional media and educate these bigger businesses about the cost-saving benefits of using Google Ads instead of big holding agencies.
Listen to the show to hear my thoughts on the intelligence of Facebook’s algorithm.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Marketers
Google and Facebook have big AI initiatives and tools marketers already use that provide unbelievable amounts of information. To visualize this, Google collects data on users via Google Analytics, Android (which is on 80% of smartphones worldwide), YouTube, and Chrome (the most used browser). Google developed or purchased these services to acquire all of this data.
In addition to Google and Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM are all doing amazing things with AI as well. Because Mike focuses on Google Ads, our conversation about how AI can help marketers focuses on that platform. However, I want to emphasize that AI is coming quickly to many platforms.
To explain how AI can help marketers with Google Ads right now, Mike first outlines a framework based on a pyramid with three layers. The bottom layer is bidding, the middle layer is targeting, and the top layer is messaging. Together, these layers help marketers with advertising that shows the right message to the right person at the right time and does so profitably.
Mike uses a pyramid because bidding is a good place to start testing Google’s AI. Bidding is the easiest task for AI to take over and a time-consuming task for marketers. With the AI handling bidding, you can move up the pyramid, stay ahead of the robot, and focus on the tasks at the top, such as creative and strategic thinking and working with clients on bigger business problems.
The AI in AlphaGo Zero is able to ingest a ton of numbers and make predictions with incredible accuracy. It can also learn quickly. In 3 days, it was as good as a human being. After 40 days, AlphaGo Zero beat AlphaGo, which was supposedly never going to lose a game.
In a similar way, bidding on Google and Facebook ads is a numbers game. You might need to determine how much to bid for a keyword or how much to offer Google if someone clicks your ad. Computers have become excellent at making bids. Today, they’re as good as humans, and in the near future, they’ll become much better.
With Smart Bidding, you give Google a target, and it’s becoming very good at hitting it. To visualize this, if you’re willing to pay $50 per lead, Smart Bidding will find leads for $50. Although it won’t find leads for much less than you ask (say $10 per lead), it also won’t find leads for $100.
Compared to the capabilities of Smart Bidding, marketers’ old approach to bidding looks ridiculously slow and antiquated. For at least 10 years, marketers have analyzed bidding by looking at about six signals, bit by bit, daily or weekly. To illustrate, if females age 35-44 who live in New York responded better, they increased the bid for that little group to increase the conversion rate.
However, in the time you take to type a search term into Google and press Enter, Google can consider 70 million data points. It knows what apps are on your phone, the other searches you’ve done, and what you watch on YouTube. It knows where you are and what the weather is like there. It knows if you’re at home or work or on vacation. Humans can’t compete with that.
With Smart Bidding, you can test whether you can let go of all the work marketers have traditionally put into bidding. Simply tell the Smart Bidding AI the most you’re willing to spend and then let it do the hard work for you. Smart Bidding will do all of the testing and analysis to get your ad to the right people at the right price.
When you test Smart Bidding, you can use the Google drafts and experiments feature to see how it works for you. Essentially, you can set up a split test that compares your method of bidding to the machine’s. When you run these tests, Mike emphasizes that you need to give the machine a little bit of time. How much time depends on the size of your campaign, but generally, allow 2-4 weeks.
Targeting: Typically, targeting requires a person to analyze demographics and content, and decide where an ad should appear. For example, marketers tell Google to show an ad when someone searches for a specific keyword. For a YouTube ad, a marketer might ask YouTube to place the ad next to content that’s similar to Oprah.com.
The old way of targeting ads via TV, radio, and magazines focused on demographics. Because media outlets had no idea who was buying, they defined their audience with big demographic categories, like female, California, age 35-44. However, the age of someone buying a washing machine doesn’t matter. What matters is intent: Who’s looking for the type of washing machine you sell?
