Fox In The Henhouse: How To Recruit Your Competitors’ Facebook Audience

Aggressive marketers have been infiltrating competitors’ camps since long before Odysseus sought covert entrance to Troy by way of the fabled Trojan horse. Search and social media marketing tools elevated competitive intelligence to the level of industrial espionage, in the hands of the unscrupulous.

That said, somewhere to the left of that ethical line in the sand, there’s a suite of killer competitive tactics, fully defensible to even the most sensitive and principled brands and their attorneys. Of course, always consult with Facebook’s terms of service and your legal team to make sure proposed tactics follow the rules and the laws of whatever country you’re geo-targeting.

Facebook subterfuge

There has been quite a bit of buzz lately over nasty tactics purveyed by a few bad-affiliate-apples who, unfortunately, cross the line. Facebook’s powerful PPC targeting features make the platform rife for spammy abuse.

Facebook’s do-it-yourself PPC does not target keywords representing searches. Rather PPC keywords correspond to interest-segments, which define clusters of Facebook users, flagged by Facebook according to its targeting algorithm.

Here’s Facebook’s public explanation of the targeting parameters (read this carefully).

“Keywords are based on interests, activities, and favorite books, TV shows, movies, or job titles that users list in their Facebook profiles. They may also come from the names of groups or Pages users belong to or are fans of. For example, if you choose to target the keyword “Dave Matthews Band,” then your ad will only display on users’ accounts that have listed Dave Matthews Band in the “Favorite Music” section on their profile, or are members of a Dave Matthews Band group or Facebook Page.”

From our experience, Facebook does a terrific job targeting users. There are plenty of community members who clearly self-identify occupations, interests, who they follow, what they buy and lots of other useful information. Serving banner ads on these users’ sidebar is a beautifully insidious tactic. Though this flavor of walk-by-traffic marketing is about interrupting users (not search), it’s very highly targeted. Traffic click though ratios are similar to Google’s Content Network and conversions often better. If Facebook’s campaign tools indicate a certain amount of users are interested in “Oprah Winfrey,” chances are pretty good those Facebook users are actually interested in Oprah.

What about brands?

Suffice to say that Facebook’s willingness to target users “interested” in other companies’ brand-terms is an outstanding opportunity for creative and cunning brand managers. Interest-segments for brands are pretty short tail, meaning Pepsi and Coke are much more likely to have a statistically relevant demographic segment, while, even large, local corporations may not show up as a Facebook PPC targeting options. Don’t worry if you’re company is small. There will nearly always be bigger fish with large and relevant followings to raid. Just think about the targeting power for a start-up soft drink company, aiming squarely at 291,500 Facebook users, chattering about Pepsi enough to be flagged, in the ad platform as interested parties.

The marketing assignment

That’s all well and good, but how does a marketer use such tools. Here’s an example. Say I’m working for the Letterman show and my KPI (key performance indicator) is to recruit Jay Leno’s fans by getting them to click on Letterman’s Facebook PPC ad and visit my landing page. Facebook identifies 107,280 users over 18 in the United States interested in “Leno” or “Jay Leno.” There’s 88,360 users interested in “Letterman,” “David Letterman” or “Dave Letterman.”

The recent Superbowl commercial featuring Leno, Letterman and Oprah was a terrific opportunity, because there was fleeting public-warmth between camps. Combine this with the fact that we can target obvious Leno-lovers directly in Facebook and we’ve got potent marketing stew. Here’s the video, in case you’ve been living in a cave:

The KPI & hook

There are as many methods as madmen for these types of tactics. Let’s have a look at one twisted possibility using the Letterman/Leno scenario. Let’s say to objective is to incite Facebook PPC visitors to click through to Letterman’s landing page and login via FacebookConnect. We aim to leverage transient good will or festered hate between camps, to generate subscriptions and crucial demographic data for later use.

The hook is our offer to reveal premium video monolog outtakes, where Letterman discusses Leno and the Superbowl commercial. It would be an added bonus to incite visitors to comment or otherwise engage surrounding the Superbowl commercial. Finally, the home run KPI would be to goad Leno into responding on-air. We plan on “leaking” the existence of the ads to Leno’s crew. It would be awesome booty to have Leno get mad at the ads.

It’s reasonable to assume that there is some crossover amongst common (and uncommon) fans. Count on this fact: There are probably plenty of fanatics who love one of the comedians and hate other(s), like me. That said even if all Letterman fans cross over to Leno, which is unlikely, the remaining differential of 18,920 Leno-lovers are fresh meat for Letterman.

For the sake of simplicity, we think there are 3 basic user profile-types amongst Leno fans:

  • Like Leno / dislike Letterman
  • Like Leno / like Letterman
  • Like Leno / Letterman-Neutral

Remember, we’re marketing to Leno fans. Since we know all these Facebook users like Leno, their feelings or ambivalence towards Letterman can be leveraged.

Sample Ads What’s great about this opportunity is that this particular video content just may be irresistible to all three fan types. Let’s target Facebook PPC ads to Leno-lovers and test the following headline and ad concepts, against clicks and landing page conversions. My comments are in [brackets].

Headline options:

  • Jay Leno Secrets Revealed [interesting because we don’t say who reveals what secrets]
  • Will Leno Hate Letterman? [pure hyperbole, and does not lie]
  • Will Jay Leno Be Pissed? [pure hyperbole, and does not lie]
  • Leno & the Secret Video [right, secret to who? Does not say Leno is in the video.]
  • Love Leno? Take The Test [It’s pretty nasty to offer something like this and route visitors to a page that shows a video of David Letterman asking 10 questions about Leno. I love it!]
  • Can’t Stand Letterman? [no risk of violating brand trademarks, obviously Letterman grants permission. Leno does not have to]

Body Copy Options:

  • What really happened backstage during the Leno, Letterman & Oprah Superbowl commercial shoot? View free video now. [remember, this video is Letterman, discussing things.]
  • New Letterman video unloads about Leno. View the uncensored video now for free. [Whether or not the Leno fans dig Letterman or not, this is a pretty hooky pitch.]
  • Prove your Leno-love by answering 10 simple questions. Win an iPod. Totally free.
  • New Letterman video unloads on your favorite you-know-who! View the uncensored video now for free. [no brand trademark issues]

Anyhow, you get the picture. In reality, we test dozens of headlines/body copy combos, from lots of different angles, for these types of campaigns. There is nearly always a combination of hyperbolic headline, provocative body, contest gift and landing page content to accomplish hyper-competitive KPIs. We soon learn what type of appeal results in clicks and conversions to other companies’ fans.

Shrewd marketers have probably been targeting competitors’ fans since the dawn of human communication. Search, social media and carefully targeted PPC provides insight and access to other brands’ fans. If trademarks and other legal or terms of service limitations limit the ability to use brand terms in ads, find a work-around. Customer passion for similar brands can be easily turned to encouraging them to have a look at yours.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Strategy


About The Author: is president of aimClear; an internet focused Advertising Agency with offices in Minnesota. aimClear provides natural search optimization (SEO), traditional & social pay-per-click (PPC) management, and social media/feed marketing (SMO) services to national clients.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide