James Honda-Pinder
Aug 15, 2016

Facebook marketing: Back to the future?

As Facebook continually alters its algorithms, we need to evolve our mindset away from putting eyeballs to content cost-effectively, and focus on real experiences, writes Iris Singapore's James Honda-Pinder.

James Honda-Pinder
James Honda-Pinder

Recently one of my clients remarked in a meeting, “This is stuff I was doing at P&G 20 years ago!”

We were in a workshop discussing how we needed to evolve our social-media approach in light of the latest in a long line of changes Facebook has made to its algorithm. Facebook has demoted brand content in favour of more important updates from friends, family and favourite news sources—or in their words “Everything that matters to you.”

Constantly shifting sands

You could hardly blame marketers for uttering a collective groan of frustration. Observing Facebook’s speed of change versus agencies and clients is like watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Every time you think you’ve caught up with them, they cunningly escape again. Just when you think you’ve cracked how to get value out of Facebook and gone through the internal struggle of aligning all the key stakeholders behind this new shared vision...Facebook pulls the rug from beneath you with another change.

The most recent message coming from Facebook is very clear: We are no longer a cheap channel for content distribution. We are a bona fide media channel. One you must pay to play on. If you spend with us, we ‘guarantee’ you reach and relevancy that few channels can compete with.

But this is also a ploy for purity. With 4.75 billion items shared daily on Facebook, what started as a connecting platform could very well become a landfill for irrelevant content, warding off users and brands alike.

The obstacle is the way

In response, brands need to stop lamenting the change and start embracing the opportunity. There needs to be a mindset change from putting eyeballs to content cost-effectively, to investing time and money on designing experiences that surprise, delight and move people on the platform.

Doesn’t that sound familiar, almost traditional? Are we moving into a future which looks a lot like our past?

We see this as an exciting opportunity to redefine what true creative effectiveness is on the platform. We believe the always-on mentality the industry has succumbed to in recent history has helped usher in an era where banality and mediocrity weren't just tolerated, but validated by false metrics of successful ‘engagement,’ which have not been linked tangibly enough to commercial performance. Time to draw a line in the sand on that.

Fewer, bigger, measured

One of the things Apple prides itself on is “spending a lot of time on a few great things.” That’s exactly how we tell our clients to approach social. Quality is always a better business plan than quantity. 'Always interesting' is more effective than 'always on'.

Here are a few principles for the creation of content that always pops.

1. Fewer: But rooted in authenticity

Cultural calendars” and “planned spontaneity” are now firmly ingrained in agency lexicons. But every brand feels the need to jump on the same 'cultural moments', effectively adding more content to the aforementioned landfill. We need to be guardians of brands again, pinpoint and win bigger at moments where we have a genuine right to play, so we cut through, not add to the clutter.

2. Bigger: Aim to make culture not executions

Looking at the sea of social-media mediocrity, it's clear that brands have an insatiable desire to just ‘Make.’ But it’s making for the sake of making, without ever stopping to interrogate themselves. Who is this for? Will it improve things? Does this deserve to exist?

The starting point should not be to ‘reach’ someone. It should be to own a point of view in culture that people resonate and want to participate with. Dove’s ad makeover is a great example of a brand using social smartly to make a difference for culture around a POV they own. To reach that level consistently, we need to get under the skin of the new Facebook technologies, Canvas, Live, 360 and figure out how we can use them to design experiences that are truly thumbstopping.

3. Measured: Look beyond the easy numbers and find the right numbers

The slew of new metrics such as Likes, comments, clicks and shares has first created excitement, then confusion and most recently frustration for brands and agencies alike. Mainly because we still can’t tangibly correlate them to the only metrics that matter—sales and brand health. To quote Brad Smallwood of Facebook, we need to be better at “distinguishing between measures that are valuable to the bottom line, from those that are 'nice to know'". That means more investment in measurement to capture the right numbers, not the ones within immediate reach.

Perhaps Facebook itself summed it up best when it said Feed would be “Everything that matters to you.” The current value exchange around our content is too heavily skewed to the brand. We need to flip that, make content that matters more to the consumer than the brand. If we do, consumers will reward us.

James Honda-Pinder is a senior planner at Iris Singapore  

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