I was struck by a recent article in Adweek titled “Facebook to Brands: No More Free Rides” by Toni McQuilken. This article raised an important question: Is it Facebook’s algorithms that are hurting advertising or is it the marketer’s inability to effectively leverage Facebook? In my opinion, the answer is both.
Facebook has been making changes to its news feed for years, but as McQuilken’s article discusses, it recently announced a change that will impact the types of posts that will be let into users’ feeds. At first glance, it seems the company is penalizing posts that are “too promotional.”
To me, Facebook’s actions make perfect sense, because they are simply trying to stay true to who they are as a company by utilizing advertising to carry out their mission “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
Facebook is a social engagement platform first, and an advertising channel second. It is our job as marketers to leverage the platform as it was intended, not to put our antiquated advertising models on top of it.
Using Facebook as an engagement platform is about bringing groups of people together around a variety of interests. When we talk about engagement we need to define it and understand what users want when they interact with brands. Forrester Research has developed what they refer to as a new scheme that places the online social behaviors of U.S. consumers into four distinct categories: Social Skippers, Social Snackers, Social Savvies, and Social Stars.
The largest portion of users are Social Skippers and they scorn social interactions with brands. The smaller group of Social Stars and Social Savvies expect and demand social interactions with brands. Looking at these behaviors can help us evaluate our potential strategy and engagement tactics.
It is difficult to create conversations and truly engage customers in a branded experience that they can relate to and is relevant in their lives. This is a notion that many marketers have struggled with in the past. In the eyes of the consumers, engaging with brands is not done through advertisements or promoted posts. They want to be engaged by brands in a way that interests them.
Here are two good examples of branded Facebook experiences that drove engagement:
Learning to ride a bike is a moment in life that will be recorded, and more importantly, shared by parents. So engaging and sharing photos about kids learning and enjoying their experience is simply asking people to do what they are naturally doing. The brand is all about teaching kids to ride bikes. They also support this with retail and events.
Fans of the page were given access to the players’ journey from amateur to professional. Why? This uses Facebook like a reality series, and engages football enthusiasts who see themselves in these young players. Brilliant!
Facebook’s advertising channels are excellent for targeting users based on a wide variety of user data. The profiling ability along with integrations with data services like Polk are very powerful tools that can be used to deliver relevant advertising.
Many marketers still think in terms of campaigns that apply reach and frequency models to social platforms. We know we shouldn’t, but we don’t always practice what we preach. Truly engaging consumers is difficult and requires a long-term approach that may not focus on conversions and ROI. The best approach is to be honest with ourselves and our clients, and tell them when social isn’t the right place to be.