Facebook and Pinterest updates, social listening and building ‘good’ links

Here’s our round-up of need-to-know social media & content news from the last few months and what it means for your digital marketing.

Facebook cracks down on promotional posts and rolls out CTA buttons

If your business has a Facebook Page, you can’t have failed to notice that your content is reaching fewer and fewer people. Throughout the past year, Facebook has been rolling out updates to its News Feed which have gradually suppressed content published by Pages in order to improve user experience. At the end of last year, Facebook announced further changes which specifically target “promotional content” from Pages such as offers, competitions and product announcements – meaning we’re pretty much at the stage now that organic reach on Facebook is, at best, incredibly difficult to achieve and, at worst, non-existent. Therefore, it’s now essential that your Facebook strategy comprises two different strands: ‘paid promotional’ and ‘organic engagement’. In other words, if you want your content to be seen, you need to be combining advertising with publishing quality content that resonates with your audience. By separating activity into these two different strands, you’re getting your promotional content in front of your target audience, as well as building relationships with existing customers – which is essential for delivering a stand-out customer experience.


Image via Maria Elena on Flickr.

Despite reducing Page reach, Facebook maintains that Pages are an essential part of any brand’s social strategy. Of course they do, advertising is how they make their money. No matter how cynical you are about Facebook’s methods though, the fact remains that it’s still the biggest social network and – for almost every retailer – this is probably the place that most of your customers are hanging out in their spare time. In order to help brands make Pages more tailored to achieving their marketing objectives, Facebook is rolling out Call To Action Buttons including ‘Book Now’, ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Sign Up’ – so keep an eye out for these becoming available for your Page.

Pinterest introduces ‘Smart Feed’

Towards the last quarter of 2014, Pinterest stopped showing users pins from everyone they follow in their feed in chronological order by introducing an algorithm called the Smart Feed. This means that when you log on to Pinterest now, you will see pins from three different sources: people you follow, related pins and pins that Pinterest thinks you’ll like based on your interests. The highest quality pins (determined by a number of different factors) are pushed to the top of the feed, making them more likely to be seen. The Smart Feed also ensures that you aren’t being shown the same pins over and over again each time you visit the site.

What does this mean for your brand’s Pinterest account? It means that you need to optimise your pins for the Pinterest Smart Feed in order to maximise the chance of them being seen. Some of the ways that you can increase the chance of your content appearing in users’ feeds are:

• Ensure your images are eye-catching, high quality and portrait-oriented
• Implement rich pins to automatically brand your content and encourage conversions by telling your audience which products are in stock and how much they are
• Spend time crafting your pin descriptions, ensuring they are well-written and contain key words and phrases which relate to your content
• Only re-pin content from other users that’s as high quality as your brand’s content
• Pin things that are useful and inspiring rather than being overly promotional
• Add the ‘Pin It’ button to your site to make it easier for visitors to share your products and content – then your site visitors do the work for you

Social listening is essential

Social media users are becoming so bombarded with advert-style messaging that they’re getting pretty good at shutting out the noise – one of the reasons for Facebook’s decision to suppress promotional posts. With every piece of content you post in these social spaces, you’re competing for peoples’ attention not just with other brands, but with their friends, family and favourite celebrities too. If you’re just shouting about buying your products or services, then you’re never going to cut through all of the more interesting things that your audience could be looking at.

What’s the solution? Listen to your audience, get to know them, understand what they talk about, use the same language as they do and show that you care about the same things as them. There’ll be a reason why they followed you in the first place – because something about your brand resonated with them. Build on this by creating content that builds relationships. It’s only by nurturing your audience and showing an interest in them that you create a brilliant customer experience.

There are numerous tools available that you can use to monitor not just what people are saying about your brand name, but around terms relating to your product too – for example, if you sell coats you could monitor conversations around the weather being cold and join the conversation where appropriate. As you go along and discover these communities online, make a note of where most of the relevant conversations are going on – these are the primary channels you should focus on. Also pay close attention to the questions that your audience are asking – can you produce content that answers these questions for them and direct them to it via social? Or do your products solve their problems in themselves?

Building ‘good’ links to your site (and why bloggers are still important)

It’s been a controversial subject ever since Google released its first Penguin update, penalising sites that had focused their SEO strategy on building up hundreds or even thousands of low-quality, paid-for links. Subsequent updates and clarifications to Penguin saw Google telling webmasters that ANY followed link which had been paid for in any way – either by exchange of cash or goods – was at risk of attracting the wrath of Penguin.

Of course, to police every single link would be impossible – but the risk has been sufficient enough to make people wary of any practises that could be considered even remotely suspect. With this in mind, here are some suggested ways to gain links in a safe and sustainable way:

• Conduct customer insight to gain an in-depth understanding of your brand’s audience
• Create on-site content which addresses real, query-based searches which are relevant to your customers and potential customers
• Ensure that every single piece of content you publish on your site has purpose and adds value
• Make sure your content is better than and different to what your competitors are doing – that’s the only way to get attention

Once you’ve got the content on your site, tactics to get it linked to are:

• Identify relevant, niche publications relating to your industry and let them know about your brand and content – it’s much easier to get links from these smaller sites but links will be relevant (which Google rewards) and they’ll drive smaller volumes of highly qualified traffic which is likely to convert
• Take a look at the link profiles of your competitors, identify where their best links are coming from and target the same publications OR offer your own resources as an alternative / updated source where information is outdated
• Publish blog posts that feature quotes from or interviews with key influencers in your industry and let them know that they’ve been featured – they’ll likely be more than happy to share your content via their social networks and may even link to it from their site
• Sign up to sites such as HARO or Response Source and answer relevant queries from journalists which could result in coverage for your organisation – even if you don’t get a link, brand citations from authoritative sites will still have value
• Interactive content such as quizzes and branded tools are great ways to attract links because people have to link to your site when they talk about them

While for SEO purposes you have to earn links, this doesn’t mean that sending products to bloggers for review or engaging in commercial collaborations shouldn’t be part of your strategy anymore. Blogs which are read widely by your target audience are hugely important for raising brand awareness and driving quality traffic which converts. Even though these links won’t hold natural search value, don’t ignore them. Most importantly, a relationship that starts with a paid promotion can be nurtured to create an influential brand advocate – it might even result in editorial coverage and an earned link at a later date.

Header image via Jason Howie on Flickr.

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