Ever since Facebook rolled out its last set of tweaks in early December, folks have been trying to figure out how those changes affect marketing strategies. This has led to a lot of hand-wringing about how Facebook is trying to force marketers to start spending money on paid ads.
Get over it. You had a free ride for years, and it was never an entitlement. You didn’t earn it or pay for it, so there’s nothing to be gained from a conversation about how you’ve been done wrong, or what Facebook should have done. Instead, here are some constructive ways to respond – things that will work in pretty much any environment.
- Generate content. By content, I don’t mean just Facebook posts. Beef up your website with informational articles, advice, announcements and other content, then provide links to it on Facebook and other social media.
- Become a groupie. What’s going to do you more good, shouting something on a street corner or getting into a roomful of prospects to exchange ideas and build relationships? Invest a little time and effort in finding and joining Facebook groups where people in your target market gather. Resist the temptation to jump in and start posting in a group you’ve just joined. Hang around and listen for a few days. Learn who the “players” are, and figure out the unwritten rules of the group. Then gradually join the conversation. In short, use the same judgment you use in “real life” social interactions. (Note: While my focus in this article is mainly Facebook, this is true of LinkedIn as well.)
- Segment your “friends” and limit who sees what. Like a lot of people, I have a “friend list” that spans a number of different worlds – auctioneers, journalists, PR colleagues, people I grew up with, and family. There is very little overlap of interests between them. By using lists and segmenting, you’re just using the same sound judgment you do in your face-to-face conversations. You tailor what you say to the setting and your audience.
- Scale back the trivia and controversial stuff. When you waste people’s time or make them mad, they tune you out. You don’t even have to do it directly. Let’s say you’ve been posting a bunch of fluffy kitty shots. That’s fine, but remember that lots of others are doing the same thing, and your friends know how to “hide” posts on a specific topic. (See screen capture.) If folks are worn out with kitties and you’ve posted more than your share, you could disappear from some people’s feeds altogether.
- Focus on one-to-one communications. This may be the most productive thing you can do. Stop thinking of Facebook as a stage and start thinking in terms of individuals. Identify prospects or people you’d like to know better, and send them a private message. Make it specific to something they’ve posted.
Above all, manage your expectations. If you have 700 “friends,” don’t expect your posts to reach 700 people. Don’t buy into the delusion that the world is waiting for your next outburst, bit of feelgood philosophy or strategic insight. There’s no magic. There never was. It’s just that it’s easier to realize that now.