Beware of Update Overkill When Marketing Via Facebook

Keep Touch With Customers, but Don't Crowd Out News from the Friends They Really Care About

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A former marketing professor of mine sent me a Facebook "friend" request. I had thought our professional on LinkedIn was enough, but I didn't want to be impolite and accepted. What I didn't realize was that my new "friend" is a devoted blogger. Now, my Facebook home page (aka the News Feed) is constantly getting clogged with links to his posts.

Of course, I can easily press "Hide" to get rid of the professor's updates without him even knowing. But what if that industrious professor was your brand, crowding Facebook pages with updates? Would you want to risk the "Hide" treatment? It's the new "Unsubscribe."

Yet I keep hearing social-media experts telling clients to create content on a constant basis in order to not "lose touch" with the consumer. Well, I'm against that , and then some.

On the surface, Facebook's News Feed is a marketer's dream. Many think it's easier than e-mail marketing. Visitors just click the "Like" box on your website and bam! -- they become subscribers to your Facebook posts, delivered automatically to their News Feeds. But this convenience could become a double-edged sword for both Facebook and marketers because of a little problem: update overload.

Incoming material pushes earlier arrivals down the page and soon out of view. If we don't keep checking regularly, we can easily miss important things. News Feeds have gotten so cluttered that Facebook even reduced the font size to squeeze additional updates onto the page. It recently introduced a column to the right of the screen aggregating more updates. The user experience suffers in the overload, and increasingly the user is likely to "hide" annoying people and organizations to better focus on what's relevant to him. The advanced algorithms that Facebook uses to select what shows up in the News Feed unfortunately aren't yet very good at figuring out which content is most valuable to us.

What does this mean to marketers? Content from real friends and meaningful people and organizations is more important to Facebook users than content from your business. Don't push it. Don't overuse your access (which is often granted without thought because of Facebook's ease of use).

Yes, you want to keep in touch and share "added value," but Facebook users rarely log in to connect with businesses. If you share content via Facebook, remember that you, your competitors, Facebook itself and of course the users, are all participants in the battle over the News Feed. The content you share potentially stands between the users and their loved ones and information they really care about, so it has to be worth its weight in gold. Social media will evolve, but the need to see it through the eyes of the user will never change.

Yony Arad is integrated marketing strategy director at Spike DDB where he leads all digital planning and adds marketing science to the creative mix. His professional past includes strategic consultation and user-experience analysis for clients such as Scholastic and Time Warner Cable.
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