In case you haven’t heard, Mr. Zuckerberg broke some fairly big news on his platform last week:
In essence, Facebook is going to focus more on facilitating interactions and engagements between users and their friends and families. Which, as you may guess, could come at the expense of brands and their engagement and content strategies on Facebook.
Not surprisingly, most people are a bit concerned. And, people have a LOT of questions.
So, I thought today I’d take dead-aim at some of of the more common questions I’m anticipating from clients and friends in the week ahead.
Question: Will brand Facebook posts really be impacted all that much?
No one knows for sure. Facebook is certainly saying they will. But, we’ve been down this road before (in 2016, for example, Facebook shared similar news). Now, this announcement feels a little different. And, the culture is much different than 2016. So yeah, I believe brands may take a hit in certain areas. Promoted videos, for example, could be impacted. A lot of brand videos are drumming up tens of thousands of “views”, but not much engagement these days. I see that continuing in the months ahead. On the flip side, Facebook is encouraging brands to produce more “live” videos which, historically, have driven more live engagement. This isn’t a bad idea for brands as a segue to sharing more produced video content.
Question: Should brands really move away from promotional-first content on Facebook?
For now, I would say “no.” I’d like to see how the first quarter goes in terms of results before making any big changes to your media buying plans. But, I’d be taking a very careful and thoughtful look at my Facebook ad buys in January, February and March. After all, Mark Zuckerberg did say: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.” That’s not exactly positive news for brands. But, on the flip side, Facebook makes a lot of revenue each quarter from brand advertising on Facebook. I’m not a Harvard MBA, but I’d be hard-pressed to believe they’re just going to shut that off in three short months (or, ever, really). My suggestion, again: No sudden moves for three months. But, take that time to carefully evaluate your campaigns and make an informed decision at the start of Q2.
Question: Will time spent on Facebook go down as Zuckerberg predicted?
“Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
Yep, he said it. The founder of Facebook is predicting time spent on his platform will GO DOWN in the year ahead. But, I’m not buying it. In fact, if Facebook does what it’s promising her and promotes more content from friends and family, doesn’t it stand to reason that time spent on the platform would GO UP? We’ve seen no indication that time spent on Facebook will go down. And, I don’t think another tweak by the platform will make that happen. I say a hard “no” to this one.
Question: Should brands now shift their approach to an engagement-only strategy?
First, I’d refer you to the question above. I think it makes sense to take a few months to evaluate your results to see how this thing plays out before making any big, sudden moves. In the meantime, I think this is worth testing. So, could you create 1-2 engagement-focused posts in January and February to see if they drum up more engagement than your other posts. Maybe a simple question for your fans? A conversation starter around a particular timely topic? At this point, you should know the topics and questions that can get your fans going. I’d try some testing in the next couple months to see how this works before shifting your entire social content strategy based on one Mark Zuckerberg post.
Question: Does this change put the onus on brands to respond to comments more consistently in the feed?
I’d argue brands should be doing this anyway–yet, far too often, we see brands completely ignoring comments in the stream. So, I guess I’d be doing this one anyway. But, if Facebook does indeed shift to featuring more engagement-focused content in the feed, this will become even more important. “Liking” and responding to more customer comments will become table stakes (again, even though, this should be obvious already).
Question: Doesn’t this news mean the “like” will become even more irrelevant?
Yep. And, it also means the “share” becomes even MORE RELEVANT. Think about what Facebook said in its announcement. It’s going to feature more content that family and friends are sharing–why can’t your brand be supplying that content that they are SHARING? On the brand side, I think the big takeaway here is simple: Post fewer times instead of posting more often. This will force you to focus on the content that’s truly interesting. In essence, it will force you to focus more resources on producing content that’s inherently more shareable for your customers.
Sometimes, it kinda feels like we’re still living in 1995 as PR counselors. Doesn’t it?
Consider this chart for a moment:
Americans now spend a whopping 5 hours and 50 minutes with digital media on any given day.
And just 25 minutes on print media.
Think about that for a minute.
And remind me again how important that hit in USA Today print edition is again.
Consider another stat: According to researchers at the Notre Dame University (yeah, that one), 73 percent of posts on Reddit are voted on by users that haven’t actually clicked through to view the content being rated.
According to Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on Twitter have never actually been clicked.
Or, what about this one: U.S. adults spend an average of 1 hour, 16 minutes each day watching video on digital devices?
What do these stats tell us? PEOPLE ARE NOT READING ON THE INTERNET! (I know, alert the media, right?)
At least not beyond the headline. Which, really, should come as no surprise given today’s average attention span.
So, we know people are spending FAR more time on digital media (and video) than they are on print. And, we know most people who are consuming that digital media are probably just scanning and reading headlines (if that).
Meanwhile, what are public relations folks spending much of their time producing?
Bylines. Blog posts. E-newsletters. White papers.
Longer-form text-based content.
