Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all public companies, and as such, their primary objectives are to return profits to their shareholders, not drive visibility for the brands that have developed presences on their platforms. It’s no secret that social networks strive to make their sites useful and attractive to users, employing algorithms to serve up content that will engage their audiences and keep them on the site longer (thus exposing them to more advertising.) The recent news of Facebook’s experiment in manipulating user emotions by managing what they see in their newsfeeds is surprising to some, but the reality is this: the brands we represent are not in control of social presences, and while there’s no doubt social media is a powerful communications medium, communicators are at the mercy of the social network companies and their fiduciary duties to their respective shareholders.
The social network companies can make (and have made) significant changes to their platforms, increasing and decreasing visibility for brands seemingly at the drop of a hat. As a result, except for brands willing to spend heavily on advertising, visibility via social networks can be unpredictable.
Here are four ways brands can safeguard their online visibility and social network traction.
Make your web site or blog the center of your content universe. Instead of using social platforms as the primary repositories for the content your brand produces, concentrate key assets on channels the brand controls.
Use social channels to build awareness and engagement, but don’t invest in creating communities on sites you don’t own. Social networks are great places to find and interact with like-minded people. However, building communities and groups on sites your brand doesn’t own, for example, creates an asset for the social networking company, not your own brand. If you’re going to invest in building a community, do so using a channel the brand owns.
Build a multichannel strategy for distributing content and messaging. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Building a multichannel approach to distributing content is crucial for building new audiences and maintaining engagement with people who are already connected with a brand. Social media, commercial newswire services, online communities and a brand’s own digital channels reach different audiences. Employ a mix, and fine tune messages to fit each, to maximize relevant exposure for your messages. You’ll also be creating a hedge against significant changes in the social media or search engine landscapes.
Let your audience do the talking. Encourage social sharing (but point people back to your brand’s hub.) As you develop content and plan strategies, make “social sharing” a goal. Building content and crafting strategies with social sharing outcomes in mind will not only help amplify brand messages – you’ll build credibility through social proof, as well. When possible, link shared elements back to your brand’s owned channels.
Using social channels to amplify brand messages while at the same time directing audiences towards digital assets the brand owns and controls enables organizations to capitalize upon the important benefits social media delivers, building visibility and interaction with key audiences while protecting the brand’s investment in content development and outreach. In addition to limiting downside risk to the organization in the face of changes in how social networks present brand content, smart communicators can develop traction with audiences on their brands’ own channels, developing increasing the return the organization realizes on the content it develops.