Go Online, or Go Under

More than 12 million Facebook users. National broadband penetration is over 80%. Almost 17 million total internet users. And how much are Malaysian businesses spending on online advertising?

A measly 1% of their total advertising budget.

A report released recently by Google and McKinsey & Co shows that Malaysian businesses hardly see internet advertising viable. In fact, Malaysia is placed at the bottom 10% of the 57 countries surveyed.

Cars on Key
You can reap unexpected rewards advertising online... kacching!

Look, I’m no advertising genius. But doesn’t this seem like a severe case of head-in-the-sand ignorance?

Just 10% of Malaysia’s Facebook population is still more than the total daily readership of The Star, which is at about 1.06 million.

But that’s not all. We Malaysians spend more time on the internet than on watching television or listening to the radio combined.

If you ask me, I think we spend more time online than even talking to our spouse, family and friends combined.

If anyone out there thinks online advertising is crap – it can be annoying if improperly executed though – here are 5 good reasons why you should take your next campaign online:

  1. Costs a fraction of TV, Print or even Radio ads
  2. You can measure results and effectiveness almost immediately
  3. Internet allows for almost pin-point targeting, bases on niche interests
  4. Those in their 20s and 30s are active internet users; a consumer goldmine!
  5. Almost 40% of purchase decisions are made on the net; making online presence critical

In times of dwindling marketing budgets and an ever-evolving consumer landscape, please feel free to double or even triple your online marketing efforts this year.

If you still want to spend RM40,000 or upwards on a one-time-only print ad (I’ve got some tips for that too) instead of a highly-targeted, response-oriented online campaign; then go right ahead.

Copywriters Can’t Write Everything

I could probably get my ass kicked by fellow copywriters. But it is a risk I am willing to take. Clients take notice, because this is very important – never hire a copywriter to manage your Facebook page.

Because contrary to popular belief, we copywriters can’t write everything.

Okay. Let me rephrase that, we can’t write everything as well as it can be. Like myself, I am predominantly a direct response copywriter; ask me for a press release and I will struggle with writer’s constipation.

Traditional copywriting techniques often don't work in social media...

When it comes to social media however; the problem becomes even more obvious. Copywriters are trained at marketing speak; and anything the even seems remotely ‘marketing’ will probably be rejected by social citizens.

Use of the words like ‘free’, ‘exclusive’, ‘now’ and other forms of sell-speak is definitely not welcomed in Facebook.

A socially untrained copywriter commenting on behalf of a brand in Facebook is like that insurance agent friend who always wants to sell you a policy.

We usually avoid any kind of marketing or selling in our social space; as in Facebook.

The kind of writer you want managing Facebook comments is someone who is comfortable in cyberspace. Someone who knows the web lingos, keeps up with online trends and engages online audiences regularly.

It has to be someone who can ‘talk’ to audiences in their language. And not in some Oxford dictionary approved English.

Which means, this writer has to be able to make himself make mistakes. Likes little grammatical errors, occassionnal typos and also dabble in txt spk.

Managing a Facebook page is all about being honest, friendly and more often than not; amateurish.

In other words –  now anyone can write copy! Errr… I take that back.


Okay, I think I’m finally tired of Facebook. No, not because of you my dear friends, it’s just this new ad-infested, apps-ridden and spam-inducing thing that’s disguising as Facebook.

Remember how exciting Facebook was? It was an amazing application that revolutionized the way we communicated. We vowed we could never live without it. We then continued our FB love by creating events, uploading our lives and adding total strangers as friends. Much love!

Ladies and gentlemen; Facebook has mutated... beware!

And in the rumble-tumble world of copywriting, Facebook provided inspiration for dull minds and the perfect respite from work.

Now Facebook is nothing but another chore to do in the mornings… and the rest of the day. It has turned into a dark, evil brother that invades our privacy, sends us unsolicited messages and forces suggests us to be friends with virtually everyone… virtually.

So I thought if I was the only one who felt this way. Apparently not, because according to ZDNetAsia, 31% of younger, more mobile and brand conscious consumers have indicated they are getting bored with their social network – leading to social fatigue.

Well, I’m not really that young, mobile or very brand-conscious; but the feeling towards Facebook is definitely mutual.

Ah yes, how can I forget the annoying little ads that appear in the right sidebar. From “cepat kaya” messages in broken Malay to those sexually suggestive ads for medieval role playing games; they are becoming increasingly ridiculous.

And just when I thought we couldn’t be more connected, some wise guys go and create Rock Melt – a web browser with built-in social tools. Basically you can do every social thing from your web browser, including being there for your grandfather’s birthday. I kid you not… watch the video:

Ready to turn off your PC and start a self-sustaining life in a farm? Call me; if you have my number that is. Hah!

