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Facebook - How to Lose Friends and Still Influence People.

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30.11.2012

Last Month I talked about Facebook Collections, a Pinterest-Like inspired “wish-list”, this month Facebook has revealed (and also failed to divulge) some more changes that are likely to upset brands, fans, competing platforms and even advocates for democracy, alike.

Ever since the May IPO launch and the subsequent plummeting value of shares, Facebook has been desperate to find ways to increase revenue and satisfy their investors.

This post will touch on the following changes:

  • EdgeRank & Reach
  • Threaded Comments
  • Ranked Comments
  • Upcoming Events
  • Pages Feed
  • Sound Notifications
  • Facebook Gifts
  • 1 Column Timelines

Over the last few weeks there have been a growing number of complaints and accusations against Facebook actively diminishing the reach of Pages of all sizes. I met with some Facebook representatives at an event Facebook + Government, and asked a few questions for myself.

After an informative presentation that completely omitted this issue, the floor was open for Q&A. I asked how Community Managers could reconcile the advice given, which was to “limit posts to 1per day” with the diminishing rate of posts being seen in fan’s news feeds?

Unfortunately, the Facebook rep didn’t really answer my question and neither confirmed nor denied the decrease in reach. Instead, I got the no-doubt, stock-standard script of how “Facebook is constantly evolving and committed to improving the way posts are published in news feed”.  

I was forced to hog the mic until I got some more definitive answers. After my third question, one of the Facebook reps came over, took the microphone off me and placated that they would be happy to answer any questions I had, “just email me” the rep said handing me her card.

During the break, I spoke with the reps who again, neither confirmed nor denied the change in algorithm and instead assured me that Facebook wishes to be transparent “well, to a point, after all, we don’t want to give away the secret sauce!”

I of course emailed the Facebook rep, asking…

“Has Facebook decreased organic Page reach to boost sales of Promoted Posts?”

“If not, why are so many page owners reporting such massive drops in their reach from August/September and consistently since?”


I am yet to receive a response to my email.

According to We Are Social, there have been first hand reports of Facebook telling agencies who manage large numbers of pages for clients that they were going to experience a large drop in reach and data clearly showing this drop from at least 3 independent sources – Facebook page analytics provider EdgeRank Checker, found Organic Reach reduce by a quarter and Viral Reach down by as much as 45% with a 17% drop in Fan Engagement.

A study conducted by We Are Social in conjunction with Socialbakers have used hard data to show there has been a drop in Facebook page reach since the end of August. And this drop has been ongoing for over 2 months – it’s not going away.

I would just like to point out that page posts NEVER reached 100% of fans.

It may feel like we’re all on Facebook 24/7, but the reality is we do have lives or at least jobs that pry our eyes away from the social network and prevent us from seeing every single post. Well before the accusations of diminishing reach, a 2011 ComScore study found on average, only 16% of a brand page’s fans are reached by content when posting 5 out of 7 days.

As more and more Pages are developed, liked by fans and promoted through free and paid options, brands are competing for a shrinking share of newsfeed.

Facebook’s line has never changed – they have always maintained that quality, entertaining and informative content prevails. Brands will now have to take greater responsibility in providing such content to ensure superior engagement.

How do you know what’s working?

Facebook provides generous analytics that detail your EdgeRank, defined broadly by the stickiness of content through likes, shares and comments and outlines the effectiveness of posts, which Community Managers can interpret, and continually shape and refine brand marketing strategies.

What more can brands do?

1.    TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE.
With the growing number of pages on Facebook it is important that people see content that is most relevant to them. See how Targeted Brand Posts can help you provide specific message to a specific audience.

2.    REALITY BITES – brands will have to start spending money to promote posts. While advertisers are completely in control of how much they spend for each campaign by setting a daily or lifetime budget, the larger the budget, the more people a campaign is likely to reach.

3.    LOOK FOR NEW WAYS TO ENGAGE

Facebook releases new tools for engagement all the time, keep an eye out (or visit our monthly blog) for regular updates. This month they have been trialing:

THREADED COMMENTS

Digg has long offered threaded comments and it looks as though the Facebook has finally realised the increased level of engagement that can come from such functionality.

Currently, when you comment, you can’t “tag” people that aren’t your Facebook friends. While that may be a sound spam-prevention measure, it makes conversations clunky and you can never be positive that the person you’re responding to will see your response. Threaded comments will now notify those involved in the conversation.

Why is this important for brands?

Threaded comments will help provide better customer service by being able to reply to specific comments and have users stay involved in the discussion, longer, as they will also be notified of responses and encouraged to re-engage in the conversation.

RANKED COMMENTS

At the same time Facebook has been testing a Reddit-like functionality, using “likes” to gauge a comment’s credibility and push the most engaging to the top (and the least to the bottom) of a discussion thread.

Why is this important for brands?

