Privacy. My generation (Millennials) disregarded it altogether, while Generation Y runs to apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories to ensure their content only lives for 24 hours. Surprisingly, I was always against Facebook (originally.) I was so into privacy growing up that I insisted on only dating guys from the other high school across town, and I succeeded. While it was not completely private because I was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, it did manage to cut a pretty good percentage of the gossip down since no one ever saw us at school together. Enter college in Florida and my first boyfriend insists that I get a Facebook page so we can “officially” be in a relationship. You can probably imagine the face I gave him, it wasn’t great. When he took me home for his birthday weekend, I found out why privacy can be super important. It started out amazingly well until he left me with his best guy friends and one of them said, “How are you doing, Mary?” And I said, “No, it’s Marji.” Then another guy said, “No, it’s Mary.” Then the only guy who seemed to know what was going on at all (who ironically became my best friend over the next few years) told them to be quiet and that I was “Marji.” It didn’t take long for all of the guys to spill that B had told them of a different girlfriend, Mary, who also went to our college. And it didn’t take long for me to angrily walk past the pool and to my tipsy boyfriend to find out that he did, indeed, have another girlfriend at school. I was MORTIFIED. And during all of this, I was even more mortified to think that we were still “official” before all of our friends’ eyes and they had no idea my heart had just been crushed for the first time as a college student. On top of that, I learned later that this Mary girl had watched our entire relationship play out on Facebook, thinking that I knew I was wrecking her own relationship with B. I reached out to her on Facebook, so sad for what this ahole did to two girls, and realized over the next decade that Facebook official never leads to a good outcome…believe me.
So here we are in 2019, watching Facebook finally confront a lot of the privacy issues it has just freely gotten away with over the past decade or so. And it’s wonderful for Marji as a consumer (who does not have her relationship on Facebook anymore and only refers to her bf every now and then by saying, “J,”) but a death trap for Marji the social media pro. I have to admit, I had a shaky, hard-to-breathe moment when I first noticed the privacy changes. My life as a social media pro flashed before my eyes and I saw the very end of social media as a profession. And to be transparent, I am not far from that place right now as I continue to watch more privacy changes be implemented to the platform. Let’s think about this for a second— Facebook is powerful due to its advanced targeting abilities. Tighter privacy on Facebook means less targeting abilities. Therefore, privacy issues hit at the very core of what Facebook is best at doing. Yes, advertisers can still advertise, but are advertisements as effective if you have to change your messaging and not be able to narrowly target your audience? This is a question a lot of marketers will be asking throughout the rest of this year. I will tell you, that I already have tests set up to see the impact of less specific audience targeting and more general messaging.
You might wonder why I brought messaging into this since I am overall talking about targeting via Facebook ads. It’s because not only do these new privacy issues brought to light impact advertising, they also impact how you speak as a brand on Facebook. One brand I work with always uses “you.” To be honest, a lot of brands I have worked with use “you.” It establishes a direct connection with the consumer and helps them to feel more like you are speaking directly to them. And all consumers like being spoken to directly and personally. Facebook slapped us on the wrist and blocked the boosted post. When we asked them why, they explained that were profiling and that is against their guidelines. To give you (ha, see what I did there?) more perspective, the exact opening line they had a problem with was — “Are you having a baby?” Now I believe most of us would find that as a harmless question. Facebook argued that it was profiling moms to be and we absolutely cannot do that. Their advice for us moving forward was to leave “you” out of any copy. For example, we COULD say — “People who are having a baby should XYZ.” Always speak to your audience in third person so you are not profiling. WHAT?! So now Facebook is telling us what tone of voice we should be using?! Immediately I think, “This is why I didn’t want to join Facebook my first year of college…” Of course.