Huh. But doesn’t most of this data we’re seeing imply that our customers and targets want to consume: videos, photos, infographics and short messages (via private messaging apps)?
That’s kinda what I’m seeing.
But, here’s the disconnect: We’re spending an inordinate amount of time creating content that our audience is telling us (maybe not directly, but still) they do not want.
Seems like that’s a bit of a problem.
What’s behind it? Two big reasons come to mind:
- Boomers still control budgets and are calling the shots. And, what medium did Boomers grow up with? What media are they most comfortable with? Those are rhetorical questions, in case you were wondering.
- Video still requires substantial resources. Even if you shoot it on your phone, it’s still more time- and resource-consuming to produce a 30-second video than it is to bang out a 750-word byline or blog post. I think that’s a big piece of this right now as departments and people re-deploy and re-align budgets to fit the new paradigm we’re seeing now.
That said, I think a couple things are going to happen in the next few years:
1: The shift to video is going to course-correct a bit. Tons of publishers and companies are pouring millions of dollars into producing more video in 2018. But, that’s going to completely overwhelm the average social media user. Soon, people will be on social video overload and they’ll be begging for a break.
2: Text is going to make a bit of a comeback. You’re already starting to see this on visual-first platforms like Instagram. Some of the more engaging local influencers here in Minneapolis thrive on making posts on Instagram that are at least 100-plus words (take a peek at Erin Good’s page for a good example). That’s not happening by accident. As we weed out the internet chaff, trusted sources will have much more leeway to create and share longer-form text content that will get read.
That’s my two cents. What do you think? Is how we’re creating social content today really lining up with how people want to consume it?
If you’ve read my blog for the last few years, you’ll know this post has become an annual tradition. But, it’s also an important exercise for me because it forces me to really think about who I’d like to get to know (or, get to know BETTER) in the year ahead.
These coffees are important for me–for a few different reasons. Sure, coffee meet-ups are good for a solo consultant like me. For new business. For referrals. I never sell myself during a coffee meeting, but the benefit is there. No question.
But, I see the coffee meetings a little differently. I see them as opportunities for me to get to know these people so I can identify opportunities to either help or showcase them in the year ahead.
What do I mean?
I’m always looking for people to feature as part of my PR Rock Star series.
Kevin Hunt and I are looking for interesting people to have as guests on the Talking Points Podcast each month.
Bellmont Partners and I search for interesting speakers to be a part of the Talking Points Speaker Series each quarter.
I’m always searching for case studies to showcase on my blog right here.
And, I run two mastermind groups and we’re always looking for new additions to that group as well.
Bottom line: There are plenty of ways I can help someone once I get to know them a little bit more.
So, as I look ahead to 2018, here are 14 people I’m hoping to have coffee with:
Meghan McAndrews, Hearth & Home Technologies
Social media people with journalism backgrounds are usually people I really get along with well. I have no doubt Meghan would fall in that group.
Kristin Zima, Optum
My one hold-over from last year’s list! If at first you don’t succeed, send a couple more emails, right?
Elise Bartlett, Lifetime
Interesting background (she worked for Gary V). But, more importantly, she’s also colleagues with my friend Natalie Bushaw.
Felicia Johnson, The Minnesota Vikings
I’m hoping to meet up with Felicia AFTER Feb. 4 so we can bask in the glory that is our first MINNESOTA VIKINGS SUPER BOWL VICTORY!
Ellie Anderson, Griffin Archer
I don’t know Ellie at all. But, I follow her on Instagram and she seems like an interesting person I would want to meet. Sometimes, it’s all feel. After all, you can learn a lot by following someone on IG, right? 🙂
Casey Hall, Thomson Reuters
You can probably count the number of people who work in social media marketing who are also attorneys on one hand. That makes him infinitely more interesting than the rest of us working in the space.
Sarah Hennen Carter, Nature’s Way
Admittedly, I’m in the dog house here. And it’s time to make good. I completely spaced a coffee meeting I had with Sarah in 2017. I felt terrible about it. So, I owe her. Big time. This is probably more like lunch on me!
Nick Curtis, TCF
A former colleague of my friend, Tony Saucier. And, I have a vested interest here, as TCF has been my personal bank for 30 years!
Katie Heinze, Children’s Hospital
Our family are BIG fans of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics. We had AMAZING experiences there. And, I’ve also been a big fan of their branding and marketing for years. I’d love to sit down with Katie and learn more about what they’re up to in 2018.
DJ Hamm, Securian
I’ve heard lots of great things about DJ from his boss, and friend, LeeAnn Fahl. And, I’m seeing him pop up a whole lot in my LinkedIn feed recently. Enough for me!
Jen Alcott, Best Buy
Stone cold intro here. I don’t know Jen at all. And, truth be told, I don’t know too many people at Best Buy these days either (save my friend Jeff Shelman).
