[sws_grey_box box_size="690"]SUMMARY - Gaming Facebook is important for those who use it as a media outlet and those who need it as a research tool. Here's why and what you can do to get more value. [/sws_grey_box]
Facebook often draws visceral responses. On the one hand people love the ability to share all those cat photos, family pics and hilarious videos. On the other hand, the way Facebook has relentlessly whittled away at our privacy is a constant talking point. But beyond that, there are genuine reasons why you should be paying attention to what Facebook can offer and how gaming Facebook delivers value. Unfortunately, most brands get this utterly wrong. Or, as some say, what they turn out is: dreck.
But if you want to make the best of what Facebook has to offer then you have to understand something of how it works. Most people are content with posting to their timelines, sometimes privately and sometimes publicly. Hang on though, given all of Facebook's evilness on privacy, why would you want to bother gaming Facebook? There are many reasons. Here's three:
- If you believe that all businesses will have a strong media component to their marketing then you can't ignore Facebook. With 1.3 billion people coming to the site every month, you'd be crazy to avoid it.
- Facebook is streets ahead of anyone else in understanding how the social graph comes together. It is a huge machine learning business. I'll explain more on what this means this in a moment.
- According to Robert Scoble, one of its closest followers and avid fans, Facebook keeps tweaking its algorithms. That means you have to pay daily attention to what it is doing - every day.
Robert Scoble may be many things but he is always generous with what he has learned.
Last evening I invested an hour of my time watching/listening to Scoble outline how you can game Facebook with an emphasis on creating lists and filtering content. I thoroughly recommend going through the whole hour. Here is the Google Hangout link. There is much to learn. More important, you will see results if you start actioning just a few of the things he suggests. I know, I'm following some of these recommendations. So what to do?
Understand that Scoble is obsessed with getting the most out of Facebook and that he is only interested in one thing - technology. He only wants that in his main news feed. He is an outlier but provides us with the basic methods to get a similar result.
He has relegated everything else to other lists in an effort to create a clean news feed. This is different to having lists of RSS feeds because Facebook gives you what amounts to a real time, constantly flowing snapshot of whatever has been posted. In an office, you could for example run the Facebook feed on a separate machine and view it almost like a Bloomberg ticker.
The essentials of gaming Facebook
Cleaning up your feed. If you're like 99.9% of other people then your news feed is full of all sorts of random stuff. But as you accumulate people on your feed, that randomness can get very distracting. Far better to push people into lists that make sense for you and prevent their material coming to the main feed. Setting up lists is easy. Facebook's instructions are here. Next you need to decide who you want in your 'close friends' list. (All the instructions can be found in the previous Facebook search link.) If you are topic driven then you should restrict it to those people who mostly talk about that topic. This is your starting point.
Curate the newsfeed. You do that by 'not liking' content that doesn't match your interests. Scoble takes this to an extreme but I can see brands doing exactly the same. Facebook then learns what you don't want to see in your news feed while preserving that content for the people you have on other lists. What about the content side?
Be visual. Savvy content creators know that pictures and video work best, so if you're posting content then it makes sense to have a picture or video included in the post. I use Hootsuite to make sure Facebook sees an image and the excerpt we've created for our stories. In addition, I like to add more text so that people can see how it fits contextually with whatever they are doing. What next?
Be relevant. If you think carefully about how your content will be relevant to the people in your friends lists then there is a good chance they will like what you have posted. That in turn tells their network of people what they like which in turn may well mean you discover more people with similar interests while getting more reach for the things you have to say. That's the network effect.
Be careful what you like. Facebook is capturing all this activity and interpreting it to ensure you get stuff that's as relevant to your interests as possible. So if you're a cat lover and only like cat pictures then that's what Facebook will serve you. I have done some experiments on those lines and it works. In fact I've seen almost instant results both in terms of stuff shared and information I care about coming back to me.
I've only scratched the surface and am learning about this topic. Scoble has devoted thousands of hours to this task. I am not suggesting anyone should do that but I am suggesting that if you are a media driven business then you should definitely be thinking hard about how you approach gaming facebook and the resource you should put into it. The benefits are clear.
- Over time you will become a recognized curator of information. We are big believers in that idea as you can readily see from Jon Reed's Hits & Misses. Everyone I know likes that digest.
- You will discover far more than you can imagine.
- Sharing and liking helps Facebook deliver more value back to you.
- If you are a brand then this approach will work far better than simply seeing Facebook as a place to dump your ad dollars.
- Working on this will help you better understand Facebook's algorithms and become better at gaming Facebook.