Why Publishers Clearing House Prioritizes Facebook

Publishers Clearing House is a traditional direct-marketing company. But the company claims it is in a digital state of mind, with Facebook at the center.

Social media began for PCH about 18 months ago, when the company hired Kenn Gold as its first-ever social media chief. At that time, there was a junior manager running social media for the brand with no real strategy or direction. Gold decided it was time to build a social media team for the brand. Today, the team of four measures both engagement (interactions including likes, comments and shares) and growth. It spends most of its efforts on Facebook, where it has nearly 550,000 likes.

Facebook is an attractive outlet for PCH. After all, it is where people are spending nearly half their time online. It is using Facebook to build up its brand loyalty and promote its digital properties, which include PCH.com, PCHgames.com and other sites.

“Our community management is meant to reinforce the brand,” said Gold. “Social media is an organic acquisition channel, and we hope to use it to diversify the traffic throughout our properties.”

That means building up loyalty on Facebook. Last year it launched its SuperFan program. A registration form, which can be filled out directly on Facebook, allows PCH to match registrants to its existing customer database. The program is responsible for 65 percent of PCH’s Facebook base.

“I was really adamant on thinking about how to drive our [existing] loyal fan base into Facebook before we start to think about how to acquire new fans,” Gold said.

The company posts about twice a day and has found that photos get the most buzz. Video testimonials of prizewinners also get a lot of buzz in terms of comments and shares. PCH often asks followers on Facebook what they would do if they won $1 million dollars, and these open-ended questions receive a lot of comments, as users daydream what they would do if they had that much cash.

Then there are the doubters. There’s a group of people who don’t believe people really win PCH. (They do.) On its Facebook page, where it posts videos of winners, fans often comment and say that the people in the videos are actors and that PCH isn’t really giving away money.

PCH is dabbling with Facebook ads — with mixed results — driving consumers from Facebook and onto the PCH website. Next week, PCH will be testing Facebook ads for fan acquisition. The growth it has had on Facebook has been organic to date, so this will be its first stab at buying fans.

Although Gold is a clear proponent of Facebook, he does have his frustrations. Phishing is an issue, he said, and then there are its sweepstakes rules.

That’s led to experimentation with Twitter, which is far more efficient in driving people to PCH’s own properties. It’s been slow going there, with PCH’s customer base 50 times smaller than its base on Facebook.

As part of a promotion last month, PCH gave its followers a chance to win if they retweeted certain posts. Participation was “pretty low,” said Gold. On Twitter, PCH has just 11,000 followers.

While there are challenges extending its Facebook success to Twitter, PCH did see an increase in fans (over 1,000) in the last month. PCH did some promoted tweets for the first time a few weeks ago and was very happy with the results, Gold said.

“We have high hopes for Twitter,” he said.