After a few years of our Facebook newsfeeds resembling flea markets, there is some good news again – at least for consumers. Facebook recently announced some significant changes to the newsfeed just last week. In summary, these changes mean that user content will get prioritised, publisher or page content increasingly deprioritised. The caveat here is that publisher content that gets significant traction in the form of social media engagement – i.e. shares, reaction, comments, etc, will have to work harder to find their way into user feeds. At the same time, Facebook is also coming down heavily on engagement baits – a very popular bait that blatantly asks for comments, likes, shares, often in ways far from intelligent ways. A move that is sure to make lives of social media managers that much more difficult, or will it?
In a way, brands that are doing their social media content strategy right – i.e. meaningful content, intelligent investments in ads and boosts, and the right features like live and stories – don’t have much to worry about in the light of these changes. For everyone else, here are a few quick tips and tricks that will continue to enhance engagement rates on social media and beyond even as the newsfeed tweaks evolve over at the Facebook HQ.
Great content is at the core of a sound social media strategy. And yet, our feeds are inundated with posts that say, “tag a friend who loves biryani” and “hit share if you are a Capricorn”. And when they are not engagement baits, they are peddling a product, service, or brand. These go against the very nature of social media, whose core has always been meaningful interactions. With the latest tweaks on Facebook - which will most likely be the first but not the only platform to make these changes, the focus is back to creating great, relatable, and meaningful content. It will hold brands in good stead to invest in their video production, digital creative, and storytelling capabilities.
Facebook says its latest changes will ensure that people connect with friends and family more meaningfully. That means there will be more focus on humans speaking to humans instead of logos speaking to humans. Taking a cue from the success of influencers on Instagram, they will become even more important for brand building on Facebook too. Influencers already have a highly engaged audience and they will continue to become a powerful force in social media marketing – it is not the time to write them off yet.
That being said, for smaller brands and startups, these influencers can be extremely expensive. In such times, finding real stories of real users and specific customer demographics will come in handy. So, make your users your influencer. Interior design e-commerce startup? Get your customers to show off their homes. Marketplace for indie designers? Tell their inspiring stories. Social media has truly democratised brand ambassador and celebrity status – real users are now the stars of the ad world, and they will continue to get more powerful.
Instead of putting out content and hoping people would love and share them or baiting engagement, have a strong call to action in your social media and digital marketing efforts. Call to action for social good, commenting with life stories and pictures are known to get a lot of attention. Do more of those.
Live videos and stories continue to break the newsfeed clutter. This trend of temporary content – that puts brand and user content right on top of viewers’ feeds – will continue to shape social media engagements. Beyond breaking the clutter, these formats also encourage engagement for two reasons. One is, of course, their temporary nature which means viewers usually respond and react to them immediately. The other is the fact that these formats allow far more real-time interaction between brands/individuals and their social media audience. However, both stories and live feeds will get cluttered as more and more brands get on the bandwagon.
Picture this – over 200 million stories are already being created. This means that it is only a matter of time before the clutter of newsfeed moves to stories. So brands will need unique strategies for stories in the coming months, to produce and share authentic, engaging, high quality, and real-time content. In case of live streams too, brands will need a sound strategy and execution plan. They need to be planned and promoted in advance, in order for users to tune in to them when they happen. With attention spans being as short as they are in the time of six-second videos, starting strong on stories and live video is crucial if you want to gain more audience instead of losing them.
The thing with social media is that the algorithms are entirely in the hands of the platform HQs. It means a constant shaping and reshaping of marketing strategies to fit into cookie cutter boxes that these platforms demand. So putting all the marketing eggs in the basket of Facebook and Instagram will do more harm than good. Brands need to think digital in a wholesome, big picture manner. For some, mobile-optimised email marketing with engaging headlines, creatives, content, and stories will do the trick. For some, thought-leading white papers downloads, webinars, and newsrooms will continue to make all the difference. The way forward is to continuously evaluate which formats are bringing in better results in the form of engagement and ROI and then investing in those platforms rather than sharing 15 posts a day and worrying about changing algorithms.
Though a major revelation, the Facebook algorithm tweaks don’t spell doomsday for digital and social marketing, not yet at least. Take it as a new front for you to compete and build your social media presence. The dividends on offer are massive, all you need to do is get your social media game in tune and relevant to the times.