Facebook’s algorithm has been changing – and it’s all anyone who cares about social media marketing seems to be talking about!
(Well, that, and all of the major social media PR crises and data privacy issues that have seemingly dominated the news cycle.)
For marketers – and brands who rely on Facebook to reach new audiences, retarget their existing clients, and build up loyal followings – Facebook has long been king. Next to Google, it’s the largest digital marketing platform by a wide margin, soaking up more attention (and ad dollars) than just about anywhere else on the internet.
As such, many businesses who want to expand their outreach online find themselves having to play by Facebook’s rules, even when it comes to marketing on other social networks, like Twitter and Instagram. And those rules just seem to keep changing.
The Ever-Changing Facebook Algorithm
Here’s the big picture that you need to know.
In early 2018, Facebook made tweaks to its algorithm that would, ostensibly, emphasize posts from users’ friends and family, at the expense of content from businesses, marketers, and publishers.
While this made for good news in terms of fighting the scourge of “fake news” that had come to run rampant on the platform, it also marked a major reckoning point for businesses. In particular, this algorithmic update was another kick at independent marketers and businesses, whose organic reach on the platform had already been in free fall.
With this update, brands found their marketing reach capabilities slashed – and this led to a scramble to find the next big, effective strategy.
In some cases, this shift led to brands working toward diversifying their social media and digital marketing strategies (an approach that we have recommended since long before this latest feed update). For others, it has led to a new approach to social media, one focused on high-quality engagements over all other metrics.
The Importance of Engagements
Because here’s the thing: engagements are the name of the game when it comes to social marketing.
Given the erasure of the chronological timeline and this new algorithmic emphasis on timely, relevant content, the best way to ensure that your branded content gets seen is to ensure that it gets reactions – be they positive or negative.
And this isn’t just speculation. You can see examples of it at work in the wild as we speak, and there’s been a ton of great reporting on the matter (this Buzzfeed article is one insightful, hilarious example).
In a nutshell, we know that Facebook is prioritizing “active” interactions, which Hootsuite describes here:
“The new algorithm prioritizes active interactions like commenting and sharing over likes and click-throughs (passive interactions)—the idea being that actions requiring more effort on the part of the user are of higher quality and thus more meaningful.”
So, comments and shares matter more than likes. The more meaningful, active interactions you net per post, the more that Facebook’s news feed prioritizes that post for other users. At the same time, Hootsuite also points out that Facebook is looking at other ranking signals, including:
- Average time spent on content
- Time of posting
- Type of content (i.e., photo, link, status update, live video, etc.)
Now, we’ve been focusing on Facebook. But as we mentioned earlier, they’re sort of the herd leader when it comes to social media. Where they go, others follow. So, that brings us to a fundamental new rule for your social marketing playbook, across all of your chosen platforms:
In today’s social media landscape, fostering reactions and focusing on building up your active community is the best way to ensure that you extend your brand reach, and promote clickthrough from your organic social channels.
Whether you want to create brand loyalty, generate traffic, connect with users, or work on getting more visitors to your retail location, it all now starts with getting more social engagements.
(Meanwhile, we should note that paid social marketing efforts continue to work their magic, unaffected by these ongoing platform changes; you can find more about our philosophy and strategy on paid social media advertising here.)
How You Can Start Generating More Meaningful Engagements on Social Media Right Now
So, what can you do to help ensure that your brand is connecting with audiences on social media, and generating those meaningful interactions that are so vital?
1.) Emphasize Visual Content
Over the years, we have seen meaningful evidence that suggests that visual content performs better on social media. Posts that contain images or videos tend to net more engagements, including active engagements like comments and shares, than other types of posts (such as status updates). At the same time, there is also some anecdotal evidence that suggests that Facebook tends to circulate image posts more than posts containing just static text or outbound links.
2.) Run Contests and Promotions
What better way to drum up engagements than by incentivizing your audience to connect with your posts? One of the most effective strategies to foster engagements in the digital space is a method that is as old-school as marketing itself - give your audience something in return for their activity!
Fortunately, social media platforms make it incredibly easy to launch contests and promotions. There are all sorts of techniques you can try. For instance, you may run a contest that encourages users to share a post, in exchange for being entered into a drawing. You could also run a “caption contest,” and give out an award for the funniest comment or submission. At the same time, you may want to run periodic giveaways, or remind your social audience that they’ll get the best deals by following your page.
Another similar way to drive up engagements? Both Facebook and Twitter offer “poll” features that let you survey your audience. People love to give their opinions on social media - and this is a great way to garner valuable feedback, while also driving up engagements for your page!
3.) Become Part of the Conversation
One of the best things about social media is that it enables you and your brand to be, well… social! To that end, there are all sorts of ways you can connect with new audiences, and foster conversations that create engagements, and, eventually, leads - without having to consistently rely on making the “hard sell” for your brand.
For instance, Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to create and join groups, including those organized around topics (say, comedy in Chicago, or long distance running, or health insurance) and around professions. Make your brand an active part of these groups, and share meaningful content (yours and from outside sources), join in comment threads, and maybe even take part in in-person networking events. The more embedded you are in a community, the more likely you are to build trust - garnering engagements, and sales, along the way.
Another way to spread your message to new audiences, those more likely to engage with your content? Get it in front of the right people, with hashtags. While not as essential for cataloging content as they once were, hashtags are still a valuable tool for helping get your content seen on platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
4.) Engage With Outside Sources
As we suggested earlier, one easy way to generate more engagements on social media is to diversify the type of content you share - including mixing in plenty of content from outside sources.
Audiences love to see that you’re a part of a larger community, and active in a larger conversation. At the same time, seeing diverse, interesting posts from your brand suggests that you’re using social media as a fan, and not just as a brand trying to make a sales pitch.
One way to generate more engagements is to share user-generated content, including homemade videos from your fans, reviews, testimonials, fan art, and more. People love to see real human beings liking and engaging with a brand, and the more you can share this type of content, the better.
You may also wish to share or repost interesting content from other influencers in or around your industry. And a big part of finding outside content is engaging in a little bit of social listening yourself - that means monitoring hashtags, keywords, and conversations that could apply to your brand, so that you can become part of the larger conversation.
5.) Have a Personality
Finally, remember that people go to social media to share, to laugh, to connect, to talk about their day. They go for the people, for the personalities - not for marketing content designed to game an algorithm, and ultimately do little else.
So, with that said, one of the best ways to foster engagements and build your community on social media is to have a personality. Think about what makes your brand unique, and then play to those strengths. Don’t hesitate to have a strong editorial voice. Give lots of “behind the scenes” peeks at your business. Ask questions, get involved, and follow up to comments, reviews, and user posts. The more people feel like they’re connecting with a real person, the more likely they are to keep engaging with your social content - and, in the long run, your business!
Ready to Get Started?
Curious about what it takes to launch a social media marketing campaign in 2018 and beyond? Want to talk strategy, or better assess your analytics or social results? In need of fresh content to distribute on your favorite digital publishing channels? Whatever your social media marketing needs, Geek Chicago can help! Drop us a line today to keep the conversation going.