Startup interview: applies Facebook News Feed Karate

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By Sean DeButts is one of the most accomplished Facebook consulting startups to hit the limelight in the past two years.

Founded by 2008 Western Washington University graduate Jeff Widman, it has gained 9,600 Facebook followers in one year and boasts among its clients Microsoft, YouTube, Intel, Paul Allen, Seth Godin, Washington Redskins, and still is building its Website and never has promoted itself through any advertising but its Facebook Page; it has gained its clients entirely by its reputation for focusing on successful newsfeed optimization. This focus is purposeful; Jeff Widman’s research revealed that 99.5 percent of the comments left on a Facebook Page are made on the News Feed, not on the Page’s Wall.

Zach Welch, BrandGlue’s project manager in charge of client service, lent half of an hour to answer questions about the success and unique positioning of this Bellingham startup. He also gave valuable advice about how to optimize Facebook Pages for acquiring and engaging followers.


Sean DeButts: Zach, what differentiates from its competitors?

Zach Welch: We call it newsfeed optimization. A lot of people go to agencies, and they want this huge, broad, social media strategy on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. focuses on helping you get maximum eyeballs on Facebook. We help clients reach their audience through the News Feed, and Facebook has a News Feed algorithm that filters what people see on their News Feed. We have a lot of techniques, have done a lot of research to help our clients penetrate that News Feed and get to the top of it, so they’re getting maximum impressions and maximum eyeballs on their posts. That’s basically what separates us from any other consultant or agency. I don’t know of anybody else out there, we haven’t seen anybody else out there yet, that consults around newsfeed optimization. There are a lot of misconceptions about how Facebook is used. What a lot of big brands try to do is superimpose Web onto social.

Sean: By “superimpose the Web,” do you mean big brands use traditional push advertising?

Zach: I mean that on their Facebook Pages, a lot of big brands are building fancy, interactive flash tabs with Games, quizzes, and videos. They try to treat their Fanpages like microsites. We contend that that is a huge waste of time and money because that’s just not how Facebook users interact with Facebook. People go on Facebook to socialize. If they want to interact with all that flash, they’ll go to your website.  Hopefully they want to interact with your brand, but they want to interact with your brand more on a community level, with their friends and other consumers. Also, we found that most of the time, your average Facebook user likes anywhere from 5-20 Pages, and once they go to the Page and like the Page, the chances of them ever returning to your Page is very, very slim. In fact, we’ve done a couple of informal studies, and I’d say one out of every 1,000 of your user base ever returns to your Fanpage.

Sean: You have an impressive list of clients. Microsoft, David Allen Company, Intel, Seth Godin, to name a few. What do you attribute to acquiring them?

Zach: Without a doubt it’s been strictly word-of-mouth. We’ve used zero advertising or marketing, unless you call our Facebook Page marketing. We haven’t had time to put up a Website. Jeff originally got started with before they were even acquired. Jeff was able to do some internships down in Silicon Valley with TechCrunch, Techstars and some other places, and he was able to build a lot of relationships. definitely gave us a chance, and we were able to do well for them, and we still have people coming in the door just from helping them. We have a client that we’re launching next week, over in England, that had seen what was doing, and really liked it. Our contact from Washington Redskins, He’s a big fan of what we’ve been doing, and obviously he has a lot of sports connections in the industry, so we’ve gotten to have conversations with some other professional sporting teams across the country … that might be something we break into. Our name has definitely started to seep out there. Our lead at the Redskins has certainly been a help for us as well.

Sean: Speaking of sports, what’s your favorite sports team?

Zach: Seattle Seahawks. I’m a homer, man. I don’t bandwagon with the Yankees and the Patriots.

Sean: What do you see as being the next big thing in Facebook, or social media in general?

Zach: I think probably mobile is going be the biggest thing. People will be on the go with their Facebook. It’s already big, but it’s going to continue to evolve, and we’re going to have to continue to adjust … We thought, at least I thought, that location and foursquare were going to take off a little more than they have. It’s taken off some, and it still may take off, but I expected it to come around a little quicker. When that first came out, we tried to leverage that for our clients, and that’s been something that’s been a little bit of a challenge. Some of that might have to do with not everyone having an iPhone or a smartphone.

Sean: I expected Facebook to handle its own Facebook Places service better.

Zach: We have recommended to our clients, such as the Redskins, that they not merge their Places with their Pages at this point. Down the road, that might change. It’s too confusing [to visitors], and we haven’t seen enough Pages using Places yet.

Sean: Any final comments?

Zach: I would say the biggest takeaway is when you’re starting, is to try to flesh your Facebook presence. Don’t waste your time creating a fancy tab, but you do need a landing tab. You can set a default tab other than the wall for your landing Page. We did some testing where we took Facebook Ads and drove traffic to a Facebook Page, and they had no landing tab. So they were landing on the wall, and they converted to followers at a rate of 23 percent. Then, we put up a very simplistic landing tab. It wasn’t even aesthetically pleasing, just had an arrow that said like this Page. The conversion rate went from 23 percent to 48 percent.

Sean: Thank you for your advice and for giving insight into BrandGlue, Zach!

Also Worth Reading: Transcript of Jeff Widman’s Interview with Mixergy About How to Grow Business with Facebook

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