Social media seems to be moving in a direction where companies such as Twitter and Facebook are thinking of ways to ensure that business users can track ROI more effectively. The steps included Facebook amending its content algorithm to ensure that promotional material is targeted towards the most appropriate individuals and the supposed launch of “buy now” buttons on Twitter and Facebook. We explore some of the changes that are expected to occur in 2015, or have already occurred in early January; and the impact they may have on your business.
Facebook changed its content algorithm
In 2014, Facebook conducted some research into what posts users would prefer to see in their timeline. Research concluded that users have a preference for seeing posts from friends and Pages that they “like”, and have an aversion to seeing overly promotional posts from Pages, believing that these types of posts are better suited to the realms of paid advertising.
To remedy this and improve user experience, Facebook are now amending their algorithm to ensure that users will see fewer promotional posts from Pages, consequently these posts will have a lower organic reach. This can be determined in a few ways, but it’s mostly to do with engagement. Facebook will determine the people who will see your content displayed in their timeline, based on the algorithm that was formally known as EdgeRank. This means that Pages which often post content that receives little in the way of positive engagement (likes, shares, comments etc) and many negative engagements (unfollowing a page after viewing the post, hiding the post from the timeline) can expect to see their organic reach to drop significantly. If, as Facebook’s research has suggested, promotional posts are unpopular with users, it is likely they won’t be interacting with it in a positive way. Pages can instead boost the reach of their posts by promoting them through paid advertising.
There has been a mixed reaction to this alteration. Some believe that it would make it more difficult for small businesses to reach Facebook users without resorting to paid advertisement, the price of which has increased dramatically in the past year. Beyond that however, ROI from paid advertising has nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, actively demonstrating that Facebook’s continued efforts to target promotional material more effectively is working, and that paid advertising is streamlined to target the people most interested in the content.
Pinterest introduces “promoted pins”
Pinterest has launched its promoted pins programme available to all US-based businesses earlier this month, after a successful trial period in 2014 and hopefully the programme will be available to all businesses worldwide in the near future. This will enable advertisers to target users based on age, sex, location and interests and runs on a cost per click basis, where businesses only pay when a user has clicked through from a pin onto the website. For the average user, this may mean that they are exposed to promotional pins as well as pins from users they follow. Businesses can also track how well their pins are performing, simply by checking with Pinterest’s Analytics.
Twitter and Facebook “buy now” feature launches 2015
Since the summer of 2014 Facebook and Twitter have announced plans to have “buy buttons” installed on their respective platforms. In Autumn 2014, brands such as Burberry and The Home Depot began testing the feature that was shown to a small percentage of users in the US. For years marketers have been able to track clicks from social media to their website, but beyond that they were unable to effectively track how many people actually made a purchase from the click-through (unless a special discount code was offered or other tactics were employed, which is often cumbersome and time-consuming). With the proposed “buy button” installed onto social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, companies would be able to get a more substantial indication of how tweets are performing. The concept is that users, having saved their billing information and associated it with their account, would be able to make a purchase straight from the platform itself. Subsequently, this would minimise the number of steps they would have to complete and instead the process becomes almost instantaneous and will capitalise on people’s spontaneity.
The benefits of having a “buy now” button on Twitter and Facebook are plentiful for marketers. It will help effectively track ROI, and since individuals can make purchases straight from the platform, fewer obstacles mean it is less likely that users are going to change their minds and drop-off the process, and it fills the gap between a brand’s social media efforts and real-time transactions. As mentioned earlier, the addition of the “buy now” button would also take advantage of people’s impulses. Users will no longer have to embark on the laboriously long process of searching for what they want online, filling in several forms and going through security processes.
However, security or lack thereof is an issue and why some have objected to the idea of a “buy now” button. The lack of authentication may dissuade individuals from making a purchase straight from the platform. Considering the users that are trying to be targeted from this “buy now” button will be regular social media users who check their feeds multiple times per day. These users are likely to be constantly logged in or the log in fields are automatically populated once the individual has accessed the site, so if someone logs in who is not the account holder, they have the ability to make purchases with the account holder’s card and few authorisation steps to complete.
With social networking sites shifting their focus increasingly towards paid advertisements, improving an advertiser’s reach and buying directly from the platforms; it seems as though 2015 is the year that businesses will be able to track ROI more easily if businesses are measuring it in terms of sales. This is especially pertinent as, according to a recent study conducted by The CMO Survey, only 15% of businesses were able to prove the impact social media has had on their business quantitatively. It will be interesting to report at the end of 2015 whether there has been an increase in the number of companies that can successfully provide data that demonstrates the effect their social media efforts have had on the business.