May 27, 2014

Facebook is changing — is your marketing ready?

social bakers

Post by Rohan Ayyar
E2M Solutions

rohanRemember the uproar when Facebook launched the Timeline in 2011? Half the world declared they hated it and were going to quit Facebook forever. Fast forward to 2014. Facebook is still the largest social media platform in the world and has nearly as many users as the population of India or China.

Anybody who has been a user has seen the platform grow and evolve, usually for the better. 2013 and now 2014 has seen a number of changes to Facebook’s layout, its algorithm and its advertising model.

Here’s a quick reality check for marketers who want to keep up on Facebook’s latest changes.

A relevant fan base becomes more important than ever

You can pester every single friend you have on your personal Facebook page to like your brand page, but that will still get you just a few hundred fans. Plus, there is no guarantee that all those people are actually interested in your product/service. They might just like your page to avoid offending you!

Create a fan base that actually matters – quality over quantity (though quantity will matter in the long run). There are many ways in which you can grow your fan base:

  • Give out a (relevant) freebie in exchange for a ‘like’ — e.g., if you own a gym or health club, you could give away a ‘Get fit in 15 Days’ plan for free
  • ‘Likes’ in order to participate in contests with some big aspirational prize
  • Facebook ads that target users who like pages similar to yours or with interests similar to yours

The rise and rise of paid ads

The latest changes to Facebook’s algorithms have resulted in more crowded news feeds than ever. A number of brands have also seen their organic reach dropping ever since the changes were implemented.

Unfortunately, as social media matures and more and more social media platforms get listed on the public markets, the pressure to show profits gets enormous. This means the days of free visibility on Facebook are numbered. In fact, just as organic reach has been dropping, Facebook has been getting creative in the different ways brands can spend money on its platform in order to get visibility. The new and improved Facebook Insights and the Facebook Ad Server are just two examples of this shift in focus.

Generating sales is one of the biggest challenges marketers continue to face when it comes to social media. The advantage Facebook advertising has over other online channels is that it enables very precise demographic targeting, which is why you’ll never run out of options here.

Auto-play videos

In March 2014, Facebook introduced Premium Video Ads. These 15-second auto play ads will play without sound as a user scrolls past them. Clicking on the video leads to a full screen ad with sound. The ads can be bought based on GRPs like television spots and delivery will be measured independently by Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings. This means you only get charged when a customer actually clicks and watches the video with full sound.

This brings the most important benefits that television had into Facebook and combines those benefits with the inherent strengths that Facebook already has. With audio visual communication possible and clear ROI measurement available, this is one boat you should not miss.

Keep your content relevant — and be interesting

Consider what you do on your personal Facebook page. You seek out the stuff that tickles your funny bone, stuff that gets your grey cells ticking or stuff that you’re passionate about. Your fans are similar in their motivations. The only way you’ll ever get any attention from your fans is if what you’re saying is one of the following:

  • Relevant
  • Interesting
  • Entertaining
  • Educational

While you’re being relevant, don’t be afraid to be fun or silly. Share inspiring images (that will likely get shared), funny videos and Pinterest style quotes with images. Facebook’s algorithms have become more and more sophisticated over the years and they pick up only posts that are relevant and deemed important by your fans.

Another change that’s happening is the importance to timing of your posts. According to Brandon McCormick, Facebook’s Communications Director, the relevance of your post to the time of day it has been posted will make a big difference in whether it shows up organically in news feeds or not. For example, a post about a great coffee-making hack will do well in the morning hours but won’t work so great around dinner time.

Use hashtags

A hashtag is like a barcode. The way a barcode scanner identifies a product with its pricing, brand name, etc. in one scan. Hashtags identify the topic you’re looking for anywhere on the platform, irrespective of where it originated, and surfaces the most important, popular and relevant content.

Hashtags on Facebook perform a similar function as they do on Twitter. They allow fans to discover content that is relevant to them. If you want people who are genuinely interested in what you’re selling to be able to see your page and your updates, make sure you use hashtags. Remember, the hashtag needs to be relevant to your business; at the same time, it shouldn’t be something like #YourBrandName.

Post regularly

Don’t worry about over-posting on Facebook. With the new changes that Facebook has brought in, a large majority of your posts will not be visible to your audience anyway. Only about 5-10% of all your fans will be exposed to an average post at any given time.

So what do you do to maximize your reach? You increase your frequency! Post every few hours to ensure you stay on top of your fans’ news feeds. If you can’t dedicate hours to post stuff on Facebook regularly on an everyday basis, schedule your posts using cool tools like HootSuite, PostCron or PostPlanner.

Make your fans feel like stars

Understand that your Facebook brand page is like a community of people who like your brand. A great way to make your fans feel good and to increase their engagement is to highlight to the entire community, the great stuff that they share with you.

When you repost your fans’ posts to your brand page, not only do you increase your visibility among that particular fan’s friends (a great way to win more fans, by the way), you’re also letting your other fans know that they too have a chance to be featured and be semi-famous.

Stoking reciprocal relationships through tagging

A smart “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” strategy, tagging can increase your reach substantially, if done correctly.

In your next post, tag the brand page of a business that has synergies with yours. Going back to the previous example, if you run a health club, you could tag the page of a nutrition supplements company in a manner that says something nice about their product. Since you were complimentary about them, chances are they will repost your original post on their own page. This will get you instant visibility on the news feeds of their fans – a brand new audience!

A picture speaks a thousand words

Good images are hugely shareworthy and can spark social conversations like nothing else. The rise and growth of images-based social media like Instagram and Pinterest is proof of their popularity among users.

In each subsequent layout change, Facebook has made image sizes larger and given more importance to high quality pictures. According to KISSmetrics, photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-through than text-based posts.

Harness the power of images to engage more and sell better. You don’t need to necessarily have a store on Facebook to sell through Facebook (though, that is an option you can try). You can begin by posting gorgeous images of your products with pricing information and a link to your website.

Custom audiences come of age

Want to squeeze more juice out of your email database? Target them with Facebook ads.

Yes, with the option of Custom Audiences, Facebook allows you to create targeted communication for your email database subscribers on Facebook. The list of subscribers can be uploaded directly into Facebook in the form of a CSV file; you can choose to exclude your existing fans including those who overlap into your email database, and the rest of your ad roll out process remains the same as before.

With Custom Audiences, you can target them to become fans of your brand page, run promotions specifically for email subscribers, make important announcements directly via Facebook and so much more.

Wrap-up: Keeping up the pace

These are interesting times for social media platforms as well as marketers. The mediums are constantly evolving and today’s grand change might become history the day after. This makes it imperative for us as marketers to stay on our toes and track each of these changes closely, check how they affect our marketing efforts and make course corrections to stay on top of our games.

Rohan Ayyar is a serial blogger and digital strategy consultant at E2M Solutions. He also helps startups develop remarkable user experiences at OnlyDesign. You should follow him at @searchrook on Twitter.

• 15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook

15 ways to increase your Facebook stature

Demystifying how Facebook’s news feeds work

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