The New World Facebook

Recently Mark Zuckerberg addressed the new principles of content delivery on Facebook. While the previous meta-idea was to increase the time users spent on the network, the recent scandals involving fake news, Russian hackers, clickbait and other 'collateral damage' a multibillion user community is destined to cope with, Mark spoke candidly on how valuable experiences, meaningful interactions and the general sense of well-being truly matter when we are scrolling down the Facebook timeline. It is our genuine interactions with friends and family we seek, not endless Tasty videos and "What cookie are you?" quizzes, Mark says.

So, it's all about friends and relatives now, while corporate pages sit at a lower priority. It's still unclear whether this new reality hits individual posts or entire pages, which are to be 'pessimized'. On the other hand, it is time for social media marketeers to embrace the new world order, as "The times they are a-changing". The change didn't happen overnight though, it's just the natural course of things. The way we interact with pages in our Facebook feed now echoes the times when information travelled in one direction from the newsmaker to the consumer. Indeed, users could wedge themselves into this endless stream by commenting on the content or just remaining indifferent and scrolling past to the updates that mattered to them, thus ceasing to see page updates. Well, if the key value of a social network is communication and not broadcasting of content, then a more natural component of a social network should be the community accumulated by the brand, and not soulless combat leaflets the companies force down a user's throat. The focus then should shift from the content of the posts to what is actually happening in the commentary section.

So, if SMM falls into the area of your responsibility or interests, and you are thinking about ways to change your company's policy on Facebook, take note of the following:
1. Ask yourself: do you really need a community around your brand? It's time-consuming, expensive, and, most importantly, it makes users much more involved into your company's business processes. If your answer is "We need to have presence" or "I need to report on numbers", don't reinvent the wheel. Let things stay the way they were before, while increasing the budget you spend on promoting individual posts. Identify the updates which really bring your message across and boost them. Play around with the tracking pixel on the site and try to condense the target audiences to increase efficiency. This way, you simply let your page remain your speaking trumpet, yet make it smarter, leveraging more precise targeting settings, clear call-to-action and crystal-clear messaging.

We are yet to know whether regular content creation would still be a thing, since some of your posts might never reach the audience. If the latter is the case, then you can save your effort and limit content creation to several important page updates you plan to promote.

2. Collaboration and interaction are the pillars of the community. Let me quote the founder of the Association of Community Management, Fedor Skuratov: "The community must create something, be it articles, meetings, sites, or notes. The output can be anything, yet it's the collaboration that matters. The community is about creating a product of collaboration, not about the process of collaboration itself". The community must have influence: in the ideal world, the community's feedback and discussions should transform into plans for improving your service or future product releases. The community should have a say in everything: new product features, packaging design, product names, availability in stores and distribution channel, firmware updates, etc., since people joined your community to be heard. If their proposals remain hidden in a folder buried in a forgotten directory on the SMM specialist's laptop, you might as well go back to step 1.

3. So, you still need a community and fully acknowledge its purpose. Then the time has come to re-educate your social media team. There is a risk in taking the most obvious and easy route: if comments become a more important KPI than reactions and reposts, then the greater number of comments in a post, the higher its visibility. A simple answer follows simple logic: you create contests and endless questions in a pathetic attempt to buddy up to a subscriber. However, it boils down to the quality and not the quantity or interactions, since having 100 identical comments under a post stating "+1", "congratulations", etc., does not mean you have started a sensible and engaging conversation. Community engagement mechanics are just a tool and should not end in themselves.

Another skill your social media specialists should possess is the ability to listen to people and not follow a predefined script when engaging into the conversation.

What is the key purpose of the community? If you need it to collect user feedback, then measure by the number of requests and suggestions provided by the users. Inspire people to share their impressions and their ideas.
4. While the main KPI before were reach, engagement rate and clicks, now it's time to introduce new, quality-centric metrics need to be added, metrics which indicate performance connected to qualitative goals. These new metrics are yet to be conceptualized (click here to see a couple of dozens of KPIs, according to OKR method.)

What is the key purpose of the community? If you need it to collect user feedback, then measure by the number of requests and suggestions provided by the users. Inspire people to share their impressions and their ideas.

Maybe, you want people to meet and share their experiences? Then count the number of these meetings, and how many people they managed to attract.

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5.Instead of a content plan based on the concept of scheduling posts for specific days of the week, you need to create an activity calendar which would consider the plan of interactions with the community, based on clearly defined goals. For instance, we are planning a fan day for 500 people, then what is our action plan? Is there a timeline for it? When do we post the first announcement? Where will people be registered? How do we motivate people add this event to their calendar and then turn up and later share their experiences with friends? And even more, how do we inspire users volunteer as the fan-day organizers?

6. Don't write off Facebook groups: Facebook is actively reanimating this format, improving it with new features. Participants will receive notifications of new posts going live, and you even can set up individual greetings automatically, personalizing interaction each time the user joins the groups, and even role distribution is quite different compared with pages. If there is no need for advertising (this feature is unavailable to groups), then local businesses or topical communities might find groups their saving grace.

As a tradition, US users and brands would pioneer in this brave new world, so we at this side of the pond would have some head-time to plan and search for a solution before we witness drastic decrease of audience reach in our reports. Thanks to our colleagues across the Atlantics, we'll have a sense of direction and be able to navigate this deep blue ocean.

The author: Elena Nazarova
Photo: Unspalsh
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