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It’s not often that brands are willing to share the mistakes that occurred during their social media campaigns, even though those are often the most valuable insights. 

Therefore it was very refreshing to hear Radio France's head of digital marketing Virginie Cleve talk through a few of the things that didn’t go to plan when the business embarked on a new social strategy.

Cleve was speaking at Socialbakers' Engage NYC event today where she revealed that the public broadcaster, which has more than 5m daily listeners and attracts 3.5m unique visitors per month to its website, redesigned its digital marketing strategy in 2011 with a new focus on editorial.

Radio France didn’t have a large email database that it could use to promote the content, so instead decided to use social channels focusing primarily on Facebook.

As with all companies embarking on an entirely new strategy, there were errors made early on.

Cleve was kind enough to list the seven key mistakes that her team made during a Facebook campaign to promote a Pink Floyd themed event:


  1. Use of side bar ads. These ad formats didn’t work due to a limited number of characters, low visibility, and a tiny visual. Ultimately they weren’t very appealing.
  2. Use of search result ads. This ad format is inexpensive but achieved limited results. Cleve said it’s only really useful for live events, not editorial content. Facebook eventually withdrew the ad format last year.
  3. Bad targeting. Broad targeting means campaigns are more expensive and inefficient. In contrast, precise targeting is cheaper and more efficient.
  4. Targeting only your own country. After several months Radio France expanded the targeting to take in all French speaking countries, which achieved success in driving its public service agenda. Now 55% of the brand’s fans are not from France.
  5. Poor headlines. The headline on ads is at least as important as the image. This was tricky for Radio France as the content ads are done by the editorial team, not marketers. Therefore the company has to conduct regular training sessions to optimise headlines.
  6. Choosing the wrong photo. Facebook ads need a "beautiful, strong, engaging photo." Cleve said that emotive photos leads to ‘likes’ and shares.
  7. No analytics tracking. In the beginning Radio France failed to implement any ad tracking. Cleve said there are certain metrics that it is essential to track, such as the percentage of traffic from paid ads, what the audience reads and responds to, page views generated, and fan demographics. In Radio France’s case 84% of social traffic comes from Facebook, 25% of which is paid for.

What works?

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Cleve also ran through five tips for social success.

  1. Target similar audiences. Facebook allows marketers to target users according to other brands they like, which has worked well for Radio France. It costs about €0.15 per new fan, which is quite expensive but results in highly motivated fans.
  2. Use page post link ads. Radio France uses this Facebook ad format on a daily basis and it has been very effective.
  3. Use page like ads. These have proven to be very effective for long term campaigns.
  4. Page post photo/video ads. Cleve said that these are the best ads and have been very effective at driving engagement.
  5. Mobile app install ads. Radio France has relied heavily these ad formats when launching new apps, which have been very effective at driving downloads.
David Moth

Published 21 November, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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