I’ll quote him directly:
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience.”
“Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness. But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
This sounds particularly exciting for Facebook users, but what does it mean for us, the brands?
OK, so what is this latest Facebook update?
Facebook has come in for criticism on the negative impact it has on its users. More importantly, governments are now talking about how to regulate content posted on social media.
So, from now on, Facebook will favour posts from your family and friends that generate a high level of engagement, i.e. trip planning questions over branded content. Having said that, social updates from brands and publishers will be pushed to the bottom, and will be less visible to Facebook users.
How will this affect brands?
Since I started my career in social media marketing, my principal objective was to connect Facebook users with the brands they really care about. That involves creating engaging posts, increasing their visibility, and creating a conversation. And it worked.
If brands are to have a say in newsfeeds, they need to provide followers with thought-provoking content that matters, and engage in the conversation. Adam Mosseri, the head of Facebook’s newsfeed, explains that the company was ready to “focus on how we can make Facebook more about interacting with people, and less about spending time”, which makes the challenge of gaining Facebook exposure harder than before.
Those brands that have been focused on generating “fake” engagement, i.e. by asking followers to tag their friends in posts, are the ones most likely to lose out from this update. Publishers need to think bigger and shift from strictly promotional updates to exclusive content that solves problems, answers questions and provokes discussion.
And that might mean more live video – proven to drive comments and generate discussion at ten times the rate of non-live videos.
There is one thing I like about the update…
We all like brands that talk to us like human beings. I’ve watched brand activity on social media for a number of years, and I’ve always been disappointed by the amount of spammy comments and fake news being promoted in feeds.
Followers are looking to connect with your brand on Facebook – but they want to see the value of it, and be given a reason WHY they should buy from you. They don’t care about funny memes – instead, they want to feel valued by the brand, and if content helps tackle day-to-day problems and generates discussion with friends and family, that’s brilliant.
The elephants in the room
It’s important to also take this update out of its current context. There are two big problems Facebook has to face up to:
- It is an ageing population – young people aren’t using it
- People are sharing less than they used to
Zuckerberg is dealing with point one by buying up anything that people under 30 use. Whatsapp & Instagram solve that problem neatly.
But point 2 is interesting, and does come from a 2016 study which showed a 21% drop in ‘original sharing’ – i.e. personal updates.
So, by bringing it back round to the original intent of bringing family and friends together – and away from the current context of brand-heavy interruptions – Facebook is trying to ‘return to its roots’ and become the big ‘conversation’ once more.
And if you’re a brand who is worried about this, then perhaps you should look at your content, and ask yourself what value does it bring to a conversation? If you just want to sell stuff – go to Adwords. If you really want to build a customer-oriented brand, welcome back to Facebook.