Recently, there’s been some media focus on the new changes to Facebook and how this will be a game changer for businesses using Facebook as a means of communication with their current and future customers. To understand how this affects you and how you may need to change your game, it’s important to see why these changes have been made.
Introduction: Facebook’s New Focus is Really Just Its Old Focus
User-generated content (UGC) was the fuel that drove Facebook’s growth. Facebook UGC includes status updates, information about yourself, your family and your weekly activities, photos of your favorite meals, videos of your cantankerous cat or of that look on your face the moment you stepped off the ledge of a bungee-jump.
However, since 2015, the sharing of original, user-generated content has declined markedly, while sharing of news articles and outside links has increased (think memes, BuzzFeed articles, videos of celebrity cantankerous cats). Instead of creating their own content and individual social context, Facebook users are sharing links and information from other websites or channels – creating an issue known as “context collapse”. This includes the legitimate and fraudulent use of Facebook to share real and “fake” news stories.
Facebook is now taking steps to remedy this with new measures such as Facebook Stories – short user-generated photo and video collections that can be viewed twice and disappear after 24 hours.
Facebook is also altering its algorithm so that media or business-generated stories are not surfaced as frequently on an individual’s timeline. The social platform wants to encourage its users to be more social, have more interactions with their friends and have discussions on topics that are meaningful to them – engagement is the key.
What This Means for Tourism Marketers
This new Facebook focus reinforces the importance of three critical best-practices for creating a Facebook presence with real reach and engagement:
1. Focus on Content that Users Share & Comment on (vs. Simply Like)
Engagement has always been what Facebook is about, and engagement leads to expanded reach and influence. The more users engage with your content, the higher your posts are prioritized in the social feeds, and the more likely it is that new users will find your content and become aware of your brand = more likely to book with you. Posts that generate more engagement are more likely to be seen by Facebook users who are not followers of your page, therefore, engagement contributes to brand awareness in a way that asking people to ‘like’ your pages does not (human nature means that we never like being told what to do, but we always like to know what are people are up to).
This suggests that fans specifically sharing and commenting on a post (rather than simply “liking” posts) with feedback such as; “you should watch/see or do this”, or “remember when we went here”, or “this looks like a great idea for next time we visit”, or “yum! Can we go here for dinner? That salmon looks amazing!”). Give your community a reason to engage. Post high quality, useful content and don’t be afraid to ask questions in status updates.
2. Use Analytics & Research to Find Content that Engages with Visitors
Your pages should stick to posting content that has traditionally received the best engagement – the images, topics and news that have the strongest interest and appeal to visitors. Check out Facebook Insights (Facebook’s free analytics and reporting platform), Google Analytics, your email reporting and/or run a quick online survey to see the content that should engage most easily with current and potential visitors.
3. Manage your Facebook’s Organic & Paid Reach in an Integrated Manner
Unfortunately, the reach of Facebook posts with free, organic social traffic has been waning for a long time, so even with strong, engaging content, you may need to boost or promote your post to reach a wider audience. The best way to grow and maintain your reach and engagement is with a smart approach that incorporates organic UGC and paid media. This means managing Facebook as part of your overall paid media campaign activities and having clear goals/objectives that you can measure success against – and compare the results against other paid media channels.
Additional Tips, Suggestions & Resources:
Read this excellent blog from Tourism Nova Scotia for additional tips and suggestions on managing your Facebook presence including the potential limitations of video on Facebook and making sure you avoid “fishing” for engagement.
An interview in Wired Magazine with Facebook's Adam Mosseri outlines the background and impact of these changes in more detail.