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How to Really Connect with Your Facebook & Twitter Audience

Connecting on SoMeAs social media has grown and evolved, the reasons people use it vary. In the past, many users would keep their Facebook accounts more personal and reserve LinkedIn for strictly business. Though some still try to stick by these rules, the lines have gotten blurred. I often hear people say they would like to delete their personal Facebook accounts but can’t because their attached to their business’s page or because that’s how they keep up with their family. What’s more, people seem to be going back to the idea of wanting a more private network such as Instagram. What do you prefer?

It’s actually a bit of a catch 22. We marketers wanted social media to grow. We wanted to draw consumers in and convince businesses that they should adopt marketing through their social channels. Yet, as this has happened, each network has become much more saturated making marketing much harder.

News & Social Media                                  

In a new study from the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation called “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook,” 63 percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they viewed both Twitter and Facebook primarily for news. Understandably, Twitter is considered the best channel for breaking news with just 31 percent going to Facebook for news to break.

Pew & Twitter and Facebook's Impact on News

Other interesting findings from this study include:

  • The rise in the share of social media users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.
  • When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations.

Marketing Impact

Does this information matter to marketers? Yes! Marketers need to know the reasons their audience goes to each social channel. Now, most small-to-medium-sized businesses do not always relate to hard news, but since statistics show a large portion looking for news, marketers need to tailor their content accordingly. Here’s how:

1. Avoid Fluff Content

Audiences everywhere have gotten smarter, but this is especially true for social media audiences. No one has time for fluffy, salesy content. It doesn’t make people want to follow your page or buy your products or services. Instead, it turns people off.

2. Be Authentic

If people have their eyes opened for news, they don’t want to play games. This doesn’t mean that humor can’t be incorporated, but it does mean that every business should have a clear and direct strategy. In other words, don’t post just to be posting. Keep your goals in mind, watch audience trends, and honestly communicate with your audience. It’s really not difficult, but so often, marketers neglect being real, which can severely hurt them.

3. Piggyback on News Event (But Use Caution)                                                                                                                      

When possible, use a news event to your advantage. For instance, if a famous person passes away, use an inspirational quote from them and turn it into a meme. Another situation could be that your state or the government is passing legislation that could help your industry or businesses in general. Political involvement can be controversial, but if your business is passionate either way on an issue, you should let your voice be heard. If you have correctly identified your audience, they will likely support your stance as well.

It’s important to understand that the “when possible” mentioned above has to carefully be taken into consideration. It’s up to the business, but we would not recommend trying to piggyback on the recent SCOTUS ruling or Iran, for example. While these are no doubt very popular topics on Facebook and Twitter, these topics could alienate your business. Your posts could go viral, but not in the way you want. And, when it comes to social media, bad publicity is very real and brings a host of reputation management issues.

Doing this correctly is more about taking a tragedy and creating an online contest to give your audience an opportunity to contribute. Or, creating a meme as suggested above. It’s also about thinking on your feet like Arby’s did with Pharrell Williams during last year’s Grammy awards.

Ultimately, connecting with your Facebook and Twitter audiences depends on how well you know them. Studies like the one from Pew Research Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation help to show trends that may create opportunities for better engaging with your audience. But, it’s up to you as a marketer to do your research and see if it applies.

Facebook News Feed Explained: Algorithm Changes, Story Bumping & More

Facebook Logo

Facebook shed some light on its central product News Feed yesterday. Although the social network has more than 1.11 billion users and 700 million daily active users, not many people know how it works. In an effort to clarify this product, Facebook launched a blog to provide a “window into News Feed.”

According to the first post, the goal of News Feed is “to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.” If you remember, News Feed used to display stories in chronological order within the feed. However, as the platform has grown, this model has not proved to be as effective.

Called “Story Bumping,” this first change pushes older stories to the top of the user’s feed allowing you to see any that you may have missed. So, all those baby and cat pictures will never be able to slip by again. 🙂

This is no small feat as Facebook says there are 1,500 pieces of content, on average, that can appear in each person’s News Feed every day. Lars Backstrom, Facebook’s Engineering Manager for News Feed, admits that the company’s ranking isn’t perfect, but did point out that “when we [Facebook] stop ranking and instead show posts in chronological order, the number of stories people read and the likes and comments they make decrease.”

