Content and social media marketing these days is a war for attention, and marketers have pulled every trick in the book to get it. Now Facebook has called them on it, and whether they realize it or not, done them a huge favor.
In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Stone Temple’s Mark Traphagen explains why the big Facebook news feed change delivers some powerful and useful lessons for marketers.
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Eric: Mark, earlier this year Facebook announced what seemed like a huge change in the newsfeed, where users spend most of their time. Briefly, remind us what they announced.
Mark: In January, 2018 Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that they were going to shift the newsfeed to strongly favor posts that were more likely to create meaningful interactions among users. Then the next day, Facebook’s head of newsfeed, Adam Mosseri explained that meant longer form conversations between real people, especially people on the same network of friends.
Eric: And people began noticing a change in their newsfeed pretty quickly, right?
Mark: I certainly did as did many of my friends. The most significant and noticeable change was seeing far fewer posts from brand pages, news sources, and professional publishers, including pre-recorded videos. With the exception of videos, all of that kind of content had been reducing in reach for a long time now. But now with some pretty notable exceptions, it’s pretty much gone.
Eric: Some notable exceptions?
Mark: I continue to see organic posts from some of the brands and publishers I follow. It doesn’t surprise me because their content was already doing what Mark Zuckerberg said the new filter wanted to do in the newsfeed. They regularly create content that gets their audience talking instead of just passively consuming.
The kind of stuff that makes people want to chime in with their take, and wanna pull their friend into the comments to see what they think. It’s important to remember that Facebook emphasized meaningful interactions, not just lots of comments. A lot of page owners had been trying to game the engagement algorithm by creating posts that would get a lot of comments, but the comments are mostly short and meaningless.
Eric: I agree, “great post” and such.
Mark: Exactly. And therein I think lies an important lesson for content and social media marketers. While most marketers were panicked over losing the little remaining organic reach they had, I think instead they should have been focusing on the lesson Facebook itself learned that lies behind this radical change.
Eric: And that is?
Mark: Two things.
- Most of what we call engagement is of almost no value. Someone might click a heart on Twitter or a like on Facebook just because they like the title of the post, or the image attached. We know that most people who click “Like” or even share a post didn’t click through to read it. But meaningful interactions are, well, meaningful. That is they are full of meaning, they take effort and thought. So they’re much higher value.
- Zuckerberg said they made this change because of studies, their own and several from third-party sources, that showed the more passive people are on a social newsfeed the worst their sense of well-being. Conversely, the more real conversations they have on a social feed, the happier they are. The data shows how people engage with a social network actually affects their attitude and not just while they’re on the network.
Eric: Okay, so that explains it from Facebook’s side. But you said there’s a lesson here for us beyond Facebook. What is it?
Mark: Nothing in our marketing is more important to understand that the power of human emotion and experience. The most stunning thing to me about the Facebook announcement is that this huge company was able to listen and respond to data beyond just the number of clicks and ads sold. I think it displays rare corporate wisdom to realize that creating happier users is a truly sustainable advantage.
Eric: So marketers, try to look beyond click-through and conversion rates to think about the real human beings receiving your marketing messages and brand experience. What are you doing to create an experience so positive, so truly engaging, so satisfying that real people are delighted to be your customers.
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