With AI, you can target customers based on intent. All of the data Google has helps its AI predict what someone will do next. For instance, how does the AI determine what they’re in the market for right now? Based on all of the data Google collects, it might know someone is a baseball fan and a parent who tends to visit baby sites so they have a child younger than 3 years old.
The AI can then combine knowledge of a person’s longer-term interests with their more immediate ones. Say that parent who loves baseball starts searching for how to fix washing machines or how to buy a new washing machine for less than $1,500 with free delivery. The AI then knows that person is in the market for a new washing machine.
Because the AI has all of this data, you don’t need to tell Google how to target your ad based on demographics and factors like that. To reach people who want to buy a washing machine because you sell them, you give Google’s AI an ad and say how much you want to spend for each sale or lead. From there, the AI knows whom you want to reach and how to show your ad to the right person.
However, Mike emphasizes that keywords aren’t a thing of the past. You can still use keyword targeting, but it’s becoming harder to get right and isn’t the most important signal.
For display ads, Google has In-Market Audiences, which offers about 500 categories. To reach people who want to buy a washing machine, you can tell the tool to find everyone in the market for a washing machine right now. You can also add other targeting, like people in California. However, specifying an age demographic is unnecessary because the feature analyzes people’s intent.
You can access In-Market Audiences in two ways. If you’re running ads the old way, then you can layer the AI audience targeting over your traditional targeting. Then you can compare how the two types of targeting behave. If the AI behaves the way you hope it will, then you can give it the reins.
A new way to access targeting with AI is Smart campaigns. With this approach, you tell Google what you want to do and how much you’re willing to pay, and the AI does the rest. Smart campaigns include bidding, targeting, and even a little bit of messaging.
Messaging: Figuring out your messaging with AI is at the top of Mike’s pyramid because it’s currently not very good at writing creative or persuasive copy. If you’re a copywriter or content creator, your chances of survival are much greater than if you’re focused on bidding or targeting.
However, the AI is good at understanding meaning and the context of a page, and both Google and Facebook have this type of AI. (Facebook’s version is called DeepText.) Because this AI can understand the meaning, semantics, and nuance of all these words, it’s very good at messaging that has a limited scope.
AI like Phrasee can handle a narrow task like email subject lines because you can provide thousands of examples instead of thousands of rules: subject lines you’ve already used, brand guidelines, examples of what you can and can’t say, and past results. From there, the AI can predict what your next email subject should be, test it for you, and tell you how its results compared to yours.
Similarly, with the Facebook AI, you can give it a few headlines, choices for copy text, and calls to action, and the AI can test those in combination to find the winner. Google has a similar tool called responsive ads. You can choose from responsive display ads or responsive search ads. With Google, you provide about 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, and it figures out all of the combinations.
Google’s responsive ads also allow you to give the AI specific parameters. If you want your brand name to be the first headline, you can pin it to that position, and mix and match all of the others. Although parameters like this massively limit what the machine can do, this capability might protect your brand or give the marketing manager a sense of control.
For messaging, Mike says the best use for AI is letting it work out the billions of combinations and which one works best. Also, he emphasizes that AI is more powerful than traditional A/B testing, where you run Ad A against Ad B for 28 days, see that Ad B is better, get rid of Ad A, and write a new one. To Google, A/B testing is marketing through averages, which is ridiculous.
Google’s AI can determine the best ad for a specific user. To visualize this, the AI knows what Mike has been searching for recently and how he generally behaves on Google and other websites. However, the best ad for Mike will be different from the best ad for Julie. In other words, Google’s AI tries to find the best ad each time, and a human can’t compete with that.
Because Google has access to such a massive trove of data, third-party services can’t compete with Google’s AI either. The third-party services get the same six signals that marketers do, whereas Google has about 70 million signals. Even if Google could give us those signals, they never would. That data gives Google too much of a competitive advantage.
Instead, Mike says marketers need to try the Google AI. Give it your creative ideas based on what you know about your businesses or clients and let the AI do the rest.
