Facebook’s Newsfeed Changes: A Marketing Opportunity in Disguise

By now, you’ve probably heard about Facebook’s January 11th announcement that it will be making seismic changes to its Newsfeed. Zuckerberg and co. plan to deemphasize content from businesses, brands, and publishers, and focus instead on social interactions with family and friends. In other words, if you are a brand or a business on Facebook, you can kiss your organic Newsfeed reach goodbye — effective immediately.

Facebook itself has been entirely frank about this: “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” their official statement reads. Instead of helping people discover relevant content, their product teams will be focused on facilitating “meaningful social interactions” between people and their so-called friends.

In the wake of this announcement, one question has been on the mind of every marketer and every small business owner across the globe: am I screwed?

The answer is: no, you’re not screwed.

Given the bad press around how Newsfeed privileges content and opinions users already agree with, and considering how that’s bolstered the ideologies and voices of radical groups like the alt-right, Facebook’s announcement should come as no surprise. After all, Facebook is in danger of becoming a news aggregator — like Twitter — instead of a true social network. The proliferation of mobile users scrolling through Facebook inertly has only exacerbated this predicament. Zuckerberg was not wrong when he said Facebook’s users have become passive skimmers instead of active social participants.

That means even if Facebook had kept its newsfeed as is, brands and businesses would be speaking to an increasingly static and unengaged audience, one comprised mainly of other marketers and publishers looking to push their own content, not read yours. Now, when you strike up a conversation on Facebook, you’ll be more likely to speak with a potential or existing customer, one who is actively immersed in chatting with you.

So how do you reach these newly engaged Facebook users?

The dirty secret about Newsfeed is that it was never your most optimal marketing channel in the first place. In fact, it wasn’t even your best organic marketing channel on Facebook. Newsfeeds are frenetic and oversaturated; it came as no surprise when Page engagement fell more than 20% in the first half of 2017.

Instead of Newsfeed, brands should be focusing on Facebook Messenger. Messenger and other chat platforms are the best organic channels to engage people in those deeper, more meaningful interactions Facebook is pushing. Since you can deploy a chatbot that engages people 1:1, Messenger is anything but passive. It’s a dynamic, two-way passage to your existing and future customers. It’s conversation driven, which means that you can talk to your customers, instead of just talking at them. It’s also massive: people exchange over 1.2 billion messages with businesses’ chatbots each month.

Those likes and shares you’ve been spending your energy and your time chasing? They’re never going to be as engaging or as resonant as actually having a conversation with someone. And the intelligent, advanced AI at the backend of today’s best chatbots makes it possible to have any number of conversations without a human present. Not convinced yet?

That means those hard-earned Page followers are not for naught. But rather than pushing out content they likely won’t see, you can actively engage them in conversation, no matter where they are in the customer journey. Open rates on Messenger are around 90%, which means you have a 10x better chance of capturing people’s attention than by emailing them. Furthermore, because you’re engaging with people directly, you have the opportunity to procure the best possible data right from the source. This allows you to personalize interactions and offer the most relevant customer experience possible.

Say you’re an online baby-clothing shop and someone has recently bought a six-month-old romper. Two months later, you can send that person a chat message asking how they like the romper, and suggest twelve-month clothing next. If you know they live in the Northeast and winter is approaching, you might suggest particular hats or jackets. You might know they prefer a gender neutral palate, and only send them olive and grey items.

Or say they added some six-month rompers to their cart but never purchased. You can message them right on Facebook chat to remind them of their abandoned cart, or you can incentivize them with a 10% off code. Because you are privy to their first-person data on Facebook, there’s no limit to how much you can personalize this conversation.

So even though brands are being summarily ousted from the top of the Newsfeed, this might actually be a positive thing for businesses. It’s an opportunity to refocus that spend from static content — content that’s being buried in an endless stream of fake news and wedding photos — to significant and persistent conversations that drive revenue. When people feel heard and engaged, they’re more likely to buy from you and to trust you over the long term. That’s the true value of social.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Advertising Week 360.

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