For years, Facebook and its popular Pages platform have been the cornerstone of social-media marketing strategies for most brands. Infact, Adobe’s ‘Q1 2014 Social Intelligence Report’ also indicates that Facebook continues to dominate the social realm today. In an effort to give their users a seamless and enhanced user experience, they recently made updates to the ad platform, tweaked the News Feed algorithm, and changed the layout of brand pages. All this action has constantly kept social media marketers around the globe on their toes, anticipating what’s coming next.
How the News Feed changed
Among recent changes, the one that has been driving businesses into a tizzy is the News Feed algorithm tweak that lead to a huge decline in the organic reach of posts. According to a recent study by Social@Oglivy, the brand posts were typically viewed by merely 6% of their followers in February this year, compared to 12% in October last year.
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Designed to enhance user experience, the modifications were made to minimize the visibility of ‘spammy’ content, which includes like-baiting, duplicate content and spammy links. Previously, posts with more ‘likes’ got more visibility on the social network. Many brands gamed the system by implementing like-baiting, a strategy that actively forces users to like a Page before giving them access to contests and other content. Later, the social giant, found that such stories were 15% less relevant than stories that achieve the same type of engagement organically.
The infamous psychology experiment on News Feeds
Another experiment by Facebook that drew a lot of criticism from people around the world was the week-long psychology experiment conducted on 7,00,000 users to test if emotions were contagious online. They curated the News Feed of some users to highlight the happy and positive posts while those of few others with emotionally negative content from their friends. The results of the test went on to suggest that, after exposure to a tailored news feed, manipulated users began to use negative or positive words in their updates depending on what they were exposed to.
This idea of Facebook manipulating emotions of users without their consent, rubbed many the wrong way. Most of them were left worried about the ethics behind such ‘scientific approach’. The defenders of Facebook’s actions have in turn argued that it was entitled to conduct the study because its usage policies include a line that refers to the fact that data supplied by users will be potentially used for research.
How this update affects marketers
The bottom line here, however, is that, competition for content placement in the News Feed is only intensifying. According to a recent study by the social media giant, at any point of time, when a user visits the Facebook News Feed, there are an average 1,500 possible posts that he could be shown. Rather than showing their users all possible pieces of content, the News Feed chooses to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person. For example, the algorithm evaluates the frequency at which users interact with a particular kind of post or page, and the number of likes, shares, and comments received by a post to decide which content pieces are the most relevant to a user. Facebook is thus compelling brands to shift their focus from fan acquisition to content reach and engagement.
How to make this News Feed update work for you
Here are a few actionable strategies to ensure that your posts reach a wider audience on Facebook.
1. Post previews with images
For years, plain-text status updates have secretly been one of most effective types of posts used by brands to boost organic reach. But in January, Facebook announced that it will be devaluing text updates from brands in the News Feed, while text updates from friends will continue to get high visibility. This giant step was the result of a recent study which found that though such plain-text updates were engaging, they didn’t inspire users to contribute more status updates on their own pages.
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The social media giant recently reported that, sharing links along with a preview that shows an image, link title, and description, performs better than a text status update that has a link embedded in it. The former kind of posts engage users better by providing them a more visual and compelling experience.
2. Create engaging copies, with images and videos
Facebook recommends social media marketers to use the story type (status, photo,video or link) that they think best fits their audience kind and message type. For example, just because memes are no longer encouraged, it doesn’t mean that you should forego posting humorous visual content. You can even use images of your products or photos of your customers enjoying your services to make your posts engaging.
Image Courtesy: facebook.com
With a recent study stating that images receive 37% more average interactions than the other kind of posts, there is no doubt that photos, when used correctly, can win both audience engagement and reach. Facebook has even increased the size of images to extend the entire width of the news feed. Invest your time in creating content that contains relevant, newsworthy information with a compelling photo that complements the piece.
3. Implement Action-gating
These days, marketers use Action-gating to combat the challenges associated with Like-gating. This practice lets social media marketers ask their users to vote or share some information about themselves in return for a giveaway from their brand. It not only helps you break through the noise on Facebook, but also earns your business far-reaching online impressions.
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For example, during New York Fashion Week 2014, Marc Jacobs, a luxury fashion brand, opened a pop-up store called ‘The Daisy Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop’ in New York city’s SoHo neighbourhood. No money was exchanged at this store. Instead, customers were awarded with Marc Jacobs-branded gifts in exchange for social currency. This included posting messages with the hashtag #MJDaisyChain on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
The biggest advantage to Action-gating, however, is that unlike Like-gating, it doesn’t hurt the mobile experience of a user. For example, when mobile users clicks on the link of a Like-gated app, Facebook serves several prompts before handing on the user with access to the app’s content. The greatest downfall of this precautionary measure is that it negatively affects a user’s mobile experience. Action-gating helps avoid this.
4. Post content that is likely to spur a conversation
Facebook’s ultimate goal is to keep as many people glued to the social network, for as long as possible. As a result, if you share posts that are more likely to keep your users engaged, as measured by likes, comments, shares and time on screen, the social network will reward you with further reach. For example, an increasing number of items that appear in the News Feed of a user, are about content that a friend of the user has been engaging with. The company, even recently announced that it will regularly resurface any content that receives heavy engagement, even if it is older than 24 hours.
Thus kickstarting a conversation by asking a question in your post is more likely to pull your Page into the News Feed of other users. Just endure that the questions are relevant to the business that your are involved in. For example, if you run a restaurant, your users would rather see a post on the chef-specials for that night than a post on general healthy food.
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Additionally, you could ask your users to share their thoughts and feedback on the services provided by your business. You could use this to your advantage by posting content that shows you took their feedback into consideration. This will not only help you show how much you value their ideas, but also help build customer loyalty. For example, Modify Watches, a brand that creates mix-and-match watches, asks their customers for input on product designs and names, and then uses these ideas to make watches.
5. Post with a consistent frequency
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Users on Facebook are more likely to engage with posts that are on subjects that stay on top of their mind, such as the current events or holidays. You can even land a spot on a user’s News Feed, by scheduling your posts for the most effective times of the week, rather than posting them during the most popular times. For example, while most marketers tend to post content on weekdays, posts on Sundays tend to receive an average 2.72 interactions per hour and are 25% more effective than a post on Wednesday. Further, timeliness is also important when replying to comments on your posts. The faster you reply, the more likely fans will engage with you in future.
Thus, Facebook is likely to continue to make changes to entice marketers to invest in brand pages, advertising, and overall social strategies. Rather than giving up, brands should be embracing it with a new vigor as the recent tweaks have caused the platform to mature into a more targeted and measurable channel. To get the most out of social media investments, marketers will need to adapt to frequent algorithm changes and look to make more pinpointed investments into targeting and management of social media post spends.