Listen to the show to hear Mike share more about how and why to test Google’s AI as more features continue to become available.
Discovery of the Week
Laserlike is a cool tool for discovering and focusing on content you enjoy.
Because you see less news via Facebook, Laserlike offers a great way to keep up on niche stories. After you install the app, you tell it what your interests are, such as digital marketing and business leadership. (You can also find categories unrelated to business, like news or celebrity gossip.) After the app starts to show you stories, you can train it further by indicating what you do or don’t like.
Laserlike is also powering a Firefox plugin called Advance. The plugin says it’s not tracking you or looking at your sensitive data, but it does look at the sites you visit to learn what you like and then curate your interests to bring you interesting content. Similar tools include the Google News app and the Apple News app.
Laserlike is free and available for iOS and Android.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how Laserlike works for you.
Key takeaways from this episode:
What do you think? What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence? Please share your comments below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Facebook Group Engagement
On New Year’s Eve, Dana rang in 2013 celebrating her last day at her full-time job. She started the new year as an entrepreneur and an expecting first-time mom. Although she was scared and had no idea how to do either, she wanted to be amazing at both. At the time, she felt isolated, living in Columbus, Ohio, surrounded by people who had full-time jobs and no kids.
After Dana’s son was born, he went to daycare while she worked, and she felt a massive amount of guilt working at home and sending her baby to school, even though that’s what she wanted to do. At one point, while she was working on her laptop in a café, the sight of a mom, daughter, and grandma made her cry.
When Dana told her husband that she wanted to move back to San Diego, California, where her parents still live, he said, “I’ll quit my job tomorrow, and we’ll sell the house.” Two months later, when her son was five months old, Dana was living in San Diego, surrounded by people who had kids and businesses. Being among people who were doing something similar to her was empowering.
At Hal Elrod’s Best Year Ever Blueprint, Dana met some people who started a mastermind group, and one of them was Azul Terronez, who helped Dana write her book, Boss Mom. The book talks about how she stopped feeling guilty about creating things while raising a child. As the book succeeded, Dana wove the Boss Mom idea into her whole brand.
As part of that effort, Dana created the Boss Mom Facebook group, but Boss Mom is something much bigger than a Facebook group. Dana envisioned it as a movement with a culture.
In the Facebook group, Dana guides the Boss Mom culture and creates a foundation for what people expect from it, a process similar to building culture at a company. This summer, Dana launched Boss Mom meetups, so the community has an online and offline presence.
When you think about your topic as a movement with a culture, you treat it differently than many people treat their Facebook groups. With this approach, Dana’s Facebook group has grown to 33,000 members, most of whom discovered the group organically through Facebook recommendations or referrals from friends. The group adds an average of 120 members weekly.
Dana’s group isn’t only large and growing; it also has high engagement. Each month, on average, about 70% of her group members are active participants. The group has 85,000 to 89,000 interactions and about 5,000 posts each month.
Listen to the show to hear Dana and me discuss possible reasons why she found more entrepreneurs in San Diego than Columbus.
How to Build a Facebook Group
When Dana started her Facebook group, she made a common mistake: posting in the group and telling people they should hang out with her. For a while, she was the only one posting, which is a sad and depressing experience for most group owners. She hoped other people would comment and thought engaging everyone was her job alone. Otherwise, she thought no one would engage.
However, the group took a turn when Dana stopped trying to manage the group and be the host. She needed to recognize that people would naturally engage on their own.
To create a community and a culture that will grow and thrive, Dana says you need to manage from the bottom up. Instead of making rules, you set a tone and let other people find their roles. People naturally become motivators, leaders, administrators, project managers, informants, and so on. When you allow people that space, they can help you accomplish your goals for the Facebook group.
Rather than creating all the posts yourself, consider creating a challenge or call for people to post themselves. Dana might post, “Hey everybody, it’s hard to be moms and entrepreneurs. Write your own post about this struggle or post an article on this topic.” As members begin to post, the Facebook algorithm starts to think your group is interesting. Then your group can gain momentum naturally.
