Facebook should be worried.

Why did you sign-up for Facebook? I’ll wager it’s a question you didn’t really think about until the past few months. Maybe it crossed your mind earlier in which case- bully for you- but as I’ve written about elsewhere, the insidiousness of Facebook is how seamlessly it fits into our offline social interactions and network. I remember the first time a family member said that they didn’t want me to post photos of my niece and nephew on Facebook- I was a bit uptight about it. What a strange emotional response- right? But that was probably at the height of my platform usage. I was in grad school and fairly isolated from much of my family and friends. Facebook was my window and so I was upset that I couldn’t share those images with my network. It felt like I was being told I couldn’t pull out old-school wallet photos of them.

But therein lies the absolute critical differentiation. Wallet-photos are mine. Facebook images aren’t. Rather in exchange for our ability to share, we allow Facebook to peer over our shoulders, scoop up our meta-data and conduct dubious studies on our emotions by manipulating the types of stories and content we’re served. Looking back, I blush thinking about that. How absolutely right my family members were to keep their kids off of the network. And how invested I had become in a one-size-fits all solution, like Facebook, to take care of the work of maintaining relationships.

Let me be clear. I knew that Facebook was collecting data and I probably knew a more than you did because this is the space I work in. I definitely shut my eyes to the possibility for abuse- I think many of us did.

But what worries me is that every sign points to Facebook and the other networks looking at this current uproar as a PR issue versus a fundamental societal awakening to the need for privacy. The former is something that Zuck with his creepily boyish charm can bat away while the latter would indicate a core shift in user behavior. If anyone at Facebook is currently connecting the dots, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer should send chills down their spine. Between 2017 and 2018, Edelman documented a profound loss of trust in our institutions, observing the deepest decline ever measured.

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Dig a little deeper and the problems for social networks such as Facebook come into even sharper relief:

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Trust is the foundation of our relationship with our environment and each other. Every day we go through life obeying certain societal norms because we trust that others in our society will as well. As anyone who has been in a family feud knows, once that trust is broken it’s incredibly difficult to rebuild. Distrust rots the core of any unit. It’s for this reason that Authoritarian regimes go out of their way to strip away public trust. Most famously, the Stasi used networks of informants and blackmail to the point that no one could trust each other (Read Timothy Garton Ash’s The File). My point is that trust is far easier to break than it is to restore. And once trust is broken you suddenly find yourself questioning everything you know, all decisions you make. You find yourself altering your behavior and, most notably, vowing to never make that mistake again.

That’s why Facebook and others should be worried. Altered user behavior. A death-knell for platforms that measure success by MAUs.

Facebook is not your Friend

Here’s a scenario- stop me when it sounds familiar. An employee sets up a business Instagram handle then they leave without giving you the email or password information. A year later you decide that maybe you want to give Instagram a go after all and want to retrieve that account. Yep. There’s no way to do that. Go to the platform and you’ll eventually land on this “helpful” article advising you to  contact your ISP. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are little better. Run afoul of them and you quickly find yourself in an automated no-mans land.

“How can they get away with this?” I’ve heard business owners exclaim in frustration when for the umpteenth time I try to explain that I can’t retrieve their original account. “I’m a customer!” But that’s the thing- you’re not a customer in the eyes of social media networks. They don’t have to make you happy because you hold very little power when it comes to their unique bottomline. Successful platforms balance user acquisition with the onus of monetization expected by their investors. To put it into context: Facebook just hit 2 Billion users, Instagram is at 700 Million. You.Don’t.Matter.

This is a harsh reality particularly given just how much of our marketing is invested around these platforms. In the first few years of social media marketing brands operated in the wonderful world of FREE. The idea of brands as humans was absolutely the case. Brand posts and pages were treated just the same as any other post. Remember the “Like Our Facebook Page and Win a Free iPad” contests of 2010 and 2011? That all came crashing down in 2012 when Page managers found out that on average only 16% of their audience was seeing a post. In 2014, Oglivy posted “Facebook Zero” finding that for pages with over 500,000 likes, organic reach was only at 2%Organic reach took another hit in 2016, when Facebook said publicly that the algorithm would prioritize friends and family posts first for organic reach. 