Ranked comments would undoubtedly boost engagement, since high-quality comments would appear at the top encouraging “likes” and more thoughtful commentary from users who want to assert themselves as thought leaders, industry experts or just the wittiest, wise-guy.

On the flip side, brands will have to empower their Community Managers to be more attentive to trolling as well as legitimate concerns expressed by their community. If someone makes a negative comment, which others actively agree with through “likes”, that comment will be pushed to the top of the discussion thread, where it is even more visible and likely to incite more negative comments.

Facebook are yet to release an ETA for threaded or ranked comment and says this new format is only being tested on Pages and not on users’ personal posts.

EVENTS

EdgeRank Checker have also reported the unveiling of Facebook’s news feed object: “Upcoming Events”, an object that appeared at the top of news feed while looking at the Top Stories.

In this particular example, Facebook looked at the users location (Chicago, IL) and compared it against the location of an event of a local Chicago band. The author is a fan of the band on Facebook, but was not previously invited or connected to the event. Facebook identified the Affinity between the user and the Page, as well as their geo proximity!

Click here to read the full article, which discusses geo proximity as a growing factor in EdgeRanking and how this is particularly exciting for brands that have a “real world” locality.

4.    GET CREATIVE – find ways to encourage your fans to adjust their settings:

a)    Demonstrate the value in keeping the default “Top Stories” setting as opposed to the “Most Recent”

b)    I have seen the following post doing the rounds:

Facebook Post

Which encourages fans to view a new feature released by Facebook this month.

PAGES FEED

This new “stand-alone” feed only contains content from Pages that users follow – not from friends and appears on the left-hand sidebar of your homepage under the Pages section, or can be accessed via facebook.com/pages/feed.

It will be interesting to see how this feature affects Brands reach further.

As a user, I am likely to forget or not have time to review the Page Feed over my News Feed and therefore render my “likes” for brands who can’t afford promoted posts - useless.

c)    Encourage Fans to not only “Show in News Feed” or “ Add to Interest Lists” but to click the “Get Notifications”

Liked: Show in News Feed


It is important that you only do this if you are confident that you are keeping your posts to a minimum and provide value every single post. Spamming your fans is the surest way to have the “unlike” you.

WHAT ELSE HAS FACEBOOK BEEN UP TO?

SOUND NOTIFICATIONS

Speaking of notifications, Facebook has been testing “Sound Notifications

It’s bad enough that we are all addicted to the push notifications on our smartphones and the little red-tabs that appear on our admin bars, calling our curiosity. Now Facebook is attempting to distract us further, making it impossible to ignore their call.

Although just in test phase, the familiar ping alert is likely to become a standard feature to keep you coming back for more. Ultimately, the longer Facebook can keep your attention, the more money it and its partners make. I only hope that Facebook make it an optional extra, not to annoy too many users (and their cubical neighbours).

FACEBOOK GIFTS

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s no wonder Facebook has started to roll out a service they began beta testing in September. Facebook Gifts are currently only available in the United States and not likely available for the rest of the world until the new year, so I will investigate this further and bring you more detailed insights in the coming weeks.

1 COLUMN TIMELINES

When Facebook forced brands to adopt the timeline format in March 2012 it caused a lot of grief to those marketers who had spent time and money customizing their pages. Now it seems like Facebook is open to refining the layout even further; adjusting the two column design, to just one.

When I spoke with the Facebook reps at Facebook+Government, they confirmed the testing of a wider, single column of posts, off-set by boxes that highlight friends and recent activities in a narrower right-hand-side column.

Personally, I like the even set of columns with juxtaposed boxes. They truly gave me a sense of time and history. However, it seems others don’t share my sense of nostalgia and complained about having to crisscross across the page. The tested style removes the central separation line and stacks posts chronologically, allowing uses to simply scroll down to read posts; a more intuitive user experience.

The tabs, profile picture and cover image remain in the same position along with the condensed timeline of dates in the top right of the page so users can jump to a particular month or year.

JOBS BOARD

Facebook has put LinkedIn on notice with the launch of their Social Jobs Partnership App. At this stage the partnerships are only limited to the United States, but it is another bold move by the social network to assert their authority in all aspects of our lives. LinkedIn is by far the largest professional social network and it seems like Facebook is keen to get a piece of the careers pie. We’ll have some more information about this app in coming weeks.

CONCLUSION

I’m sure that Dale Carnegie would be turning in his grave if he were to review how Facebook has been cannibalising the other social media platforms, picking at their “best bits” like a shark-fin poacher, who then dumps the body overboard, leaving the big fish to drown.

While Facebook continues to expand its territory encroaching on others domains, it will be interesting to see if others, retreat into niche specialities (like the new MySpace), cease to exist all together, or decide to expand their spheres of influence.

The social media juggernaut will no doubt continue to dominate but it’s important for brands to remember that Facebook, in itself, is not a social strategy. New platforms continually emerge and others revamp, each with unique user bases and opportunities for brands to refine their broader strategies.

 

Learn more about social media changes in November by clicking here.

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