Say Goodbye to Promotional Posts!

It seems Facebook is cracking down on organic reach once again with its latest plan: reducing the number of promotional posts that appear in the news feeds of users, even if they Liked the Page from which these posts come. While it may seem like something I’d disagree with as a social media marketer, I’m going to have to side with Facebook this time around. But let’s get one thing straightened out: this does NOT have anything to do with Promoted Posts (which are paid for), but rather unpaid posts that Facebook as deemed “too promotional”. This is an example of what’s “too promotional”:

too promotional

According to the official Facebook newsfeed, the social network giant is targeting three types of posts:

1. Posts that only push people to buy something or install an app.
2. Posts that push people to enter a promotion, contest, or sweepstakes.
3. Posts that reuse content from ads.

At first glance this update might have marketers and social media experts quaking in their boots, but personally, I’m not worried at all. I’ve always been a proponent of quality content that is creative, unique, social, and in general, doesn’t look like it was generated by a computer and posted via an automated platform. This blog is called “Robots NOBOTS” after all! As social media marketers, we need to reach people from a social standpoint, which means we need to treat people like people, not potential wallets waiting to be emptied. Our social media accounts and Pages need to behave like human beings, not a hub for promotions, sales, and products. Treat your potential customers and fans well, and they will come flocking to your Page! Treat them exceptionally well, and they will come back with friends!

I won’t forget that Facebook killed organic reach for Pages, but this is an update I can get behind. It will reduce spam, and most importantly it will force the social media marketing industry to produce rich, engageable content. Coupled with Facebook’s promise to crack down on clickbait articles, we might actually start seeing some improvement in our News Feeds!

Adapting to Well-Informed Customers

The power of knowledge and information is no longer in the hands of companies, businesses, and products. The spread of information has grown exponentially with the advent of search engines, Wikipedia, and most importantly, customer reviews via sites like Yelp. According to SAPVoice via a Forbes article, “Customers are tracking down information via Google; looking at what other consumers have to say about products and services on Amazon and Facebook; and researching what other business buyers are saying on LinkedIn.” This means that you, as a business, are no longer in total control of your reputation, and every blunder, misstep, and snafoo you make can be broadcast to the public. And you cannot delete them. You shouldn’t even try, because we all know attempts to delete or hide information from Internet users will only lead to an exponentially opposite reaction (see the Streisand Effect). So what can you do? The landscape of business and closing a sale is forever altered, and those that fail to adapt will fall behind. Social media and customer engagement is the key.

Social media sites are where you customers congregate, socialize, and subconsciously share information that may be valuable to you. That’s how sites like Facebook advertise to their users so effectively. As a company, you have to stop thinking like a company and start connecting with people on an individual level, and that means appointing a Community Manager – someone who knows the ins and outs of social media sites, and most importantly, someone who is great at interacting with people. In other words, you need a face, a voice, and a personality to be at the forefront of where your customers and potential customers will receive their first impression of you. As a company, your priority is to make a sale, but with a great Community Manager, you can leave a positive and lasting impression that will keep a customer coming back for more. Play your cards right, and they’ll bring some friends with them. Creating a stellar personality and profile and your customers will become your advocates, and this is where you want your social media presence to land.

Customers as Advocates

Like I mentioned earlier, people’s impressions of you and your products come not from you, but from the experience of others. If you have ready, willing, an able customer advocates, you’re essentially receiving free advertisement! If you’re good to your customers, they’ll be good to you.

Customer Experience: A Delicate Process

The key to building an excellent relationship with your customers is to provide an excellent experience, both in your marketing campaigns and in customer shopping ventures. One of the biggest problems businesses face is straddling that fine line between being pushy and being absent. Here is where social media can be your balance pole.

On one hand you want to be ever-present in your customers’ experience with your site, product, or service, so you lean toward sending multiple emails and newsletters with calls to action. It reminds them of the interest they once had in you, and hopefully with enough nudging, they’d come around and convert. After all, you don’t want potential customers forgetting about you, right? However, do it too much and your customers get annoyed, and you’re likely going to lose a follower or end up in the SPAM box.

