Facebook is changing things. No matter where the company's stock is today, it's probably not going to alter Facebook's idea of how the advertising business should work. And Facebook certainly has ideas on that.
As the company announced at this year's Facebook Marketing Conference, Facebook's paid media emphasis going forward is on its Sponsored Stories. Essentially, these are snapshots of published content that becomes the message of the advertising.
Suddenly, ads aren't created in the way to which many of us are accustomed. And in changing that, Facebook is tossing out the ad industry's way of doing things for roughly the past 100 years.
As if that's not enough of a shift, there's also a new set of metrics to add to the mix. These metrics represent an entirely new way of evaluating which of your marketing messages are working -- and which aren't.
Although Facebook hasn't officially defined exactly what metrics it'll be rolling out in the future -- and the company will certainly be tweaking that formula for years to come -- we can already see two directions the current metrics are taking: engagement metrics and transaction metrics.
Let's take a look at what you need to know about each.
If you've done any Facebook advertising, you're already familiar with Facebook's engagement metrics. The most common of these are people "liking" and commenting on the stories you post. Facebook is constantly evolving the ways to engage, including adding new forms of interactions such as shares, as well as broader engagement data like its "talking about this" metric and app use measurement.
In short, there are many different things brands can publish to Facebook, and different types of content can and will produce different types of engagements. (Click here for a report on different Facebook engagement rates among different industries.) The key to maximizing your impact on Facebook is understanding what type of engagement you'd like to generate, and then knowing what type of content is most likely to produce that result.
An easy example is the difference between commenting and sharing. As you've probably seen, there are posts specifically designed to generate high volumes of comments.
Facebook posts ranked by percentage of comments (data by Zuum)
If your goal is to gather fan input or build a sense of community on the page, then aiming for a high commenting rate is a good goal. Alternately, if you're looking for a more immediate viral impact, you might focus more on the sharing engagement metric, which demonstrates how many people are taking your content and reposting it to their own networks of friends.
In a recent report we published, we showed a very clear trend between the type of post and the odds of it being shared.
Facebook has been hinting at a lot of interesting potential developments in this area. In addition to the previous metric of app installs, look for a range of new transaction metrics to appear, like offer claims, sales within an app, and custom actions like "save this place," a kind of bookmarking service.
Here again, which of these metrics you focus on is going to vary based your product or service and how you think you can best convert your fans to a deeper customer relationship. Offer claims will appeal to retail outlets like fast food chains. Sales within an app will be a key metric for companies doing e-commerce on Facebook.
This type of conversion data is a clear response to what more and more people are asking about social media and Facebook marketing: What's the ROI? Facebook is offering a range of metrics in this area, as the R in ROI is going to be defined in different ways by different companies.
What Facebook wants
So in the face of all these new metrics, what do you need to do to succeed on Facebook? A lot of people will, of course, try to game the system and devise some rabbit tunnel to success. But a better long-term strategy is to approach Facebook in the same way you do Google. In other words, think about what the company wants.
What does Google want? Google, as it will tell you itself, wants people to generate relevant content of high quality. Thought leaders in search marketing will tell you to take a very similar approach. It's not about trickery; it's about creating value. It takes some work, but what legitimate marketing tactic doesn't?
So what does Facebook want? Like Google, Facebook has been very straight forward in answering this question. Facebook wants companies to create relevant content that its users -- and your fans -- will engage with.
Facebook's strategy is about making Facebook a place for engaging experiences. And by placing the emphasis on content, Facebook can enlist companies all over the world
It's a smart play. To keep people coming back to Facebook, the company knows it needs to keep the site full of engaging content. But as we all know, content isn't usually cheap to produce. So who has the money to produce that content? Brands with their large marketing budgets. And how does Facebook get them to spend that money on content instead of ads? Reward quality content instead of quality advertising.
That's how you get to Facebook's Sponsored Stories and the idea of ditching the practice of crafted advertising messages.
Change brings opportunity
Facebook's rejection of crafted advertising in exchange for engaging content is a big shift in the way things are done in the advertising industry. And where there's change, there's fear, confusion, misdirection, and the missteps that inevitably come from venturing into uncharted territory.
What Facebook has given brands is a way to connect with and leverage their best customers in numbers they never dreamed about with previous CRM channels. It's now up to those brands to bring the content and the experiences that will tighten those bonds.
Varying engagement rates across different Facebook pages (data by Zuum)
Looking at the wildly varying engagement rates we're already seeing among different Facebook pages and posts, it's clear that some content engages a lot more than other types. The challenge for every marketer who wants to succeed on Facebook is simple: Know what type of content engages your fans.
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