Last month we finally hit rock bottom. All signs seem to indicate that the free-ride for brands on Facebook has officially come to an end — but let’s be serious, things have been on the decline for some time now. Ever since the very first algorithm shift way back in August 2013, brands have been fighting a loosing battle to maintain reach on a platform that is becoming increasingly more crowded.
But what if I told you that Facebook’s new algorithm is not so sinister? Even more, what if I said it’s the best thing to happen to the platform and your social content?
Think about it. No more clickbait, no more memes, no more bland promotional pushes. Facebook is weeding out the garbage to highlight truly amazing content? How can that possibly be a bad thing?
If we social marketers can find a way to work with the algorithm, rather than constantly trying to hack it, we will find ourselves producing better content, reaching more relevant audiences and driving stronger ROI from our social efforts. But how do we do that?
Well, here are a few good placed to start.
Hold yourself (and your content) accountable
I’m going to come right out and say it: If your content is floundering on Facebook, it’s probably because your content stinks, not because the algorithm is bullying you.
Facebook has done all the heavy lifting to create an individualized experience for each and every one of its users — an experience that keeps the average user hooked for more than 20 hours every month. To do this, the platform collects behavioral data, interests, social connections, event attendance, even purchasing behavior.
Then they place that data at marketers’ feet and say, “Give us something that our users want.” If we can’t turn all that data into a powerful and memorable experience for our fans, can we really blame the algorithm?
It’s time to break old habits and start innovating.
Facebook is trying to create individualized experiences, so why aren’t you?
No two Facebook News Feeds are the same. We all know this, and yet all too often brands create bland, generic content targeted to the greatest common denominator. Well, the greatest common denominator has now dropped to one. That means if we want to reach people, we need to start understanding exactly who these people are.
A good place to start is Facebook’s audience insights tool. Plug your brand into the “People Connected To” tab on the left and you’ll be handed an extensive report of who likes your page. Start playing around with different demographics and you’ll see that your “audience” is actually made up of a ton of individual people — shocking, right? Understanding these insights will give you a good starting point when you’re creating your content.
Step 2 is to segment your audience. Start by breaking out age, gender, location, and interest segments. If you want to get even more technical (I would strongly recommend it) start building audiences based on your brand’s web traffic, email lists, app downloads, and CRM data. All the while, keep checking back to that audience insights tool, and never stop asking yourself how you can provide value to each audience segment.
Finally, start doing what Facebook is doing — provide individualized experiences. Now that you’ve broken down your audience and identified some of their interests, start testing! Remember, your audience is made up of people, not numbers on a report.
Invest in your content, fans will follow
None of the above will work without paid support. But if you’ve put the work into identifying your audiences and creating amazing content, your paid distribution plan doesn’t need to break the bank.
Take this post from Conair For Men, for example.
It received 415% more engagements and reached 450% more people than the average post on the brand’s Facebook page. Would you believe me if I told you we only spent $45 to promote it?
A small paid boost got the ball rolling, but it was our fans that made this content a success. The more than 3,000 social engagements kept organic reach growing for days after the post was first shared — that’s the Facebook algorithm at work.
Facebook has provided all the tools necessary to make the most of its algorithm. By understanding your audience and investing in great content, your brand will reach more valuable users and gain fans that actually care about what you have to say — and that’s not a vanity metric.
Facebook is a very different beast than it was even a year ago. It’s become more sophisticated, more crowded and more individualized. So we need to stop treating it like we did in 2010. If we as social brand marketers want to make any sort of impact in this new landscape, we need to evolve. And part of that evolution is understanding what social media truly is.
In 2015, it’s much less social and significantly more media. In other words, the currency of puppy pictures and cat videos has been replaced with cold-hard-cash. To distribute your content on Facebook is really no different than distributing on more traditional digital media outlets: you have to pay to get it out there.
But that doesn’t mean EdgeRank is dead. Far from it. Once you identify your audience and share genuinely interesting content into their news feeds with some well placed media dollars, the viral effects of Facebook will kick in quickly. Pretty soon, you’ll see those organic engagements racking up.
EdgeRank is still alive and well, it’s just become more sophisticated. And so should we as marketers. It’s time to start holding ourselves accountable for creating great content. Everyone will be better off as a result.