Stop Whining about Facebook and Google Changes…Follow Their Lead Instead

Stop Whining about Facebook and Google Changes

Several weeks ago two internet superpowers – Facebook and Google – made changes to their user experience that made users happy and marketers cringe. The changes were indirectly directed at “marketing” tactics common to their services and part of both companies’ quest to bring more value to their users.

Marketers like myself wax poetic about delivering great products and customer experiences to build a strong brand. But heaven forbid Google or Facebook do the same thing and affect our marketing toolbox. It’s easy to get frustrated, but by taking a look at why these changes were made, we’ll understand and change-proof our marketing efforts. First let’s take a closer look at the changes.

Facebook’s Like-Gate

Facebook effectively killed the “Like-gate” – a practice where the brand forces a visitor to “Like” their brand page before they can access its content. It was a way to drive up Like numbers for a page and open up distribution for future content. From Facebook’s perspective (and mine after some thought), it created an unnecessary barrier for the Facebook user, negatively affecting their experience.

The reason marketers loved the like-gate is that those slightly cooked-up “like” numbers made it easy to look good on paper. Furthermore, often these like-gates were contests for prizes for liking the page, which begs the question, were the users “liking” the brand or the contest? Facebook wants a more honest approach from brands in order to deliver a more organic experience to its users.

Gmail Unsubscribe

Google stirred the pot by adding an “Unsubscribe” button to the top of emails in Gmail. Having an unsubscribe link in the email is a best practice and any good marketer has one in any promotional email, newsletters, etc. Those good marketers also bury those links in the fine print at the very bottom of the email. Gmail now moves that link right to the top.

While this change was met with seemingly less angst, the concern is obvious – subscriber numbers could go down. In realty though, if users click this unsubscribe button, they were already lost. Those emails were going unread and probably getting really annoying. Google just helped make that loss more official. While subscriber numbers may go down, open and click rate would theoretically increase with a more engaged list.

Watch and Learn

Google and Facebook are keeping marketers honest – honest in their numbers and interpretations of those numbers. Both companies want to deliver the best experience and content to their users. While these platforms will continue to evolve, that underlying principle will always be constant. By keeping that in mind, these and future changes can be counteracted and even rendered moot.

Google and Facebook are focused on making a product that users continually engage with. As technology changes, so do consumers’ needs and expectations. Staying on top of industry trends, addressing future needs and throwing in a little original innovation keeps users using the their platforms. That list applies to any product or service wanting to stay connected with their users, customers, fans, etc.

Google and Facebook are content delivery platforms designed to provide users with the best possible content. What is the best possible content? That depends on the audience, but it should be some combination of original, informative, entertaining and valuable. A consistent stream of quality content will drive anyone to click, like or subscribe more so than adding marketing-based walls and mildly questionable tactics.

In a convenient twist, all of these changes are made to boost Google’s and Facebook’s user and engagement numbers. They gather vast amounts of data that help them serve those marketers looking promote their brands. By gathering more honest data they are able to provide better value to marketers and watch the price of Google and Facebook stock go up.

The formula is simple. Focus on delivering an experience and content that users love and the number will go up. That is how you beat the change. Focus on what Google and Facebook are focusing on and the next time they make headlines for changes in their platforms, you won’t even blink.

 

photo credit: Jeremy Hiebert via flickr cc

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Why Brands are Bummed About Facebook Reach…or Lack Thereof

Why Brands are Bummed About Facebook ReachEveryone should have seen it coming when Facebook went public. Even though “It’s free and always will be,” Facebook was going to have to make money. The clock was ticking.

Brands began seeing the reach of their posts dwindle until Facebook finally said brands will have to pay to be seen. Facebook was gaming its own system to force brands to pay. It seems shady – like “here’s a free one to get you hooked and after that, it’s going to cost you” shady. Many (myself included) who were sold on the premise of free felt like they had been had.

Facebook was supposed to be different.

Facebook and marketers, gurus and other experts promised brands a new way to connect to consumers, customers and fans. People would invite brands into their Newsfeeds, talk about the brand, and share branded content with their friends. This unprecedented level of engagement would challenge the effectiveness of traditional advertising. And, it was mostly free.

Now Facebook has turned into one of those traditional advertising platforms it was supposed to challenge. The obvious culprit is Facebook becoming a public company, but others are pointing to a flawed promise of engagement and disruption. Sure, promoted posts may not look like ads in the traditional sense, but brands are paying to deliver a message in a specific medium. Sounds like a dictionary definition of advertising.

Ads on Facebook and social media aren’t new. Most major platforms have some sort of promoted unit that advertisers can use insert their content into a user’s feed, often to those who do not follow the brand. Facebook is different because it uses an algorithm to determine what each individual user sees in their feed rather than everything from everyone that they like or follow.

Facebook’s priority is its 1.19 billion users, specifically, the data these users create as they interact on the platform. Inhibiting brand content from users so that they see more of what they want, keeps users on the platform and creating data. As a result, Facebook is armed with a data goldmine that is too enticing to ignore, even by those that are miffed about the new price tag.

Time to Eat Our Vegetables

The reality is that brands now have to work harder and spend even more to reach their followers. As Unmarketing author Scott Stratten explains it, we’ve been living in Facebook’s house for free and now the rent is due. (Watch his Facebook rant below). While I have to agree with his point, I still don’t like it.

Facebook has opened a new door in social media advertising. It will be interesting (and probably annoying) to see if other platforms find ways to game their systems. We’ll be bummed, but we should see it coming.

(Careful, contains a few nsfw words)