Of course this has all been a boon to paid social practitioners who are reaping the reward of operating in a space of murky attribution reporting where brands are desperate to continue their pre-algorithm reach. But for small to medium businesses paid social remains a slippery slope. Let’s be honest, a business owner who is still coming to grips with the value of social media is not suddenly going to open the purse strings for a paid social campaign.

Facebook’s success with the algorithm combined with total content overload led Instagram, Twitter and now LinkedIn to adopt increasingly stringent algorithms aimed at getting brands to pony up to participate.

If you want to market on social there’s one mantra that needs to be your guiding principle: Social media platforms are not your friends particularly if you’re a brand. At every step you should expect to be foiled and penalized.

The losers in this will always be the small business owner for whom an ad-buy is too pricey and yet by being categorized as a “brand” they suffer algorithm penalties. Yes you should have a paid strategy, but a small business social strategy must be agile and look to milk every opportunity for getting an organic ROI.

 

 

 

Facebook & Friendship: It’s Complicated

I talk a lot about the positive aspects that social media brings to our relationships. It allows us to explore facets of our social network in ways that were hitherto unlikely. My generation feels less need for traditional high school reunions in part because there’s no need to re-union. We’re already in touch with our old friends-the question “so what have you been up to” has little bearing. Yes Boomers, here’s where you can lament the old ways but I know for a fact that you were the reason classmates.com is still around and that many of you are now on Facebook chatting with old classmates!  As I’ve written elsewhere, Facebook more than any of the big 4 platforms mimics our offline social network the most and as such is where we maintain and are able to grow our offline relationships.

But there’s another side to all of this. Just as much as Facebook amplifies the positive of our offline relationships and can facilitate growth, it has also brought a way to completely end a relationship once and for all in a very clear and public way through unfriending. I’ve been racking my mind for a pre-Facebook offline equivalent. The closest I can come up with for adult relationships is removing someone from your address book or more recently deleting someone from your phone. But even that’s not really analogous because the other person doesn’t know that you did that and other people have no way of finding out unless you tell them. What it really reminds me of is a playground pronouncement of “You’re not my friend anymore”. But once again given the fluidity of relationships at that age even that’s not really a great example. A shared fruit roll-up tended to repair all wrongs.

The bottomline is that all of these actions were private. For the other person to know you’d have to have a very uncomfortable conversation making it clear that they were no longer a part of your life. There’s a reason that this tends to only occur within families (estrangement) and of course significant others (the breakup). The discomfort and awkwardness of that conversation with a friend is a high price to pay. It would take a massive occurrence for an adult to have that conversation. Consequently we tend to get colder in our relationships- perhaps a bit more formal. But the key is that that has always left an opportunity to renew friendship because ultimately no “you’re not my friend, get out of my life” had actually been said.

Facebook has changed this. Now with the simple click of a button we can signal that we no longer want someone in our lives. There’s no cost to us. Facebook doesn’t even send a notification so the only way someone might notice is if they come across your profile (or of course if they use an app to check which, let’s be honest, is a bit excessive). In fact the actual cost occurs if you did it in the heat of a moment because then you have to request to be added a friend once more which triggers the “why did you unfriend me?” awkward conversation.

I guess my message through this post is to think twice and even thrice (yes it’s fun to use that word!) before unfriending someone. Right now Facebook is full of heated and opinionated posts. It’s scary time around the world and everyone reacts in different ways. But there are several steps you can take to distance yourself from someone before taking that final act.

  1. Unfollow them. This means that their posts won’t appear on your feed. They have no way of knowing this- no harm no foul.
  2. Break your friends up into various lists that you use to filter post visibility. Are you tired of having a few of them get super opinionated and confrontational on your wall? Then limit their ability to see certain posts on your wall. It’s the same as the decision we all make not to discuss politics or religion with many of our friends and family.
  3. Add them to your restricted list. This is a bit of a bigger step but still not at the unfriending level. It makes your feed appear as if you don’t post very often. But, once again, they don’t get notified and you can always remove them. It’s similar to acting colder to someone offline. Yes it can be passive aggressive BUT the opportunity is still there to keep the friendship alive.

