Facebook and Twitter Tweak the Rules for Content Marketing

If social media sites—and Facebook and Twitter in particular—are a part of your content marketing strategy, you’ll want to stay abreast of some recent changes.

Facebook

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would be making changes to the algorithm that chooses what posts appear in users’ News Feed “so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.” That sounds great from the user perspective, but it has some difficult implications for those who are promoting their businesses on the social media platform.

Here’s the nugget:

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

What effect this change will have (or has already had) on your Facebook traffic is hard to predict, since Facebook’s algorithm is a black box. It does seem likely that it will reduce the efficacy of Facebook as a marketing tool.

If you rely heavily on Facebook now and see good results from it, it’s worth staying the path. Posts that prompt conversation between individuals are more likely to be selected for the News Feed, so you should think about encouraging such behavior. For instance, if you’re posting a link to an article on your blog that you know a particular client would benefit from, perhaps tag them in a reply that suggests that the article might solve their problem. However, don’t ask for likes or comments, since Facebook considers that “engagement bait” and will demote pages that use it.

Twitter

More recently, Twitter announced some changes in its rules for acceptable behavior, specifically surrounding automation. Because the lifespan of a tweet is so short, many companies increase the likelihood of their messages being seen by using automation to post the same tweet to multiple different accounts and to the same account multiple times. This latter approach—reposting 3–5 times per day—has long been recommended by social media marketers.

That may not be a good idea anymore. The exact wording from the announcement is:

Posting multiple updates (on a single account or across multiple accounts you control) to a trending or popular topic (for instance, through the use of a specific hashtag) with an intent to subvert or manipulate the topic, or to artificially inflate the prominence of a hashtag or topic, is never allowed.

The question, of course, is whether or not what you’re posting would count as “trending or popular topics.” However, Twitter’s Automation Rules are more general, noting merely:

Multiple posts/accounts: You may not post duplicative or substantially similar Tweets on one account or over multiple accounts you operate.

These rules went into place on March 23rd, so it remains to be seen what Twitter will do to those who break them. However, the social media automation service dlvr.it believes violators may have their accounts suspended or terminated. Hootsuite, another social media automation service, seems to be less worried, focusing on the “trending or popular topics” and “with an intent to subvert or manipulate the topic” wording.

So if you’ve been using a social media automation service like Buffer or Hootsuite to automate reposting of your content to Twitter, should you stop? I’d recommend that you stick to a single post for a while, and see how that affects your referrals from Twitter. If that metric drops significantly, it might be worth the effort to return to promoting a particular blog post multiple times, but with somewhat different content each time.

And if you haven’t been reposting your content to Twitter so far, I’d suggest that it’s not worth starting. The return on your investment of time is likely far too low.

 

Why You Should Take Advantage of Breaking News

You’re not a publisher, but when it comes to content marketing, you should still try to think like one. And publishers love breaking news because everyone is interested.

In our world, that’s happening right now, with Apple’s announcements last week and this week’s releases of iOS 11, watchOS 4, and tvOS 11, along with the new iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K. Anyone who uses Apple products will be curious about the new stuff, and if you’re providing sales, support, or service to them, they’ll be turning to you.

That’s why we’ve been providing articles about all of Apple’s releases to TidBITS Content Network subscribers, even going so far as providing early access to October’s articles about iOS 11, watchOS 4, High Sierra, and the new iPad features of iOS 11.

All I’m really saying here is that you should be sure to take advantage of major industry releases in your content marketing.

Sure, there’s tons of coverage out there on the Web, but content marketing is about establishing yourself as the expert. Whether you’re writing your own stuff, tweaking TCN articles, or just posting our stuff verbatim, you only stand to benefit by providing your audience with your take on the latest and greatest.

Don’t be shy — let Apple’s news float your boat too!

Social Media Post Frequency, Timing, and Length

If you include social media in your content marketing strategy, there are three things to keep in mind. You want to plan how often you’ll post, at what time of day you’ll post, and how long your posts will be. If you’re being truly social—posting pictures of your kids or your latest vacation—you don’t care about any of that, but if you’re investing work time into maintaining a social media presence, you don’t want that time to be wasted.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that most of your posts will link to articles on your blog. Remember, we’re talking about creating an integrated content marketing strategy here, so your primary goal is to promote your content, whether you’re creating it yourself or subscribing to the TidBITS Content Network. Having fresh content and regular social media posts makes you look good to potential clients and helps current clients remember that they need your services.

Of course, you can and should also use your blog, email newsletter, and social media to publicize other aspects of your business. For instance, if you’re having a sale or special training event, make sure to promote that too.

You might be tempted to post to as many social media networks as you can—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, MySpace, and so on. OK, no one’s posting to MySpace anymore, but even if you use an automated posting tool, as I suggest later on, you should still focus your social media efforts on one or two spots. Facebook is probably the best, with Twitter second. If you have a lot of business contacts in LinkedIn, you could give it a try, but most people on LinkedIn don’t read it as a news feed. Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat aren’t a good fit for most businesses.

Facebook Recommendations

Since Facebook organic reach is so low, you need to post about any given article multiple times so your followers have a chance of seeing it. The current recommendation is as much as once per day, including weekends. Reposting can feel awkward, so rather than plugging the same article on your blog every day for a week, point at older content on your blog. This is best done after you’ve built up a stash of posts.