After your group has some members, you can also ask what types of posts they like or want to see. Dana recommends involving members in this way early on. You can ask members for their suggestions on making the group better. For example, if you write prompts every week, ask the group what kind of prompts they want to see or what would best motivate them.
To get those members, Dana built her group by spreading the word elsewhere online. In fact, she spent more time promoting her group in other spaces than she did inside the group. She sought out interviews on podcasts, created guest posts, collaborated with other group owners to offer free training, and started The Boss Mom Podcast. These activities were all opportunities to promote her group.
When Dana talked about her group, she focused on what she cared about and how she wanted to support people in her group. She chose that focus because she believes selling a movement is easier than selling a service or product. Similarly, she didn’t create a group about how to do something. Instead, she created a group around how she feels the world should be.
For Boss Mom, her movement manifesto centers around the feelings she had when she was new to parenthood and entrepreneurship. She’s the mom who doesn’t want to be judged for working at home while her kids go to school. She wants to be able to not shower for the day and know this doesn’t diminish her intelligence.
To promote this manifesto, Dana created phrases that other women found exciting and prompted them to hang out with women who also feel this way. To help set the tone, she also promised to fiercely protect everyone in her group. She believes this promise is important when you’re building any kind of community.
When you protect the community instead of focusing on numbers, you’ll have to remove members, but your numbers will still grow. In Dana’s group, her promise means that if someone attacks another member, they get kicked out of the group; people are kicked out of the group if they judge people for the way they potty train, the way they run their business, etc.
Listen to the show to hear Dana discuss how growing a community by protecting it is similar to providing value to potential customers.
Establishing Culture and Guidelines for Facebook Groups
To lay the groundwork for the group culture you want to foster, begin by thinking about why you want people to come to your group. People might come for tips, information about events or locations, support, or space to commiserate and complain together. In Dana’s group, people come for ideas and a sounding board, and to brainstorm together in a safe space.
When you know why people will want to come to your group, you’ll know how to set the tone. In Dana’s group, people know it’s a positive place where members support each other, the content is about 80% business and 20% parenting, and you’re encouraged to ask questions. The group can help you feel confident instead of guilty.
To determine why people will come to your group, look at your target audience. People don’t spend enough time on this point because they assume they know their audience. However, if you don’t map out the drivers for your group, you won’t know how to stand behind your community and beliefs when someone breaks the rules of engagement, and the community can fall apart quickly.
You can communicate the group culture and guidelines in several ways. The group description, which appears on the sidebar, is visible to anyone. Also, at the top of the group timeline, Dana pins a welcome video in which she tells members what to expect in the group and how to engage, including what they can and can’t post.
When people ask to join the group, Dana uses two of the three onboarding questions to communicate the tone. One question notes the group is a positive space where members don’t feel judged, but support each other in making business and parenting decisions. Potential members acknowledge that they agree to follow the rules and breaking them can result in being kicked out.
The second question asks whether potential members agree to post promotional content only in a promo thread and not to go live in the group. The third question asks whether potential members want free resources, and if so, to share their email address. About 50% of the people who ask to join provide their email address.
Dana finds that the questions and the welcome video she asks new members to watch (which is also a pinned announcement) help reduce the number of people who break the rules.
Because Dana’s group is large, she has someone on her team help manage the community instead of group members who are leaders and ambassadors. This team member accepts requests to join, removes people from the group who haven’t followed the rules, and flags questionable posts. She also pulls new members’ emails into a spreadsheet that can be imported into Ontraport.
When communicating the group’s culture and rules, Dana emphasizes what members can do as much as what they can’t. For example, members who share an email address receive a welcome email. It explains why the recipient received the email, shares what group members can expect, asks how they want to engage with Boss Mom, and offers an option to download free resources.
