Facebook is growing rapidly from a fun space where people share their personal life journeys into a powerful search engine, breaking news source and entertainment platform. With it’s incredible reach, marketers have naturally gravitated to the platform to reach customers in new ways.
Since the first friend request was made on the Harvard campus in 2004, Facebook has become the biggest social media platform in the world by far, with 1.94 billion active users, which is more than Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram combined.
Five new profiles are created every second, and half a million comments are posted on the network every minute. It’s a huge ecosystem of data, with a wide range of content – from funny, inspiring, cute and heart-warming content, to the more tragic and disturbing. Unfortunately, brands struggle to harness the potential of Facebook ‘big data’ – the massive reserve of data generated from this environment – to its maximum potential.
Businesses simply don’t realise how much data they collect every day and over the years. While most organisations use some of this data to make basic business decisions, like dealing with complaints, few use it to create and nurture relationships with existing and potential customers.
Master of their own demise
Instead, marketers have become masters of their own demise, sending an endless stream of spam and then trying to figure out ways to increase open rates for this often unsolicited, irrelevant communication. But marketers could very easily use available demographic data to segment their data sets to serve communication in a more targeted manner. Directing male products to males and female products to females are two prominent examples, but most businesses neglect even this basic function.
While some brands can create segments, they rarely use them at a significant scale due to the complexities involved. Being able to segment consumers based on both demographic and behavioural data is extremely powerful, but marketers are intimidated. Tapping into real-time behavioural data allows brands to keep their fingers on the pulse of where consumers are in their lifetime journey, how their preferences and habits are changing, and which products would be most relevant to them. By driving personalised communications, offers and rewards to consumers on a one-to-one level, brands can build advocacy, as well as increase purchase frequency and customer lifetime value.
Facebook has increasingly become a pay to play space, as organic reach for brand pages is now set at only 2%. Brands buy reach and engagement by promoting the content they serve to their audiences. While this can be highly targeted, reach and engagement tend to be a function of budget. The Facebook environment offers a powerful way to reach and engage customers in a much more meaningful way, but this needs to be done strategically, using the correct approach and tools. Brands that produce truly emotive content achieve higher levels of what is referred to as “share of emotion”, or content that drives people to willingly want to share content, resulting in organic reach and engagement.
Adding value through rich storytelling
Too many brands use social media to push their products on consumers, when they should be adding value through rich storytelling, helpful advice, or unbelievable facts. Most users are exposed to up to 1 500 stories a day on Facebook, but an average user only gets to see about 100, which is why Facebook tries to make a user’s newsfeed as “personalised” as possible. The algorithm uses several key metrics, including the “relevancy score”, which uses hundreds of variables to control the news feed to predict what content users are most likely to engage with, based on past engagement, and the same applies to Facebook ads.
In July 2015, Facebook introduced the ‘see first’ feature, which lets users hand-pick the accounts, whether friends or followed pages, they prefer to see first at the top of the news feed. If a user spends more time on a particular post, Facebook is more likely to show that post on friends’ news feeds and this need not be engagement in the traditional sense. For instance, people who are interested in a video might not necessarily have liked, commented on or shared it with their friends. Facebook has started monitoring other forms of video engagement, like turning on the audio, switching to full-screen mode, enabling high definition or saving a post for later viewing.
Facebook’s algorithm is the most complex out of any social media platform and the company claims to continually change it to give users the best experience possible. Brands that produce engaging content, which is relevant to users, will have their content prioritised, but the key is to understand what content is working for the brand. In addition to great content, brands can also use brand influencers in their Facebook communities. These may not necessarily be users with the most followers, but those who drive the velocity of conversation around brand content.
And now for AI…
Influencer software, Contunion, allows brands to identify and engage with these users and determine the overall influence of their social media communities. Continuon provides brands with key insight into the content that is getting the most engagement both on a community and individual level, allowing the brand to tailor its content plans for the biggest impact. The Continuon system considers historic and fresh data as equally important, blending it to yield more targeted insights.
With the increasing capability of machine learning and artificial intelligence, combined with large data sets, this is becoming more and more precise. Computers can now analyse millions of variables in real-time, far beyond what humans are capable of, to determine probable outcomes. Not only does prescriptive analytics predict future activity, it also recommends the best course of action for any given situation.
Bradley Elliott is director of digital consultancy Platinum Seed.
Image: Mark Zuckerberg / Facebook