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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.

How to Decide Which Social Media Marketing is Right for Your Business

When it comes to deciding how to go about starting social media marketing for your business, start by determining what aligns with what you sell. For example, if you own a restaurant, you ought to be on Yelp and Facebook because that is where diners seek information on local eateries. Moreover, before you pick which social media suits your business, find the medium that matches your strengths. It also is a matter of which media you will enjoy using. Are you a raconteur? Then maybe podcasts are the way to go for your storytelling. Do you like video? Would filming what you do make sense to convey to customers and prospects what the value is in your product or service? For example, I recently came across on Twitter a link to a YouTube video of a bathroom remodel. The craftsmanship and diligence on display was absolutely mesmerizing. Seeing how much knowledge and skill went into preparing the shower installation, I would certainly understand if the job quote from this contractor came with a significant price tag. I would certainly see the value. I would also trust the contractor because his video showed exactly what happens behind the scenes, behind the tile and under the shower. See if you are comfortable in front of the camera. Just try it on your phone to test the waters. If not yourself, is there something about your process you could put on video? Video, obviously, has become a constant in digital marketing for a good reason: it is compelling to viewers.

Good Writing Matters

Same goes with still images. The greatest blog in the world might go unnoticed if it isn’t accompanied by a picture – even something as simple as a photo of the author. Are you or someone on your team a strong writer? Which social media call for good writing? All of them really, but clean, tight, illustrative and professional writing is especially important on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Even Pinterest requires strong writing for catchy, inspirational or informative captions for the images that people pin. The eye-catching and addictive Pinterest is popular with women who craft, cook and shop, but it has other useful applications, such as organizing and sharing business guidelines, study guides and consumer instructions. Are there product guides you could easily share with Pinterest that would be helpful to customers and prospects?

Map Out Your Social Media Campaign

Plan what you want to get across in social media marketing and at what time. If your business has seasonal cycles, this is simple. Decide who from the business is going to contribute to creating content and give them a schedule with firm deadlines. There is a saying that nothing would get done if not for the last minute. If people don’t have a deadline, they will not perform. Set a schedule, period, no, ifs ands or buts.

Don’t Tell the Whole Story

There are a few reasons not to make your content the be-all, end-all of your subject matter. First of all, you don’t want to give away the farm. Instead, you are giving people a reason in their shopping decision-making process to proceed further with your business. Besides, the be-all, end-all is simply too long for social media and blogs. Set out to write 500 words. This is approachable for your reader and easier for your time management.

Social Media is a Two-Way Street

Digital marketing is not an add-on or an elective anymore – it’s a basic necessity in validating your business. It’s like the lottery, you need to be in it to win it. No one will find you if you are not putting yourself out there. Social media, blogs and websites provide validation for your business. If a word-of-mouth referral is given by a happy customer for your wonderful business, then what will that prospect find online about you? An old website? A social media account with no activity? You want to be engaged to show you are active and give customers a strong sense they get what you are about. You should also set aside time to follow others, including competitors, in your sphere of influence. Social media is a source of news about your business space. Where did a competitor open a new location? What products are customers seeking? Be in the social media loop to be part of new trends and growth for your business.