Dana’s welcome video also helps new members understand how to engage in the group. She explains how they can get to know everybody and mentions the stores of other members. To encourage lurkers to engage, she explains why they’ll get more value from the group by posting and participating, and challenges them to post something within the first week.
The video is also a way for Dana to share her personality and let people get to know her. She shares a little bit about herself and how she engages with the group. Every 6-9 months, she updates the video because her life is different. She wants to share who she is now and how she’s constantly changing. Also, she’s more concerned about the video being authentic than perfect.
Listen to the show to learn why Dana uses email instead of group membership questions to learn more about group members.
Facebook Group Engagement Techniques
Dana’s introduction video outlines several ways members can engage because their engagement helps the group and helps members overcome their reservations. Because members join the group to find help with their business, Dana connects her suggested engagement tactics with that goal. New members also watch what other members do to learn how to engage and what’s allowed.
Decision-Making Help: Dana loves for members to ask the group for help in making decisions. Asking questions is a good step no matter what you’re trying to do, and everyone in sales and marketing leads with questions.
In Dana’s group, she encourages members to ask one burning question they have in their business or mom life. From a business perspective, asking members to help you make decisions about what you’re creating or doing can generate buzz for whatever you want people to know about you.
Say you’re writing a book. You might post three cover images and ask members to vote on the one they like best. Similarly, members can post about choosing a podcast cover image. Or if you’re making an opt-in resource, you might ask what to make, what to name it, or what your theme should be. Someone working on their brand might ask which logo members like best.
When you post these questions, the group rules prohibit including links to your book, podcast, or another item. However, from a business standpoint, you’re still creating those 7-10 touchpoints that allow other members to see what you’re doing and become familiar with you. Also, people love to engage with these questions. Everyone has an opinion.
Dana promoted the first Boss Mom retreat by asking a question about renting furniture in both her own group and other groups. She had pictures of different styles (such as 1920s, modern, and classic furniture) and asked which style people liked best. Hundreds of people responded, and she sold lots of tickets this way without ever linking to the retreat.
In addition to the engagement and visibility, the feedback you get from this tactic is also helpful. It’s a way to do informal market research. You might ask “Who here has dogs? When it comes to dogs, what’s the biggest challenge you have, A, B, or C?” When you provide options people can choose from, they can easily say, “Oh, I like A.”
Celebrating: Celebration posts are a fun way to acknowledge milestones or accomplishments. In Dana’s group, a member might post, “I finally potty trained my son. Post your favorite GIF of the moment your kid was potty trained.” Posting GIFs is fun, and people will spend more time than they should searching for the perfect GIF. Similarly, members might ask for birthday cake ideas.
If you’re the group host, you can celebrate reaching a certain number of members, like every 100 people. When Dana’s group hit 1,000 members, she produced a special dance video, and today, Dana hosts a live dance party whenever the group grows by 5,000 people. (Because Dana’s group grows so fast, she needed to increase the interval from every 100 members.)
These milestone celebrations generate lots of engagement. When the group is about to hit a milestone, she asks what songs members want her to play, and then members vote on the song they’ll dance to. The celebration itself is a great way to get people super-pumped about what you’re doing.
I ask how often Dana recommends doing celebration posts. Dana says if you have a group of positive, action-hungry people, you could celebrate all the time. During the first year of Dana’s group, she featured a Boss Mom of the Week to celebrate somebody. For each Boss Mom, she asked them questions, wrote a post about them, and celebrated them in the Facebook group.
However, you don’t want to do a celebration every day because the tactic can lose its usefulness and impact. The size and activity of your group can help you gauge how frequently to celebrate. Because Dana’s group is large and has hundreds of posts per day, posts can get lost in a short period of time. So her group can celebrate every week without overdoing it.
Movement Principles: When your group is built around a movement, you can use that to ask questions about your principles or things the group cares about. For this tactic to work, make sure your group has a clear understanding of the culture. Without rules in place, be wary of this tactic. For instance, the Boss Mom group doesn’t allow political or religious posts because they can be controversial.