P.S. I decided not to add the customary Facebook Share button in this post just to prove a point.

Why It Cost 1.8 Million for 6 Facebook Pages

Here are the real secrets why the agency that developed the Facebook pages charged such a ridiculous amount…

  1. Because the client only opens 1 counter during peak hours
  2. Because the client went for coffee at 10.45am, then lunch at 1pm and the tea at 3.45pm
  3. Because they had to complete Borang FB/003/11, Borang FB/112/14A and submit along with photocopies of their IC, Audited Accounts and Birth Certificate
  4. Because the system was downlah!
  5. Because the Person in Charge Cuti Bersalin
Why 1.8 Mil?
The question is why they like to throw our money down the drain?

6.   Because the Nombor Giliran for today has finished
7.   Because this issue can only settle in Putrajaya
8.   Because the approval process takes at least 2 to 4 weeks
9.   Because someone wore a short-sleeve blouse

And the top reason why it cost 1.8 million for 6 Facebook pages *Drumroll*

10. Because each e-mail sent and received cost the agency 50 sen

If I had to go through all of the above, I’d freaking charge 2 million… per page! But for my dear readers, I’ll do it for RM59.95… interested?

Got Facebook? Get Robbed!

According to the Star Online report on 17 January 2011, there were over 400 crimes involving Facebook reported to the authorities in 2010. Well, it’s no surprise really when you check out the following stats:

  1. Almost 10 million FB users in Malaysia. That’s close to 40% of the population, and growing! Where there are people, there are conmen.
  2. 18 to 24 year olds make up the majority of Malaysian FB users. Young, restless, yearn for acceptance/recognition and easily influenced.
  3. Malaysians have among the highest number of Friends in FB, an average of 233. How many people that you’ve never met are your “Friends” ?
  4. Most Malaysians have low privacy settings, which mean conmen can lift addresses, phone numbers and photographs.
  5. A total average of 9 hours logged in on FB per week. How many of us spent 9 hours with any of our real friends last week?

Now, when you look at the 400 crimes figure, it seems too insignificant right? I mean 10 million users and only 400 people got conned. It makes you wonder how many crimes went unreported.

Dangerous Key
What you put on Facebook could come back to bite your arse!

From identity thefts, fraud and harassment to recruiting drug mules and gang members, Facebook is sure becoming a bit of a nuisance. For now the problems seem petty… for example:

A headmaster in Malacca was apparently looking for a homosexual partner via a FB page he never created. Haha… classic!

But things will get serious when conmen adapt to the online landscape and become more sophisticated in their methods. Like when you return home from a weekend escapade to find your house robbed just because you posted “off to Phuket, 3 days of bliss!” on Facebook.

Not so funny now isn’t it?


When e-mail meets Facebook

It’s a marketers dream but a privacy nightmare. When your e-mail address is paired with your Facebook account, your intimate data can be in the hands of marketers; and you pretty much can’t do anything about it.

Advertising is all about targeting. The more we know about you, all the better. It allows us to compose a message or communication that would be more relevant, interesting and personalised to you, which increases the chance of you taking action. As in make the call or click to buy and if it’s a really irresistible offer; run to the nearest store in your underclothes.

Facebook is a record of your life online. From general biodata and perhaps your work information to things you like and brands you prefer. If a marketer is able to access your information, he will be able to personalise a piece of communication that has a higher chance of making you pull out your wallet.

Can marketers access your Facebook data? Absolutely!

Facebook Privacy
Yeah, I know... a self-explanatory, stereotype image. What to do... no budget! 😉

All someone needs to do is enter your e-mail address into a data mining program, which will then pull and store your personal Facebook data. At the very least, they will be able to access your name and see your profile picture. And if your Facebook privacy settings are not set to the highest, then even more data such as location, friends, hometown, activities and “Likes” can be retrieved.

Another way is to create dodgy or silly Facebook applications which requires you to “install”  or “allow” to use. This is even worse because these apps can pull basically all your Facebook details,  including the names and images of all your friends.

Your e-mail address is possibly the most precious thing you own thanks to Facebook. Online marketers as it is are fighting tooth and nail to gather as much e-mail addresses as possible for blind e-mail blasting. And now they have the power of pairing e-mail addresses with Facebook data to gain deeper consumer insights.

There will come a time when marketers may know exactly who you are, where you live, what you do, what you like, what you drive and possibly even what you just had for dinner. And the more of yourself you put online, the happier unscrupulous marketers get.

So safeguard your e-mail with your life and never go into specifics while on Facebook. It’s just not worth it.

P.S. Even more disturbingly, more and more Malaysians are falling prey to cyber scams thanks to Facebook. This is something I will look into in my future post; just need a bit more data. Stay tuned.


