The fight for relevance on social begins on the dark side…. on Facebook Messenger

Social Media

January, 2018. As it does most months, Facebook sets a new record for market capitalisation. At this point, they’ve already surpassed the 5 billion dollar mark. Facebook itself boasts a total of 2 billion users, of which 53% connect with the platform “several times a day”. In short – Facebook has become the new TV, and, unlike Netflix, users don’t have to pay for the content they’re watching, sharing and enjoying.

Most other brands are still trying to find their niche. The content they publish organically only adds to the exponential amount of online noise already being produced by a thousand other brands, which is, for the most part, completely ignored by the audiences they are trying to reach.

‘Community’ outreach rates range from 0.5% to 3%, and yet Facebook has just announced for the umpteenth time that they will be modifying their distribution algorithm in order to further minimise these figures. There are those who claim that this sort of thing is bad for democracy, and more forward-thinking brands have already begun to think about how best to overcome the proposed changes to the algorithm. The same, almost sotto voce, that made the first announcement, has also announced that it will be promoting content produced by local news outlets.

Over the past eight years, the relative value (compared to most other digital channels) and absolute value of social media has grown enormously. Facebook continues to reign supreme. They have, in fact, completely changed the rules of the game. For this reason, brands continue to focus their efforts on the dissemination of organic content, continuing as they have always done, adapting and evolving as best they can.

 

The biggest challenge yet

Social media is currently facing its biggest challenge yet, people are bored and ready to move on from traditional social platforms. Anticipating change and adequately preparing themselves for change is what has made Facebook so successful. In 2018 the social media landscape is changing rapidly, but not to the extent that we are unable to work with it.  

There are six different areas we need to focus on. For now, let’s compare just two:

  • Facebook Newsfeed. An outlet for organic content, the ‘everyday’, an area of Facebook many companies choose to dedicate a significant portion of their time to. Now, it’s an example of declining marginal yields. It has evolved. Brands should remember that:

A. By trying to “outsmart the algorithm”, brands are ignoring the real issue at hand. It’s not all about interaction. If it’s off-brand and irrelevant, earning 100 likes by quoting Lao Tzu and his Journey of A Thousand Miles is not going to help you sell your product. Value is still generated, but it’s Facebook who reap the rewards.

B. Focus your attention instead on new social media formats: 3D, Facebook Live, short films…this is Facebook’s laboratory, a space dedicated to experimentation.

  • Facebook Messenger. A messaging service with more than 1 billion users worldwide, the industry leader in the United States. Following its split from Facebook in 2014 or 2015, the response was generally lukewarm. Most people were puzzled and frustrated by the move. However, soon Facebook opened Messenger up to developers, transforming it into a platform in its own right. Messenger apps have long since surpassed all other social media networks in terms of usage and, according to Similarweb, Facebook Messenger is now the leading messaging app in 58 different countries. Good Rebels recently carried out a detailed investigation on the subject and concluded that the popularity of messaging apps is largely due to the absence of advertising – but the rules of the game are constantly changing and brands must be ready to adapt and evolve in order to succeed in the world of dark social.

 

A Strategy for Facebook Messenger

At some point during the last three or four months, the relationship between brands and Facebook Messenger changed.

During 2016 and 2017, bots were introduced to Facebook Messenger. Brands were focused on responding to the user’s needs in the most efficient way possible. However, the cost of development is still high, and while these bots may end up occupying the space previously occupied by Facebook apps, between the years 2010 and 2015, we can’t know for sure whether or not they’ll be successful. It all depends on performance, and whether or not brands are happy to make such an expensive investment when other, less expensive, as effective, formats exist.

However, some brands have already found success with Facebook Messenger. Companies like 10darts, for example, an American multi-channel messaging platform which allows brands target content only at users who have interacted with them previously via Messenger, utilising AI technology.

A brief guide to succeeding with Facebook Messenger:

1.Work on building a Community. Same old, same old. Facebook asks its users, with very good reason, if they’d like to opt-in so that the brands they follow can contact them via Messenger. There are a few options to consider:

  • Messenger advertising formats. These are displayed in the Newsfeed and let users click to “open a conversation in Messenger” or “share via Messenger”.
  • A Web Plugin, something which has never worked that well when trying to generate audience for fanpages.

2.Define your strategy. Consider the different services that can be offered through Facebook Messenger. In the report we presented in Autumn, we made this same reflection:

3.Devise a strategy:

  • Using bots. Bots can be used to improve the quality social customer care or for recreation. They’re expensive to setup, but worth it in the long run.
  • Using publishing platforms via Messenger. These cost less to setup. The key here is segmenting from the start. The strategy is not dissimilar to that of an email marketing campaign, although the environment is far less competitive, though possibly more complex.

 

Opportunities with Facebook Messenger

As demonstrated, Facebook Messenger is not totally financially inaccesible. When it comes to Facebook, brands have three options:

  • Continue focusing on creating organic content share via the Newsfeed. This will cause yields to gradually decrease over time.
  • Work on one or more of the main advertising platforms. (Facebook Ads, Audience Network, Instagram, Atlas…etc.) Brands are assured results, but should expect consistent inflation.
  • Explore Facebook Messenger. Full of people, lacking in brands. Costs have gradually decreased, but it’s still a road untrodden.

 

Experience tells us that the integration of brands within Facebook Messenger could prove very successful but may not be built to last. Adoption may occur rapidly but the platform will soon become oversaturated and brands will need to revise their strategies and become more creative for continued performance. This process has happened in much the same way for other new platforms and technologies such as mail and fan pages.

 

A final thought:

Facebook was a platform designed for people, which, over time, grew lousy with brands. They set up a system with which brands could advertise their products. They stifled organic performance. They successfully transitioned from desktop to mobile. For a long time, it seemed like nothing could triumph over Facebook, then Whatsapp arrived.

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