Oops, I Ruined the Facebook IPO!

Posted by larry.kim

Oops i ruined the facebook IPO

Last week’s Facebook IPO may go down in financial infamy as being the biggest and most high profile IPO flop of the century – and this Internet Marketer's content marketing efforts may have inadvertently triggered the epic Facebook IPO meltdown. Sounds ridiculous and completely preposterous, right? Read to the end of the story and decide for yourself!

Our Big Idea

Earlier this month, my colleagues at WordStream and I were planning our monthly content marketing effort. Like most other companies, we do a lot of content marketing on our blog, but we also make a point to publish at least one high-level story that might appeal to people who aren’t expert search marketers. The goals of these efforts are to raise the general public awareness of our company, and also drive valuable editorial links to our site.

This month, with all the intense media focus on the Facebook IPO, our big idea was to develop a study comparing the effectiveness of Facebook Advertising vs. The Google Display Network. For those of you who don’t already know, The Google Display Network is the banner advertising component of Google’s business – it consists of banner ads on Google sites like YouTube, Blogger, Gmail (etc.) as well as over two million other popular websites (it’s roughly 25% of Google’s total business). Our research compared the two biggest banner advertising venues on the Internet based on criteria such as advertising reach, supported ad formats & ad targeting options, advertising performance, etc.

Our study concluded (for now at least) that, that the Google Display Network offered advertisers greater value in the areas that we tested, which came as a surprise to many investors who aren’t familiar with the two advertising platforms. To help people visualize our study results, we partnered with Brian Wallace at NowSourcing, who turned our research into an Infographic. (Click to Enlarge)

Facebook Advertising vs. Google Display Network

Launching our Facebook Advertising Study

We timed the launch of our Infographic for Tuesday May 15 at 9AM EST, just three days before the Facebook IPO. We wrote a simple press release and a blog post, and then reached out to some of our friends in the industry to help get the word out. Early on, Rand helped us out big time by posting our article to inbound.org (thanks rand!)

And we got a few press pick-ups from Jim Edwards at Business Insider, and John Letzing at the Wall Street Journal, and Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost, by lunchtime, we were thrilled with all the progress – we had nearly a dozen major news pick-ups! Little did we know, that we were sitting on a story that was about to explode.

Our Study Goes Viral

As if to validate our research, a mere six hours after we launched our study, the Wall Street Journal announced that GM was dumping all advertising on Facebook, and our newly minted research – seen as a possible explanation for GM’s move – got picked up by Mashable, ABC, CBS, Fox Business, PC Mag, PC World, the Washington Post, USA Today, AFP, CNN, The Register, Fast Company, The Economist, Forbes, etc., etc. Here’s what it looked like on Google News:

Press Pickup

In a matter of just hours, our Facebook Advertising study got picked up in thousands of the world’s leading news publications!

Our Study Goes International

Our study got picked up by all of world’s largest news networks, such as Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Associated Press (AP), and USA Today. Content from these news networks are translated into dozens of languages in over 150 countries – so for example, our study was being picked up in even small-town newspapers like my college newspaper: the Kitchener-Waterloo Record in Canada, as well as newspapers in New Zealand, Indonesia, Turkey, and many other countries I had never even heard of!

We Got on Cable TV and Radio, Too!

Within hours of publishing our study, we started getting phone calls from producers of major cable TV channels, asking us to appear on Fox Business well as national and Radio Stations such as The Takeaway, the BBC and NPR. Here’s a picture of Ralph Folz, WordStream CEO, on Fox Business last week!

5 Quick Tips to Help Make Your Content go Viral

I definitely have had my share of content creation efforts that went absolutely nowhere. Each effort is a learning experience, and so I’d like to share the five key ideas that I learned this time around!

1. Pinterest is Very Effective for Infographic Marketing

When you content goes viral, expect to get a large chunk of traffic from social media outlets. Our top referring social sites were (in order): Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn. I was quite surprised to see Pinterest beating out Google+ and LinkedIn. In fact, Pinterest was our 12th largest traffic referring site to our study. So if you ever do an Infographic make sure you add that Pinterest button! (If you need to make space, dump the Delicious bookmark button – that was nearly useless)

2. Twitter is still very effective, too.

This isn’t to say that the other social networks are any less important. In fact, Twitter is effective as it always has been. For example, we got this mention in the Guardian just by reaching out to an author via Twitter!

3. Stay Out Front.

The news cycle is fast – it’s important to adapt your story to the prevailing narrative, by anticipating different angles for your news. When we first launched our study, our press release headline read: New Research Compares Facebook Advertising to Google Display Network: Who Comes Out on Top? It was OK, but not viral.

But when the GM news broke, we re-released a similar press release with a slightly different angle: Does Facebook Advertising Work? This was because we found that the press was now looking to find reasons for why GM dumped Facebook. This new angle was much more effective than our original angle.

And we didn’t stop there. I wrote follow-up stories, such as: Why I Bought Facebook IPO Shares Today and Why I Dumped My Facebook IPO Shares at the Open Today, to keep this thing going.

4. Don’t Miss The Window.

I did an interview with The Independent at 4AM EST on Wednesday morning. Why? Because if you’re a reporter in London, that’s when you typically arrive in the office. The attention of the news media cycle an incredible force that is both incredibly powerful and incredibly short. If you happen to catch a lucky break as we did, be prepared to do whatever it takes to make the most of it in the short amount of time you’re in the media spotlight.

5. Don’t forget to include the “so what” factor in your story.

I have found that my most successful content marketing efforts are the ones that contain an unexpected result – something unusual or contrary to conventional wisdom. I call this the so what factor. As in: so what, why should anyone care about this story? Our research basically concluded that (for now at least) Facebook Advertising options aren’t that effective, and that was a pretty profound conclusion given that Facebook is essentially an advertising company (86% of revenues last year came from advertising last year), and given all the IPO hype and that exuberant +0B IPO valuation.

Summary: Did My Study Really Burst the Facebook IPO bubble?

No. I don’t actually think I ruined the Facebook IPO (apologies for the sensational headline, guys!). The Facebook IPO will go down in history as one of the worst IPO for retail investors. Why did the Facebook IPO crash and burn? It’s because there were more sellers than buyers at that price level.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the loss of around Billion in Facebook market capitalization as of today, blame the greedy bankers and Facebook management for setting such a high IPO price, or the Facebook for not yet developing compelling advertising options, or possibly GM for the unusual timing of their announcement.

But here’s what I can say about the impact my Facebook advertising study.

  • In the days leading up to the Facebook IPO, there was a lot of fanfare, yet by the end of the week, there wasn’t any news report that didn’t at least in some way question the value of the Facebook Advertising Platform. Our study had helped change the media narrative. (As an example of this, watch the Fox Business news clip below.)
  • We simply exposed (in an easy-to-understand way) some rather large flaws in the current Facebook advertising platform – something that might have been somewhat obvious to marketers but not necessarily obvious to Facebook investors.
  • All in, we estimate that over 10 million people around the world read or heard about our study. It was so many people that our Apache Web server even crashed once (it’s never done that before!).

(Click to play the video)

What do you think of our most recent content marketing effort? Any additional tips to share? Do you advertise on Facebook? What have your experiences? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About The Author

Larry Kim is the Founder/CTO of WordStream, a PPC software company, provider of the AdWords Grader and the 20 Minute PPC Work Week.

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May 29, 2012  Tags: , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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