If you are a 24-40 year old ABC1 professional reading this, then it’s already too late. Not too late for you, don’t worry. But it could be too late for traditional media, and it’s not looking too good for display ads either. That’s because the way we consume news, media and content is changing fast.
Who wants to trawl through pages of headlines (virtual or physical) in the hope of stumbling upon something that tickles our fancy, when we can receive personalised content straight to our virtual door?
Just look at newspapers, the most traditional of traditional media. Now digitally intuitive, many of them are letting us serve ourselves with the topics we want to know about.
Take the Guardian app for example. Digital Guardian readers now consume their content by personal preference. The main point of contact for these readers is no longer the Guardian home page. It’s the user app page, where we can suit ourselves; personalising our news threads with topics of interest and saving articles for later.
It’s a whole new digital world out there, with publishers taking on the mantle of delivering content to a potential audience. Every new world needs a leader, and that’s the role Facebook has lined up to take.
Here are 5 factors which demonstrate how this shift in content consumption is happening on the Facebook platform.
1. Dark posts and the out of page experience
Welcome to the dark side... it ain’t so bad over here!
The Dark Side of Facebook goes all the way back to December 2013 when Facebook offered businesses on the platform the ability to publish posts in the newsfeed only. Okay, so maybe they’re not so mysterious, or dark and evil.
But they were an interesting reflection of user behaviour and the future of Facebook as a native content marketing channel.
Dark posts let brands have an ‘out of page experience’ – they could target their audience on their Facebook newsfeeds, and create Facebook campaigns without having a Facebook page to do so.
They were hot evidence that, increasingly, users were not expected to visit a media ‘hub’ to interact with content, branded or otherwise. Users were consuming branded content on a post-by-post basis in their newsfeeds, rather than choosing to visit or land on a brand’s page itself.
And that’s even truer now, with savvy marketers using the Facebook ad's dash to create ‘dark posts’ and ad campaigns, separate to the home page. The truth is that Facebook didn't want to turn into a traditional advertising platform – because its dynamic newsfeed is another kettle of fish altogether.
And just how bad ass is this fish? It is pretty high up the scale. (Sorry).
Moving this newsfeed along nicely is a constantly improving algorithm based on Machine Based Learning. No messing about.
2. Let’s get native: Facebook’s native post form
Facebook is unique because the majority of branded posts are native content in form.
‘Native what now? What exactly constitutes native content?’
Over to you, Sean Connery:
Your branded content in the Facebook newsfeed is deep in the mix, floating happily amongst your new friend’s cat, the latest headlines, and straw-clutching articles about Pokémon Go.
Facebook is a non-disruptive native content platform. The best kind, we think!
It seems other marketers agree – the most popular sponsored posts in the newsfeed in 2016 follow this native media format. These native ads are dominating the network, at 83% of all ads on Facebook, and with more than 50% of marketers using them exclusively.
The sweetest thing about native content? It doesn’t pop up in your face as you’re trying to finish reading an article or browsing a meme. It is that article; it is that meme (and it is as polite as you please).
3. Different posts for different folks: Facebook persona targeting
We all know the importance of a good filter. And we’re not just talking smooth coffee and Snapchat – your personal filter can come in pretty handy, too.
For example, you wouldn’t say half the things you say to your friends to granny Gertrude (we hope not anyway). And Facebook feels the same way.
They've created a new campaign dashboard which reflects this persona targeting. When setting up a social campaign on Facebook, marketers must choose from three different stages of the buyer journey - awareness, consideration, and conversion.
This is a treat for marketers with a content plan that aims to nurture their user through the funnel.
This used with Facebook’s targeting tool ensures that your content is tailored and delivered to the right guy.
4. On-page Engagement: Why your product doesn’t belong on your page
This behavioural shift is essentially a move away from a more static platform (like your website), toward a dynamic platform driven by unique user data.
For example, most websites don’t dig into their website traffic – so unless you are using a smart content platform like HubSpot, you can’t really optimise your content for your different audience personas.
