local media insider

Are you ready to sell Facebook?

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More questions are popping up about selling local social media services such as Facebook.

Even though Facebook sells advertising, reselling is providing a service and has lower margins. This brings up the core issue of what business are we in? What is an appropriate margin? Why are we building our competitors income?

Most local media companies see Facebook as an irresistable force and more of a frenemy than, say, Groupon, which has a number of viable white label knock-offs.

So for most local media companies, the question is framed as a standard business issue: What resources will reselling Facebook absorb for the margin it provides and is it worth re-organizing yet again to accommodate this service?

But a better question is this: Are you serious about creating an agency model? And if so, are you selling what advertisers want?

Facebook has the kind of intense interest by local businesses that is game-changing. For the sales force redeploying as an agency model, it's the kind of strategy that might just crank the ship over the 180 degree mark. If you are going to sell an idea, then build campaigns around it, social media should be included.

There is nothing magical about Facebook per se. It's more of an "add on" than, for example, making sure a web site is correctly SEO'd. Facebook does outstanding targeting capabilities and is a phenomenal way to distribute offers.

Plus, if you are not advising your advertisers, someone else will. If your company is out for share of customer, social media has to be in the mix.

Most local media sites envision their sales teams as morphing into digital marketing experts enabled (with support from specialists of one kind or another) to strategically sculpt integrated marketing campaigns for advertisers with only hundreds, not thousands, of dollars a week to spend.

There is very little use research, however, on what advertisers are doing with "the rest" of their money - or whether they will buy social media services from legacy media reps (a soon-to-be-released study by American Press Institute and ItzBelden has encouraging results on this subject).

Some companies have gotten very, very good at listening to the street, Chron.com, the top seller in the Yahoo consortium, among them. Stephen Weis, VP of digital strategy for Hearst, which owns Chron.com is now deeply involved in an initiative to sell Facebook services and advertising.

One thing all local sales forces hear on the street is how important Word of Mouth is to local advertisers. Building Word of Mouth using Facebook is an extension of what SMB's already know and feel is their best opportunity to gain new customers.

In addition, as Knoxnews.com, another Facebook reseller, told us, their small business focus group (showing up for a social media workshop) did not feel that deploying social media campaigns - beyond setting up their page - was something they could do themselves.

Taking this to heart, Knoxnews.com developed a set of social media products and now has 16 social media campaigns averaging $1000 a month under their belt. In every case the advertiser also bought supporting campaigns in the legacy site or print.

Jay Horton, ad director of Knoxnews.com says the relationship his company has with its advertisers who purchase social media services is much different - and closer - than relationships they have with advertisers who buy products. In short, it looks more like an agency relationship than a media sales relationship. You have to go "all in" with your client.

But the agency model is what you want to emulate, right? I'm not being facetious here, you are in a race to build or rebuild a local media company before it is built around you.

We'll be including some training tips on selling Facebook advertising and services on this site. If you are experimenting with selling social media services, send me an email at alisacromer@gmail.com. We have a small group who are interested in trading information.

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