‘Think of your Facebook content strategy like the TV series Friends’

Content Marketing Association Summit 2013: Facebook has advised marketers to think of their content strategies for the platform like the TV series Friends: where fans can get a lot from single posts but over time they start to build a narrative and character arcs.

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That advice came from Facebook’s UK creative strategist Alastair Cotterill, who was speaking at The Content Marketing Association Summit in London today (27 November). He said brands should follow the path of magazines with their Facebook content strategies by using repeated themes audiences can come to expect from them, but ensure each post stands on its “own two feet” – rather than taking a Game of Thrones approach where people need to see every episode or post for it to make sense.

He admitted that while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s aim is for the quality of content from brands to be equal if not better than stories in the news feed from friends and family, “most brands are not anywhere near as good as that” at the moment.

Cotterill said this was partly due to a “content manufacturing problem”. Most brands have historically only needed to produce 10 to 12 bits of content a year and now are needing to produce hundreds of different types of content day in day out – as a result, the quality has “dropped through the floor”, he said.

Another issue is that marketers are measuring the wrong things, Cotterill said.

He added: “Most of the industry is stuck on measuring engagement: likes, comments and shares. But they aren’t really a useful proxy of how people are consuming content and don’t ladder up to what your CEO cares about or what your core business objectives are.”

This approach has seen many community managers creating posts that end in questions, cat photos or “fill in the blank” style pieces, which can generate lots of interactions – but not necessarily the right ones.

Cotterill said: “Facebook is inherently social, we’ve done the plumbing. You don’t have to coerce that as an action. If people actually like it, they’ll like it, if they want to share it they will.”

Facebook is now starting to use a measurement frame around reach, resonance and reaction. The reaction part in particular refers to business objectives, such as sales or swings in perception.

Treating social in this context means Facebook is now starting to see “new models” in the creation of content on the platform. Advertisers such as Budweiser are pulling in partners such as Vice to talk to youth audiences, rather than just using their community managers to create content for niche demographics, while Facebook itself is working with the likes of Conde Nast and Ridley Scott for branded content on the platform, Cotterill said.

Given Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, only a small percentage – currently about 16 per cent – of brands’ fans see any piece of content on average, but Cotterrill said this model is the “beauty of the platform”.

He added: “The beauty is it’s arguably the most highly targeted opportunity you have in your media arsenal and it can be really precise in who you want to speak to.

“Rather than lots of brands having these followers and feeling like you want to speak to them all the time, maybe do less and invest more in the quality of your content. Then when you do have something really interesting to say, make sure you absolutely say it to the right people.

“The online average of getting your message in front of the right people is around 30 per cent, we are at around 90 per cent. Be really focused on what you want to say and who you want to say it to and invest in smart ways in terms of getting the most for your media investment.”

Read Marketing Week’s cover profile of Facebook’s VP EMEA Nicola Mendelsohn, her first major interview since joining the company this summer.

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