Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

Is Facebook Turning Into a Brand Nanny?

Facebook’s recent newsfeed algorithm changes might feel like yet another twist of the ear for brands. The changes mean that brands’ purely promotional updates won’t be seen by as many consumers. Although Facebook is doing this to improve the consumer experience, it’s actually a good thing for brands. Facebook is taxing these “brand cigarettes” out of your reach, saving your brand’s vital organs from a slow and painful death. All this while making the marketing world a nicer place to live.

The rationale for metering these posts is a nanny state done right, in my opinion, and would have been welcome early in my career.

I had this crazy idea: include voice minutes for free in a bundled plan. My boss, a slight, quietly competent guy about my age, asked me to develop the market and product requirements with help from people throughout our $2 billion telecom.

It was a complete bust. You see, this was 1996 and the market hadn’t heard of bundled products. My boss offered me some solace:

“It’s not a bad idea. It’s just that no one is ready for it.”

There’s a clinical reason why you hate such posts at some times, while at other times you’ll happily click.

Mini Case Study

Let’s see how this story fits Facebook’s latest change by analyzing a recent cancerous post. This advert disguised as a status update from Gilt was in my newsfeed a few days ago. If you’re the project lead who coordinated this post with the relevant departments would you be happy with one share? I hope not.


It’s nice looking content and is probably a compelling offer, like my free voice minutes idea. It just didn’t pop. Because I just wasn’t ready for it.

So what would have made me click? There is a formula which Facebook is now forcing you to adhere to that can significantly improve your engagement and conversion rates. Read on.

Mind the Buying Decision Formula

Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella talk about the consumer buying cycle in their best-selling how-to for influencer marketing, Influence Marketing.

The context is influencer marketing but the concept for all marketing is the same in abstract: 1) the audience needs to know you exist; 2) they need to react to your message and ask questions; and, 3) only then do you give them the call to action.

In traditional marketing you might hear these three steps as:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration, i.e., “the Story”
  • Conversion

Armed with this context, think about your brand and its content marketing. If your posts commonly draw an unsatisfying point-zero-something percent engagement, ask yourself the following set of questions:

1. Does your target audience know you exist? If so, do they really know what you offer and why they should pay attention to you? In the Gilt example, I just know that they appear to have swanky men’s clothes and gear. Not much else.

2. Do they have enough information about the benefits of your product and how your competitors compare? I have only a vague knowledge of Ghurka bags but no idea if they last longer, feel better, or how their status level compares with others. With a name like Ghurka there’s probably an interesting story to be told that I’m not hearing, like they’re made from leather that Nepalese Gurkhas used as a strop to hone their battle blades razor sharp. Last, I have no idea why I should buy from Gilt instead of Amazon or my local men’s shop.

3. Does your content have a trigger?

A trigger would be something like Thanksgiving, Throwback Thursday, Happy Hour, Humpday, etc. To quote Jonah Berger, it’s the “jelly” that goes with “peanut butter”. I see no trigger here other than an attempt with the mystifying #ComeTogether hashtag.

Getting the Ratio Right

One brand making us look really bad on Facebook is Williams Sonoma. Their ratio of conversion posts to “story” posts is 9:50 (scrolling through their page today). Notably, their conversion posts are very topically pointed and suggestive, transitioning seamlessly from their lifestyle posts.


You hardly realize some of their calls to action are actually conversion posts. Bravo to Williams Sonoma. Gilt, in contrast, was at 100% conversion or calls to action. No stories, no background, no value, no see.

You may not want Facebook filtering off your promotional “updates”. And they may even prevent some of your non-promo content from being seen by your audience. But until your audience is ready for a call to action, they’re saving you from yourself.

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