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Digital media disruptions XX - Facebook elevates comments over shares + Alexa's content future

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed February 6, 2018
In this edition – why Facebook's comments over shares News Feed change matters far beyond Facebook. How to tell the real influencers from the fakes, and: why brands should reckon with Alexa for content.

Yep - it's time for another media disruptions gut check - the enterprisey review. Rules: I pick the impactful stories from my media disruptions channel and give them a hard look from the enterprise angle - along with an advised course of action. This series is NOT geared for the media industry, but for enterprises looking to win audiences and gain opt-in data.

Lead story - Facebook makes a substantial change to its NewsFeed algorithm

Stories include Comments Are The New Shares In Facebook’s Rethought News Feed
by: Alex Kantrowitz
key excerpt: "Shares have long been viewed as the things that make posts go viral on Facebook, but now comments appear poised take their place. With this update, Facebook is prioritizing posts in the News Feed that get people talking to each other in the comments. That puts comments, or more specifically comment threads, in position to become the new shares."

Facebook has tweaked its News Feed algo frequently over the years, but this one's a biggie. The latest shifts the algo in favor of friends and family over content from publishers and brands. But publisher/brand content has gradually de-emphasized for years.

Brands have gotten the message by now: organic reach on Facebook must be supplemented by paid placements if you want to reach the right peeps (see: Nonprofits Are Bracing For Facebook's New News Feed).

Facebook claims it's making these changes because studies show that passive consumption of news/content items in your feed makes you feel depressed. That's PR bullpucky. Friends, after all, can also share/debate totally depressing news.

It's really about Facebook's acknowledging what we all should: "engagement" is nothing without honest conversation and debate. Thousands of compulsive shares pale as an attention metric in the face of sustained commenting.

enterprise relevance: High, because this issue transcends Facebook. It directly impacts how we prioritize different kinds of "interaction." Facebook has some of the most sophisticated tracking tools on earth to deliver clicks to advertisers. If Facebook says commenting is more important than bulk shares, we'd best pay heed.

best course of action:

  • Elevate commenting across platforms as a key metric of content/community engagement; work hard to figure out how best to monitor, given that many analytics tools don't do a good job of tracking comments.
  • Train community managers in the art of managing comment threads before they become ugly and divisive (as many  Facebook threads do). Make clear moderation rules that the community understands. Create commenting guidelines for employees that include how political issues can be addressed (or not).
  • On Facebook, monitor your brand's organic post traffic to determine which, if any types of posts still have News Feed traction (example: posts with/without images or videos). If you take a hit, focus on how to get customers/influencers posting your content personally on their feeds.
  • Consider more Facebook Live videos. Experiment with individual employee broadcasts instead of page-based. (Facebook Live videos still get preferential algorithmic treatment).
  • I've noticed that commented threads in groups are now getting preferential treatment in the News Feed. Consider whether a group that appeals to your community would be good to create, or help moderate.

Comparing real influence and fake followers
by: Josh Bernoff

enterprise relevance: medium to high

Bernoff asks a potent question: "If followers can be fake, how can you measure influence?" For enterprise/B2B marketers, the question has a twist: "If influence can be faked, how can you measure influence?" You can have real followers and low actual influence. You can have few social followers and quite a bit of influence.

Bernoff has some tips for separating the real from the fakes, including:

  • People in a position to create change listen to them. This includes both masses of everyday people and smaller numbers of people in power.
  • You can disagree with them, but you cannot in good conscience ignore them.

best course of action:

  • Influencer engagement, along with advocate marketing, are two vital parts of any marketing/comms strategy. Yet there are differences in how these should be navigated based on industry.
  • On the B2B side, be especially wary of bulk influencer ranking tools. Develop your own in-house guide to the influencers who truly impact your customers/prospects/partners, and design an engagement plan for each.

The future of news is humans talking to machines
: Trushar Barot
key excerpt: "The more I’ve spoken to the editorial and technical leads building on these [voice] platforms in different news organizations, as well as the tech companies developing them, the more I’ve come to this view: This is potentially bigger than the impact of the iPhone. In fact, I’d describe these smart speakers and the associated AI and machine learning that they’ll interface with as the huge burning platform the news industry doesn’t even know it’s standing on."

enterprise relevance: medium for "fast followers," high for leaders. Barot believes there is huge impact coming for news organizations based on voice-enabled content (Alexa, Siri, Google, etc). I'd agree - and extend that to enterprise publishers.

best course of action:

  • Get out in front with experiments on voice-enabled content. If you have a podcasting channel already, add it to other voice platforms like Alexa and see if those audiences respond.
  • Consider creating an "Alexa skill." You may also want to read my piece on Alexa Flash Briefings, where SAP's Digitalist has a decent skill already available.
  • If that Alexa skill gets traction, move it onto other platforms as well.
  • Integrate your internal teams working on voice for customer service, voice access to enterprise systems, etc. Share lessons.

Bonus content - a few more stories worth tracking:

These pieces were picked from my curated channel, enterprise media disruptions. You can also view the entire digital media disruptions article series, including special features.

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