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Breaking Through the Social Media News Feed

Not long ago, the promise of reaching millions of consumers via social media was just a few quick clicks away. If brand managers wanted better performance, they could approve additional posts and, like clockwork, every metric would tick upward. Today, the social media landscape is infinitely more complex. Brands are confronted with rising costs for more dynamic social creative, often video, and advertising to effectively compete for consumers’ attention. There are people costs as well to manage brand communications on a myriad of platforms, and publishing volume is already so high for many brands that merely increasing it won’t necessarily boost content performance. 

 

ARE NEWS FEEDS THE MARKETING HOLY GRAIL?

According to recent data compiled by Mediakix, the average American spends about 50 minutes per day on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- three social networks that rely on a feed-based design to show users the latest and what they believe to be the most interesting content published to the platform. And the importance of social feeds, where users discover, engage with and share content, shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, New York Magazine recently referred to Facebook’s News Feed as “Facebook’s most powerful tool, its kingmaker.”

However, a challenge remains: consumers say they tend to avoid promotional content in their feeds. Take Facebook as an example, where users have successfully pressured the platform to reduce advertising in their feeds, saying it gets in the way of content they really want to see – from friends. To resonate, brand content has to add value – advancing the conversation, entertaining, striking a personal chord or all three, as we were able to accomplish with Tommee Tippee’s Scary Pump Rooms. There are a lot of challenges for mothers returning to work and, as we found out, finding an appropriately private and comfortable place to pump ranks at the very top of the moms’ list. Going straight to the heart of the matter, and foregoing traditional digital advertising, Tommee Tippee cast a light on some pretty dreary pump rooms, scary even, got women talking, and provided a complete pump room makeover for mothers at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Newark, Delaware, bringing tears to the winning moms’ eyes.

 

AN ANSWER TO ALGORITHMS

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all use restrictive algorithms to filter which content consumers do and don’t see in their news feed. It should come as no surprise that these algorithms generally work against brands. The Facebook algorithm, for example, limits the distribution of page posts to less than 2% of a brand’s fans, on average according to Hubspot. The algorithm also has a tendency to show content to the same few highly-engaged brand fans over and over again, instead of spreading distribution across a broader audience. Couple these challenges together and even pages with 100K followers could post every day of a given month and only reach a few thousand people. Relying on social networks to distribute content organically is simply not an effective strategy – and in many cases, it’s a waste of good content. Brands can, and should, bypass algorithms with paid distribution. Even a small strategic investment will deliver a measurable increase in ROI.

 

A RECIPE FOR CONTENT SUCCESS

Across the board, we’re finding success for clients at 360 by focusing on small “batches” of high-quality, custom content. By developing content that is designed specifically for a social demo and uniquely tailored to the space, our clients have been able to dramatically increase their visibility in news feeds while simultaneously cutting content volume. With client Travelpro, inventor of the Rollaboard® suitcase and top-choice brand for flight crews and other frequent travelers, we used this strategy to break through the clutter and deliver meaningful growth. From stop motion animation conveying what and how to pack for various types of travel, to short-form videos highlighting how water easily bounces of the brand’s patented DuraGuard® coating, Travelpro’s content has conveyed the brand’s value proposition in formats consumers want to engage with while scrolling through their social feeds.

 

MEASURING PERFORMANCE

When it comes to performance, too often, brands end up chasing growth in areas that social networks champion, such as impressions, page likes and video views, but have little to do with a brand’s business results. Once a footnote at the bottom of most social dashboards, video views are being emphasized by platforms like Facebook and Instagram because they increase time spent on those platforms, in turn increasing the amount platforms can charge advertisers. Digging deeper to identify how many users who liked a piece of branded content in their feed ended up making a purchase is an infinitely more important performance measure.

 

Sean McNair is Vice President of Digital Strategy + Services at 360PR+. He previously served as Digital Director at Weber Shandwick, and in in-house digital roles at Citizens Bank and Boston Globe Media. Contact him at smcnair@360PR.plus.