3 ways Facebook is failing us

I oversee a lot of Facebook pages. I’ve also been using the platform personally for around seven years, and have been suspended, suspended myself, grown pages organically, watched viral content go mad, built apps, placed a fair few ads, and met with Facebook employees to try and understand the platform as best I can. I want Facebook to have long-term success so our company’s efforts to build the environment are not a big fat waste of everyone’s time.

But as someone who relies on it as both a user and a customer, I’m hugely frustrated.

Don’t advertise my brand’s competitors on my page
I can’t believe this is has to be a point.

Facebook has announced it’s rolling out new-look brand pages so naturally I was keen to try them. I converted one of my pages, only to find THREE of our competitors page’s sitting in a new box of “similar pages” on the left hand side. I don’t want to advertise my competitors! What are you thinking?! Nope, nope, nope. [update: I have recently tried the new page layout again and the similar pages box has gone!]

You can also place ads targeting your competitor’s fans, or have your fans targeted. All that time and/or money you spent building up your likes has essentially created a custom audience for your competitors to use. Ouch.

Give us a truly chronological newsfeed
There have been rumblings for a long time over the painful algorithm that controls news feeds; with many brands gaming their status updates for likes and engagement. Sure, you can change the feed to “most recent”, but even then it’s mixed up and not showing everything.

This is one area Twitter has Facebook in a headlock. I follow a brand because I want to see it, even if I don’t want to engage with it. Social media is, in part, about quickly scanning a feed to gather information, and so you want all the information, not just the stuff you will click like on. Eli Pariser’s Filter Bubble theory does this much more justice than I ever could, but in a nutshell, Facebook relies on us interacting with a status to prove we’re interested in it, and that’s a dangerous fallacy.

The other problem is that if you’re managing a page that has had an engagement problem in the past and you’re trying to rescue it, without dropping a lot of money on the page, you’re stuck. When you have a page with 50,000 fans, and only 1,000 of them see a status update, it seriously makes you wonder if it’s worth just deleting the page and starting again. That, or you start putting off-brand memes everywhere and spam the shit out of everyone to fake the engagement until your reach is decent again. Rock, meet hard place.

We need reliable, consistent insights
How can I build a reporting system around metrics that might change out from underneath me? I think Facebook’s page insights are amazing. They’re super valuable and helpful, but it feels like all that could be gone in a heartbeat. Insights changed about 18 months ago, and everything prior to that was wiped. Please stop tinkering, or at least don’t grandfather the insights you were offering.

Not to mention that Page Insights seem to have been “unavailable” or plain unreliable a fair bit, especially lately.

Anyway, all this complaining is going to get me nowhere because, as the joke goes, we could always use Google+ Echo Chamber and see how far that gets us.


Like I said, I want Facebook to be a success. It’s New Zealand’s largest social network with 2.6 million active NZ accounts, and it doesn’t seem to be dying at any great rate of knots. But is it good for community managers any more?

Facebook adjust their EdgeRank algorithm

Today Facebook announced changes to their news feed, in the name of transparency and ease. Arguably the most important part of Facebook, the news feed as it appears on your homepage is determined by a number of key indicators including popularity of the update, the amount you’ve interacted with that person or page historically, how many people have created a negative action against the update, and the spend attached to promoting the update.

Facebook say that on average there are 1500 potential stories that can be displayed to you every time you visit your news feed, and that means you’re going to miss a large number of them. You’ll miss more because of those filtered results, you’ll only scroll through 57% of them. The update to the algorithm means you’ll see more of those missed updates.



The early data indicates a 5% increases in engagement to posts from friends and family, and an 8% increase to engagement on organic posts from pages. The changes do not impact reach of paid spend.

As always, content is king. Creating great, timely Facebook status updates that users want to share with each other will have more impact than trying to game a feed.

“For page owners, this means their most popular organic Page posts have a higher chance of being shown to more people, even if they’re more than a few hours old,” Facebook’s Lars Backstrom said in a blog post today.

So, good news for page mangers who rely on organic reach, and hopefully a better UX for Facebook users.

One simple diagram for getting your brand’s social content right

So you have a branded social media account, and you’re following the first rule of social: Don’t be a dick. Good, but now what?

There’s lots of advice floating around about what content works well on which platforms – making sure your Facebook status is “likeable”, joining in on a Twitter conversation, hashtagging your Instagrams up the ying – but for me, it boils down to this wee venn diagram:


The red circle is about finding out what your audience likes – seems straightforward, but are you sure you know what they like, and not what you think they like? What is it about your audience that is unique?

