A couple of weeks ago, Facebook altered the algorithm that determines what content you see in your News Feed (and no, you’re not seeing everything from your friends or the pages you Like). Previously, content from friends/Pages that you had Liked or interacted with previously were more likely to show up in your News Feed in the future.
But earlier this month, Facebook again tweaked what content is shown in your News Feed. When it did, the company said that ‘high quality articles’ would be given credence moving forward, and ‘the latest meme’ would get buried.
Instead, it appears that content from many company Brand Pages took a big hit. Ignite Social Media, a social media marketing agency, analyzed almost 700 posts on 21 brand pages and had some pretty interesting/disturbing findings. The biggest takeaway was that both organic reach and organic reach percentage fell by an average of 44% since the first week in December. Five of the brands studied saw a decrease of over 60% and only one brand page in the study actually increased reach and reach percentage. Since these results were revealed last week brand page managers everywhere have been lamenting similar findings on the pages they manage.
So what should your brand do now?
There are two things that I have consistently advised brands to do when it comes to social media:
1 – Plant seeds in the garden you own
2 – Focus on the people using the tools, not the tools themselves
Plant Seeds in the Garden You Own
The allure of Facebook for brands is obvious, there’s over a billion reasons why brands want to set up shop on Facebook. Set up a brand page and suddenly you’ve got a free advertising tool on the biggest social networking site on the planet! Why would anyone NOT want to do this?
Facebook knows that too. Facebook is also now a publicly-traded company, and as such, revenue streams are of primary importance. Which means if you want to keep having access to those users, increasingly Facebook will make it so you have to pay for that access. Google does the same thing with its search engine, yes it says it is constantly tweaking its search ranking algorithm to give you better and more relevant results, but part of that is because Google wants you to pay for exposure. It wants you to buy ads versus organically having your content rank highly.
Setting up shop on sites like Facebook and Twitter comes at a price for brands. Yes, you have potential access to millions of potential customers, but ultimately, the sites control how and even if you get that access. Facebook in particular is constantly changing the rules for how brands can use the site and distribute content. Now that Twitter is publicly-traded company, don’t be surprised if they don’t look for similar ways to monetize the efforts of brands.
This is why its better to put your eggs in baskets that you own. Whereas you are at the whims of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to your content and engagement strategies, you have far more control over channels you own, such as your website, blog or email list. Channels that your brand does not own can be used to compliment your social media efforts, but it should never be at the heart of what you do. You want the heart of your social media strategy to be centered on channels you own, not ones that Mark Zuckerberg does.
Forget the Tools, Focus on the People
Who moved my ROI? As Business Insider noted, this change could have a devastating impact for ‘social media marketers’ that are focused on helping brands get exposure for their content on Facebook. Which is exactly the problem. Too many brands and the agencies that service them are focused on gaming the system/tool versus trying to actually understand their customers.
What’s more important:
1 – Understanding how EdgeRank works to show your brand’s content higher in the News Feed of people that Liked your page
2 – Understanding why your audience is on Facebook
Understanding the people will always trump understanding the tools. Your goal isn’t to understand how to game EdgeRank so that the picture you just posted will show up high on Sarah’s News Feed, your goal is to understand why Sarah is on Facebook. What activities is she engaging in, and why? What experience does she expect on Facebook, and why does she spend 3 hours a day on Facebook and has spent a grand total of 3 hours on Twitter this year?
Facebook is going to keep changing the rules. You can either keep chasing the changes and wondering why you’re not seeing the social media riches your agency promised you, or you can stop chasing unicorns peeing rainbows and get to work creating something of value for your customers.
You cannot create that value for your customers until you understand them. If you understand your customers and create value for them, then you win. And nothing Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest does will change that.