Oh, Facebook. Our relationship has had its twists and turns — not unlike the relationships I’ve had with any other college bestie. We were introduced right around graduation; you quickly became my go-to gossip and social planner. As we aged, and our professional reputations grew, you morphed into my personal business advocate and networking guru. We both became parents — you adopted Instagram and I had my daughters — and together we drowned our news feed in adorable baby photos.
And then we had a bit of a falling out. Suddenly you changed — you seemed a bit distant. All you talked about was politics. Things started to feel a little forced, inauthentic. I wasn’t sure if I could trust you, and I had to take a break.
According to the latest Pew Research Study, I’m not the only one. After the PR mess that was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many Facebook users expressed that they, too, took a break from the social media platform, with 26% of those surveyed saying they deleted the app from their phones. Yet, for those of us who are marketers or business owners, Facebook has remained a necessary tool: there is no other platform that provides so much exposure for such minimal cost. At the end of June 2018, Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly active users — a pronounced increase from last June, when Facebook reported 2.01 billion monthly active users. With 74% of users visiting Facebook at least once per day, the platform still provides incomparable opportunity to broadcast the mission and services of your brand.
So the question becomes: What is Facebook doing to gain back the trust of the consumers we hope to reach? And, how will these actions impact business for everybody?
Well, the answer to both questions is: a lot, it turns out. Since last June, when the company launched its “Closer Together” campaign, Facebook has made a series of moves that are decidedly focused on building community, forging trust, making business more personal, and restoring the founding core principles that launched the social media behemoth. From boosting the power of groups and amplifying their admin’s voices, to the Community Boost program investing in digital skills for local small businesses, to the changes in the News Feed algorithm to ranking person to person interactions higher than person to page interactions, Facebook is clearly hedging their bets on community… and whether or not that will ultimately help or hinder business posts still remains to be seen.
But one announcement the company recently made offers a bit more insight into how businesses might thrive in this new Facebook landscape. On August 6, 2018, Facebook announced a move to make recommendations more prominent on business pages, foregoing the traditional 5-star review system the platform had previously utilized. Before, customers were asked to give a business a star rating from 1-5, and no context was required. Now, users are asked a simple yes or no question: “Do you recommend this business?” After answering yes or no, they are prompted with a text box, and asked to provide specific feedback before the recommendation is posted. The change from reviews to recommendations was presented as a simple bullet point within a larger announcement, but the move created quite a stir within the digital marketing community.
Reviews and reputation management have been an increasingly important component of digital marketing strategy for the last few years.
A high number of 4- or 5- star reviews sends important signals of trust and authority to search engines, making it more likely that a frequently and positively reviewed business will jump to the top of the search engine results. In fact, in a 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors report on the variables influencing local search results, the number of reviews was second only to number of organic rankings. Which means: small, local businesses especially have come to rely upon the traditional 5-star review system for their SEO success.
Furthermore, many companies depend on automated tools for review tracking and aggregation — a system that will undoubtedly have to adapt in light of Facebook’s change. So, it is not surprising, then, that Facebook’s quiet announcement has caused a stir for those of us invested in small business.
But despite the uncertainty surrounding the effect Facebook’s switch will have on reviews marketing, there are some key takeaways from this move, and those leading up to it:
- Facebook wants to be less transactional and more communal. What is the difference between reviews and recommendations, in short? Reviews are given person-to-business. Recommendations are given person-to-person. To succeed in marketing your business on Facebook today, you must shine a spotlight on the human elements of your business with content that features your people, your culture, your values, and your involvement in the community as a whole.
- Facebook wants reviews to be more authentic. The new recommendation system will bring the hammer down on fake reviews. It is no longer possible to leave a star ranking with no text. Not only do recommendations require feedback, but rich endorsements offer the opportunity for more robust recommendations. What does this mean to your business? Take a look at the keyword prompts that are served up with rich endorsements and keep them in mind with every customer service interaction.
- Facebook wants to start a conversation. Asking for a recommendation is a lot easier than asking someone to review your business. It feels less formal, and more aligned with the consumer behavior of our generation. When I need to buy a new pair of jeans or find a new daycare, I look to my most trusted friends for recommendations. And, most of the time, I follow their advice.
- The first and most important piece of any marketing strategy is customer service. The best way for your business to get seen on Facebook? Commit to making your customer’s in-person experience as positive and engaging as your digital experience. Get involved in your local community. Become the thing that people talk about — in a good way. Create loyalty and make your customers vocal ambassadors of your brand.
Considering these changes, the marketer in me expects there will be a shift in how businesses promote and advertise their services on Facebook, and there will surely be a small learning curve as we adapt our marketing practices. But the everyday Facebook junkie in me is relieved to see the platform that defined a decade evolve to embrace a more personal, trustworthy, and authentic experience.
Saralyn Ward is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Page 1 Solutions in Lakewood, CO. She writes regularly on both marketing and parenting and hopes that someday her skills of persuasion — honed in marketing — will actually work on toddlers. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.