Facebook and the era of the Fluffy Kitten Syndrome

FacebookHave you noticed the increase of Like-me and Share-me posts on Facebook recently?

Hate it?

You’re not alone. But there is a reason for it.

Facebook, as you know, have always had metrics, such as ‘edge rank‘, that restrict the visibility of your content to your fans. Industry research suggested that any single post would only reach approximately 16% of your fan-base, but recently Facebook have decreased that reach … reports, including my own research, suggest it is now well under half of that.

And here are the reasons:

1.  Stream management. As more individuals connect with brands the avalanche of posts mixed with personal messages is deemed overwhelming. And let’s face it, users will opt to ‘unlike’ brands over friends to manage their streams.

2. Money. Facebook need to monetise, and that means forced use of their advertising  platforms. It’s simple―use Facebook ad interfaces = increased exposure to your page … and that means money in Facebook’s pockets.

Though these reasons ‘make sense’ (and are nothing new) they are little comfort for digital marketers who have worked hard to build a fan-base only to find that they are heavily restricted from communicating with them.

Cue the fluffy kittens.

Facebook have long touted―’content that is engaging will reach the most fans’. This isn’t rocket-science, the more likes, shares and comments a posts receives drives the content (via these actions) to a larger audience: your friend likes a post and that action is delivered into your stream, for you to see also.

Many brands (including your competitors) quickly worked out that the types of posts that go ‘viral’, thus delivering the greatest reach, are cutesy images, jokes and puzzles with no-brainer copy that instructs users to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘comment’.

You may not like it, but they work; many of these posts receiving thousands and thousands of likes and shares … and therefore reach. But be warned, it’s cheap reach―high-engagement, low-value, and it can just as easily deliver the nasty side-effects of negative brand equity.

So the challenge, more than ever, is to find ways to work with these new limitations without causing long-term damage to your brand.

If you’re gonna be cheap … own it

I’m not saying ‘high engagement, low value’ posts can’t be used, but they should be used sparingly and they should always be ON BRAND. This means making it relevant to your fan-base.

Get creative and think about your audience, who are they, what do they do? Instead of being a we sell appliances so here’s-a-cute-pic-of-an-otter-now-like-me disconnected (read: brainless) post, use Likes and Shares to stir up debate and ask questions. Creating conversations that are on-brand will deliver more valuable engagement in the long-term.

Be on trend. Find a fabulous image and ask users to choose between two new or next season’s colours or styles. Get them to vote for features they’d like to see on products. Give them a laugh that resonates with your company’s user experience … and don’t use instructions that treat fans like fools.

If you’re clever your fans will be engaged, your reach will extend and you may even get some valuable market research done while you’re at it.

Generate interest externally

Use blogger outreach programs, cross promote via other channels (disclaimer: I do not advocate repeating content across your different social channels, but it’s perfectly acceptable, for example, to use Twitter to point people to a competition you are holding on Facebook etc.) and instore VM (if you have that available) to drive traffic to your Facebook page.

Word of mouth is still one of the most valuable tools in this game so take advantage of it.

And finally,

Invest time into researching the best methods for your brand’s Facebook ad-place spend

High-engagement, low-value posts if executed correctly grow organically, so may not need promoting. Save your marketing dollars for posts that are low-engagement, high value―such as sale or product messages, to maximise the reach of these important business-lead communications.

The restrictions Facebook impose on audience reach is nothing new, but it has just got a fair bit tougher (well ‘fair’ might not be quite the right word in this context Mr Zuckerberg).

It’s time to review your processes, reassess your ad-spend and challenge yourself to create the most share-worthy content you can … and by share-worthy contentI mean content that is worthy of your brand and worthy of your fans.

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