Check out Facebook’s tutorial on how to create and manage lists here.

Above all I urge you to stop and take a deep breath before deciding to unfriend anyone. Recognize that by doing that you are sending a very powerful signal that will require a major conversation to undo. Friendships matter. They are so very valuable and most of the time Facebook can bring out the best in them. So don’t let it bring out the worst.

Our Shared Rainbow Moment

Only a few days in my life can compare to the feelings of pure joy and solidarity that I felt on June 26, 2015. It’s one of those markers that I believe is going to go down in history as collective memory- a “what were you doing when you heard” moment in time that we share with each other in years to come. Events such as those make us want to come together as humans- introverts and extraverts alike- to be with each other. Sharing those moments with others is a major part of the experience and we see spontaneous congregation in city centers to be with each other. Everyone wants to be a part of it.

On June 26th we saw the way that Facebook and Twitter in particular have become virtual city centers. Within minutes of the announcement profile photos across the social space were redone in various shades of rainbow. Tons of Brands joined in with, in my opinion, no real visible marketing strategy, rather they seemed to be motivated feeling that they should be a part of this momentous occasion. (A H2H moment!) And while Facebook didn’t change their logo they launched the “Celebrate Pride Tool” to create a rainbow filter of your profile picture. By the end of the day my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of rainbows. A visual testament to our unity at a momentous time in history.

What does this mean? Probably not much in the long run. A bitter election campaign is right around the corner. Our profiles and feeds will be full of various opinions and divisions. Statistically unfollowing and de friending WILL occur. But let’s remember this moment. The field of rainbows- each an individual decision to create. Each representing a moment when we made a very human decision- to stand up and be counted and unite our voices together in celebration of equality.

Yes I’m waxing eloquent and no I don’t care. Blame it on the rainbow.

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Here’s Why Your Facebook Strategy Is Obsolete

Facebook’s goal is to make it impossible for brands to not include paid posts in their content strategy. That’s not breaking news. You would have had to be living under a rock not to notice this trend with their two algorithm updates last year. Many strategists, including myself, have written posts on how to update strategy to combat this. In general the advice has been to increase the number of posts as well as the confusing debate over whether it’s better to post photo memes or links to photos. The overall message is to keep doing what you’ve been doing as long as you incorporate several additional tips and tricks.

No more.

According to a report released this week by Simply Measured, the top 10 Brands on Facebook are seeing their total monthly engagement fall by 40% since last year despite increasing their posts by 20.1% during the same period. This image taken from the SimplyMeasured report says it all:

credit: SimplyMeasured
credit: simplymeasured

Let’s think about what this means.

Accordingly to SimplyMeasured, these top 10 brands have a collective audience of almost 358 million. The list includes some of the social media superstar brands:

  • Disney
  • MTV*
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Starbucks
  • Harley-Davidson*
  • Intel
  • BMW
  • Ferrari
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Audi USA

All of these brands have dedicated social media teams and spend millions of dollars in campaigns.

Moreover, all have received accolades at various times for their work in social media. In March of this year, Mercedes-Benz received the AM 2014 award for Best Social Media Campaign. Starbucks and Disney are consistently touted as cutting edge in social media adoption and Intel, as always, leads the way on employee advocacy via social. MTV and Harley-Davidson are outliers in these results as their level of engagement increased over the past year. Although when the report focused on per-post engagement MTV joined the rest of the brands with a significant drop (38.05%) For such  social media juggernaut that’s a huge number.

The fact that the results are so uniform (with the exception of Harley-Davidson) tells us that this is more than a blip. Something on the foundational level has shifted and we need to call every one of our assumptions about Facebook Strategy into question.

