Michael Stelzner, CEO and Founder of Social Media Examiner, kicked off Social Media Marketing World 2018 with a bang in the form of a keynote in which he began by instilling fear amongst the thousands of marketers in attendance. Simply put, marketers cannot go on as usual expecting to have meaningful reach and engagement unless they adapt to a new way of marketing, especially on Facebook. The good news was that Mike also offered hope by offering some strategies for marketers going forward.
Facebook Prioritizing Meaningful Interactions
On January 11, 2018, Digiday published an article on Facebook using a graphic showing Mark Zuckerberg in a nuclear cloud indicating that something major was about to happen. Also, Michael Stelzner highlighted many of the recent announcements by Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives in which they are very clearly stating that they are indeed very serious about making some major changes to the algorithm which is determining what posts show up in people's newsfeeds.
One way in which Facebook is planning to change is that they plan to prioritize what they refer to as “meaningful interactions.” This could include things such as commenting on or liking another person’s photo or status update, a person reacting to a post from a publisher that a friend has shared, multiple people replying to each others' comments on a video that they watched or an article that they read in the newsfeed, or a person sharing a link over Facebook Messenger.
Furthermore, Michael Stelzner brought up a recent interview with Facebook's head of the newsfeed Adam Mosseri who states that we can expect to see more posts that generate longer comments and since they would like to generate meaningful interactions, they will show less video in the newsfeed since that often becomes a one-way interaction unless it is live when people can comment and discuss with the person broadcasting. March Zuckerberg added in a January 31, 2018 update on Facebook that they are going to show fewer viral videos to make sure people's time is well spent and that this means that they will reduced videos shared by a full 50 million hours!
Also, you can expect less traffic to brands' Facebook Pages and the links you post to external pages will get even less visibility than they already get. Your organic posts on your Facebook Pages are already at a very low level but this can also be expected to go down further so it becomes almost pointless for a brand to post updates on their Facebook Pages unless they boost their posts with advertising dollars.
Supposedly, the updates of the algorithm will apply to all post types, from both Facebook Pages and the Facebook profiles of individuals. That is, the algorithm doesn’t care if you are a page or a profile.
Social Media Marketers Need to Focus on Smaller Audiences
A full 67% of the social media marketers that they recently surveyed stated that Facebook was their most important social network following by LinkedIn at 12%, Instagram at 10%, Twitter with 5%, and YouTube at 4%. This didn't concern Mike nearly as much as the fact that a full 63% of marketers indicated that they plan on increasing organic posts on Facebook. He bluntly stated that something has got to change for marketers as well given all the clearly stated announcements by Facebook mentioned above.
So, what are marketers to do? Is this really the end of the organic road and do we all have to pay for every engagement going forward? Clearly, Michael Stelzner brought up, the demand for Facebook ads WILL increase and moreover, the more relevant ads will get preferential treatment in terms of visibility.
One path forward that he emphasized was that even without paying for boosting posts, etc, marketers can still achieve success by focusing on smaller, but more relevant and engaged audiences and that these can be more valuable than a larger, yet less engaged one.
If storytelling was a big theme at last year's Social Media Marketing World, Michael Stelzner this year pointed out the potential for what he referred to as “episodic storytelling.” While you may not get a huge audience that wants to follow you over a series of updates, Michael shared that his own experience with sharing updates with his live video series The Journey has generated extremely positive feedback from a very excited tribe of followers.
Regardless, the advantage of episodic storytelling is that you can establish the know, like, and trust that marketers always have strived for. Also, if you do choose to advertise, Facebook enables more and more powerful ways to engage with your tribe of followers such as by being able to advertise just to those who already watched your videos to increase repeat viewership and that repeat viewership is a factor that Facebook has stated that they keep track of.
Facebook Watch to the Rescue
If a big opportunity for marketers still focusing on Facebook is to work with episodic storytelling, then they should look into the new platform for shows called Facebook Watch. Mark Zuckerberg wrote on January 31, 2018 that:
“Over the next three years, we know video will continue to grow, so our job is to build video experiences that help people connect with friends, family , and groups”
Facebook Watch is a platform for shows and where you can start building your community of passionate fans and be rewarded for the work you do. This might be complicated and take a lot of work to produce a series of videos, Michael Stelzner stated, but that is exactly why this may represent a great opportunity for you, since most of your competitors are likely not going to do anything about it!
Also, video on the go in the live format often lead to discussions amongst viewers, in fact, live videos on average get six time more interaction and given what Facebook says about rewarding interaction, this could not be a bad thing.
Go live during killer events such as Social Media Marketing World, Michael Stelzner hinted or create a weekly show in which you share tips and tricks, talk strategy, or provide a news show in your field of interest. He himself is offering a weekly live news show every Friday morning.
Go Beyond Facebook
As marketers start creating more and longer videos (or video series), a full 77% of their survey respondents indicated that they plan on increasing their use of video in the next 12 months, Michael Stelzner also suggested that they think more beyond Facebook as well. Marketers should leverage other platforms such as YouTube, etc, for further reach and engagement with their video work so it doesn't go to waste. On the same theme, but not just related to video marketing, Michael Stelzner said more should go back and revisit LinkedIn that he thinks is doing a lot of cool things now and that it is especially relevant for those with a business audience. Plus, don’t write off Twitter just yet!
He also brought up the potential for Facebook Stories as an alternative to creating content for the Facebook newsfeed. Mark Zuckerberg also stated that “we expect Stories are on track to overtake posts in feeds as the most common way people share across all social apps.” Zuckerberg also bragged about Facebook owning the two biggest platforms for the sharing of Stories, Facebook and Instagram not even mentioning that it was Snapchat that invented the format.
Another opportunity would be to create more meaningful interactions using Facebook Messenger. There are 1.3 billion people on Messenger and some of them are not even using Facebook. Some brands are developing their Messenger Bots that will interact in increasingly personalized and human ways with your audience and this is still at the early stages as only 15% of marketers report that they are currently using Messenger bots.
Chatbots basically is software that has conversations with people. Ideally, it should allow for and be able to respond to natural language queries but sometimes it can be simplified with a multiple choice type of interface. Still, the Chatbot advantage is that it can quickly answer questions right at the point-of-sale and speed support response times.
Video by Influencers
If you don't find the motivation or resources to develop your own video series, Michael Stelzner suggests that you consider hiring a social influencer that can do so on your behalf. In return, you can accelerate the growth of an engaged audience and gain access to a professional who can generate meaningful interaction in the form of dialogues.
One common theme across Michael Stelzner's excellent keynote was that we should go back to the basics of being more human and develop long-term relationships in an authentic manner. Perhaps that sounds cliché to many but those things likely never will go out of fashion and by implementing some of the tips Michael shared, I think marketers will be more successful building their communities of passionate followers and hopefully customers.