Everybody Likes Facebook?

The “Like” button, it’s everywhere these days. From news sites to blogs and even brand sites, the World Wide Web is littered with these things. Although it feels like these little sky blue buttons have been around for ages, they were actually only launched in April… yes, April 2010!

Even Facebook itself is infested with Likes. Back in the day (barely few months ago) you could only like someone’s status update or post. Now you can even Like comments on a particular post. I’m just waiting for the day they allow us to Like a Like on a comment. Or maybe they should introduce a Double Like button. You know? Like two thumbs up.

Like it or not, the word Like has become synonymous with Facebook. Nowadays, if you happen to Like something, you have to be specific. Is it a normal Like as in you find something enjoyable or interesting? Or is it a Facebook Like, which is an oh-by-the-way, yeah-sorta, it’s-kinda-funny, I-better-click-on-something-or-people-are-gonna-think-I’m-dead type?

Everybody likes Facebook? Not quite. As at post date that is.

Even for Brand Pages, where it once was “Become a Fan” has now been replaced with Like. Do you see a problem here? Say you’re pissed about a particular brand and want to give it a good piece of your mind. But remember, you have to Like the page/brand before you post anything juicy… what irony! Or you can click on the Unlike button that appears after you’ve liked a page… in your face sucker!

So what’s the most Liked thing on Facebook? Going by all the Like-fest from Facebook within Facebook and around the web, it seems natural that Facebook is the royal Like-ness. Not quite. That honour goes to Texas Hold’em Poker and only then followed by Facebook. And check out Michael in a close third!

Now can Texas Hold Em’ keep Facebook at bay? There’s nothing like some good ol’ competition… I like!


Rough Facebook Brand Page Guidelines

You know, back in the day, friends used to ask “What the hell is Facebook?”. Now they ask “Are those all of your Facebook friends?”. How times have changed. Truth be told, I don’t have many Facebook friends. Reading all my 126 friends’ status updates is already a chore, even after blocking the feeds of quite a few (Sorry, I’m really not bothered about what you had for dinner last night).

Well not all of my Facebook friends are my actual friends. Out of the 126, I probably hang out with 5 and another 15 are my colleagues. So the remaining are acquaintances of acquaintances, long lost classmates, hi-bye pals and the like. So the term ‘Friend’ in Facebook is very vague indeed.

This is also true for Facebook Brand Pages. 1,000 ‘Likes’ or ‘Fans’ doesn’t mean that the brand is adored by 1,000 people. There will be many genuine fans, but there will also be the disgruntled, the avenger, the unhappy, the dissatisfied, the curious and the competitor’s spy. Hence, it’s very possible that a Facebook Brand page will be decorated by negative comments sooner or later.

A Facebook Brand Page can turn out to be hell for your brand
A Facebook Brand Page can turn out to be hell for your brand

And since I promised a guide of sorts in my previous post, here’s what I call the Rough Facebook Brand Page Guidelines or RFBPG in short:

1. How much power?

Right from the start, you have to decide how much power you want to put in the hands of your fans in terms of voicing their opinions. As a default, bar fans from making wall posts so that dissenting comments (if any) are less obvious. They will however be able to comment on your posts, but it will be buried within the particular post’s thread and not appear in the main wall.

2. It’s OK, let them post on the wall

If you feel barring people from making wall posts defeats the purpose of having a Facebook page, then go ahead. The pro of this is that positive wall posts by fans will be very obvious. But once the negative comments starts pouring in, you’d wish you never went with this option. However, once you allow fans to post on your wall, NEVER EVER bar them should the going get tough. The repercussions will be challenging.

3. I’ve got a negative comment, now what?

Well first of all… congrats! Not for the negative comment, but the fact that you’ve only got 1 negative comment. Now here’s where the real work begins. Negative comments are tricky and often unique to the person posting them. Find a solution and respond as soon as possible, remember to thank them for their valuable feedback. If it’s a comment you can’t handle – like a product defect – respond with the number of your customer service hotline.

4. Nah! I’ll just ignore, the comments will go away.

Do this at your own peril. Just one product complaint will – I REPEAT, WILL – attract other fans to join the upheaval. Negative comments must be nipped in the bud. Even if you can’t offer an immediate solution, engage the fans to show that you are listening. If a complaint has snowballed, contact the complainants in person and try to work out the problem. Never ignore negative comments, you’d be asking for trouble.

5. I thought Facebook Brand Pages are for fans to share brand experiences?

But your fans don’t know that. Disgruntled consumers think all brand channels are game to voice their opinions. Instead of bringing up the matter to customer service, Facebook allows for the ease and relative anonymity to make product complaints. So make it clear that the page is created for sharing product experience and that all product complaints should be directed to customer service. Remember to display customer service contact details up front. This may not eliminate negative comments altogether, but at least the majority of fans will think twice before posting brand-bashing comments.

