The social media landscape is shifting. As the value of social engagement becomes increasingly evident, a brand finds itself in a race to capitalize on it.
Facebook in particular has come under fire lately for its infamous algorithm changes as it gradually shifts its value proposition from a free social distribution channel to a targeted advertising platform. The new algorithm dramatically reduces the average reach of an organic brand post to less than 3 percent of that brand's audience, making it seemingly impossible for a brand to reach its fans without buying Facebook ads.
The changes aren't sitting well with a slew of brands, publishers, and influencers, and several -- including Eat24, Charity Engine and the guy who plays Dwight on "The Office" -- have publically quit Facebook in protest. Calling Facebook's algorithm "hella messed up," Eat24 outlined its reasons for dumping the social network in a hilarious Dear-John style blog post: "All we do is give, and all you do is take. We give you text posts, delicious food photos, coupons, restaurant recommendations...and what do you do in return? You take them and you hide them from all our friends."
Facebook says it limits brand reach in order to save our timelines from being dominated by the over 15 million brands on the site, but the changes send a very clear message: if you want to reach your audience on Facebook, you're going to have to pay for it.
A new era of social marketing
It might sound like huge blow for brands that have invested years of time and resources into building a strong social following, but it doesn't have to be.
Facebook has paved the way for social advertising from the get-go, and the space will continue to evolve in its footsteps -- just as it did with sponsored posts, brand pages, and news feeds. To succeed in this emerging new era of social marketing, it just takes an understanding that Facebook's role in your marketing strategy is changing. While it's still vital to invest in maintaining an active Facebook community, it's now more important than ever to tie that community through to your owned properties.
Instead of investing in Facebook campaigns that only live on Facebook or other social networks, use those campaigns to bring traffic to your owned properties -- where you can truly drive toward conversion. By weaving real-time social applications throughout those owned properties, you can offer your audience the same engagement value as the social networks that brought them to you. They can still interact with each other on their favorite social networks, but they're doing it on your properties, where you can control the messaging and showcase the best user content.
By incorporating specific hashtags, photo contests and other calls-to-action throughout your social marketing campaigns directing traffic to your own socialized properties, you can create a sort of social loop:
- Your fans are inspired to create social content around your brand, and they're directed to your properties to see their posts and engage with other fans.
- You weave dynamic social elements -- like multi-channel media walls, live chats, or trending applications -- throughout your properties, creating a central hub where fans can interact with all the latest news and updates around your brand.
- Fans share and create more content directly on your properties, increasing engagement and time-on-site while creating high-quality, authentic user content across social networks.
This same strategy can be applied across mobile apps, jumbotrons, and other digital assets to create a 360-degree experience. Interscope does a great job of this as well, using jumbotrons during live events to showcase fan reactions in real time, and broadcasters like Showtime use their own sites and mobile apps to create second-screen experiences where fans can chat live during their favorite shows.
The social landscape is shifting, and social marketing strategies will have to shift with it. But that doesn't have to mean just throwing more and more of your marketing dollars into social advertising. A brand that uses social advertising strategically to inject social value into its own sites, mobile apps, and other digital properties is creating the best of both worlds -- its own cross-platform social communities with the brand at the center.
Jordan Kretchmer is the CEO of Livefyre.
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