Ann I. Nygren

Avoiding Facebook’s Zuckerpunch

From its humble beginnings in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook has grown into a behemoth whose monthly active users total one quarter of the planet’s population. In today’s fractured media landscape, it’s a no-brainer for companies looking to engage with customers. That is, until last year’s “fake news” kerfuffle led Team Zuckerberg to tweak their News Feed algorithm in a way that favors friends and family – and buries businesses. Or, more precisely, businesses without a plan.

Facebook is a critical tool for businesses that rely on social media to grow their customer base in an engaging, highly personable way (yes, that’s pretty much everyone reading this column). It’s an easy-to-use platform with incomparable traffic – an ideal channel resorts and casinos can leverage to promote their properties and events.

For its part, Facebook has always cultivated partnerships with businesses and content publishers as a means of growing its News Feed –the column you scroll through when opening the site – beyond the sharing of vacation selfies and crazy cat videos. Over the years, content grew. Audiences grew. And advertising dollars followed – to the tune of $39.94 billion last year.

However, the breakaway success of this strategy has had some unintended consequences. Facebook has transformed into a destination where users are now more inclined to passively scroll. And scroll. Consuming more and more fake news and hate speech say critics, who also accuse Facebook of getting billions of people addicted to screens and trying to market emotionally vulnerable teens to advertisers. High-tech bigwigs like Apple CEO Tim Cook are turning their nose up at the overuse of technology. Cook says he doesn’t want his nephew on social media at all.

All of which has led Mark Zuckerberg to hit the reset button. Contending that “passively reading articles or watching videos” is bad for humans, he’s refocusing Facebook’s mission to not simply connect people, but connect people in “more meaningful” ways. As a result, the Facebook News Feed is undergoing a fundamental shift that favors social interactions above helping you find “relevant content.”

Instead of prioritizing posts based on comments and shares, Facebook is now pushing content to the top of your News Feed that its algorithms predict will spark more back-and-forth discussion. Say goodbye to the litany of news and brand posts you passively peruse, and say hello to more updates from your friends, family and groups. A good move for humans. Not so much for brands and publishers.

Back to The Future

As Facebook pivots back to its core mission of not just connecting people, but connecting people in more relevant and meaningful ways, companies will need to up their game and find ways to actively engage users. The days of organic reach are coming to an end, but there are still plenty of things you can do to maintain and grow your business’s marketing presence on Facebook in a post-News Feed era. Here are some tips for building your brand’s presence in the new Facebook Order.

Get Granular with Your Fans

Marketers need to dig into the data on exactly who their fans are and what appeals to them most to ensure your brand’s Facebook content is relevant to them. Marketing 101 stuff, I know – but how many of you are actually doing the deep dive homework?

Create Hyper-Engaging Posts

Content that sparks positive one-to-many discussions among Facebook users will be algorithmically rewarded with prized organic placements in people’s News Feeds. Engagement bait (e.g.Click Like if you agree) will fall by the wayside. As it should.

People interested in seeing your company’s content front and center can still do so by adjusting their “See First in News Feed” setting to include your page. Creating compelling messages is a good way to convince your followers to actively choose to see your posts.

Video A Go-Go

It’s no secret that video is the most shared and commented-upon content on the web. So it stands to reason that video will be given priority over text posts by Mr. Al Gorithm. Keep in mind that Facebook says it wants people to spend less time passively viewing content –including videos – and consider this: Facebook Live videos are totaling six times the interactions of non-Live videos.

Facebook has lauded the lively discussions that frequently accompany live video streams. So they’ve pretty much telegraphed the fact that Facebook Live posts will be ranked favorably in News Feeds. The company has also been experimenting with a product called Watch Party, which lets groups watch non-live videos together. Social media is all about the “social” now.

Creating live videos or events that lead to discussion and offer real value to prospects and enthusiasts is one of the best bets for maintaining some semblance of organic reach.

Something else to keep an eye on –Facebook “launched” its Watch tab in August of last year, billing the platform as a place for users to watch professional-grade video content from outlets like millennial-focused news and entertainment creators. It’s expected to expand Watch to include content from individuals, brands and influencers – a move that would bring it up to par with YouTube, which lets individual creators upload original content to their YouTube channels. Stay tuned.

Use Groups More Often

Facebook is making a concerted effort to build out groups. Again, with the emphasis on SOCIAL media. The more granularity you can use in talking to various tribes in your marketing channels, the more success you’re likely to have in sparking the kind of interactions Facebook’s looking for.

Optimize Ads for Non-Feed Placements

Reducing the number of posts from businesses in the News Feed will inevitably increase the demand (and cost) for News Feed ads. Fortunately, between desktop, mobile, Instagram and the Facebook Audience Network (which lets you extend ad campaigns beyond Facebook using the same targeting data), there are a lot of alternative ad placement options.

Placement options you might consider include groups, the right column beside the News Feed, instant articles, in-stream video, Instagram feeds and stories, sponsored messages and the aforementioned audience network.

Even before the Great News Feed Tweak of 2018, paid advertising on Facebook was the surest way to grab eyeballs and get noticed. According senior ad buyers surveyed by financial services firm Cowen and Company in December 2017, Facebook is regarded as having the second-highest ROI, trailing only Google search.

Of course, knowing where to advertise on Facebook is barely half the battle. It’s the how that still makes or breaks your marketing effort. Follow the ZuckMeister’s lead – your best bet is to engage!

Op/ed column submitted by Ann Nygren, President of Key Consulting Software. KCS is an IT consulting company focused on gaming and hospitality applications ranging from Agilysys (LMS/Stratton Warren/Infogenesis), Infinium (AM, AR, FA, GL, GT, HR, IR, PA, PL, PY, TR), Bally’s (CMS, CMP, ACSC & SDS), and interfaces with Aristocrat, IGT and Micros to Transitioning properties during purchase, sales, or merging of properties. KCS provides IT Departments with assistance in installation & upgrades, customization, interfacing and creation of unique client-specific software. Ann can be reached at ann@kcsoft.com.