Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brands: Say Goodbye to the Facebook News Feed & Hello to Your New Customer Service Hub

Businesses that have tried to market their brands on Facebook have been stymied by Facebook's evolving News Feed algorithm. In the past, Facebook showed users every post from every friend and every page that a user "Liked." But as the size of the network evolved, Facebook introduced the News Feed algorithm to collate information tailored to each user.

In the past year, especially, the News Feed algorithm has presently a distinctly tailored experience, rich with friends and family. Late in 2013, Facebook abolished the organic reach of page posts. Businesses could no longer expect a significant amount of traffic from the News Feed. Instead, Facebook asked brands to pay for exposure. Today you'll likely catch more posts from your best friends and family, but you'll miss most posts from your favorite brands.

The current News Feed may or may not appeal to you. Some users, for example, might actually prefer to see occasional updates from the likes of, say, a favorite clothing brand who is offering a sale. Even if some users are ambivalent, however, the businesses themselves likely do not find the News Feed algorithm appealing at all.

As the News Feed has evolved, Facebook has all but eliminated posts from "Liked" pages. And recently, Facebook announced that starting in the New Year, it will crack down even harder on "overly promotional" posts. Precisely what Facebook means by "overly promotional" is not clear. As Marketplace reported yesterday:

"It's a gray area, says Jim Rudden, chief marketing officer of Spredfast, a social marketing platform. Rudden tells clients they should keep posting even if the rules change, but they should make sure their posts are what people will want to see. The industry term for this is 'good content.'"

For Facebook, "good content" is the apparently the opposite of "too promotional" content. As Facebook noted in its announcement:

"According to people we surveyed, there are some consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:
  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app 
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context 
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads"
Even if you avoid these types of posts, there is no guarantee that your "good content" posts will show up on timelines. Facebook says that "pages still matter--a lot," but many brands might find this hard to believe. Frankly, with this latest move, Facebook is sure to frustrate many business owners.

So what's a business to do? We believe a Facebook page is still an essential part of a quality SEO campaign. Instead of hoping to attract attention from the News Feed, however, you might do well to view your Facebook page as a destination--much like your website. In its announcement, Facebook itself offered solid evidence for this reasoning:

"What many businesses may not realize is that Pages are an important destination for their current and potential customers. In October, for instance, nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages. Of those visits, more than 750 million happened on mobile devices. Many businesses also use Pages as a customer service channel. Businesses should think about their Page as a cornerstone of their online identity, not simply as a publishing service. The businesses that are doing this well understand the discovery and communication that happens when people come to their Page."

So good advice for your Facebook page might look like good advice for your website: offer high quality and relevant content, tailored to your unique audience. Beyond this simple advice, it might be helpful to remember the social nature of Facebook. Instead of trying to sell products on social media, try to socialize with your fans (customers).

Please read: "Facebook, Sociability, and Organic Reach."

Given the new limits on content, however, perhaps the best way to make your Facebook page a viable space is to use the page itself as your customer service hub. Do not advertise your goods, per say; advertise your  service. On your website and other social media platforms, urge customers to reach out to you on Facebook for any comments, concerns, or questions. And make sure you provide quick and truly helpful answers.

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