You’ve probably already heard a buzz around the latest Facebook announcement but what does it really mean for users, and for brands? To summarize, corporate content from businesses, brands and media outlets have been taking over newsfeeds and based on user feedback, Facebook are pushing back. The goal, they claim, is to take the social network back to its roots of social interactions and build closer human connections. So, instead of hearing about the latest Trump tweet or what’s new on Netflix, we’ll see more gym-selfies and #foodporn pics. Great...
One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent. - Mark Zuckerberg
Sarcasm aside, it’s certainly not bad news for users, but it could cause massive disruption for brands. Changes are due to come into effect over the next few months, and while low organic traction on Facebook is nothing new, this is the latest in a string of updates that will no doubt reduce the reach of companies on Facebook.
Cynicism suggests that Facebook may not have corporate social responsibility at the heart of the latest move but we’ll get behind the possible motivations ($) a little later. First, here are some suggestions on how companies who don’t have big budgets can circumvent the impact of these new changes…
Creating what Facebook call “meaningful interactions” will be crucial in the new Facebook world - suggesting that brands will be forced to move from a product-first, sales-driven approach to community building and creating truly valuable content to spark engagement. Brands can use this latest change as an opportunity to invest into their content marketing strategy and create unique experiences for customers that drive conversation about their offering and position in the marketplace, in place of pushing the latest price-drop. If brands are creating well written and relevant unique content across the board, on all channels such as their websites, blogs, email etc., then Facebook users will organically share it, making this new algorithm a non-issue. Instead of thinking platform-first, think user-first and focus on getting your visitors to become your biggest champion.
Companies need to ask to receive, so if you are confident that your Facebook presence and featured content is truly valuable to your audience, call your community to arms and proactively ask them to click "See First" on company content (this option is available by clicking the button on the top right of any Facebook post). By asking customers and fans to click “See First”, you can ensure that your brand is seen in the feed of loyal followers and create a hub of dedicated brand ambassadors that will enhance your organic reach.
Live content will also be a key way to circumvent the new algorithm changes, as nothing sparks conversation like being in the moment! Does your company attend trade shows and consumer expos, or is the neighbourhood in front of your store a hubbub of activity? Whatever is happening behind the scenes, show it off and share on Facebook live! Users will get a notification to say that your company is streaming video, encouraging them to tune in and watch, driving conversation and piquing interest from your fans. Zuckerberg himself stated that “We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones” so steer away from shiny productions to raw and real, and get people talking.
One of the most overlooked opportunities provided by Facebook is groups! Facebook Groups provide people and companies to connect on a community level like never before. Are there existing forums that talk about your industry that you can participate in, or is there a gap in the market that your company can own by starting a brand new group tailored to your prospective audience? Depending on your industry and objectives, the exact setup will vary - but it’s a strategy we see being big in 2018!
As the focus shifts to more engaging content, the influence that bloggers, YouTubers and individual content creators have will become increasingly valuable. With large audiences - typically with very specific demographic profile and interests - these “influencers” are one of the most effective ways to spread the word about your brand. They are also experts in driving discussion between fans and followers; even if the conversation is not related to the content, a debate will inevitably rage on in the comments section about their lipstick shade, latest personal drama, hoody slogan or something equally inane. Annoying? Yes. Reach-building? Also yes, meaning more people will see what they post. The fact that these influencers gain revenue from advertising could eventually mean that Facebook treats them in a similar way to media, brands and businesses, but for now it’s a tactic that shouldn’t be overlooked if Facebook are where your audience are.
Advertising budgets and bids on Facebook continue to rise so there is a concern that this change may force smaller brands out of the advertising space on the channel. That said, I have discussed before how social media should be social even (especially!) for corporate accounts, so I’m pretty excited about these latest changes. A shift in the status quo gives us the opportunity to revisit strategies and increase the focus on customer value, and that is never a bad thing…
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Author: Sandra Moffatt
Digital Communications and Project Manager