For Dana, Boss Moms can talk about business and parenting. People who want to discuss other topics can find other groups for that. In fact, she’s done posts where people can share their groups, whether they’re political, religious, or focused on topics like pet ownership or pregnancy. This thread gives people an outlet. Also, her clarity about what’s allowed helps keep people happy.
In a post about movement principles, Dana might say, “I have this really strong belief that I am a woman and a mom and an entrepreneur. I should be able to wear a collared shirt on top with yoga pants and a pair of heels, so I can be all three at once. Who is with me? Will you post a picture of what you’re wearing today?”
With these posts, Dana wants to voice what other people are thinking but might not say. The idea is to give other members permission to share what they’re thinking, what they believe, and what they care about within the mom and entrepreneur space. Then the group can band together and help that person feel not so alone.
Dana’s second book, Confessions of a Boss Mom, shares stories of women in all different situations. Like her movement posts in the Facebook group, her goal is to show that whatever you’re going through, you’re not the only one in the universe going through it. These statements help group members feel connected and loyal to the group, and want to share the group with others.
Reinvigorate Posts: This tactic is about how you respond to people who engage with your posts in a Facebook group. Instead of liking and commenting on people’s responses all at once, Dana recommends going slow and easy. Like one post, let it sit for a while, like another, and let it sit for a while. Every time you engage, the post pops back up to the top of the group and new people see it.
With this approach, you can keep one post alive for a week or more. After the post has been at the top for long enough, it starts trending and gains momentum organically so that even more people see it. The more people who comment on the post, the more the Facebook algorithm shows the post in people’s news feeds.
Also, if you make a post in a Facebook group and no one comments on it, try editing the post. Tweaking the post can help make it successful. After you edit the post, you can ask a friend to comment on it so that more people see it. Sometimes, Dana edits a post two or three times before people start to engage. Don’t let your post die without a little bit of effort.
Priming Posts: These posts teach the Facebook algorithm that your posts are interesting. Whether you’re posting to a group or a page, in the 6 weeks before you launch something, you want to prime the algorithm by asking questions that have nothing to do with your launch, but which people feel compelled to answer.
For this tactic, you can try celebration posts or just little things people want to talk about. You might say, “I was in the supermarket and the person in front of me whipped out 40 coupons. Everybody post a GIF for how you would feel if that was happening to you right now. Here is mine.”
You don’t want to waste that priming of the algorithm on important blog posts that will encourage people to buy your stuff or opt into your offer. When you do that, nobody sees the important blog post or opts in.
To prime the algorithm successfully, start 6 weeks before you want to post the important item and post at least once a week. In other words, make six posts about whether people like cats or dogs, where your audience can’t help but comment and engage. Then when you post about your opt-in, program, or sale, Facebook thinks you’re popular and shows your post to more people organically.
Listen to the show to hear how a conversation about choosing carpet became the most engaging video in the first season of The Journey.
Discovery of the Week
SparkScore is an online tool for analyzing your Twitter engagement.
This tool, developed by Rand Fishkin of Moz, looks at followers, retweets, likes, and lists to measure your Twitter influence. A social media manager can check this report on the same day every week to get a snapshot of Twitter engagement and see whether it’s up or down.
Unlike tools such as Klout, SparkScore aims to be transparent about how it analyzes your Twitter account and offers reports on the metrics it examines. To use SparkScore, you have to connect it to your Twitter account. You can check up to 25 accounts per day.
SparkScore is free to use and you access it via the web.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how SparkScore works for you.
Key takeaways from this episode:
What do you think? What are your thoughts on Facebook group engagement? Please share your comments below.
Are you curious about Twitter ads? Want to discover the benefits of Twitter advertising? To explore what you need to know to get started with Twitter ads, I interview Neal Schaffer. More About This Show The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy […]