How Social Media is Changing, and How Not to Get Left Behind

Social Media Strategy

Social media and change go hand-in-hand. Facebook puts a 20% limit on the text in your cover photo. Then they take it away.

Millions of Twitter followers “auto follow-back” anyone who follows them. Now they can’t.

Google+ adds communities, and makes your cover photo huge.

LinkedIn adds endorsements, and the ability to @ tag other users.

Pinterest adds business pages, and the “people who pinned this also pinned” option.

You get the point . . .

Veteran social media users roll with the daily updates as joyfully as Pooh Bear greets each new pot of honey.

Experts everywhere rush to blog about the latest change and the “revolutionary” effect it will surely have on the way we all do business. In reality, these changes might make things a little better, or a little worse, but they don’t significantly effect our strategy, or how we do business.

Until recently, that is.

Have you noticed this common trend in recent changes?

Here’s what I’m starting to notice with each significant change made by the social media networks ~ there’s a major emphasis on helping users grow relationships. And an apparent desire to make it harder for those just interested in growing numbers. Let’s take a look.

What Facebook Wants

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook recently changed their algorithm. If you don’t know much about it yet, I highly recommend you check out Jon Loomer’s article on the changes. I agree completely with his analysis.

Here, I’ll just highlight how the changes reflect Facebook’s desire to encourage and enable better relationship building. First, Facebook went to its users. Here are some of the questions they asked, as related to posts by Facebook Pages:

  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

Second, Facebook developed a compelling new algorithm. I call it “compelling” because in the testing Facebook did, showing better quality posts higher in the news feed resulted in a significant increase in interactions, and a decrease in the number of hidden posts.

Third, Facebook tendered this advice to Page owners:

The bottom line is that your Page strategy should still stay the same: produce high quality content and optimize for engagement and reach. You can do this by focusing on these tips when creating your Page posts:

>  Make your posts timely and relevant

>  Build credibility and trust with your audience

>  Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”

>  Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”

I’m not always a fan of what Facebook does, but this is good.

Stop trying to game the news feed by asking for “likes” and “shares.” (I don’t care if it “works” in the sense that it increases your numbers!)

Start doing stuff that builds credibility and trust with your audience. This is the framework that relationships are built on.

The takeaway from the recent Facebook changes is this: Activities that build your numbers without increasing the value of the news feed will be punished. Content that is good, valuable, and builds a positive relationship with your audience will be rewarded. I couldn’t be happier.

Is Twitter Rebranding?

And I don’t mean is the little bird getting bigger wings or the soft blue being replaced with a more dazzling color.

But a rebranding of what Twitter is has been going on for over a year now.

When I first learned Twitter, it was all about the numbers. Savvy users employed a system like TweetBig (just one of many) that would auto-follow somewhat targeted tweeters for you while you slept. It was then up to you to figure out how to put them in lists and interact with them.

It was a complete numbers game. And numbers equaled influence, or “perceived influence,” I should say.

Likely it became embarrassing to Twitter, as it grew more and more apparent that anyone with a pulse could pretty easily amass a following of 100,000 people. It took only time and knowledge of how to work the system. It took zero influence, and didn’t require you to be social in the least.

The Death of Twitter Automation Software

And so the rebranding began.

The first tools to go were the automation software that did all the work for you. In April 2012, Twitter sued TweetAdder, TweetBuddy and TweetAttacks ~ accusing them of being spammers. In addition to automating following, most automation software allowed you to set up auto-tweets in response to a tweet that mentioned a targeted word.

Slowly but certainly, the Twitter automation software all disappeared.

Twitter continued to get a bad rap however. Services allowing you to input a Twitter user’s name and see how many of the user’s followers were fake became popular. Mitt Romney’s jump to 100,000 followers in just a few days gave rise to the suspicion that the followers had been bought.

Twitter’s Next Move

Finally, in July 2013, Twitter changed its API to prohibit automatic follow-back. Companies that offered this service, such as SocialOomph, announced the change: SocialOomphAutoFollowBack SocialOomph ended it’s announcement by saying, “We’re as dumb-founded by Twitter’s decision as you are.”

Now, when someone follows you, you have to manually click a box, confirming that you want to follow them back. Right as this rule went into effect, I started losing followers. It would make sense that you wouldn’t get as many new followers, but I actually started losing people. There were a couple of days where I lost 100 followers (compared to the 20-50 a day I generally gain).

I don’t have any proof of it, but I’m assuming Twitter was doing a lot of housecleaning around this time and deleting fake/spam accounts, especially since my “following” number was also dropping.

Twitter Goes Completely “Social”

There was one trick left up the sleeves of those who want to quickly grow their Twitter presence, but don’t have hours a day to spend doing it.

It was still pretty easy to mass-follow targeted people, in hopes that many of them would then follow you back (although this had become a less than perfect strategy since there was no longer an auto follow-back option).

Here’s how it worked, using my favorite Twitter tool, ManageFlitter. You identify a group of targeted folks you’d like to follow. With one click, you could then follow 100 of them at a time. (Conversely, you could one-click unfollow 100 people at a time too). Here’s what it looks like in a screenshot from the ManageFlitter blog: Manageflitter | Twitter As you’ve probably guessed, Twitter has now put the nail in the automation coffin by announcing that all forms of automated or bulk following or unfollowing are now disallowed. Manageflitter plans to implement this change beginning on September 5, 2013.

No longer can you select up to 100 photos at the top of the screen and perform a bulk follow/unfollow. Instead, you’ll have to manually check the box next to each user’s name, as shown in the above screenshot.

The takeaway from the last year-plus of Twitter changes is that Twitter no longer wants to be a numbers game. If you allow automated following and unfollowing, and software that does it all for you, you can build a following while never even seeing the names, or any information, about those you’re supposedly getting social with.

Can you still blindly check boxes to follow-back, follow, and un-follow people? Sure. But there’s a better chance that you’ll take a look at who they are if they’re sitting on the screen in front of you.

And, the new rules definitely slow down and discourage those who are just going after the numbers for perceived influence or increased opportunities to spam.

Twitter’s latest add (today!) of threaded conversations is an additional indication that the network is trying to put the “social” back into social media. As they say in the announcement of this new feature, “It’s never been easier to strike up a conversation.”

How Google Just Keeps Getting Better

I won’t say a lot about Google, because with their social media layer, Google+, they’ve pretty much always gotten it right. But it is worth noting that with every update they bring, you can see a focus on making it easier for people to connect. Some of the more recent examples:

  • Google+ Communities: A great way for people to gather around a common interest.
  • Gmail integration with Google+: Checking your Gmail is nearly the same as being in Google+ these days. Here’s what you see in the top right corner of your Gmail account:

Google+ | Gmail

When you click on the “Share” button, the box drops down allowing you to share to Google+ without ever leaving Gmail. Likewise, if you click on your notifications bell, you can view and respond to your Google+ notifications without ever leaving Gmail.

  • YouTube integration with Google+: Your YouTube videos automatically appear on your Google+ profile, and you can connect your YouTube channel with your profile or a Google+ business page. Any time it becomes easier to share with your audience, or to tie audiences from different social media networks together, it’s a good thing.
  • Google+ +1 recommendations: If you +1 a post on Google+, it could be shown in other users’ streams as a sort of recommendation by you. Who doesn’t appreciate a good recommendation from a friend?

How Your Social Media Strategy Must Change

So, you get the message. No social media network wants to become so filled with spam, or manipulated by automation, that its users all run to greener pastures. (Let’s face it, there’s plenty of competition out there these days).

What do they want? Simple. They want you to feel good when you’re using their platform.

They want you to be happy. And that warm, fuzzy feeling is only going to come if you’re finding the information you want there, connecting with the people you want there, and able to effectively get your message across there.

If all that can happen, everyone’s happy.

Do you need to change your social media strategy in light of the changing times? That depends. 

Is your strategy grounded in growing your numbers, using any tip or trick you can find to make the process automated and/or easier? If so, then yeah, you need to rethink things.

Your social media strategy should focus on delivering content that educates, entertains, or inspires your audience.

Does that mean ignore your numbers? No. The numbers tell you whether you’re doing a good job of serving up valuable content. And they assure you that your reach is growing.

Do good stuff, and your numbers will grow. More slowly at first than if you were willing to sacrifice value for numbers. But the numbers that good content bring you will carry at least double the weight of those you get by playing “the numbers game.”

Choose 100 engaged social media connections over 1,000 random connections any day. Your mere 100 may not get you the “street cred” you’re looking for, but it will get you the referrals, joint ventures, and sales that put food on the table.

Your turn ~ what trends do you see in the changes these social media platforms are making? Are there similar examples you can point to in recent Pinterest or LinkedIn changes?

 

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