The best time to post for engagement is reportedly 1–3 PM. That said, since lots of people check Facebook first thing in the morning, you could try aiming for 7 AM instead and see if that resonates better with your audience.

Because Facebook expands article links to display a photo, headline, and first few lines, you don’t need to repeat the article title. Instead, say something about the topic of the article, focusing on your reaction to it or the potential benefits to your readers.

Although Facebook allows lengthy posts, keep what you write under 400 characters or people will have to click a Read More link to finish reading, which they probably won’t do. The sweet spot for a Facebook post length is supposedly 55 to 120 characters, which means you can use roughly the same text as for Twitter.

Twitter Recommendations

The big difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook customizes what each user sees, whereas Twitter is pretty much a straight chronological stream. The practical upshot is that for Twitter, you’ll want to post much more often than for Facebook. As I noted, since the average tweet has a lifespan of just 18 minutes (and people rarely go far back in their streams), you should plan on posting three to five times per day. Experts recommend 9 AM, 12 PM, and 6 PM as the best times to post.

Since tweets disappear so quickly, there’s usually no harm in posting the same tweet repeatedly throughout the day to make sure that everyone who follows you has a chance to see it.

Like Facebook, Twitter shows images from articles you link to, but it doesn’t include titles and excerpts as Facebook does, so make sure your tweets explain why the reader will want to click through.

Because the necessary URL in a tweet that links back to your site takes up space, assume you have only 119 characters to write what you want—the shortened URL may take up to 21 characters. Shorter is better, and if you can fit in a call to action, that’s always good.

Automatic Posting

If you’re thinking, “There is no way I have time to post to Twitter and Facebook every day,” you’re smart. You don’t have time to do that, no one does. The solution is automation, via services like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Friends+Me.

With these services, you can queue a month’s worth of posts at a time. Doing so still isn’t trivially easy, but it’s better than fussing with Facebook and Twitter every day. Be careful, because these services can get expensive—you should be able to get by for about $10 per month.

To the extent possible, pay attention to how effective your social media strategy is. Are you getting likes, retweets, and comments? It’s harder to measure the effect of simple impressions—people who read your post without interacting with it in any way that you can detect—but those impressions still have some small value.

Regardless, if you’re not getting a significant return on your investment, figure out how little work you can put in on the social media front and still maintain the presence you want.

Social Media May Feel Necessary, but May Not Be a Big Win

When it comes to developing a content marketing strategy, you need a blog as a foundation and an email newsletter as your primary method of outreach to current and potential clients. But what about social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram?

I won’t lie. I think social media is largely a waste of time. From a conceptual standpoint, the reason is right there in the name: social media is about socializing. People spend time on Facebook to find out what’s happening with their cousins and their friends from college, and they follow Twitter streams from people they know and celebrities they’d like to pretend they know. What they’re not doing is making business connections and thinking about work.

There’s another problem, which is that organic (as opposed to paid) social media largely doesn’t work for business promotion of any sort. Did you know, for instance, that the average tweet has a lifespan of just 18 minutes? Marketing guru Avinash Kaushik has written a compelling indictment of organic social media, pointing out that even for the largest brands, the engagement rate is vanishingly small.

To crib an example from Kaushik’s article, check out Expedia’s Facebook page. The first organic post when I visited featured a nice photo of penguins, and I’m always a sucker for penguins. However, I must be weird, because of the roughly 6.5 million people who like or follow Expedia on Facebook, this post got just 41 likes (an “applause rate” of 0.00062%)  and 10 comments (a “conversation rate” of 0.00015%), and 0 shares. Since 8 of the 10 comments were negative screeds left by angry customers, it’s safe to say that this post hurt Expedia far more than it helped.

OK, so much for the naysaying. I know how hard it is to ignore Facebook and Twitter when social media “experts” are constantly talking about how essential they are. And there can be benefits to posting regularly on social media, including:

  • Be in the conversation. Regardless of the amount of engagement, if you’re not participating, there’s no opportunity to engage with current and potential clients.
  • Immediate interaction. When people do comment on your social media posts, that’s your chance to show off your customer service or expertise. Be sure to reply quickly, and always like or follow those who engage.
  • Branding. Even useful posts may not provoke much engagement individually, but they do improve your branding, setting you up as a reliable source.
  • Traffic and lead generation. No one reads much on social media, so everything you post should link back to your blog, which can only help bring people to your Web site.

If you decide to include Facebook and Twitter in your content marketing strategy, we have some suggestions for the frequency, timing, and length of your posts in our next article.

Learn about TCN on the Command Control Power Podcast

Want to hear more about where the TidBITS Content Network came from and what it provides to Apple consultants, resellers, and other professionals?

I was jazzed to be interviewed about the TidBITS Content Network on a recent Command Control Power podcast, hosted by three Apple Consultants Network members: Joe Saponare of PsiMac, Sam Valencia of HCS Technology Group, and Jerry Zigmont of MacWorks. And I was joined by TCN subscriber Will O’Neal, founder, and president of both Mid-Atlantic and Metro-Atlanta Computer Solutions. We had an awfully good time chatting, and Joe, Sam, and Jerry truly understood what we’re trying to achieve with TCN.

For those who haven’t listened to Command Control Power before, it’s essential for anyone who works as a consultant because it explores both the business and technology sides of consulting. (And it’s a great way to pass time while driving to clients.) Mac admins in large organizations might find it useful as well for the technical discussions alone.

Give it a listen!