Last week, a Pew Research survey indicated that Americans are changing their relationship with Facebook. I did a brief write-up last week discussing why this might be happening, and what it means for brands and businesses that rely on the platform as part of their overall digital marketing strategy.
To recap, we have to keep in mind that Facebook is a product, albeit a very unique one. Facebook was truly groundbreaking, and it has largely and continually paved the way for the greater social media industry. But it is a product, and as with all products, there is an inherent life-cycle. Over time, we cannot expect that consumer perceptions of Facebook, nor our relationship with it, can remain unchanged forever.
And indeed, Facebook has in many ways lost its innocence. Negative perceptions of Facebook—and social media in general—have gradually infiltrated the formerly optimistic climate. This change has accelerated due to recent events, to the point where we may be seeing a paradigm shift.
For some people, this means outright vilification of Facebook and social media. For others, the novelty may have simply simply worn off. Countless others, however, still rely on social channels for information, entertainment, and to stay connected to friends and family.
As I mentioned last week, much of the controversy and recent backlash is rooted in issues of online privacy and ethical data usage. Did people boycott Target when millions of customers’ credit card information is leaked? How long did the enmity against Equifax last when there was a massive breach in sensitive financial data? When is the last time you checked what data your ISP and mobile provider collects and shares about you?
My point is that the issues for which Facebook has been dealt such massive criticism are not strictly confined to Facebook. They are issues associated with all aspects of our modern, digitally connected lives. But Facebook didn’t simply try to deflect these issues, as I am doing now. Facebook chose to bite the bullet, own up to its mistakes, and begin taking great strides to protect their users. The platform is moving in a direction that allows for a more customizable, secure experience.
Some of these changes came at the expense of valuable advertising features. In other words, Facebook chose to honor the value of the user experience over the ease by which businesses can advertise to them.
Another area of criticism pertains to the addictive nature of the platform, and how it may warp our perceptions of our own and others’ lives. The Facebook News Feed offers a never-ending supply of stimulation, and we all know that you can have too much of a good thing. People are waking up to this notion, and normative behaviors are adjusting as such. I feel that this aspect will balance out on its own.
I do not believe for one second that we have reached the beginning of the end to Facebook’s reign as the dominant social media platform, and as a highly viable marketing and advertising channel. However, we most certainly have arrived at a crossroads. Businesses that wish to continue utilizing Facebook for marketing and advertising (and they should) must abide by a few general principles:
Change Your Mentality on Social Media Marketing
The term “marketing” easily evokes a one-sided notion. That is the opposite of what social media marketing is all about. It’s all about the relationship. It’s about creating an inviting online community with the aim first and foremost of forging genuine connections. It’s about seeking to help and delight your audience.
Let’s be honest: Businesses have to market and advertise themselves. How else would they stay in business? No one is criticizing you for using Facebook for marketing and advertising legitimately. What’s important is that we utilize this channel in a way that honors the user experience and provides value.
What does this mean for you? We mustn’t see social media solely as a platform for self-promotion. How do you grow and entice a large audience of potential clients and customers? You make the focus about them, not you. Find ways to get involved and participate in the greater community and conversations taking place:
- Join Facebook Groups
- Actively engage with people on your Page and others’ Pages
- Be present: ask and answer questions.
- Post and publish content that stays in line with your brand story and message; the classic 80/20 rule of content marketing is a great guideline.
Leverage Quality Visual Content to Tell Your Brand’s Story
I will continue to say it until I’m blue in the face. In the current social media climate, content quality is everything. Facebook is a highly visual platform. Many of the latest and greatest features for marketers are centered around making the most of image and video assets.
People want to see your personality. They want to see that your practice is a fun, inviting place, with happy employees and a great company culture. You should be regularly sharing original images and videos from your practice that foster this notion. It can be many formats. Do you have a company event? Is it an employee’s birthday? Do you participate in local events that you can highlight?
These concepts also apply to the content you publish and share from around the web, as well the manner in which you speak to and interact with people. Make them feel welcome. Why spend tons of time telling people what you do and what your brand is all about, when you could show them?
You do want to include some informative, educational content as well. Identify the pain points of your audience and provide useful information that offers solutions. Show people that you know what they are going through, and that you care.
Be Selfless in Interactions with Anyone You Encounter
Facebook occupies a strong customer service function. In this day and age, consumers conduct a great deal of research when evaluating products and services. Your practice cannot afford to get bad reviews. The best protection against this is to provide exemplary customer service. Go above and beyond to provide the best experience both in your office and online.
If someone does leave you a bad review or writes a negative comment, you need to do anything and everything you can to make things right. Do not simply ignore it. Apologize, acknowledge the mistakes, and be sure, of course, not to disclose any sensitive personal information.
As someone that has worked extensively in customer service, the best piece of advice I can give is to check your ego at the door when dealing with upset clients and customers. Likewise, put your absolute best foot forward when interacting with anyone.
If someone writes a scathing review that either is not rooted in fact or is harassing or offensive, don’t be afraid to refute their claims. Just do it respectfully—”take the high road.” Don’t be afraid to hide overly negative comments, or even delete them if you’re able. Don’t ban anyone from your Page unless they’ve become a nuisance. This can set the wrong people off into a personal vendetta more quickly than you might imagine.
Develop a Strategy That Includes Both Organic and Paid Elements
You’ve probably heard this many times before, but Facebook has predominantly become a “pay-to-play” environment. Many brands and businesses now find it very difficult to reach the whole of their existing audience—let alone new audiences—with their posts. By taking advantage of Facebook Ads, we can overcome this dilemma.
And better yet, a combined approach incorporating organic and paid strategies leads to a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. Publishing great content and staying active and engaged on your page helps to attract new followers and retain existing clients. Boosting key posts that are already performing well organically bolsters this effect. All the while you can be running ad campaigns in the background that are aimed at accomplishing more defined key business objectives. It all feeds back into itself.
Be Ever-Ready and Willing to Adapt to Change
In the digital marketing arena, "rolling with the changes" is the name of the game. Marketers must learn to evolve their strategies and remain ever-adaptable to change. Do not let your Facebook presence become stagnant. Post regularly, stay engaged, and try to continually find new ways to show off your brand. Look for ways to experiment with new features, and test new strategies. What works today might not work tomorrow.
Facebook itself is always changing, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be a lucrative marketing channel for years to come. Facebook remains ever-determined to provide its users with a positive, beneficial experience. Marketers and advertisers that keep this at the core of their strategy will continue to find value and returns from their efforts on the platform.