On January 19th, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg sent the social media industry into a tailspin, announcing Facebook’s plans to change the way information is shared with users once again, announcing that his personal goal for 2018 is to focus on "fixing" Facebook's many problems. These problems include "abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” Here is the full newsroom release HERE.
Facebook has long been criticized for enabling the sharing of content that isn’t useful and even dangerous, such as the many examples of extremist campaigns and inaccurate news stories shared in the 2016 election cycle.
While the world of Social Media has been in full panic mode since, we see this as an opportunity to let quality content and interactions rise above the noise.
If we take a minute to rewind and break down what Zuckerberg is saying into comprehensible and actionable chunks, we find that for the educated Facebook user, the changes are actually great.
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”
If you read between the lines, the core of this statement is about relationships and meaningful connections. While these connections can naturally occur between friends and family, they take a bit more finesse for businesses. Our suggested course of action would be to double down on creating your own content. When you attend events, remember to take photos of guests, ask them if they are on social media, and get their names. You’ll want to tag individuals, their companies, the organization that is putting together the event, and the event location. The more inclusive you are, the better your post will do. You’ll be providing personalized content followers can’t get anywhere else.
“But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
This is not the first time that Facebook has made changes to balance the content you get from personal connections with content you get from businesses, especially those in the news media. Create a reasonable posting schedule. If you are a publisher, limit your posts to the times when most of your users are online. Do not over-post or create spam-like content, as that will result in being silenced. For most companies, the best strategy is to generally post once a day, and make that one post meaningful, timely, engaging, and targeted.
“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being. So we've studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.”
Avoid posting articles that are clickbait or articles that have not been verified. There is a huge push to combat “fake news,” so if you participate in pushing propaganda, your posts will be deprioritized and will not likely reach your target audience. Also, make sure your content has a healthy dose of helpful information and positivity. Users’ well-being seems to be a primary goal for Facebook, so make sure your content is helpful to your audience.
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good.”
This is the core of Facebook’s concerns. Their goal is not for users to spend less time on the platform, but they do want interactions to be meaningful.
“The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
The great thing is that the newsfeed will be more focused on friends, family, and groups. If you own a business, do not post content to your personal page, then to your business page: you can’t track analytics from your personal page. First post to your business page, then share the content on your personal page. Encourage your staff and close friends to share content that is relevant and shareworthy from your business page. Let your followers know that if they want to ensure they see your posts, they can choose "See First" in News Feed Preferences. Also, if you have a business that is part of a community, consider creating a group and linking the group to your business page--Facebook Groups allow group owners to track analytics. Even if you don’t create a group of your own, you can boost your page engagement by sharing pertinent content to a relevant group you are part of.
“As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Now more than ever, staff engagement will be important. Building a business should always be a grassroots effort. Get your staff involved in contributing to your company’s success. Post behind-the-scenes photos, tag staff, and encourage them to share and comment. If you don’t have engagement, it won’t matter how great your content is.
“For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”
If you aren’t using live videos, now is the time! Live videos should be long enough to allow your audience to tune in, and make an announcement before you go live to create anticipation. Talk about something informative, attend an event and show your audience what’s happening, host a Q&A, create a how-to tutorial, get creative: but do the live video – I cannot stress this enough!!! Think about what passionate fans care about. Know your audience and make them care passionately about you and your message.
“Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
Final note – you will need to pay to play. You don’t need to spend a fortune if you do it right. If you are unfamiliar with the process, if you do not know how to properly select your target audience, if you have never opened Business Manager--then you should not purchase ads on your own. Hire a professional to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
In spite of its changes, Facebook will continue to be a critically important social media platform for businesses in the years to come, and Facebook’s vision of predominance cannot exist without the funds of the advertisers. However, the advertisers who will have the greatest impact will be those who understand and embrace Facebook’s ever-changing dynamics and specifications.
Have questions? Want assistance in re-evaluating your social media strategy? Contact Aleja at email@example.com.