Mark Cuban Pokes Facebook’s Promoted Posts

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Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is one of the more controversial – and confrontational – characters in sports.

Mark Cuban is really good at shaking things up.

This isn’t news. But the bombastic Dallas Mavericks owner is stirring the sports and social media pot with attacks on Facebook. Cuban said what many digital marketers with less skin in the game have been thinking for months. Facebook’s page posts are rigged, forcing page owners to spend more on the platform’s ad programs.

“Why would we invest in extending our Facebook audience size if we have to pay to reach them? That’s crazy,” Cuban told Dan Lyons of readwrite this week. “Why would a brand invest in getting likes they can’t reach without paying a premium?”

You can tell when something riles up Mark Cuban. He heads to Twitter, where he spent a few tweets on this issue, showing just how much Facebook was making him pay to promote content to reach all 2.3 million fans of the Dallas Mavericks Facebook page.

Here’s that tweet:

Mark Cuban tweet

Mark Cuban used his Twitter account to shed light on the rising cost of reaching Facebook fans who have presumably already agreed to be reached.

With business interests extending beyond sports, Cuban’s properties are deeply entrenched in Facebook marketing, as are most savvy brands today. His comments echo other, less well-known characters who claim Facebook is “broken on purpose” to drive ad revenue through promoted posts.

Nonprofits, small businesses and Fortune 500 brands all face this issue. Invest heavily in building – and growing – a Facebook community, only to have a small percentage of those connections see your posts. How small? As little as 16 percent, by Facebook’s own accounting.

The alternative for sports (and all) brands – no matter the size – isn’t simple. While Twitter remains a solid second option for connecting with fans (especially during a game), you can’t argue with Facebook’s numbers, and its ability to filter noise (and spam), one of the arguments in favor of Facebook’s recent page changes. Also, adoption rates for emerging social networks (like Pinterest and Instagram) remain low, especially when dwarfed by the big blue F.

Always ready for conflict – and to innovate – Cuban challenged Facebook, pointing to those newer networks which allow 100 percent reach for social media marketing messages – at no cost.

The characters behind 140 characters: Mark Cuban

“If someone likes your brand, it seems like common sense to me that you can expect your posts to reach 100 percent of those that like your brand,” said Cuban, who suggested a monthly Facebook fee as an alternative. He’s also pursuing those less-popular social channels to reach fans, calling out Tumblr and even (gasp) MySpace.

Where’s this all leading? Cuban can afford to hedge his bets on new sites. But for smaller teams, and especially budget-conscious colleges and universities, time is as scarce a resource as money. Spreading yourself too thin across multiple social channels is risky and expensive. It requires more people and more content, which can ultimately drown in a sea of junk.

Cuban’s math may also be fuzzy, as Loud Door’s founder pointed out in an open letter to the billionaire. Jeff French argues Facebook is still the best option for marketers seeking an economical way to reach consumers via social media.

As with past Facebook innovations, other social channels could follow suit, implementing revenue models and formulas to dampen noise (and raise capital). “Being broken pays off, so social media is often deliberately broken,” writes Ryan Holiday in this Observer piece from September. “In fact, nearly every major social network, site or app has greedily pursued this logic.”

For Mark Cuban, it’s less about Facebook cynicism and more about making a statement, and he’s done that. Will it derail Facebook’s promoted post strategy? Unlikely. But Cuban has a strong voice and he could lead other sports brands away from Facebook, and with them, fans of other brands. That kind of movement could get Facebook to listen – more than the loud ramblings of an eccentric NBA owner.

Thanks for being a fan.

Image by Keith Allison (via Wikimedia Commons)

Un-Follow the So-Called Leader

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Pro and collegiate teams should focus less on the social media trophies of "likes" and followers, and more on what their fans want.

I’ve been pondering the horse-race mentality of Facebook and Twitter  pages lately. In college and pro sports – as in the corporate world – the “like” is champ. 

So-called social media gurus measure a brand’s social capital around a number (followers, likes, etc.). They stack that figure up against the competition in the industry – or league – in the case of professional and collegiate athletics.

That’s crap.

Here’s why: NBA fans are not the same as NFL fans, who are not the same as NHL fans, who are not the same as MLB fans. Yankee fans watch, read about, shop and interact with other Yankee fans in a much different way than, say, Seattle Mariner fans. Media budgets are also not the equal, which makes comparisons futile. See the Yankees vs. Mariners example above.

You can say the same about college athletics. Do Florida fans really care what’s on the official LSU football Facebook page? Unless it’s Gator smack talk, I would argue no. And as an Iowa Hawkeye fan, I could care less what the Iowa State Cyclones say on Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. As the social voice for a Fortune 300 company’s Facebook and Twitter communities,  I keep an eye on my competition – and so should competing teams and leagues. But I’ve decided not to obsess about generating the same number of fans, likes and followers as my competition. Instead, I concentrate on my brand’s target customer – and what they want – in a Facebook page or Twitter stream.

Sports franchises and university athletic departments should do the same.

Here’s how: Use the market research at your disposal to zero in on your target customer, or do your own social listening sessions. You’ll be surprised how quickly the focus will shift from meaningless numbers to: 

  • Finding quality fans
  • Creating and sharing interesting and relevant content, apps and giveaways
  • Aasking questions, highlighting a superfan or posting fan photos.

Teams should stop trying to keep up with other teams in the league, division or sport. Create the features your fans like. Share the content they appreciate.

Heck, one day, it might not even be Facebook or Twitter. Something else could (and probably will) replace today’s social tools. But you know who will decide that? Yep, the sports fan.

“You need to understand how your customers are using social media, which tools they favor, and finally WHY and HOW they use these tools,” writes Mack Collier, a social media consultant and founder of #Blogchat. “This knowledge gives you great insights into how to connect with your customers in a way that’s beneficial to both them, and you.”

And fans, if you aren’t already, start sharing your feedback whenever and wherever possible. If your team is good at social media, it will listen. If it’s not, you’ll know right away. And no amount of “likes” will make your team’s Facebook page worth visiting.  

Thanks for being a fan.