Facebook is going through an identity crisis right now. This Facebook crisis is affecting everyone from Grandma Julie to marketers and social strategists.
Remember in the good old days, when Facebook’s goal was to “connect the world”, it was easy to learn about new brands, products, & services through your friends and family via Facebook? If my friend liked a business page or commented on their post, it would show up in my timeline since we were friends. I enjoyed this on a personal level because it not only showed me what my connections were interested in, but I learned of new things this way.
Slowly but surely, Facebook has been limiting exactly what comes up in our timelines. Now, the only way I’m going to see what my Aunt Suzy is interested in is if she shares it or tags me in it.
This change isn’t new really, but it is something that has been slowly evolving to the point where Facebook is doing the opposite of its original intent – connecting the world. While they claim it’s to help protect privacy, and others suspect it’s to encourage paid advertising over making the effort to be successful organically. It’s something that needs to be considered when creating a social strategy.
What can a Marketer do to Minimize the Facebook Crisis?
If much of what is seen isn’t via likes or shares, and advertising seems to be the only way to go, is that all that a marketer can do? It might seem like advertising is the only way to make Facebook marketing successful and worth the effort, but that isn’t even truly effective with these changes – even the calls to action here are limited and not conducive to brand reach. Outside of clicking on links, the only Facebook-specific call to action is to like the post or page, which doesn’t help in this case.
So, marketers are left with an increasingly challenging marketing strategy and an audience that has limited attention and a preference for passive engagement – now what?
It’s important to revisit the vanity metrics that come with Facebook and think through the best ways to continue to market organically on Facebook. With a secondary goal of rethinking paid advertising efforts to align with Facebook’s way of doing things coupled with the need to be successful socially.
First, let’s look at the new value of each of the vanity metrics marketers rely on for gauging social media marketing efforts.
As far as their worth, thinking of engagement from most passive to most active can help when determining which content should be published and how it aligns with strategic goals.
A like is and always has been the most passive engagement type. It only takes a second and can be used when a person might truly like a brand, want to “bookmark” it to look at closer when they have more time or respond to a promotion that incorporates a potential prize or discount for liking the company page. In the past, when someone liked a page, it would show in their feed. Brands were hopeful that when this happened, the user’s friends and connections would see it as well, and be interested enough to like it too. This is the cheapest form of engagement currency.
Comments were more useful than they are now and worked much in the same way as a like. When a user would comment on a Facebook post from a brand, it too would show up in others’ timelines. It was a bit more valuable than a like because it was focused on a conversation, since there were comments to read through, and the hope was that the conversation was interesting enough to encourage connections to take a look at the company’s page out of curiosity.
Comments were also a higher value from a marketing standpoint because brands could ask questions on their promoted and advertised content, encouraging people to respond, share their favorite product line the brand offers, or comment to be included in an upcoming promotion. While it still holds value when marketing to the already established Facebook audience, it now does little in the way of increasing brand visibility.
Comments are interesting in that they hold little value in terms of engaging new connections, but have a high value in engagement, building loyalty, and analytics.
Sharing is the current currency that marketers can cash in on. As far as effort, it takes more than a like, but oftentimes less effort than a comment. In a way, this is a good sign – a call to action to like a page can more easily be replaced with a share for a similar benefit. This, however, takes a bit more effort from a marketing standpoint.
Have Likes & Comments Lost Their Value?
Not necessarily. It all depends on what your brand relies on these metrics for. From a marketing standpoint, they have lost their value when a strategy goal includes brand visibility – before, likes and comments would reach more people more easily, as these actions would show up in timelines of other Facebook users based on who they were connected to.
However, they still have their place in the world, though now it’s more focused on the current audience rather than obtaining new members. It’s still important to gauge page and post likes and focus on comments, as that is where true engagement lies. Marketing goals should always focus on engaging the current community, providing content that is relevant and that users will want to engage with, and responding to conversations that are happening to continue to foster a sense of loyalty with the brand.
What is the New “Metric Currency” Then?
From a visibility standpoint, that share button seems to be the best metric currency at the moment. Encouraging Facebook users to share content should be the focus where brand visibility and increasing an audience is part of the social media strategy. This is where a brand can get more bang for their buck quite honestly, and should be taken into consideration when content is being created for this purpose.
What’s the Best Way to Publish Content for the Best Return Then?
As always, the answer to this question first and foremost relates to your overall strategy – what is your goal for social marketing? If a goal is to increase visibility and gain traction with a larger audience, then focusing on calls to action related to sharing content can be a nice complement to paid advertising efforts and can be effective in achieving this goal.
If you fall into any of the following categories, then this is a good tactic to consider:
- You are new to Facebook marketing or are launching a new business and need to establish a following.
- You are established on Facebook with a fairly strong audience, but you want to increase engagement and expand visibility to promote a new product or service.
- Your brand is interested in improving the brand/consumer loyalty relationship and tie consumers further into your brand’s social engagement program.
- You are expanding your core demographic audience or want to reach a new demographic.
Tips to Increase Sharing & Visibility
There are a few adjustments you can make in your content creation to better drive engagement to reach the goal of increased visibility.
Put your wallet away – advertising isn’t the answer
Take a look at the engagement options with a boosted post, which are fairly similar to calls to action for other Facebook advertising – the only Facebook inclusive CTA is to like a page or post.
Nothing about sharing content as an option. Advertising has its purpose, and with great content you might find a boost in sharing, but as a standalone, Facebook isn’t giving enough of a visibility option in this platform right now.
Depending on your social relationship with your audience, it could be as simple as this, or you may need to up your game and create content that is a step up from what is typical that your audience would want to share, yet is still relative to your brand. You can’t be silent, with little to no engagement and then ask for others to share your content – the reciprocity needs to happen first.
Start a “follow train” of sorts
While this concept is stronger on Twitter, it is something that can be used on Facebook as well in a different way. A “follow train” starts with a simple post with a call to action asking the audience to share the “follow train” post and then the audience is encouraged to follow others who are sharing the post. On Facebook, tags could be effective in this way. Instead of encouraging the audience to follow each other, brands could encourage them to like & share the page and possibly join a brand-specific Facebook group for further engagement across your connections. It’s a double benefit, as you’re engaging your audience and building visibility while fostering a sense of unity among your consumers.
Facebook is a Bit of a Hot Mess Right Now
They are trying to combat almost daily negative focus on the site while at the same time giving users a sense that they are protecting privacy, and at the same time make advertising efforts as beneficial as possible, at least in their eyes, to businesses so they can sustain their user base. Personally, I think they are failing in many of these areas, and need to do better.
From a marketing/engagement standpoint, they are missing the mark with the limitation of what is showing up on people’s timelines. Hopefully, Facebook will realize this at some point and start restoring the features that truly connected people on the site. Until then, social strategists & marketers need to be keenly aware of all of these quietly made shifts in the site’s overall model and adjust accordingly.
If marketers are spending money on advertising, or even spend time & effort building a brand/consumer relationship on the social site, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve and adjust strategy with changes that are implemented on Facebook; adjusting calls to action and content strategy are a simple fix to combat the ever-changing Facebook landscape.