local media insider

Selling Facebook as a service

Alisa Cromer

More questions are popping up about whether and how to sell social media services such as Facebook and Twiiter.

Ways to incorporate Twitter into  advertising products are  included in our first story on this trend.   But the two initiatives are very different: Twitter-based products allow sites to incorporate feeds as either as advertising content, or as an news-like widget on an advertiser-determined (and sponsored) topic. 

Like Google adwords, reselling Facebook on the other hand,  is largely a service play. It brings up larger issues of what business are we in, what is an appropriate margin and who should be our frenemy.

Most companies see Facebook as more of an irresistable force,  and more of a frenemy than, say, Groupon, which has a number of viable white label knock-offs.  However, beyond this observation,  it's easy to look at selling social media as a standard  business issue: how much in resources will reselling Facebook absorb for the margin it provides and is it worth re-organizing yet again to accommodate this service.

But the real question we ought to be asking is this:  Are we selling what advertisers want?  

Facebook - and reputation management in general - 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.

Most local media sites  already 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. 

Its just that very little use research is used 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 is among them. Stephen Weis, VP of digital strategy for Hearts, which owns Chron.com is now deeply involved in an initiative to sell Facebook services and advertising.

Even before the advent of Facebook advertising, one thing all local sales forces hear on the street is how important  Word of Mouth is to local advertisers. Studies show that this is always percieved as  the "most important" source of new business. So mentions on the internet and fan pages are just an extension of what  SMB's  already know and feel. 

But as Knoxnews.com, another Facebook reseller, told us, their small business focus  group that showed up for a social media workshop did not feel that deploying social media 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 Jorton, ad director of Knoxnews.com  says the relationship his company has with advertisers who purchased social media services (averaging about $1000 a month) is much different - and much closer - than  relationships they had with advertisers in the past. In short, it looks more like an agency relationship than a  media sales relationship.

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. 

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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