In many ways this shouldn’t be too surprising. Facebook strategy has always been simpler to craft than Twitter and it’s been around far longer than Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine. So a lot of the discussion out there centers on best practices such as when to post rather than an underlying discussion of the nature of the social network. The focus has been on content rather than interaction. The prettier the better. That’s one reason 4 of the 10 brands are automotive companies.

But thanks to the algorithm changes no matter how pretty your content brand page reach for unprompted posts is now often under 3% according to a report last December by Ignite Social Media Agency.

It’s time for a reboot. We need to start thinking about Facebook in terms of a social network as opposed to a broadcasting platform.

Facebook was built around individual interaction and as much as they punish brands for posting content, when an individual posts or shares a page’s content the game changes. According to a Stanford Study published last year, on average 35% of your Facebook Friends see your posts. Of course debate immediately ensued over these results and I have no desire to open it here. Simply consider this- the number of people who see posts when they come from an individual is dramatically higher than when a Brand’s Page posts it.

There are additional benefits to tapping into the social network side of Facebook. A recent report from Kentico found that “69% of the consumers surveyed say a company’s educational information is more credible when discovered through a friend or family member”. So by building relationships with customers and encouraging them to share content from your Facebook Page a brand not only gains exponential increase in reach, it also knows that that content has a higher degree of credibility.

Bottomline: The changes to Facebook’s algorithm necessitates a fundamental reboot of Brand Page Strategy. As strategists we must move strategy away from using Pages to broadcast content and instead use them to build relationships with the audience, encouraging them to share and interact with the content.

How to Craft A Facebook Strategy that Works

Building a social strategy for Facebook is getting more and more difficult thanks to their “quality control” features. Ignite Social Media estimates that with the latest rollout of changes on average 3% of your fan base will see unprompted posts. That’s it. To make it worse, there’s little information as to how that 3% is decided. Of course you can pay to promote posts which is some companies are now saying is essential to do. I was at the Brand Innovators Social Summit this past February at which Addie Connor, Chief Innovation Officer at SocialCode gave a keynote. Her basic point was that there is no reason to have a Facebook Page if you aren’t promoting your posts.

Really? I’m not so sure. A key with all social media platforms is to start with understanding how your target customer interacts with them. Where do they go? How do they get their information? What makes them “like” or “share” a post? We’ve become so obsessed with getting “likes” on Facebook Pages that we’ve forgotten the central mechanism behind Facebook use. An underlying assumption behind this doom and gloom view of Facebook Page posts is that people consume Facebook primarily through their home feed. It’s true that Facebook is pushing this model as much as possible. But the fact of the matter is that Facebook is not Twitter. It’s about community. For this reason no matter how much Zuckerberg & co. attempt to modify it, the reason we use Facebook will never be the same as the reason we use Twitter.

For Twitter it would be absolutely disastrous if only 3% of your followers saw your posts. This is because on Twitter our chief way of consuming posts is through our timelines as opposed to visiting an individual’s Twitter page. We might do targeted listening via hashtags but as long as you know which hashtag to include to reach your targeted community that’s easily included in a social strategy.

Contrast this with how you approach Facebook. In particular think of how you see Page posts. Page posts hardly ever pop up on my home feed. And to be honest when they do I tend to ignore them. My reason for consuming Facebook is to keep in touch with my friends and family. I want to see what they post and share. So when they share something from a Facebook Page THAT’S when I pay attention.

See the difference? This is a different metric at play. Now of course there is also a percentage used to calculate whether I’ll see my friend’s post share on my home feed assuming I’m not tagged or they don’t share it to my wall. But that’s something that we can work with as social strategists. We know how to harness influencers and advocates. We know how to organize communities and create content that gets shared.

1. Harness Power Users
Facebook revolves around the social network. Pew and others have identified the prevalence of “power users” on Facebook who make up the vast majority of content that gets shared. These are the people who you want to engage on your Facebook Page. You want them to share your content with their friends. You want your page to be the one that they check out for the latest on “x”. A great way to get them to return to your page is to engage them in conversation. Did they make a humorous comment on a post? Respond in kind.