On the other hand you want to create a structured, easy-to-navigate site where you can let your customers run wild and do what they want. While users appreciate this level of freedom, they may feel disconnected from your company. They need someone to connect to, a human being that they feel will be present if needed – someone available to engage with. This is where your employees come into play, especially on the social media front. Social networking is an ever-present system in our lives, which means that your social media strategists and community managers need to be an expert in your company’s services and products in addition to being savvy on social networks. According to a Forbes article by Christine Crandell, “For employees to own the customer relationship they need to understand how they fit into the whole engagement expectation equation.  Don’t assume they will ‘figure it out’; they lack the perspective and information to do that.” In other words, if the employee cares, the customer will care, and a caring customer is more likely to convert.

When You TELL Your Story, You SELL Your Story

Every once in a while it’s nice to see a credible source confirming your ideas on marketing and social media, namely how you should approach supposed “best practices” that seem to rehash the same strategies over and over again. It makes you wonder if there has been any progress in the industry, or if the writers of these articles are just summarizing other people in a huge circle of paraphrasing that leads nowhere. In any case, I’ve always pushed for companies to use social networks in a very basic way: as a social network rather than just a marketing tool. This means your company or business needs to have a personality. It needs to have a story. Check out this TED Talk with Simon Sinek, says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The most important circle, the center of everything, is WHY you do something, and that’s where your story comes in. The “why” does not mean “to make a profit”, but rather a personal statement on what you’re trying to achieve independent of whether or not people want to buy your product. What does your company’s mission mean to you, CEO? What special significance does the product have for you, Social Marketer? Look at number two on this Forbes article titled “Increase Customer Acquisition by 400% With Storytelling“: Be a trusted person not trying to sell something. This incredibly important method of utilizing social networks for marketing purposes requires you to be a person whose personality emulates that of an expert fan of your company. You need to be as enthusiastic about your product as your most loyal customer, providing information in palatable, easy-to-understand terms, as well as an inside look at the company’s inner workings. The person you hire to fill this roll needs to be an inside source for your audience, a spy that can give them exclusive information in a seemingly secretive way, but also on a highly visible stage: social media sites. Be human. Sound human. Something as simple as a reminder any questions can be handled through private messaging or even a form on your site will create an open and welcome environment for your target audience. Once you find a healthy balance between human activities and company marketing, you’re going to reach people in a more meaningful way.

Are Businesses the Bane of Social Networks?

The support of big corporations means big money for any site, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but does business involvement ruin the social experience for everyone? I think so. If you introduce money and profit into social networking, then the entire package becomes a business. The social network needs revenue to pay for ever-expanding server and maintenance costs, and businesses want to advertise to as many people as possible; what better way to do so that with social media? It’s where people focus their attention, not only during downtime, but also during work, on lunch breaks, and any time a free moment presents itself. We are a connected generation, and for that reason alone we are being sold to the highest bidder, often from right under our noses. Most people don’t even realize it?

So what about you is being sold? Information, of course. Every time you visit a site, click a link, click into and out of a social network, or read an article, data about you is being collected using tracking cookies. Your behavior, your likes and dislikes, the activities and interactions between you and your family – all of this is being monitored, quantified, and studied in order for corporations to advertise to you more effectively. Why are clickbait articles so rampant? Because people on social networks are clicking on them. Each site featuring these clickbait articles and lists knows exactly where you came from, who shared the referral link, how long you spent on their site, and how often you click on similar articles. They then pay Facebook advertising money to shove more of the same articles into your newsfeed. Don’t you ever wonder why ads seem to only feature things you’ve looked at or are interested in? It’s because you’re being watched.

When a social network cares more about the money it makes and less about the communities it fosters and the connections its users make with each other, it starts to show over time. Facebook’s Pages now longer have the organic (unpaid) reach it used to, because, according the Facebook admins, they want reduce SPAM. The people most affected by this: small companies, start-ups, and people who want to get a leg up in a vast community that used to be a treasure trove of potential followers. You can access the people you want to follow your Page…you just have to pay to make it happen. So no, Facebook, it’s not about reducing SPAM. You’re a multi-billion dollar company. You can find a way to fix this problem without hamstringing everyone who can’t afford to pay.