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The Latest Social Media Marketing Lessons from Facebook and Google Algorithms

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Brands grapple daily with the best social media marketing strategy for their objectives. As technology and audience preferences change, achieving successful marketing transformation is like trying to hit a moving target.

Creating compelling and effective content for today’s social media landscape isn’t always easy, but Facebook and Google have been working hard lately to determine what audiences want in their news feeds, their search results, and even their advertisements. The brands’ research was aimed at increasing their own ad revenue, but enterprise marketers can also benefit tremendously from their findings. Here are the highlights.

Learn the Meaning of Quality

Facebook launched a beta program that allowed some of its users to rate the quality of content in their News Feeds, and the criteria was how informative the content was. The aim of this metric and experiment was to eliminate misleading “clickbait” from the user experience—thus reducing the amount of times users clicked out of their News Feeds only to be disappointed by what they found. Facebook seeks to eliminate such content while focusing on posts shared by friends and family, as opposed to brands or celebrity personalities, which has only upped the ante for brands’ content teams. Now, more than ever, content must be compelling enough to stand on its own instead of relying on catchy headlines or brand status updates.

But what makes a piece of content compelling? To get to the bottom of that question, Facebook developed its Feed Quality program, which involves a huge panel of users who, according to USA Today, rate posts in their News Feeds on a scale of one (“really not informative”) to five (“really informative”). USA Today reported:

The Feed Quality Program surveys the opinions of tens of thousands of people a day, Facebook says. From there, Facebook developed a methodology—a ranking signal combined with how relevant the story might be to you personally—to predict which of the posts would most interest individual users, taking into account their relationship to the person or publisher and what they typically choose to click on, comment on, or share.

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Stay Relevant

Google recently released its Search Quality Rating Guidelines document in its entirety, which fully explains the methods behind the search giant’s madness. While poring through its 160 pages might not directly lead to marketing transformation within your business, the transparency and key takeaways both help us understand what it takes to remain relevant in News Feeds and search results alike.

As we already know, Google likes to see that websites are authoritative and trustworthy, and high-quality, frequently shared content goes a long way towards creating an internet “paper trail” that demonstrates those very things. Just like Facebook tweaked its algorithms to favor content that’s shared by friends, Google views cross-links and shares by real, active users as endorsements for a page’s quality.

To stay relevant, brands need to create high-quality, shareable content that real people find valuable and want to show their friends. That will show Google that your webpage is worth displaying when people are searching for a topic you’re an expert in. This might sound like SEO 101, but in the ever-changing landscape of social network algorithms, revamped search engines, and social media marketing strategies, it’s important to identify exactly how things are working today. The good news? It’s not as mysterious as it might seem.

Learn from the Best

We’re witnessing a major pivot in the internet marketing timeline. Buzzfeed built a billion-dollar business starting with clickbait titles and listicles, but it has since upgraded its business model to become a diverse and credible media outlet. Brands that once saw success by emulating the headline-heavy, substance-light content that Buzzfeed employed are now realizing that as algorithms and audiences alike get wise to their ways, the quality of their content is more important than ever. And even though Facebook and Google’s experiments were both aimed at making quotidian user experience better in hopes of keeping eyeballs on their pages longer (all the better to sell you ads, my reader), we also know how people really feel about interrupt advertising. If your social media marketing strategy still revolves around branded pages or purchased bandwidth, it may be time to reevaluate and take a hint from the internet’s heaviest hitters.

There’s no question that Facebook and Google influence the tides of the internet as powerfully as the moon moves our oceans—so learning from their revamped algorithms and rating systems is a great way to position your brand’s content for success. While that might sound like it requires an alchemical understanding of some computer hidden deep in Silicon Valley, it’s actually much simpler. Write high-quality content that people you know might like to read and share, and the results will follow.

If there’s anything we can learn from the Feed Quality program and Search Quality Rating Guidelines, it’s that Facebook and Google are just trying to make their computers better at understanding what people actually want to see. So don’t stress about pleasing computers—focus on pleasing people, and the results will speak for themselves.

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John Montesi is a content marketing specialist who has worked with major companies in Silicon Valley's B2B and SaaS sector. He has placed professional articles in major online industry publications and personal writing in literary journals. John is a technophilic Luddite who still giggles every time his Google Calendar syncs to his phone. He likes to explain complicated concepts with whimsy and ease and is an accidental SME on software, real estate, sports, art, music, cars, and lifestyle brands.

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