The 5 steps above are just general guides, and I do not guarantee its effectiveness. The most important of all is to respond sensibly and fairly quickly, and please never leave negative comments unattended. Do remember to never sound accusatory or defensive when responding. After all, the consumer is always (supposed to be) right.

Facebook Follies

If I remember correctly, I registered for a Facebook account in end 2006. Back then I had just a few friends to ‘poke’ and even fewer who commented on my status updates. We raced cars and bikes, fed our vampires and played a very 2D-looking Texas Hold Em’.

Fast forward 3 odd years or so, my online playground has mutated into a sort of an institution. You don’t just keep up with your friends’ updates, you keep yourself entertained. You don’t just join the discussion, you join sub communities. And you don’t just play what everyone’s playing, you play games that represent almost every niche possible.

The intuitiveness of the interface, the ease of use and the fact that pretty much everyone you know is on Facebook have attracted almost 6 million Malaysian users. And that figure is only said to grow with more and more Malaysians above the age of 30 begin to set up Facebook accounts.

Facebook or time to FaceHell?
Facebook or time to FaceHell?

Now, when there are 6 millions living, breathing, socializing, interacting, poking people under a neatly contained, active system; it doesn’t take long to attract marketers to sell their wares. Hence you see the mushrooming of Brand Facebook pages in the past year or so. This is supposedly to show that these brands have embraced the digital age and are in-tune with the digital natives.

The sole objective of these pages is to get as many ‘Fans’ or ‘Likes’ to justify the marketing money being poured into the effort. So if Brand A has more fans the Brand B, it’s an achievement – or so you’d think. Marketers tend to forget that the number of people who ‘Like’ their page are more than mere numbers. These are real people who either are consumers or have some kind of affinity towards the brand. And like most consumers, they have lots to say.

When we have a vocal group of people/consumers with the power to comment on a brands’ activities, all hell tend to break loose. Just visit a Facebook brand page and study the wall posts and comments. You are sure to find disgruntled, opinionated and sometimes verbally explicit customers who’ve left their mark. These Facebook brand pages have become a channel to voice concerns (acceptable enough) to a plain free-for-all, angry venting area (not ideal). The worst part, everyone can see these comments and it will be hard wired in the Facebook ecosystem until it begins appearing in Goggle searches (Bad, really bad).

Deleting unfavourable comments will only add to the fire with comments coming in spicier and in greater numbers. Try to respond to a delicate customer dissatisfaction comment is tricky as a brand’s every move is being watched. Ignore a negative comment and you lose the respect of the community you’ve painstakingly built.

Facebook brand pages are now starting to put brands in a spot. While the ‘you can’t satisfy everyone’ adage holds true in a less social environment, Facebook pages has put the power into consumers’ hands. One disgruntled consumer can wreak havoc and invite a barrage of other consumers to share the limelight. Do this: wrong. Do that: wrong. Don’t do anything: wrong!

How do I know all these? I manage quite a few Facebook brand pages, so believe me, I know. And maybe in the next post I’ll reveal some pointers on how to manage Facebook brand pages. In the meantime, I have to deploy some evasive manoeuvres to counter another freaking, useless, totally effed up comment!


Virtual Trust

My previous post got me thinking. Since advertising is among the least trusted professions, what form of advertising would be the most trusted? Yes, I agree that there is a sense of irony in the question, but it is a question worth asking.

If you’ve read some of my older posts, I talked about how the internet is changing the ad game. How what was hard and fast rules are being re-written. And how the advertising of the future may not look like an ad at all. I even went as far as to predict the demise of advertising as we know it in perhaps just a few years.

Recently I stumbled upon this piece of research from Nielsen:

The most and least trusted forms of advertising
The most and least trusted forms of advertising

The first on the list, garnering an exceptional 90%, are consumers who trusted recommendations from people they know. Well that’s quite a no-brainer. Peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth communications will and always be the most powerful form of advertising.

It’s the second and third on the list that’s quite interesting. Online consumer opinions and brand websites are the most trusted form of advertising, in an un-trustworthy industry. The 70% score is way better than the traditional TV and print ads. The poll results do seem credible. When was the last time you were convinced by a 30-sec TVC or a FPFC Centre-spread? But I bet you remember the last time you checked out a product or service online after your friend said something about it on Facebook though.

I now have proof that online consumers, especially in a social media setting, will become the holy grail of advertisers in the future. And I can also console myself that I am at least in the positive end of the advertising industry, where people trust my copy just a little bit more.