Facebook has made no secret of its desire for brands to improve the quality of the content they’re putting out on the platform. But, unless they start working with – and learning from – ‘content natives’, they’ll continue to have a “content manufacturing problem”, says the network’s creative strategist, Alastair Cotterill.
Is your brand earning the right to play in the “rich human emotional space” of Facebook’s news feed? Chances are, according to one of its most senior creative minds, you’re among the many marketers who aren’t even coming close.
Just days after director of engineering Andrew Bosworth warned of the dangers of failing to invest properly in social content (not least, falling foul of the algorithm and getting kicked out of people’s newsfeeds), Alastair Cotterill, the network’s creative strategist, told delegates at a content marketing event that “the level of [brand] content on the platform at the moment is… pretty shit”.
Facebook, he said, is recognising the big social usage trend of “scrolling, scrolling, scrolling” through the feed by placing it “front and centre”. In short, the network doesn’t want brands to disrupt the feed by attempting to tempt users away to their own branded environment, but to offer great snippets of content that are a seamless part of the connected experience.
Earning your place in the feed
Which is why it’s more important than ever for brands to “earn the right” to appear in the feed and, by extension, to be allowed to play a role in “such a rich human emotional space”.
Cotterill, who oversees Facebook’s global, 40-strong ‘creative shop’, is responsible for working with brands and agencies to create genuinely entertaining content that users will value.
Part of his mission is to educate marketers about the increasing value that the network places on quality content.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Content Marketing Association (CMA) digital breakfast, he revealed the drive to ensure brands are adding value to the community is something that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself is taking a strong personal interest in.
“Zuck says the content [put out by] brands should be as good – if not better than – that from friends or family. Our aim is to help that happen. It’s not at the moment, for various reasons.”
The content manufacturing problem
In Cotterill’s experience, the biggest challenge for brands is coping with the transition from one-off campaigns to ‘always on’ content, in order to “feed the beast“.
“We have a content manufacturing problem. Brands are going from producing 10 pieces of content a year to now having to produce 20 or 30 times that to feed the beast.”
As a result, “quality has dropped through the floor”. One way to counter this is for brands to work with ‘content natives’ – publishers, content producers and creative content agencies that are used to producing content at scale.
He cited the example of a recent collaboration between Budweiser and Vice, the global youth media brand, which focused on a programmatic, magazine-style approach to content for Budweiser’s ‘Made or Music’ campaign.
A key element in the success of the campaign was to target specific audience segments with different content packages – informed by data such as Spotify preferences – resulting in the delivery of “compelling, high-quality content to highly defined target clusters of people you want to speak to on massive scale”.
Where all this leaves Facebook’s big commercial drive to increase revenue through good old disruptive advertising, however, is another issue – and one which you can bet is the subject of intense discussion inside the company.
Your brand here: Facebook’s rules of engagement for brand content in the feed
1. Think quality over quantity. Don’t switch to ‘always on’ content if you don’t have the resources – you’ll just end up filling your editorial calendar with dross.
2. Call the experts. If you’re not ready to think and act like a publisher, work with ‘content natives’ who are comfortable creating content at scale. They’ll help you ensure your content is right for the audience, relevant to your brand, and works to the strengths of the platform.
3. Respect users’ feeds. Only publish content that people will welcome as if it was coming from friends and family – if you want Facebook to like you, avoid trying to ‘game’ the system by coercing people into Liking your stuff.