Changes to Facebook’s news feed are coming, and companies and brands will show up less and less. Going forward, smart social media strategies should look like advertising plans or customer relations strategies.
The road ahead is much more bleak for organic posts and brand messaging that once made up the bulk of brand activity in social media. In a post in mid-January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about upcoming changes to the platform, and he didn’t mince words about the future for companies and brands.
“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,” said Zuckerberg. “You'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” he goes on to say.
The company hopes that in elevating updates from friends and family, users will be happier with what’s in their feed. Facebook must recruit and retain regular users, keeping their attention. The company likely sees this as one way to keep engagement high and their own bottom line healthy.
Zuckerberg hinted that fostering a conversation, rather than pushing content in front of an audience was the best approach for groups and companies, citing examples like an online community focused on discussing a popular TV show. Content from brands and businesses “should encourage meaningful interactions between people,” according to Zuckerberg’s post.
The announcement is arguably the most candid Facebook has been regarding brand content, but the outcome should not come as a surprise to marketers who have watched engagement on company Facebook pages decline for years. Organic engagement for brands on social media was estimated near 2 percent even back in 2015, and has continued to decline in recent years.
Many companies jumped on Facebook because it was easy, quick and free to connect with customers, but it’s not anymore. So what’s a company to do?
Treat Facebook as an Advertising Platform
Paid promotions – either promoted posts or display advertising – are becoming the only meaningful way for businesses to reach their own followers, let alone get in front of new customers.
With so much of Facebook and other social media strictly pay-to-play, it’s vital to measure your efforts in social media the same way you ought to measure any other advertising opportunities. Craft a specific message, make a targeted purchase to get before your key audience, and evaluate the results to determine if the buy was worthwhile. Consider the returns as you would with any ad buy.
Facebook does allow a level of ad targeting - by demographics, income and interest that is impressive, so there is value in tapping into what Facebook already knows about its users.
But go into it with realistic expectations. One recent study puts click through rate on Facebook ads at less than 1 percent.
Consider Social Media a Customer Service Platform
Remember how Zuckerberg mentioned fostering conversation? That type of interaction is more likely to be one-on-one than a mass communication.
Being receptive and responsive is just as important online as in person. Responding to individual Facebook messages, tweets and TripAdvisor reviews for your business is just as important as answering customer phone calls and emails.
There can be significant payoff for companies that are attentive online. J.D. Power noted an increase in customer satisfaction with airlines when those companies were responsive online. In a separate J.D Power study on hotels, the organization found that hotel guests “describing their experience via social media appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media.”
Facebook is alive and kicking, but social media strategies built on thinking from 5 or 10 years ago are dead on arrival. No matter the platform, marketers and the companies they work for should engage with consumers in highly tailored, personally thoughtful ways.