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Facebook’s New Year’s Resolution and What It Means for Branded Content

You may have heard that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year’s Resolution is to fix Facebook. After a barrage of criticism about the platform’s easy manipulation by fake news purveyors and other propagandists, as well as questions about nefarious Russian influence via social media on the U.S. presidential election, Zuckerberg finally acknowledged the platform has problems.

So, what’s his solution? Ironically, his vision seems to suggest suppressing real news. When his grand plan (without details of how the algorithm works exactly) was announced, news publishers and brands with Facebook pages appeared to be the losers. Facebook explained, in a video, that interactions between people would be favored over content from brands and publishers.

And investors were not thrilled either that the platform’s leadership even suggested they want people to use Facebook less. The stock’s value dropped 4.5% in reaction to the announced shift. Has anything changed in practice yet? We’ll need at least a month’s data, if not more, to compare the engagement analytics for Facebook business pages’ organic posts and see if there is a big hit to reach. The cynics see this as a ploy for Facebook to force businesses to buy more ads. Well, that’s not necessarily a bad idea, even before the changes.

For example, I particularly like how Sierra Club created a new line of communication with a Facebook ad. I have not liked their page or posts before that I recall. Suddenly, a cheerful ad asked if I wanted a positive daily message from the Sierra Club, accompanied by a nature photo. Why, of course, I would, especially with the constant barrage of bad news! Now, every day I get a warm, cuddling feeling from the Sierra Club.

The key is crafting content, either for organic posts or ads, that speak to a specific need or desire of the consumer. That’s always been the case (think of the old ring-around-the-collar TV ads). Now, you’ll want to consider messages that go beyond, but don’t stray, from your product or service.

This is an outstanding example by a company I never heard of until a friend shared their video on Facebook. They are in the travel booking business and created a shareable video about the pains of airline travel to which most humans can relate, especially those of us who typically fly coach.

What is compelling about the video is not the actual content. Yes, it’s humorous. But, most importantly, it’s shareable. Again, I did not see it in an ad. It came into my feed as it was posted by a friend (a real-life friend) who often shares viral comedic content spritzed in among her posts about her daily life. She is the ideal user, by Facebook’s criteria, because she is sharing positive content among friends. And, Facebook says that “person to person [interaction} will be more valuable than person to page.”

Granted, Facebook’s mission is to provide “deeper, more meaningful interactions with people you care about.” What exactly does this mean? I doubt it means Facebook will start placing greater weight on debates among friends about existential philosophy or exegesis examinations of religious texts.

Here’s what Facebook says the changes will reflect: “Connections to people in your network will get the biggest boost because interacting with people you are close to is more meaningful. We’re also going to prioritize exchanges that reflect more time and care.” They want to emphasize discussions that are “associated with a greater sense of well-being.” Hmmm, that would seem to indicate that discussions about real news and politics may receive less emphasis. After all, Facebook said, “over time, we believe people will see more posts from people they’re connected to and less content from publishers.” But, I can tell you, that my Facebook feed continues to regular stream to me posts by Axios, the Washington Post, The Hill, the New York Times, Texas Tribune and other news brand pages on which I regularly comment or to which I react, often with the wow emoticon.

“Facebook was built to connect you to the stories and people that matter most, so we’re going to keep listening to you and working hard to make sure that’s what you see everyday,” the company says. Personally, I hope that means I still see plenty of posts by news pages because that matters most to me. Professionally, my new year’s resolution is to tell more stories on clients’ pages about what matters most to their audiences. And, we’ll be sharing that content on other platforms as well.

Katharine Fraser is a writer, editor and content coordinator.

Guide to Content Creation Thinking for Small Business

You have a website and an email newsletter. You may even have a Facebook page or LinkedIn company page. Or, as a business owner told me at a party over the weekend, I have a LinkedIn account – I just never use it.

Set it and forget it, and you will be forgotten, is how a social media savvy client put it. There is no point in having a social media account for your business if you don’t use it. In order to gain traction, you need to interact with others on social media. Hence the name, social media, as opposed to broadcast media. You are not just telegraphing what you do.

Instead, you are finding an audience by finding your online tribe. This tribe isn’t just customers, but other businesses up and down your supply chain, operating in similar spheres of influence (think of a real estate agent, a mortgage broker and a general contractor, etc.), and even competitors. Your local competitors are likewise looking to get a handle on you. Also, you can follow people in the same business in other regions to see what best practices they may be using.

Getting Organized

For the sake of administrative ease, you may want to use a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to organized all (or most of) your accounts. Still, you will want to craft unique content for posts to different social media accounts. Social media types consider it lazy and ineffective to repost the verbatim content everywhere. You can instead repurpose the content. Note that they have different space limitations or availability and some use hashtags (Twitter, Instagram) and some really don’t (LinkedIn, Pinterest).

Now, you may ask, why do I need multiple social media accounts? Well, not everything appeals to everyone. Grandma may be on Facebook and the grandkids on Snapchat. Then, there is everyone in between who are most likely using multiple social media channels for their social lives and their business lives.

Plus, you might catch someone’s attention in one channel at one particular moment and not the others. For example, I personally have a subscription to the print magazine Southern Living, just like my grandmother did. I also follow Southern Living on Twitter on both my lifestyle account and my communications consulting account, plus follow SL on Facebook. Why? Because I love Southern Living’s content, personally, and find it illustrative, professionally. Guess what, although I see a lot of SL content each day, I am not seeing repeated imagery or wording. They are mixing it up. Moreover, I just got an email from Southern Living with content I had not seen before in the magazine or on social media, and it is all very appealing.

I know what you are thinking – you don’t have the staff of Southern Living. You can still get your arms around all this and make it work.

Getting your arms around multiple social media accounts is just a matter of getting organized

Getting your arms around multiple social media accounts is just a matter of getting organized

The key is to be systematic. I bet you are systematic in all your other business operations. Make social media a process that is built into your day. It can be integrated with other work you already do. For example, you can connect your Constant Contact email content to a Facebook page post. And, vice versa, ask Facebook fans to join your Constant Contact mailing list. LinkedIn also allows you to simultaneously send a Tweet. The list goes on with such integrations, but ideally you craft a separate post for each channel.

For scheduling, first thing is first. What are you going to say? Well, what marketing campaigns do you need to line up with your business each week, month, quarter and season? Mark out on a calendar what themes/campaigns you are promoting at which time.

What other subjects do you want to use to showcase your expertise? Turn a customer experience into a blog to reach other people needing the same or a similar solution. (Guess what inspired this blog? Oh, just about every conversation I have with small business owners about online marketing.)

Be systematic

Like everything else in life, you’re going to want a checklist.

  • Which social media accounts do we already have and which should we add?
  • Who has control of these accounts? Is a former employee still an administrator?
  • Where are the passwords and how do we reset them?
  • Do I have social icons on my webpage that have working links to my social media accounts?
  • How often do we want to post to each channel and who is responsible for that?
  • Do my posts contain links to my website?
  • If I blog, do I promote the blog on social media? (Please do!)
  • Do I have Google Analytics set up to watch the traffic going to my website?

Final pro tip: Don’t get distracted! Once engaged in social media, you will see notifications from real-life friends. They may be posting about fun things to do in your city or the latest and greatest hilarious meme. These are shiny objects you can check out later in your leisure time. Have a list on a post-it note, notepad or wherever you keep checklist and stick to those social media tasks. Then, take a few minutes to see what everybody else is doing and saying on social media, especially people in your business. Go ahead and like, comment and share the content you see that aligns with your point of view.

For more pointers on online marketing, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.