Earlier this year, Facebook rocked the world with an announcement by CEO Mark Zuckerberg…
This year, the social media platform is refocusing on its core purpose, “to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us.”
He even changed his assignment to product teams “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
Sounds great. Until you put it together with another announcement that Facebook “will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.”
What do they mean by engagement bait?
Here, Facebook is talking about any post that asks people to like, share, or leave a comment in order get something in return. Keep in mind, that “something” doesn’t have to be a free download. It may also be the chance to log your vote, finding your true love, or entry in a contest…
Why is this a big deal? And why are these announcements so important to Facebook marketers?
These announcements reflect a significant change at Facebook.
Read between the lines of Zuckerberg’s announcement, and you’ll see that Facebook is putting their customers above their own profit agenda.
But here’s the rub. By default, this impacts the profit agenda of every business that uses Facebook for distribution and promotion.
So, what’s a marketer to do?
Let’s take a closer look at how Facebook’s new policy and refocus impacts marketers and what you need to do to benefit from Facebook’s new mindset.
Remember, It’s Just Business
While we all understand Zuckerberg’s changes are meant to give users a better experience, Facebook’s policy updates rarely give businesses the best experience.
That said, these changes aren’t as big or as bad as you might think.
Facebook has always had a strict Terms of Service. There have always been policies that implicitly or explicitly prohibited certain behaviors. Some of them may have seemed clear when they were first created, but over time, they realized they weren’t easy to enforce or even to explain.
These new policies fill in the gaps, replacing vague terms with more explicit ones, and clarifying others.
Why does Facebook care? Why continually make these types of changes?
Basically, Facebook is a business. They only want us, marketers, using their platform to help them provide a good user experience.
You see, their success depends on people coming back to the platform every day. So Facebook has created features (the “Like” button, for instance) that give them data about…
- What users like
- Don’t like
- Who their friends are
- And the topics they collectively talk about
As they collect more data, as they see how people use different features, and as they figure out why they’re using them that way, Facebook tweaks not only the front-end experience but also the back-end, so the whole platform is a better place for everyone.
Again, it’s about giving people a great experience so they’ll keep coming back.
That’s business as usual for Facebook, and it’s the reason for every algorithm and policy change they’ve ever made. So, let’s remember, these charges aren’t anything new. They’re just Facebook doubling down and fixing things that weren’t working very well.
A good example is the restriction on engagement bait…
Removing Rewards for Engagement
Facebook’s slap down on engagement bait may seem restrictive, but it isn’t.
As we’ve already discussed, Facebook is a data-driven company. The Like button is there to give them data, not to give you bloated engagement numbers.
Which is why there’s no reason to be upset by the Facebook policy changes. In reality, these changes clarify the way things have always been.
It’s also important to understand that the Like button, which we tend to think of as a public-facing endorsement tool, is a proprietary mechanism that belongs to Facebook. Outwardly, it’s there to enrich users’ experience. But internally, it helps Facebook collect the data they need to serve relevant ads.
Work with Facebook, Not Against Them
To navigate Facebook’s new policies, we need to get on the same page as them, realizing that Facebook isn’t ours.
It’s an integral part of our lives. It’s where most of our customers and audiences hang out. So it’s the perfect space to connect with people. But it’s unrealistic to assume it will be free forever.
Always remember, when you use Facebook marketing to grow your business, you’re sharecropping on someone else’s property.
Facebook’s changes were made to give their customers (Facebook users) a great experience when they’re there. That’s always been their focus. Which is why you’ll continue to see changes that limit “hacks.”
As marketers, we can reach more people by building relationships than by hacking the system. And if we’ll join Facebook in their mission, working with them instead of against them, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Facebook can change its algorithm every other day, and it still won’t affect us.
So, our only challenge is how we can create a system for building solid relationships with people. Period.
Don’t Push the Limits
The lesson to be learned here is that Facebook is serious about maintaining the integrity of its platform.
It was created to help people build relationships and engage with one another. They’re staying true to that mission, and they’re cracking down on anyone who might disrupt it.
So, here’s what you need to remember when you use Facebook marketing for business…
All it takes is 2 or 3 people flagging you as spam, and your case goes to a human compliance person. They’ll shut your page messenger down for a day as a warning. You’ll be informed by Facebook that [insert whatever you did] is a misuse of platform policy.
You’ll then need to send Facebook an apology promising you’ll abide by their terms and, in most cases, you’ll have your account restored.
But if you’re running ads, you risk wasting all that ad spend. They’ll continue to run your ad, but it’ll go NOWHERE.
So, be careful about trying to push the limits.
The changes to Facebook’s policy are good for everyone. But if you break the Facebook Terms of Service, your account will likely be banned. So, follow the terms to the letter.
The Bottom Line
Facebook’s re-emphasis on relationship may change the game for Facebook marketers, but it isn’t the end of the world.
In fact, for businesses that put their customers first, this change puts them in sync with the social media giant.
We simply need to be as customer-focused as Facebook is…
- Taking the time to figure out what people want
- How we can engage with them better
- And how we can creatively tap into the things they care about
Do that, and you’ll get high-quality leads. You’ll also help Facebook get the data they need to serve their users—which is exactly the win-win they’re looking for.