That is just one example of how Facebook’s new privacy rules, which are for sure about to get even stricter, impact brands. From messaging to targeting, you better bet that these rules highly affect you as a brand. And here are some things you need to be thinking about as they continue to become stricter over time:
Put More Effort Into Other Platforms
Unless your target market is strictly seniors, this is something you should be doing anyways. Generation Y is NOT on Facebook and Generation X is quickly falling off as their parents and grandparents dominate the social media network. Younger generations are looking for networks where their content disappears right away and for networks that are more visual. Move to Instagram and see how you can make that work for you, or try SnapChat. The most stupid thing you could do is poor the same amount of time and energy into a network that younger generations are writing off and who is currently tightening anything you can do as an advertiser, without giving you any advertising breaks. You’re still paying the same price!
Educate The C-Suite
If you work at a larger company, now is the time to start educating your C-Suite on the privacy changes on Facebook because they will soon negatively impact your advertising metrics. Depending on the social media skills of your upper management (usually limited,) I would begin with a description of your current advertising strategy on a very 101 level and then speak to specific points that these changes will impact your metrics and what you can/cannot do on social media as a brand moving forward. This will help them warm up to the idea before they see changed messaging and metrics. I would even include a few articles from 2019 on the changes so they can read on if they prefer.
I was part of the OG (original) social media manager crowd, social media for brands becoming a thing the same year I graduated from college. And if you are also part of the OG crowd, you know that we got places with social media because we were CREATIVE. We didn’t take things at face value and found incredibly innovative ways to make social media work for whatever brand we happened to be working for at the time. My first social media gig was for an international sports brand and famous bodybuilder. The VP crashed my interview, and without knowing anything about me, he said that I could have the job and if I increased their fan base by XYZ by the end of the month I could keep my job and get a $10K raise. If I didn’t, I was fired at the end of month. I lied and said I had social media experience (I started out in communications research for PR firms, far from the emerging social media universe.) I found that I had to stay up every night until 3 AM so I could personally respond to the international bodybuilding crowd when they became engaged with our brand on social media. I was tired, but IT WORKED. Even launching contests at that time worked better. I took on a very sassy tone that no brand would even dream of using these days and they responded like none other to that, even being sassy back. We had tons of international bodybuilders who got used to this sassy tone at 3 AM and would come online every single day to talk to us. We even had American bodybuilders staying up late to join the sassy conversation of the brand that they felt was so incredibly authentic for a brand at that time. No one told me to do that, I was just scared to death of losing a job and tried everything and anything that worked. Soon this community was talking about which of our products they bought and then the other half would share what they had just bought that day— proving these conversations were leading to sales. I more than exceeded the number the VP gave me by three weeks in, and continued to for my entire tenure at the brand. Because I kept trying things no one else had thought of. My creativity allowed me to see things others didn’t, which led to us always being ahead of our competitors on social media.
Poll Your Target Audience
Investing in polls is invaluable. Hire a polling company and poll your target audience to see which networks they actually use. You might find out that they actually aren’t on Facebook at all and you can redirect that money and time to other networks. Honestly, that’s probably the best thing you can do with the present and upcoming privacy changes. If they are on Facebook, poll again asking what kind of content they engage with most and start refining your content.
Ask Your Audience To Follow Your Page
This is an age-old trick, but incredibly valuable. Take a screenshot of where your fans can follow your page. Then send out a post explaining that they only see 2% (or whatever your current brand percentage is) of your content, and if they want to see more they need to follow you as a brand on Facebook. This seems so ridiculously corny and self-promoting, but I have seen it work wonders with brands. Something to remember with social media in general is that when you are direct and ask your audience to take an action, they respond in droves. Audiences want you to direct them on what to do. It seems counter-intuitive, but it works.
I guessed about two years ago that social media would soon fade into other roles and stop being a specialized role within companies. This means that it would become a part of a digital specialist role, part of customer service role, part of a graphic designer’s role. We are already seeing this happen with social customer specialists— Half social media/half customer service trained. As our society continues the quest for more privacy, I believe this prediction will become even more true. Will social media roles every truly go away? Idk, but will they evolve into other roles? Absolutely.
What tips have you found useful as you advertise on Facebook with all of these new privacy restrictions? Leave your answer in the comments!
– Marji J. Sherman