We've heard of Facebook removing our organic reach for small and growing businesses. A key takeaway we've already taken is the importance of your own website. Facebook cannot control your business outside of Facebook. Your website is your voice, your products, and your brand messages all the time. Your website will use your sales funnel, marketing techniques, and lead generation to improve your bottom line. Facebook going back to its roots and it has upset many people that manage social media sites. We find this as a new opportunity to not only double down on the true marketing aspects of the business but grow it. This is where Facebook started and has grown from. Businesses, such as ourselves, have overtaken and enjoyed the ride of free promotion. That time has changed and it is now time we business owners have to "pay to play". Let's take a look at the core items that are happening with this change and how the business owner can take advantage of them.
Mark Zuckerberg has stated the purpose of Facebook is for people to live enjoyable and positive lives through social interaction. That when they leave Facebook they feel positive and not have negative. He feels this will ultimately lead to a better life outside of the digital landscape. To achieve this Facebook wants you to engage more with those that are aligned with who you are as a person. We are all different and unique individuals yet we should all be able to get along.
Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted saying "If what we're here to do is help people build relationships, then we need to adjust." Facebook is a social platform first and foremost. We need to respect that he is going back to his roots and that he is committed to it.
Pay to Play
This is one of the most contentious areas of the change. As an owner for most, maybe all, your content you are going to have to pay. All other marketing efforts we do whether it be flyers, snail mail (USPS), email marketing, etc. costs money. We have been so happy about Facebook and the constant ability to access it for free. We now need to budget accordingly to get our good word out to the masses.
Ways to win within Facebook's change
In our weekly meetings, our social media team has brought to my attention of a potential shift within Facebook. That change happened on January 11, 2018, when Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the change the team had already started talking about. They stated their concerns, shared it on social media, and have even brought some ideas to me about how we can use this change to help our small business clients not only continue to grow but grow more than they did in the past. We are not a company that believes in private meetings or having trade secrets to try and one-ups another. I want to share the top ideas (not all) that have been talked about. These are:
- Video – We see businesses doubling down on video. This will not only be video content created, edited, and then shared but also the Facebook Live features. Video, like content, will need to be high-quality, have a purpose, and be engaging to your audience.
- Content – With the search engines they have learned that quality content is King. Facebook is realizing that positive, good, and great content makes people want to engage more.
- Video / Content – We are doing a combination here so as to not repeat it twice above. We started doing this months ago and we saw it then as one of the biggest game changers for our clients. It is working and it's increasing engagement organically today. You want to bring your audience deeper into your brand story. If you have a physical location tell enough of the story online and then leave the rest of the story with your staff in your store to continue it and engage your audience. This builds an engagement in the digital and real worlds. You can also tell your story but make it into an episode that keeps people coming back and wanting more.
- Engagement – Speaking of engagement you want content people will engage with. You want them to like, love, laugh, and enjoy your content. You want them to become your brand advocate. You want them to comment and to share it. Don't ask people to like, share, or comment. Your content should naturally make people want to do so.
- Post Frequency – We're all going to have to post more with the more coming with higher quality than we ever did in the past. The information needs to be relevant, answer the intent of the audience, and be something they want to see.
- Groups – Create groups that bring people in. These can be existing groups such as community groups (that allow you to) post about local businesses, products, etc. that people subscribe to.
- High-quality websites – Facebook over the past year has been devaluing links to low-quality websites. These are pages that can be disruptive, malicious, misleading, slow-loading, aren't mobile-friendly, and have poor content. Facebook is taking a page directly from Google on this one!
- Have a website! Going with the previous Facebook is looking at not only your page but your website for quality and authority. If you don't have one you are losing points in regard to Facebook's algorithm.
Speaking of the Facebook algorithm
The algorithm of Facebook is what can be considered an "expert system". This system is something that learns from what is put into it. This is not artificial intelligence or AI but a learning system. It will exhibit traits of AI as it is putting in newsfeeds information that you find interesting and engaging. This algorithm digs deep into the data (e.g. data mining) and relevant information shown to you.
The focus over the years has solely been on the search engine algorithms for us and others. We see that Facebook's algorithm is going to get a lot more scrutiny and we are all going to learn a lot more about how it works, what we are allowed to take advantage of, and what we shouldn't so that we don't get penalized.
Going back to our roots
As I stated, in the beginning, your website is important. How important? More important today than it was yesterday important! Your website you get to control. You get to decide what people see and read. You're not controlled by Facebook or any other social media outlet on what people see and equally important your competitors are not there (hopefully – unless you have paid advertising on your site).
The importance of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others has just moved up in importance in a single social media change. Search Engine Optimization or SEO will be critical. I can already hear people saying paid Google Ads or paid Bing Ads to move up in the ranks. That will give you a guaranteed boost but lock you back into the "pay to play" mantra of Facebook.
We encourage you to only do the paid ads on the search engines for specific reasons that are highly targeted and focus on the highest quality content that people are truly interested in. Take a cue from what Facebook is doing. They are stating people want information they care about, that is positive and good, that will energize you to help others, and to solve the problems they have been having.
What not to do
We are taking this straight out of our search engine optimization days that I've done for over 15 years. These are items known as "black hat" techniques. You do not want to do things that are sketchy by any stretch. You might get away with it but as people have found out with the search engines it can penalize you greatly and hurt your business. You don't want that. Follow the rules, whether you like them or not and adjust your digital marketing practices for them.
Change scares people for right or wrong. This is a change. I see it as a positive change that will make those that are experts grow and those that aren't seek those that are. More time will be spent on growing and engaging with social media. For those that embrace the change, cultivate it, and learn from it your marketing efforts will pay off more now then they would otherwise. I am thankful for this change and am excited to see what other improvements it brings.