Whitney Swanson, UnitedHealthCare
Almost had coffee with Whitney scheduled in 2017, but things fell through (most likely, on account of me!). So, this one should be relatively easy if we have a full 12 months to get it done! Also: Looks like we can talk Jayhawks (YES!), and KFAN (we were both interns–granted, about 20 years apart!).
Adam Kmiec, United Health Group
Adam once connected me with some work when he was at Walgreens. And I recently pointed him to some candidates for a job he’s looking to source locally here in Minnesota. It’s actually pretty amazing we haven’t met in person over the eight-plus years we’ve known each other on the internet. Time to change that.
Tara Olson Medina, Aveda
At least three people have suggested I grab coffee with Tara in the last few years. Let’s see if I can’t make that happen. Those University of St. Thomas grads are usually pretty damn smart.
The last two weeks of the year are two of my favorite weeks of the year professionally. Why? Because I usually have a little extra time to reflect and do some planning for the year ahead.
Part of that process is taking a long, hard look at my site and blog and discovering what kinds of content you’re reading–and what kinds of content you’re not reading.
This year, Instagram-related content (no surprise) was hot, with two local Instagram influencer lists topping the chart. Newsy-type posts performed well, too, with my post about the Edelman Trust Barometer coming in at #3. And, as I’ve seen in the past, the PR Rock Star series continues to be a series people love to read and share. Interviews with the American Academy of Neurology’s Leah Johnson, Boston Scientific’s Amanda Gebhard and U.S. Bank’s Susan Beatty all came in the top 10.
Here’s the rest of the list. A few good reads if you missed them earlier this year:
List included such folks at Erin Good, Kim Ly Curry and Tom Horgen. Probably worth a read if you’re a Minnesota-based company looking to connect with local types.
Another list I built with the help of people like Nicole Klang of Sigma Beauty, Andrew Miller of Fast Horse and Hyedi Nelson at Bellmont Partners.
Of course Edelman uses these surveys to scare the heck out of clients so they can convince them to use their services. But this year, I believe the stats in their annual Trust Barometer actually shouldn’t scare you at all.
Sad–I didn’t perform very well on my list this year. Had coffee with just three of the 14 folks. Time to get cracking on those remaining 11! However, I did get to know Amanda Gebhard a lot better (and she’s fantastic, for those who might be wondering!). And, I’m happy to say Joanna Hjelmeland is now a newly minted solo PR!
5–Brand journalism case study: How the University of St. Thomas covered the largest D-3 football game in history
Thanks to long-time PR colleague, Janet Swiechowski for making this one happen. She introduced me to UST social media manager, Kate Metzger, earlier this fall, and this was the resulting post from that meeting.
One of the true up-and-coming stars in social media marketing–especially in the health care field. If I were a health care company in town, I’d be recruiting Amanda right now.
From admin to director, Leah has done it all at AAN. And, she’s been a part of some pretty cool work on behalf of MIMA the last few years, too.
Remember the Cracker Barrel kerfuffle earlier this year? Good reminders for brands here–even 9 months later.
You might be surprised at the outcomes of this basic research I did earlier this year. Or, maybe you wouldn’t. Either way, research from Business Insider a couple weeks ago confirms what I blogged about here–if you want to influence/inform people under the age of 35, YouTube is the place to do it.
One of my all-time favorite people in the PR/comms business. Even if she is a die-hard fan of the green-and-gold.
This just in: Video is exploding on social media channels?
Have you heard?
Yep–video is big business in the social media world these days. Just ask anyone. That news has been plastered all over the web the last couple months in all sorts of trend posts. We all know video is going to increase in importance and relevance across social channels in the year ahead. That’s not the trend.
The real trend, as I see it, is the increased scrutiny all this video production and sharing is going to bring to social video metrics.
Because, let’s just be honest: Social video metrics aren’t very strong right now.
Take Facebook, for example.
Video is a huge content format on Facebook right now. Just take a peek at this chart:
Social video views are skyrocketing! This slide told me so!
But, that’s the problem. Yeah, “views” are exploding. But, what IS a view, really? What constitutes a “view?”
As many know by know, Facebook counts a “view” as anyone who’s viewed the video for 3 seconds.
Which is about the length of time it takes to watch the intro slide most brands include in their videos.
Translation: Most of your customers are only seeing the equivalent to the headline on any given video.
And, try to dive deeper into Facebook stats and you don’t find much that’s better. The standard metrics Facebook gives you on any given video are:
- Minutes viewed
- Video views (mentioned above; very fluffy at best)
- 10-second views (probably the best metric of the bunch)
- Video average watch time (also somewhat helpful in determining drop-off points)
And, keep in mind, this is from the platform that is widely considered one of the better platforms when it comes to metrics!
So, essentially, the best metric Facebook is giving brands when it comes to video performance is how many people are watching your video for 10 seconds.
That’s not good enough, folks.
And, I think you’ll hear a lot of CMOs, directors and VPs saying exactly that in 2018.
Time will tell, I guess.