When discussing internet advertising, it’s clear that Facebook is the largest and most successful social media outlet available. Every computer and smartphone on the planet seems to have an account connected at all times. Facebook outlasted and replaced previous mega-site and rival MySpace leaving them in relative obscurity. The social leviathan continues to expand and if another popular social media application or site begins to gain market share Facebook simply buys them. The most recent and relevant example would be another wildly popular application; Instagram.
So with Facebook being at everyone’s fingertips the obvious answer for business marketing personnel is to create and nurture a business page on Facebook. More recently, the use of Instagram to market with high impact visuals has proven to be quite effective. These tools are even more effective than most commercial television advertising because people follow the pages showing an active interest in the brand they follow. So, Facebook and it’s subsidiaries are the best alternative marketing available to businesses… Unless your business is weapons.
Gun and knife manufacturers noticed a long time ago that their posts on Facebook weren’t being seen with any regularity by the fans that followed them. One day a post may be seen by 25% of a page’s audience while the next post only gets a handful of views. If seemed as if somehow Facebook was impeding reach of pages to their own audiences. The next logical step for weapon related pages was to attempt to boost posts buy paying for advertising. It seemed like this was the intended outcome of the diminishing page reach, Facebook just wanted to profit with some semi-forced ad revenue. Unfortunately, if your ad or page boost features weapons the ad buy was refused. It’s rather difficult to create an ad to boost a page without weapons when your business is all about weapons.
The next blow fell in the form of page restrictions. Facebook stated they were restricting pages that “promoted the sale of weapons” to visitors of age 18 or older. Facebook is a private company they are well within their rights to do so. The problem; the pages being restricted aren’t all promoting gun sales. My site is a review service. We don’t sell anything. There have been no less than three times that I have logged onto my Facebook page to find a notice of such restriction being placed on my page. At the bottom of that notice are two buttons “Accept” and “Unpublish Page”. Take it or lose the page. Again Facebook is private, if they want to run the business this way, that’s up to them. Sadly, there is no appeal method for such actions. So even in the case where Facebook has made a mistake, they have no interest in correcting the problems.
The next move came in January 2016. Facebook announced changes to it’s policies on gun sales. Facebook stated that no posts or pages actively engaged in selling weapons would be allowed on Facebook or Instagram. Suddenly, overnight pages like Virginia Gun Trader disappeared. On the surface this doesn’t seem too terrible. But we’ve already seen Facebook mistakenly identify pages for age restriction. How long before manufacturer pages start to disappear after being misrepresented? How long before the next step is taken to erase weapon related pages from Facebook and Instagram?
At some point, the marketing juggernaut that is Facebook and its properties will be unavailable to out industry. When that happens, will the firearm industry scramble for internet advertising space? Will they buy advertising with Google? No, Google already blocks firearms related items from its shopping application. Or, will companies be ready by having another source of social media that is more friendly to our industry?
My suggestion, Twitter is the best alternative currently available. Twitter is free to use. Twitter has no real regulation, you can do or post anything without worry of retribution from the site’s moderators. There is no indication of any coming change that would affect the ability to advertise. Twitter is well established. With a little investigation anyone can use Twitter very effectively.
In the case of my own promotions, I have several examples of the platform’s reach when used correctly. 1) Exponential spread of tweets through retweet promotions. In a specific contest tweet that was posted in early 2015 there were only 60 retweets of the post. The post had initially gone out to my followers which at the time were about 6000. The 1% of followers that retweeted that post, in turn, sent it out to their followers. With a little investigation, I found that the followers of the accounts that retweeted that post added up to 60,000. That single post, advertising DRT ammunition was sent out to 66,000 accounts. 2) Consistently high retweet activity. With each new promotion, my account grows in the amount of retweets generated. There is a website that follows this activity, Retweetrank.com ranks accounts by the amount of retweets generated by the account. These rankings are updated often (sometimes hourly) to show the standing of accounts worldwide. Gun Carry Reviews is very often ranked in the high 90th percentiles. Generally we land between the 98th and 100th percentile. Recently, during a Thanksgiving promotion, GCR was ranked number 17 in the world placing us at a solid 100%. 3) Retweets over time. In the case of our promotions, each product is featured for eight days (long enough to gain attention but short enough to hold it). Each promotion begins on a Friday at the same time and ends eight days later at the same time. (consistency). Last summer we decided to manually track activity in a promotion for CAA. We started with the number of times we generated a tweet containing the name of the company, brand, product, photo or video involved with the promotion multiplied by the number of our followers added to the number of followers of each account that retweeted those posts. In all, based on tweets we generated and the retweet activity over an eight day promotion, the CAA brand was mentioned over 1.4 million times, each time appearing in another reader’s page feed. That numbers add up quickly and the exposure can be astounding. It should be noted, this particular promotion only had medium activity and no support from outside sources.
When I discuss the use of Twitter with businesses that aren’t using the platform I generally hear two arguments; “I don’t have time to support another social media page” and “I don’t know how to use Twitter”. First let me say, if you just want to have Twitter as a back up to your current social media footprint, you don’t have to spend extra time. Twitter can be linked to Facebook, your business can post to Facebook as usual and those posts will be shared to Twitter automatically. Your can do the minimal amount and maintain a Twitter account with no extra time spent. As for how to use Twitter; it’s free and easy to learn. If you want to put in the time, you can make Twitter very effective.
(The Basics: Learn to use hashtags and directed tweets. Learn to use lists. Follow every account that follows you. If you choose to do giveaway promotions, use a third party to do it. If you do your own giveaways you will see growth in the beginning that will wane over time. Growth will cease because each contest will continue to advertise to the same group of followers. If a third party is involved cross promotion will bring new eyes to each promo.)
So there is hope for the weapons industry in the new age of advertising. If nothing else, Twitter can be a solid backup for the day when Facebook pulls the plug and we all log on to find our Facebook and Instagram accounts simply gone. With some work Twitter can be the best hope for viral growth in industry advertising. But luckily it’s also not the last hope. For those that aren’t familiar, there is a new site available to the industry. Their stated goal is to become the Facebook for gun lovers. I urge everyone to create a page on www.GunDistrict.com .