You are braving the social media world, with an emphasis on Facebook. You provide quality content to your target audience, engage them and relevant brands when appropriate, field customer service inquiries and keep people happy. However, despite mapping out ‘secret formulas’ for quality content, your impressions and feedback seem to be steadily dropping. Your fan base is not declining, you’re using mainstream social media tools, and as far as your brand’s social barometer is concerned, your target audience is happy. So what’s wrong?
Last summer, Facebook released an update that introduced what many called threaded comments, which is simply a new way to share content. These threaded comments eventually led to combined content, so if you and a friend shared the same link, the link content was featured as a post supplemented by you, and your friend’s comments about the link were separated out as initial responses to the piece of content.The threaded content feature was quickly rolled out for applications. To many applications, requiring the addition of friends for in-app advancement or even application use (a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service) led to posting to consenting users’ streams. This flooded non-application users with unwanted content from Jimmy watered his crops on his Farm, want to send him a gift? to Jessica just performed a drive-by on main street, want to pay her protection money? Facebook quickly responded to users’ complaints and enabled threaded content from application sources. This was great for folks who don’t want the item-request spam from social games, but a disaster for brand managers who use popular applications to post or syndicate their content.
Companies like Involver, Hootsuite and Buddy Media leverage(d) their own social-posting software for their clients. These are powerful and intuitive tools that allowed brands and companies, regardless of size and social footprint, to self-manage and provide quality content to their target audience without having to learn the ins and outs of different social networks.
As these applications become more popular, they are subject to the threaded content feature that Facebook put in place last summer. For example, RSS Graffiti is a popular application among technology bloggers. However, if you’re using this app, you’ll find that as more blog posts launch on your site and other posts roll into each tech-blogger’s site, the application slurps up the posts and posts them to appropriate Facebook Pages and feeds. As users follow more technology blogs that use this application, their content will become threaded in their news feeds. Behold:
The option to see ‘more posts from RSS Graffiti’ is Facebook’s way of preventing users from being spammed. The assumption that posts from a social application are coming from common actions is valid and accurate, but when multiple brands are using the same social application, it ends up hurting the visibility of posts and content. After expanding the additional posts from RSS Graffiti (pictured above), a user would see:
As you can see, two separate brands from TechFlash reveal (quality) content from Engadget and BGR that would otherwise be missed by users. The three pieces of content aren’t related to one another – rather, they’re not reposts of the same content – but Facebook’s threaded content feature prevents exposure of the latter two articles.
This raises a series of questions. Does threaded content still count against ‘impressions’ from Facebook Insights? Would a custom-publishing-application solve or avoid this issue? What is the actual likelihood of users missing my content due to posts from another brand using the same application? Is this even my problem – Facebook is the one threading my relevant content with irrelevant content based on the application I’m using. Does this even matter since most of my target audience consumes content from a mobile application or syndication service off-site from Facebook?
Coming from a custom application background, my impulsive recommendation involves writing a custom application to publish content. However, that can get expensive and time consuming. Plus if your unique app only pushes out content and you want more functionality, additional cost would be required to enhance your custom application. What about white labeling an existing application to fit your brand?
In the end, the evidence I’ve outlined in this article leads to two conclusions around what you, a brand manager, can control to ensure or increase visibility of your posts: either do everything manually or don’t use third party applications. Either way, I’ve boxed you into a corner to spend a ton of money either making your own posting platform or spending a grueling number of hours manually posting content.
Facebook may be able to provide a solution. Currently, as brand managers, we setup a Facebook page to be of a certain type — product, company, band or individual. Applications don’t currently require a ‘type’ to be defined. Only an application title and application description differentiate one application from another:
If Facebook required an application type to be defined (game, feed reader, video publisher, etc), it could incorporate an application type into its algorithms and send appropriate content and posts to users as we (the brand managers) had intended. If the original purpose of threaded content was to cut down on spam from social games, this kind of application definition would further enhance the goals of Facebook’s threaded content and allow sites and brands that update on a regular basis to maintain their visibility on the Facebook platform.
But maybe I’m speaking to the wrong crowd. I follow hundreds of brands and content is easily missed, buried, or threaded on an hourly basis for me. Have any of you experienced a loss in impressions, feedback, or visibility due to threaded content from use of third party applications? Who is using white labeled or custom applications to reach out to their target audience? What other challenges are you faced with using third party applications?