The blue circle is about being on brand. It’s about promotions and marketing. It’s about the look and feel of updates. It’s about getting the core message of your company across.

The yellow circle is about what works best online. What topics are going off at the moment? Where is the conversation – what is it about? What are today’s memes?

A lot of companies stay in one content type. They may even cross over with another circle, but spend a lot of time delivering one sort of update, to the detriment of the community or their brand. Your brand should never just live in one of those circles. If your marketing push doesn’t exist for the community, it’s not right for social. If your viral content is totally off brand, you’re wasting your time.

Doing updates from sections 1, 2, or 3 is a slightly better option.

Living in section 1 means the content they’re using is engaging, and their fans like it, but it doesn’t reflect the brand. Generic status updates like this are fine, but often your brand can get lost, or there may even be a conflict between the values of your brand, and the content you’re posting.

Section 2 is where you’ve found the niche in terms of what works for your brand, and your audience, but the content isn’t necessarily viral. This is a good place to be in terms of brand hygiene, but not so much in terms of outreach, and fan endorsement.

If your updates are in section 3, you’re producing on-brand content that ticks the box in terms of being viral or engaging in nature, but that doesn’t resonate with your fans. It could be that you’re using the meme too late (remember all those brands that put out Harlem Shake videos the week after everyone declared it dead? Yeah, that.)

The golden space is section 4. You’ve found content that fits with your brand, your audience loves it, and it’s positioned well to go off. And it does! Well done, you. Hope your boss recognises how hard it is to find that sweet spot!

So… How did that happen?

  • You know your brand – it has a clear voice and take on the world, and you’ve stamped it onto your update.
  • You’ve identified what it is about your brand that your fans love and delivered it to them.
  • You’ve reflected the sentiment of your community in a timely manner, or rarked them up in a good way.
  • The community can take ownership – you just got the ball rolling!

Yes, it’s simplistic, but it works.

When Bank meets Banksy: BNZ launches Story Art

As part of the 2013 BNZ Literary Awards, sponsor BNZ have come up with a novel way to promote the short story competition they’ve been running for a few years now.

The competition, in which writers create tiny 150 word masterpieces, lends itself perfectly to social media platforms – everyone has a Facebook friend who posts status updates longer than that! (If you can’t think of one, chances are it’s you.)

Given that social platforms are becoming more image-based (think Pinterest and Instagram!), it’s pretty ingenious that the bank have created an app that turns the short stories into art, to be shared back to the platforms.

It may just be the quirky and fun incentive needed to get people out of their shells and writing. After all, it’s not every day your writing becomes art.

I especially appreciate the time taken by the BNZ to create this word art out of a particularly intelligent tweet of mine.


Have a play here:  www.bnzstoryart.co.nz

And if you’re looking for some tips on getting started: http://www.bnz.co.nz/static/www/docs/la/2013-BNZLA-Graeme-Beattie-SSS-writing-tips.pdf

Oh, and before you think I was clever when I came up with that title; Nope! That’s all on Tarquin_Death.

Is bigger better when it comes to Facebook pages?

Are you a social media/community manager who struggles to determine what a “good” Facebook page metric is?

It seems that the only number people are really looking at is “likes” – as if that means something really important in this day and age of Facebook algorithms, reach and “people talking about this”. It’s essentially like looking at Twitter follower numbers, but not how many replies or RTs an account gets… And we all know likes can be bought.

I’d noticed a trend for a while – that despite Facebook page growing like numbers, the “talking about this” number didn’t really climb, and the percentage of fans talking about the brand dropped!

So I decided to investigate. Here’s my very unscientific method:

I picked a range of pages, mostly from NZ and Australia and a few from the US that:

  • had between 1,000 and 500,000 fans
  • had posted in the last week
  • were ‘official’ pages, not fan pages

and I cross-examined ‘likes’ with ‘people talking about this’. Here’s what I found:


Even as the number of fans grew, it was rare to see the “talking about this” figure go over 15,000. Here’s what the same data looks like when you change the scale:


It’s not that you’d expect a page of 500,000 fans to have 500,000 people talking about them – but why is it so low? Maybe if I had a bigger sample of pages sized 300-500k, I would have had more outliers.

Lets look at ‘talking about this’ as a percentage of fan numbers. I’d expect this to stay reasonably constant, but…


I know it’s difficult to infer from a small sample size, but maybe this is a trend – that when a page gets bigger than about 140,000 fans, engagement slips below 10%. I thought it might have something to do with people not wanting to have their say when a certain number of others are – the old “what’s the point of me saying something when 1,000 other people are”.

