Social Media

Facebook’s Latest Changes Emphasize Interaction

Facebook is still a great opportunity for those willing to adapt their strategies

By
From the June 2013 issue of Columbus CEO

Actions speak louder than words. In the case of Facebook, they may determine whether your words are read at all.

Businesses are investing more resources in social media. In a recent Nielsen report, three-quarters of companies surveyed were engaged in social media marketing and 64 percent planned to increase their social media budgets in 2013.

While many cite return on investment measured by repeat sales, website traffic or brand lifting, new technologies are making social media success a key factor in market reach and customer acquisition.

Facebook has shifted the paradigm of search by incorporating its vast archive of data. This new feature, currently available only to beta users, is called Graph Search. While traditional search engines rank results on factors such as keyword density, incoming links and update frequency, Graph Search will suggest questions to deliver results based on your friends’ likes, comments and shares.

For example, a location-based Google search for pizza normally yields the same results for most people, with the large chains capturing the top spots. By contrast, Graph Search encourages the user to ask the question differently: What pizza places do your friends like?

A quick test of the beta version resulted in the top placement going to a small local pizza stand known for its late-night popularity. While the large chains are producing multimillion-dollar campaigns starring NFL quarterbacks, friends’ opinions now become an easy-to-access and more influential source of information.

Search results are not the only content ranked by user actions. Last summer, Facebook revised the algorithm that determines what content is delivered to a user’s newsfeed. Many business page owners complained as their content reach plummeted. Citing the enormity of data, Facebook explained that filtering content based on interest level was a necessity for an enjoyable user experience. But how does Facebook know what users are interested in reading?

The equation Facebook uses to rank content is based on three factors: the history of a user’s engagement with the author, the reception of the post by others and the time of the post. Again, action is key. To get your content viewed, you must encourage users to comment, like and share.

To complicate things further, Facebook will soon introduce a new version of the newsfeed that will allow users to browse channels based on the type and source of the content. While this should open up more content to users, business page content will appear by default in a following channel, which will be viewed less than channels with photos, videos and close friends’ status updates.

Despite these changes, with more than 150 million people visiting business pages every day, Facebook is still a great opportunity for those willing to adapt their strategies. Here are a few tips to capitalize on:

A picture is worth a thousand status updates. Multimedia posts routinely see increased engagement and thus better reach. A photo post can actually contain more text than a status update, and in the new design the photos will be much larger. Your content will also appear in the more popular photo and video channels.

Keep up with the times. Content begins to decay in relevancy after 30 minutes, so it’s important to time posts. There are competing theories on peak times, but don’t fall for these generalities. Learn more about your audience by testing the results of your posts with a real-time analytics program.

Good manners will open doors. You wouldn’t expect to make friends at a party by only talking about how great you are. Drop the marketing lingo and engage your audience in casual conversation. Ask and answer questions. Encourage feedback and suggestions. Be funny, be useful and be yourself.

Don’t blow your cover. In the new design, cover images will be displayed in the newsfeed, creating a great opportunity to display visual branding. Locations, contact information and calls to action can be included now that the rules governing cover images have been lightened.

Strategic investments can yield friends of friends. Promoting a post for as little as $100 can significantly expand your reach. The more money you can spend, the further you can cast your net on friends of friends. But to be effective, this content needs to be visual, useful and engaging.

In the end, increasing engagement with fans will broaden the reach and frequency of your Facebook marketing. By acting now, your business will be ready for the upcoming changes.

Todd Hoffman is the digital editor for Dispatch Magazines. He can be reached at (614) 461-7652 or thoffman@dispatch.com.