2. Mobilize internal Influencers
We do this on Twitter and LinkedIn but not Facebook. Who are the thought-leaders in your organization? Get them to interact with your Facebook Posts. You might even think of sending you an email to alert your thought-leaders to an interesting thread on the Page that they should enter into. Encourage them to share your content.

3. Engage with like-minded Pages
Every Page is looking for engagement. So set up a mutually beneficial relationship. If a Page has an audience that you would like to reach or that is similar to yours getting them to share a link to your Page is a great way to increase your content views. Facebook is a concrete social network. The power of sharing means that your post can very easily go viral and THAT is the way that Facebook Pages become useful.

Here’s a practical example: Craft-beers have very loyal followings and some have done a great job building a social media presence but they are always looking to get converts. Pubs and bars have a community presence but are always looking to get more customers in, particularly on weekdays. They also tend to have a weaker social media presence. But by supporting each other through their Facebook Pages each can exponentially increase their fan base. Also, going a step further, there is a high probability that at the intersection between the Craft Beer Community and Pub Community you’ll find some strong advocates.

Bottom-line? 

Changes to the Facebook algorithm do not herald the end of brand presence on Facebook. Rather they signal the need (which has been long in the making) of moving away from a broadcast model to a social network model of social marketing. Pulling out of Facebook is the absolute LAST thing brands should do. Rather, they should renew their focus on their Facebook campaign via the creation of a targeted social strategy.

Why Facebook Is Losing Millennials

On December 27th, the Guardian proclaimed Facebook to be dead, citing a growing perception among teens that it’s for their parents and therefore not a place they want to be. This came out just in time for the end of the year survey articles of 2013 and 2014 forecasts and therefore got huge play. More recently, TIME magazine published a study saying that between 2015 and 2017 Facebook will lose 80% of its users.

A lot of attention has been giving to this emergent trend that Facebook is “uncool”. Indeed Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook doesn’t care about being cool anymore. Well, bully for him. The fact, however, is that it really was never about the cool factor for millennials. Rather it was all about keeping in touch with your offline community. It filled a need for us and that’s why Zuckerberg actually created it.

At college your social experience is suddenly much different. Instead of a thousand students (max) in your year like you had a high school you have several thousand all with different majors and courses. And even if you go to a smaller college you will still have to deal with your social circle being flung to the far corners of the country. I was at one of the first Universities to be let into the network in fall 2004 and I remember impatiently waiting for other Universities to be let in so that I could connect to my friends back home. When community colleges were included that was super awesome. We could actually KIT in realtime!

When the network expanded to allow parents to join once again I was at the right time to embrace that. I live across the country from my family and it proved and still proves to be a great way to keep in touch. Of course it did lead to the creation of protected photo albums the last thing you want is your grandma seeing that outfit you wore last Friday night!  But the point is that I matured into the point at which I wanted to get in touch with them. Facebook grew as 20-something grew. We have driven the growth of Facebook. For that reason it’s us rather than teens that stockholders should be worried about. We spend the most money, and are the most socially savvy. BUT, there’s been an ongoing trend according to Pew of us “taking a break” from Facebook and for us this has nothing to do with Facebook being “not cool”. The first wave of anger over Facebook and user drop off occurred when they started screwing with their Terms of Service and Privacy Settings in 2009. That was the first time that I ever contemplated deleting my account. And I know I was not alone.

As millennials, we care about the brand as a whole. We care about transparency and honesty. We like companies that are lovable. Yet Zuckerberg’s Facebook is increasingly the antithesis of millennial values.  Facebook seems to now go out of its way to show that it really couldn’t care less about its users. And thanks to that attitude, I can safely say that as a twenty-something, I feel no loyalty to Facebook. Rather it is the network that I’m stuck with and believe me as soon as I can get away I will. That should be a sentiment far more troubling than any “cool” problem because, as a recent study predicts, each departure has a cascading effect, weakening the network.

What do you think about Facebook and Millennials? Tweet me @suzimcc with your thoughts!