Many marketers are already seeing 2018 as the year when their job just got harder.
As if the potential impacts of GDPR were not enough to hamstring their efforts, January 11th brought another far-reaching change that social media marketers will certainly remember.
Mark Zuckerberg had announced a major change in Facebook’s algorithm to prioritise content from “friends, family and groups”.
As the dust settles on the algorithm changes, we’ve taken a moment to ponder the what, why and ‘what next’ for marketers who want to keep using Facebook for brand awareness and engagement.
Before you read further, don’t panic! You’ll find (like GDPR) that there is a logic to this, and that if you’re smart there’s also a way positive way forward.
Where it all started
So what do we owe Facebook’s changes to?
A couple of factors. The explosion of ‘fake news’ is a key one, but reducing levels of personal interaction between individuals due to huge volumes of content from media and business is the other. The combine result of more ‘fake’ and ‘promotional’ content is fewer opportunities for personal stories and posts that can be shared and interacted with.
The platform has long been criticised for carrying content which is founded not on ‘meaningful interactions’ but rather on ‘changing opinion’ or ‘brand promotion’. This criticism is probably justified, as it’s taken Facebook a long way from the principles on which it was founded.
Justified or not though, there was discomfort and consternation for social media marketers when Zuckerberg revealed “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” and that the changes Facebook would be making were designed to “encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
In other words, “social interactions” not “relevant content” are now the aim of Facebook.
So the organic videos, posts, images and graphics that businesses have been producing and using to target profiled audiences in order to promote brand visibility are no longer aligned with Facebook strategy.
No wonder the announcement has been met with such concern by marketers. It begs the question whether what many see as the holy grail of social media – increasing “organic reach” – for businesses and brands is even possible any more on Facebook.
After all, if Facebook is actively moving to stymie ‘organic business’ use of its platform, what are social media marketers to do? Are the days of gaining exposure through content alone without paying for a presence on the platform over?
As with all problems, the smartest marketers will turn challenge into opportunity.
Our focus as marketers must clearly be on how to generate “meaningful interaction” between our target customers and our brands.
By “meaningful interaction” Facebook is inviting brand marketers to create more “engaging” content. If people react in a positive way (liking, sharing, reposting, viewing etc) Facebook deems the content engaging – and it will stay in the news feed and its reach will improve. If people don’t engage (or, in other words ‘interact in a meaningful way’), it will just be demoted down the news feed.
Let’s suppose you’ve produced a highly insightful piece of content (graphic, video or blog article) and posted it on your blog or website. Now you’ve also placed some teaser posts on Facebook linking to your content. For Facebook to consider your content as attracting meaningful interaction, something like the following needs to happen:
- Person A comments on/likes/reacts to your post, and Person B reacts to Person A (in the form of a comment, like, share or reaction)
- You or your social media manager respond to Person A or B’s comments
- You run a live video, which attracts comment and interactions
- Your content is shared by Person A, and Person B reacts to the share.
Whether B2B or B2C, marketing still relies on person to person interaction and Facebook offers the platform to achieve exactly that.
Yes, Facebook has challenged the status quo, but depending on the way you look at it, it has also opened up opportunities for ‘better’, more intelligent, user-centric marketing. Here’s why:
1) Facebook as a search tool
Now that brands and businesses will no longer dominate Facebook’s newsfeeds, Facebook users may use the platform to search for businesses. And when they find your business, you can encourage them to follow your business pages and select the ‘See First’ option within their page settings.
The onus is on you to give them a compelling reason to do this, using meaningful ways to engage and interact with them. If they do choose to ‘See First’, you can ensure that they don’t miss your latest announcements and messages by staying in their feed. And if you create regular live videos, they can also turn on notifications of when you are live.
2) Easy access to your market
Just as GDPR will identify the audience that wants to engage with your business, the same is true of these algorithm changes.
Why waste time convincing an unsure audience about your brand and services when you can capitalise on targeting the converted? We all know the impact that personalised marketing can have and tailoring your content to appeal to prospects not only makes the most of your data, it makes great business sense socially.
While your competitors are ignoring Facebook as a B2B channel, you have even more opportunity for exposure. Common misconceptions are that Facebook isn’t the right platform for B2B marketing, it’s all about B2C and small ‘hobby’ businesses gaining followers.
Yet your audience is on Facebook.
They comprise the 2 billion+ users, some of whom are marketers, brand managers, business owners and CEOs – all whom you can ensure hear about your business and subscribe to your content.
Your business can make Facebook’s algorithm changes work to your advantage in several ways:
- Embrace Facebook advertising. Give your customers the content they want to see and reach your highest potential buyers without spending a fortune. Research the profiles and create the personas of the potential buyers you want to find and target, then plan out an engaging content strategy to reach them, boosted with selectively targeted ads. If you’re not sure how to do this, or haven’t got the time, ask a social media marketing expert to assist.
- Create and post quality content that adds value. Use live video and original content so that your brand voice and business interrupts the flow of a feed, engages with and captivates your audience. Do this by providing useful, relevant and interesting information. In so doing, you will invite recommendations, likes, endorsements and shares. Again, if you don’t have the time or the skills, seek expert help to create your content.
- Start a conversation with your customers. Although Facebook users mostly log on to view feeds of or interact with personal contacts and to view feeds that they’ve previously liked or saved, the advertising platform still offers an opportunity to show your services or products to your audience in a way that may be of interest and relevance to them. Despite the algorithm change you can still target your audience by job title, location and interests to focus on the specific demographic you’d like to attract. If you then interact on a personal level your business can gain more exposure and lead to a higher reach.
As long as people still interact on Facebook there’s a place for your prospects, room for your advertising and huge potential for your business.
Our conclusion is that the algorithm is a change, but it’s not a reason to panic. Get smart, get planning and get creative!
Contact C4B Media to find out more about how you can use Facebook and other social media marketing opportunities to generate brand awareness, create engagement and grow your business.