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Over the past few years, it has become impossible not to notice Facebook’s pervasive nature as a platform for not-so-subtle advertisements. Consumers have taken note and expressed their distaste – to the point where Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue and called for a solution.

In a post on Jan. 11th, 2018, Zuckerberg released a statement via Facebook regarding the issue:

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience…Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions…As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

So, what does this mean for different companies and their marketing strategies? It has seemed relatively simple thus far, even for those who feel like they can hardly manage to navigate a text. Your phone, computer, etc., keeps track of the sites you visit and then gears your exposure to advertisements to match your interests. Seems personalized and intimate enough, right? The answer is yes – but that isn’t the problem Zuckerberg is attempting to address. 

The issue is that Facebook has become a pervasive environment where anything you googled once is now being suggested to you. A place that was once meant to connect you to your peers has become so cluttered that consumers of the site feel more disconnected than ever. If it doesn’t pertain to the user and their social circle, why does it belong on their newsfeed?  Zuckerberg’s solution isn’t to get rid of the advertisements in general, but rather make it so the advertisements and articles consumers are exposed to are discussion pieces that add value to their personal online social community. Moving forward, the advertisements will not hinder our online social experience, but rather supplement and enhance it.

In other words, companies are going to have to work to become more connected to their audience through social media. To advertise their product, they should make their marketing personal and relevant to their targeted online social community. Advertisements and articles that are “shared” or “liked” via Facebook will be favored, and those that aren’t will fade rather rapidly into the background. With this change, businesses must compete to become an interactive part of the platform rather than a spam-like nuisance.

Forbes Magazine CVO Jason Hsiao has offered three different suggestions for businesses to take advantage and capitalize on Facebook’s new changes:

  1. Create valuable content
  2. Make your video/advertisement engaging and user friendly
  3. Diversify your platform

While these suggestions are beneficial, the only one that truly addresses Zuckerberg’s exigence is the first. The content that any given business releases to social media must (of course) focus on the product or service, but ensure that it is cultivating conversation and genuine human connection in its execution.

Businesses may feel overwhelmed by this; their entire marketing and branding strategies need to be revised to reach their consumer now. The new experience on social media may benefit the user, but what if it inhibits their business? -Fortunately, this is a sort of “when-life-gives-you-lemons” type of situation.

Our research has shown that becoming a part of an online community enhances the consumer experience with the product or service, as well as benefits the business. Companies investing in an online community platform enjoy 31% greater return on marketing investment than those that do not (47% vs. 36%). Within an online community, consumers can share their experience with a product and, through word of mouth, advertise it. Having the support of social influencers who advocate for a product or service not only saves the company money, but promotes trust within the company itself – it is only natural to trust the word of a peer over that of a business that you know is trying to sell you something.

As the figure above shows, companies with a presence across social media can benefit on a multitude of different levels. Their connection to social influencers within the community allows them to track and gain a deeper understanding of their target audience: what works, what doesn’t, and how so. By tracking the common themes between the most “liked” or “shared” advertisements, companies can build upon already proven success and thrive in a community where their brand feels personal and uniform. Through the conversations created amongst the community, problems can be solved that would otherwise require connecting with the company. Incentives can be set in place to make the consumer feel like they are a part of an experience rather than just a transaction.

Becoming part of an online community ensures that the brand is no longer just a brand, but a discussion piece that enhances both the consumer’s and company’s social presence simultaneously. The whole point of being on social media is to interact, right? It looks like it’s time businesses join in on the fun.

 

Jessica Burns is a blogger and communications professional.

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