You’ve Been Doing Social Media Engagement Wrong
Ugh. How did we get here?
When news broke 2 weeks ago of Facebook’s plans to tighten its grip on content policing by demoting public content, it was met with mixed reactions. I watched publishers, brand managers and marketers go through the 5 stages of grief.
As you read this; there’s someone somewhere tweaking content and marketing plans, Publishers are re-evaluating their content/social media strategy for the year, all in response to this update. The frenzy will go on for a while, then slowly ebb into business-as-usual until the next update.
Your idea of control is an illusion
Pre-Internet era, it was simple to identify a follower base. e.g. Jesus had 12 disciples who followed him everywhere.
With the internet came abundance; of content, of celebrities, of brand reach, of everything.
And with the abundance of everything came high intrusion from brands, drop in consumer loyalty and an increasing lack of trust.
For social media platforms like Facebook (Instagram, Twitter etc) also came a constant shift in control between the owners and end-users, but rarely (if ever) in the hands of brands, publishers, and marketers.
Facebook’s update, to me, is once again a reminder that the goal post will keep moving.
Remember when brands competed to be the most popular page in their category on Facebook?
This trend was largely influenced by the idea that having X fans on Facebook meant they will all be yours to own, to influence, to convert.
We likened the community on these platforms to our email subscribers with the assurance of message delivery. Of course, like emails, we didn’t expect that everyone will be tuned in at every point to see our posts but we were confident of a significant size.
Then came the realization that a dismal fraction of your community actually see your posts, and with that came the need to promote posts to reach more of your audience.
Fear of the Facebook Blackhole
Now, Facebook wants you to give people reasons to talk to themselves or [you] vanish into thin air. Whether or not, this is a strategy to make brands spend more money is still unclear to me but I won’t rule out the possibility.
So what should be our next line of action? How do you situate your brand at the heart of conversations between friends on Facebook and what wiggle room do you have to build engagement with your audience, knowing how not to use Facebook?
To brands and (small) media publishers, Facebook’s update means the start of another rat race; after spending all that time, resources and money to build a an audience base — no matter the size — nobody wants to go poof! Best to be optimistic and keep playing by the rules if you want to come anywhere close to “owning” that audience.
This change on Facebook (and Instagram by extension) is a major hit on brands and publishers, one that we need to explain away or figure how to navigate.
A major challenge for marketing professionals is figuring how to help their brands evolve with the tech modifications across these platforms. We get carried away with learning how to bid, how to increase search and newsfeed ranking, how to buy, how to post, when to post, where to post; tinkering on every feature to get what works, so much, we forget it’s much more about the audience.
While it can be argued that we are indirectly evolving with our audience since the tech itself evolves around user behaviour, it’s not always the case. Platforms increasingly tilt towards building a sustainable business as they grow, because more growth means more revenue generating opportunities. It’s a loop. They have their eyes on growing their user base but definitely want to dig deeper into your pocket.
Otherwise, your damn good content should be reaching a larger percentage of your audience.
How do we fix this?
Perhaps, a timeless approach would be to:
- Move away from understanding algorithms to understanding people. It’s for brands to truly explore the social in social media.To understand how people think, how they want to be talked to, the social constructs that determine their behaviour offline and online, and what makes them talk to each other online. To ask, how can my content make people talk to themselves in the most engaging way possible?
- Think of your social media pages as platforms, not channels. Imagine for a second that people wake up to your page like they wake up to social media or to their friends snaps. Imagine that they go out of their way to see your latest posts for the fear of missing out. Imagine that they look forward to seeing comments from their online friends on your page. That’s where your brand needs to be and that can only happen when you don’t run the page like it’s just another marketing channel.
My favorite reference is the Linda Ikeji Blog. Besides having a first mover advantage, she created super sticky content for an audience. Whether by strategy or accident, she built a habit around her platform where people woke up to LIB.
Engagement is a lot about the content we create and how it makes people feel, and the habits we build for our audience around our content.
What would you need to get right to have people wake up to your page?