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You know you’re being played on social media. Do you know how much?

A client walked into my office yesterday and said, “I’d like to focus on promoting this brand for a while. How can I get more Facebook followers?”

A week ago another client asked something similar. “We really want to grow our Facebook following, so if you have any ideas…”

The implication in both is: “People are on Facebook. They should be looking at my brand, right?”

My answer to people is always the same few talking points:

  • Facebook advertising (with paid ads) is at-best fraudulent and at-worst theft.
  • Any strategy you use should make your website the center of your digital universe. What use are 6,000 Facebook followers if we all stop using Facebook in a year?
  • For brands, it takes twice as much work as a person to interact with people.

As a Facebook user (and Instagram, Twitter, and so on), you know brands are angling for your attention. But do you know how much effort goes into it?

What a social media manager manages

We manage social media accounts for dozens of people. I like to say we “supplement” them because we can’t do it alone. Every time we post something to a Facebook page, here’s what has to happen:

  1. Someone, usually us, has to write or produce something for a client’s website. Remember, people can only read or watch something online. We only do those things to be entertained or educated. That’s it. Since video is expensive, writing is the way to go.
  2. We have to acquire some sort of photo to go with the post. Often clients have a library of photos they like. Usually these libraries are small. Sometimes they’re non-existent. If you’ve ever wondered why that article you’re reading has an abstract graphic, this is why. Posts without graphics perform doubly worse than those with.
  3. This is sent to the client for approval. The text has been written to target specific words. It’s targeted to about 1,000 words. It’s at a 9th-grade reading level or lower (I target 5th). It has headings and bulleted and numbered lists to coddle attention spans.
  4. Once approved, we post it. We set a summary for the story that appears in Facebook. We place the graphics and captions. Every photo deserves a caption.
  5. Next we prepare a bit.ly tracking link to count clicks and from where. With bit.ly, no amount of privacy plugins and adblockers can get around it.
  6. Then we prepare to promote the piece. We use software that schedules posts across multiple places at once. I can write one message, share it to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at once. Then have it re-share over and over again. Each time targeting different days and times. Each time learning what makes a page tick.
  7. Often, an email campaign is prepared to promote that blog post, too. These are often automated. But the goal is to get people to sign up for the email lists. Email represents the start of 45% of all online purchases. Social media is about 1-2%. The email is the start of you in a sales funnel.

Most of the time the posts don’t do much. Sometimes our idea isn’t very good. Sometimes the client’s idea isn’t very good. But we go through this nonsense every day, sometimes repeatedly, because we have to. Clients see the Facebook Follower count and want it higher. This puts pressure on advertising agencies to move the needle. In our case, we have to do it without extra money for Facebook advertising. (Which is better long-term, but no one cares about that.)

This process takes about 1-3 hours of work. You’re reading the product of about 45 minutes’ worth of work right now. I gave you lists, headings, an excerpt, and a 4th-grade reading level. I gave you 818 words. I showed you a graphic of a funnel that, turned upside down is a dunce’s hat. I used an emoji when shared. I wrote two headlines for this story. The one you saw on Facebook and another for Google. I know how you got here. I know how long you’ll spend looking at this page.

This is the modern web. An ad-infested, intrusive, hurricane of malignant stories and interaction. All so I can hint that you sign up for my email list, buy a book (coming soon!), or call me. Then we can talk about how you can have your very own website.

This happens all day. War Rooms of advertisers are devoted to memes. That Atlantic story with the educated writer disgusted that she has to do 4 more has to get a graphics person to gussy it up. The Washington Post reporter is on story 4 of her 12-post quota for the day. The ad guy like me pontificating about what headline will make you click that email. I know if I use an emoji you’re 10% more likely to notice it.

It worked.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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