In order to make this system better for users, Facebook, instead, typically returns 300 pieces of content each day per user. It chooses this content based on user activity. In other words, what users like, when they comment on something, and when they hide something all give Facebook insight into what the user wants and doesn’t want. Here are some specific examples that Facebook utilizes:

  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

Through these new changes, Facebook has seen a 5 percent increase in “Likes,” comments, and shares on stories from friends. For pages, the results have been even better with an 8 percent increase in “Likes,” comments, and shares. Also, the amount of stories that people are reading throughout the News Feed have gone from 57 percent, on average, to 70 percent after Facebook implemented the changes.

Facebook News Feed Change

At this point, Facebook has rolled out the concept of Story Bumping and is beginning to roll it out on mobile devices.

TechCrunch also reports of two other changes regarding News Feed. The first, called “Last Actor” means that Facebook shows you more of the most recent 50 people you have interacted with. Secondly, through the “Chronological By Actor” modification, – which is not rolled out yet – Facebook is trying to make real-time stories understandable and relevant. For example, if a live event is taking place, actually ranking the frequent updates could result in confusion as well as spoilers. Facebook is, instead, attempting to display these stories in a clear and appropriate way.

The Marketing Impact

For page owners, Facebook’s adjustments to News Feed ultimately implies good news. The content that brands produce actually has higher long-term visibility now. What’s more, the “Last Actor” feature could increase a brand’s frquency for posting as well as help to better determine the optimal time to post.

These changes, however, are geared toward organic Facebook content. Any paid ads will still appear often and repeatedly in News Feed.

Another positive aspect of these changes is the blog launch. Hopefully, this will provide more transparency for marketers trying to successfully navigate ranking on the social network.

EdgeRank

What does this mean for EdgeRank? Facebook apparently doesn’t use the term “EdgeRank” anymore, but there is no official name at this point. The three primary factors – affinity, weight, and time decay – that influence EdgeRank are still, however, significant to the updated algorithm.

What do you think of these changes to News Feed? Will they be useful or not?

Who’s Responsible for What Happens on Social Media? Facebook, Twitter, or You?

This week, Great Britain’s police force called on social media companies to tighten security measures related to online abuse and harassment. It believes that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter should make it harder for users to commit crimes on their platforms.

The plea came after activist Caroline Criado-Perez received multiple rape threats on Twitter. The incident really blew up when Criado-Perez claimed that Mark Luckie, Twitter’s Manager of Journalism and News, blocked her. Her story is that he blocked her once her supporters began campaigning with hashtags like #takebacktwitter and #shoutingback. Luckie, on the other hand, has said that he locked down his account since his job does not involve dealing with abusive scenarios.

As a result of these developments, an online petition was created on Change.org asking Twitter to incorporate a button to report abuse on each tweet. The petition received more than 62,000 signatures on its first day of being public and is currently sitting at more than 100,000.

Twitter responded to the petition and said it had actually just rolled out a button that allows users to easily report abuse from each individual tweet. The feature is already included on the micrblogging service’s iPhone app and mobile website. Users can also report abuse on Twitter’s website. The company says that it plans to bring this functionality to desktop and Android users as well.

What’s interesting about this incident is the bigger issue it raises regarding the responsibility of both users and social networks. Although every situation is different, the underlying dispute is where the obligation of the social network and the accountability of users intersect.

Is there a line, or is it still blurred? What do you think?

We have all seen circumstances in which blame could be placed on either side, but there are others that aren’t as clear. Cyber bullying is one such issue that has received a lot of hype of late as the whole subject of bullying has seemingly increased. Can these actions be regulated online though? According to an ongoing survey on Debate.org, 61 percent of participants say social networks should do more to prevent cyber bullying while 39 percent do not believe the responsibility falls on them.

No one wants to see bad things happen on a social network, or anywhere for that matter. But, is the social platform actually enabling the bad to happen, or is it just the tool that is being used to perform the act? A recent study from FindLaw reported that 1 in 4 young people have regrets about what they have posted on social media sites. While most of the respondents to this survey expressed concern about a current or potential employer, the bottom line is that people often act and react without thinking, regardless of what any given social network may do.

On the flip side, should social networks create secure privacy settings and controls that users can utilize to their advantage? Absolutely. They should always be working toward improvement in this regard. But, if users, which also include brands, ignore them, it’s not their fault.

The point of this post, however, is not to in ANY way discredit the aforementioned victim of rape threats. The issue simply leads to a much broader conversation that we’ve only barely hit on.

The business side of this discussion opens up an even bigger can of worms as a wrong move could result in severe repercussions for a brand. Also, the brand aspect on many of these social platforms is still relatively new, which means that there is a lot of trial and error techniques taking place.

Still, what does all this mean? What more can social networks do to prevent these incidents from happening? What tools do users need to be equipped with, or do they just need to be better educated on these issues? Let the conversation begin.