And why an audience-focused approach is better regardless of which social platform you’re using.
Social media is a social medium, a fact many marketers have forgotten lately.
Facebook’s recent algorithm announcement sent a lot of marketers into a tizzy. While some blame the social network for pulling a bait-and-switch to drive ad revenue, others are looking for alternatives to reach their fans – both on and off the platform. Blame game aside, one truth has become crystal clear for marketers: Facebook’s News Feed is changing and it will be harder to reach your fans organically.
To move past this initial setback and guide local marketing pros down a path that will help their brands be part of the social conversation, we’re recommending a handful of adjustments that should be made starting in January 2015 when Facebook implements its new algorithm policy for brand pages:
1. Do what Facebook says – be helpful, not promotional
Facebook made this change to clean up the conversation and allow people to find information in their News Feeds that’s most valuable to them. Facebook’s algorithm uses data about who and what you interact with on the site (as well as how) to make sure you see updates about things like babies, weddings and new jobs.
So how can your brand be as News-Feed-worthy as your neighbor’s nuptials?
By considering the audience first.
Marketers who want organic reach on Facebook will need to be more than just creative – they’ll need to show constraint and compassion. Think beyond products and services and be useful, like Jay Baer said. When your willpower wanes and you’re feeling promotional, just remember that only 5 percent of people want to see offers and deals on social media, according to this Google Consumer Survey.
2. Follow Facebook best practices – appeal to people not customers
Chobani yogurt’s CMO isn’t too worried about the change and plans on staying the course by continuing to share creative content and you should too (assuming your Facebook strategy is guided by the same “North Stars” of creativity and content).
Appeal to people’s broader interests beyond the realm of what you sell; provide them helpful or useful information that will make people’s lives better. Audience-focused content has always worked on Facebook and will soon be the only thing that works without paid support. Figure out what elements of your brand story are genuinely interesting and package them creatively. This could mean content about charity work, an inspiring quote, dazzling image, funny stories or “life-hack” tips. Make it relevant to your business and brand image, but exclude the promotional language if you want to drive more exposure. Write your posts like you would talk to someone at a party. Need a little inspiration? Check out these examples from Qatar Airlines, Dove, Humans of New York and Starbucks (NOTE: other brands on this list would now be considered promotional).
3. Let data guide your decisions
Even more than usual, you should be mindful of the analytics from Facebook Insights to see what’s working and what’s not. This will help in two ways. First, you’ll be able to see what type of content, post timing and copy writing is working best to reach your fan base. Second, you’ll be able to tell – with incredible accuracy if Facebook follows through – when the algorithm is penalizing you with decreased reach. Because Facebook has threatened to penalize entire brand pages for habitual over-promotion, making sure you’re not a repeat offender should be a primary concern (check out the 8:45 mark here from FleishmanHillard for more on this point).
4. Supplement organic Facebook efforts with paid support
With 864 million daily active users, Facebook reaches 70 percent of adult Internet users. And no matter how creative and conversational your content is, your organic rankings will be hurt for the simple fact that you’re a brand. You’ll almost never win a battle for a News Feed slot against someone’s best friend or crazy uncle; however, a carefully crafted paid promotion can get that best friend and crazy uncle to interact with your post, increasing the chance that your post receives both paid and organic attention. Paid support also relieves the pressure of the new guidelines, allowing you to more directly align paid content with your products and services.
Facebook has opened up a world of paid options in the past year and will continue to improve their system as Facebook strives to be the go-to advertising option for digital marketers. Page and post promotions as well as static side banner ads can be served up with a variety of targeting options depending on what type of promotion your brand is running. And with 89 percent accuracy, Facebook’s ad targeting is more than 50 percent better than other paid online tactics.
5. Find alternatives to Facebook
Giving up on Facebook was many marketers’ first thought when they read about News Feed changes, but we put it last on our list because it’s not something we would recommend, particularly for local businesses. But a mix of digital and social marketing channels is important, and if decreased organic reach on Facebook is what spurs you to explore other options, then we have some thoughts for you to consider:
- Other Social Sites:
Depending on your audience and goals on social media (e.g., increased awareness versus increased engagement), other social networks can help fill the void created by Facebook relegating your brand’s promotional messages. Apart from the heavy hitters like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, there are also niche social networks designed to attract market-minded consumers in your local area. Social marketing expert Danny Brown recommended two up-and-coming social options, but he also alludes to more. Take a minute to check out what competitors and top local brands are doing. You may find something specific to your industry or community that you can use.
- Other Digital Options:
Regardless of your social media strategy, brands should consider moving some of their online marketing efforts to owned rather than earned (or “rented”) platforms. Digital marketing experts at Forrester were quick to suggest email as an alternative to Facebook for promotional content – and with a 90 percent delivery rate compared to an average of 2 percent organic Facebook reach, it’s easy to see why. Start by asking your Facebook fans to sign up for your emails, using a bit of paid support – just remember to incentivize registration by telling people why your emails are valuable.
Social media is designed to be social. It provides a more credible channel for interacting with your audience and the recent Facebook changes will make your social messages even more trustworthy. Earning News Feed space under Facebook’s new guidelines will be more difficult, but the reward will be sweeter. A combination of paid and organic will allow you to tell your brand story and the platform’s popularity will only continue to grow as Facebook further accommodates the needs of consumers.
That being said, local marketers should be judicious with their digital efforts and find a combination of channels that works for their marketing programs. If the extent of your digital content depends on delivering coupons or announcing sales, you’ll need to either open your wallet to Facebook or consider alternative delivery methods.
So what do you think? Are you ready for the switch? Let us know which adjustments you’ll be trying and what we left out in the comments below.