Previously, your Facebook fans were your audience, and more fans meant more visibility for your social content. But the problem with this was that the concept of targeting was thrown out the back yard, as all page posts were served up to this audience willy-nilly. And some content just isn’t suitable for some of these folk.
You may be thinking, ‘What a to-do! If this is all true, what’s the purpose of having a Facebook page? What’s to become of my 500,000 fans?’
Facebook has moved emphasis on the platform away from page ‘Likes’, and brands are now being encouraged to adopt a newsfeed-focused strategy over an on-page, blanket approach to social posting.
This method is less about cashing in on as many likes as possible, and more about building a strategy around blog reads, conversions, and engagements from the most relevant audience.
Hang on – don’t abandon your likers just yet...
This shift in user behaviour and technology means that static platforms serve a different purpose. What value does your Facebook page hold in this new culture?
Well first of all, it’s a great customer service-slash-communication channel. The versatility and interface of the Facebook messenger makes it a haven for quick and personalised customer service and lead generation.
Secondly, your Facebook page is a cosy base to house engaging and visual content, that best communicates a brand's personality.
And this content should not be the be-end and end-all of your social content strategy.
A big indication of this can be seen when you decide to promote your on-page posts.
Interestingly, you can only achieve this by using the ‘engagement’ objective - which means you are optimising your content for views, post likes, shares, and comments. These metrics are pretty handy for the consideration stage of the process, but not so great for improving brand awareness or converting.
Psst – this means that your ‘product’ or ‘salesy’ content should be used sparingly on the page itself. This type of content will not inspire love, and so will be more at home in the newsfeed, as you can target users more likely to convert.
5. The Machine Learning Algorithm
How is Facebook so on-point? Regular, minuscule tweaks to its algorithm, all in response to user behaviour on the social platform, means it’s always a step ahead. We are the editors, and the content we see is the sum of our own behaviour.
Every time you open Facebook, you are greeted by your friend’s dog, the latest news article and an abundance of selfies.
But this stream of content is in fact only 1% of an average Facebook user’s potential content consumption.
Behind the scenes, the Facebook algorithm is working its magic, scanning roughly 100,000 posts each week to measure how relevant each one is to you, and ranking them accordingly.
It adapts to our behaviour, and it listens – it puts up with that 50th baby picture in one week, and it stalks our Facebook stalking. All for a good reason: to ensure a lovely user experience.
No one outside of Facebook knows exactly how this code works, and they aren’t going to tell you – or us, for that matter. Though the inner workings of this algorithm is somewhat mystical, we do know that this machine learning software works by learning from past behaviour, or previous Facebook ‘actions’ taken by its users.
Will Oremus, a top technology writer from Slate.com, sheds some light on this sorcery:
“It doesn’t just predict whether you’ll actually hit the like button on a post based on your past behaviour. It also predicts whether you’ll click, comment, share, or hide it, or even mark it as spam. It will predict each of these outcomes, and others, with a certain degree of confidence...The post you see at the top of your feed, then, has been chosen over thousands of others as the one most likely to make you laugh, cry, smile, click, like, share, or comment.”
Which is why Facebook works so hard to help you choose the right objective for your campaign, and why it’s a big no-no for brands to post all their content on their page.
You need to know what you want to achieve. What do you want a user to do once they’ve seen your content?
Content will be shown to users based on your objective, and the predicted intent of your chosen audience. Facebook will also formulate a 'relevancy score' for each post, based on the performance and reaction of this audience. A low relevancy score means an expensive cost per action for your post (so getting a high score is pretty relevant for your budget). The magic number for relevancy on Facebook is 7, but you're doing well if you get over 5.
It’s darn well impressive when you think about it: your content is a cog in a giant wheel that’ll keep on turning. Play the system right and you’ll rise right to the top. There’s ample opportunity there if you’re smart enough to take it...
Want to be a Facebook native?
Of course ya do! We love content – and we know how to create this content for the way it is consumed in its environment.
Just get in touch to find out what we can do for your brand. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to keep up to date with all the latest news on content marketing and all things digital.