Is there are critical mass for Facebook conversations?

Some caveats:

  • n=200
  • Pages may have been running promotions and ad campaigns which skew the data
  • Also note, I looked at many more pages that had <200,000 fans – simply because there is more of them.
  • I am not a statistician and have not run any of this via a researcher. That doesn’t mean my data is bad: Just that I’m putting this out there as a thought starter.


Facebook’s Open Graph Search: A user’s first time

Today I got my Facebook account upgraded to include the new Open Graph Search – a function that allows you to use information which you and your friends have uploaded to Facebook, as well as info supplied by Bing, to find what you’re looking for.

This is what the start screen looks like:


The search starts refining as soon as you start typing.


And when you’re already on a page, it defaults to this view, basically allowing you to search the page, and dig a little deeper.


You can also put qualifiers directly into search – I asked Facebook to tell me TV shows my friends like, and this is the results display.


Clicking on that “other TV shows” link starts you down the rabbit warren.


Open Graph Search also groups activities such as location checkins, as demonstrated below.

This shows me where my friend Jesse has been lately. I can filter it down from here.


You can search groups of friends, too. Below is an example Facebook provided during its guided tour – here are some of my friends who went to the same university as me. I can then drill these down with filters.


Another nice function is the display of photos you’ve liked. Previously these would disappear into the ether, but Facebook now displays them for you. Not sure why I liked that Justin Timberlake photo. Don’t judge me.


Much ado has been made of the potential dating aspect to the new search. I started by looking for single friends of friends. Here are the options Facebook gave me:


And those can be drilled down to:


So if you wanted to see friends of friends, who worked where you do, in the same city, and single… you can.

In a nutshell, if you want to keep using search in the simple way you always have, you can. And if you want to get into some serious stalking, you can. I don’t doubt it’ll be confusing for some people, and we’re yet to work out any of the algorithm (How much do likes, or does Bing come into it, I wonder), but I think this could be very, very interesting.

It’s easy to use, and fast, too. I did notice, however, that a few pages that previously appeared first for me were appearing last, or not at all.

I think a lot of people will be shocked by the sheer volume of information Facebook has on it – but remember, it’s all stuff you’ve given it. I’m yet to work out whether Facebook uses implicit data to draw conclusions about things like hometown and marital status, but either way…  Where to adjust your privacy settings.


The worst Facebook updates of 2012

So many people and brands are now gaming for Facebook “engagement” that it’s ruining the platform for a lot of people.

Luckily, not too many of my friends fall for this stuff, but plenty of people have friends who do, so here’s a selection of the more desperate attempts to raise page awareness.

Lets start with this one.

No, I’m going to let my mum die. She knows it, too.


Because spamming your mates with crap always makes you lots of money, right? And cos magic.


Well played.


I liked this four times. It was heaps of fun. Changed my life.


The old “vote with a like or a comment” spam. Also if you don’t vote you obviously hate your country and won’t get any pavlova, which totally puts a dampener on my plans to finish an entire one by myself on Christmas day.


Not pictured: The “one like=one dollar donated” spam, and the “leave your password in the comments to see what happens!” spam.


theoatmeal.com knows


Facebook blocked me for something a co-admin did

Last night I was using Facebook when the platform automatically logged me out. When I logged back in, I  got a message that this was my second warning for posting material that violated Facebook’s policies – namely that I or someone who co-admins a page I manage had left a comment that was against community standards. I had a 24 hour ban.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I had been banned from Facebook for something someone else had posted.

So what did the co-admin post that saw every single page admin booted out, and me banned? A racist idiot had taken to the page, posting vitriol. It had upset the community, and a page admin, in a manner befitting the brand, called the person a “racist nut sack”. Someone must have complained, and we all got booted.

I’ve seen people say much worse. I’ve seen entire pages set up to harass and hate, have complained to Facebook and been told it doesn’t warrant removal. This makes no sense.

As you can imagine, working today has been problematic. I can log in, but not do much.


You know what else is bad about this situation? Trying to get help from Facebook. I go to the “learn more” section, am advised to lodge an appeal.

“If you did not posted…” #engrish

Meanwhile, if you click on the appeal link, it takes you here:

That’s right: It tells you to go back to the help centre. Where you will advised to lodge an appeal. Where you are told to go back to the help centre.

So page admins be warned: You can and will be punished for comments made by co-admins, even if that admin is telling someone off for offensive content.