Homepage feeds now have a Twitteresque feel with live updates from friends, otherwise known as the Ticker. The most recent posts that appear on a Facebook feed are now a direct result of the latest content being published. And of course, this all led us to where we are now with the somewhat controversial new change, Facebook Timeline.
Now that the complete rollout of Timeline to all Facebook users is nearly complete, the change means one crucial thing for Facebook marketers: The life of a status update is diminishing. Fast.
That means it's time marketers recognize that since Timeline is altering the shelf-life of Facebook content, we must now change the way we use Facebook.
Enhanced User News Feed Calls for Strategic Posting
Formerly, users' homepage News Feeds offered two options for viewing: 'Top Stories,' meaning posts with the most likes and comments from your friends, or 'Most Recent,' which was simply the most recent updates regardless of response rates. The majority of users (many without even knowing) had theirs set to 'Top Stories' so they could see which stories were most popular and getting discussed by their friends.
Then Facebook aggregated these two features into one through its EdgeRank algorithm. In short, this algorithm decides what is most important on Facebook for a specific user by taking into account which pages/profiles that user frequents, the popularity of it, and most importantly, how recent the post is.
According to URL shortening service bitly, the mean half life (the time it takes a link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak) of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours. There's a good chance this number will go down with the Timeline rollout, too.
Marketing Takeaway: Test the waters by posting your content at a different time every day for one week to identify at what hour your post performed the best. Check your Facebook Insights to analyze when you had the most success, and post at those times. According to AddThis, a bookmarking and sharing service, most users click on content two minutes after content is shared. If users are clicking that rapidly and you only have about a 3-hour time frame to garner attention, you have to ensure you're posting exactly when your audience is on Facebook. Otherwise, they'll likely never see your content.
Throw Out the "Post Once a Day" Rule
The old rule of thumb for Facebook was to post regularly, but not more than once a day so that each update received proper attention while simultaneously not being spammy. Well folks, today we're here to say that this rule should no longer apply. Posting once a day in conjunction with the Ticker and EdgeRank algorithm means that your post only has a short span of time during which people will likely see it. Once those three hours are up--your status is old news (pun intended). And if you think you're going to be spamming users by posting more than once, think again! Your post will be quickly overridden by the hordes of other updates becoming the top stories in a user's News Feed.
However, don't let this lower the quality of your updates. When a user sees you in their News Feed or Ticker and navigates to your page, they're likely to see all of your other content. On the HubSpot Facebook page, I tested the waters by posting every hour. That's right, every hour. Each hour, a completely different group of users liked, commented on, and shared the content. Furthermore, because each post appeared in a users' Feeds at different times, I was able to attract a more diverse set of users because each group logged onto Facebook at a different time. Not only did we not experience a decrease in fans, but our strategy also brought fans to the latest update and got them liking even more content that was also on the wall -- content they may have never seen otherwise (see image at right)! While we don't necessarily recommend posting every hour unless you have a large fanbase on Facebook and are creating high volumes of content, the point is, once a day isn't going to cut it anymore.
Furthermore, the high number of posts per day was not taken as spammy. Instead of backlash, we received positive feedback in regard to all the valuable information we were posting. This means that people truly do hold access to valuable content in high regard. Whether it's keeping them in suspense for the next episode in a television series, sharing the latest remedy your researchers have discovered for the flu, or simply educating marketers on how to be inbound rock stars, content is key. And if it's written and presented in a way that is appealing to your specific demographic, you will see positive results.
Marketing Takeaway: You need quality content, and you need time. If the new Facebook is calling for more updates a day, you need valuable content that is worth posting. Simply updating for the sake of infiltrating feeds won't cut it--that's when users will mark you as spam. But if you're strategically posting remarkable content, then they'll like, comment, share, and love you for it. You also need to allocate more time to posting and monitoring the content than before to make this happen effectively. Consider investing in some social media marketing automation to make the most of your time.
Recent Activity Is More Apparent and More Important Than Ever
Furthermore, the moment someone clicks 'like,' it will appear in their friends' Tickers instantly. In fact, Facebook slipped in a new data point to their analytics that is literally called 'Timeline,' which indicates the number of fans who 'liked' your page by seeing it in someone's Timeline!
So quantity (and quality, as always) does matter. The argument that 7,000 die-hard fans is better than 14,000 regular fans is not sound. If you have twice the fanship, you have double the reach and two times the opportunity to get your message sent and your brand heard. When you successfully gain a new like on Facebook, it's far clearer to friends of those fans. This will truly help you grow your Facebook presence in a much faster way than ever before on Facebook. But to do so, you'll have to follow the aforementioned tips to gain those initial 'likes' that will hopefully catapult your Facebook marketing.
Do you see any other ways Timeline is changing Facebook marketing? What do you think of the idea of posting more than once a day on Facebook?