By now you have probably read or watched Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook is changing its focus. Rather than flooding the user with content they didn’t request but might like, Zuckerberg wants to go back to his original vision of an engaged community.

If you are one of the marketers whose hair immediately caught fire, relax. Unlike Google’s Panda and Hummingbird that devastated thousands of businesses overnight, Facebook has admitted that the changes they need to make to the algorithm will probably take a few months to completely initiate.

You’ve got some time.

Better yet, Facebook has told you exactly what to you need to do to maintain and sustain a presence. It may take a bit of creativity on your part, but hey, that’s the fun part of marketing, right?

Static Is Out – Engagement Is In

The passionate young men and women who are designing the new Facebook algorithm are focused on “engagement.” So how can you measure engagement? What we know and what we can assume is that attendance at streaming events, the number of likes, the number of shares, the number and complexity of comments can all be counted, and all represent active engagement.

One little hitch in this engagement counting. You as a marketer cannot overtly ask for a like or comment. That will be considered gaming the system and you will be penalized. Your content has to organically generate the engagement.

So, what to do? Here are six ideas to start with:

  1. See First. This one is a real challenge. You’ll want to cement your position with the people who are following you today. One way to ensure that is to get them to edit their “following” preferences and clicking on the “see first” box. How do you do that? You can’t ask people overtly on the site (or Instagram we guess) without being penalized. One way to deal with this is to promote the heck out of the value of changing the preference in all of your content marketing. Send a mention to your list in your next newsletter. We are anxious to see how creative minds handle this.
  2. What do you think. Competition for comments is going to be ferocious. Family and friends will have priority and you’ll be up against a photo of little Joey’s 4th birthday where he’s hugging his new puppy and getting kissed by his cute as a button sister. All the comments will have “more” tags and there will be a ton. You need to create content that stirs up a reaction. Humor, outrage, sympathy, and controversy are all sure-fire topics. At the end of the post or video, ask an open-ended question, not one that can be answered yes or no. The objective is to get long string comments that encourage additional comments.
  3. Movie house crowd. Facebook would prefer to host a single video with a big crowd watching it at the same time rather than a video that is watched one at a time. Crowds watching an event are more likely to comment because they know others are watching with them and they are more likely to get a response. Can you say, “live feed?” Maybe you’re covering a parade, giving a seminar, interviewing a local celebrity, covering a pet adoption event, live feeds get 6 times the engagement of standard video. Better yet, make it an episodic live feed. If you’re a chef you can create a quick recipe every Wednesday at 12 noon CST. Getting people to come back is a plus in the eyes of Facebook.
  4. Events. This one is a no-brainer for local traffic and engagement. If you’re a part time rock n roller with a gig next Saturday at the Brown Jug Tavern, post an event. Follow up on the event. If you learn beer will be half price at the Jug from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, add it to the event. Your event will appear in the local area. Great opportunity for fund raisers, community events you sponsor, volunteer projects, etc.
  5. Got a budget. Not surprisingly, your going to have to advertise on Facebook and you are going to need a decent budget. Another thing, you’re going to have to work on the ads. Split testing will become a way of life. Analytics will be the fuel that drives the ads, There is no such thing as a free lunch.

That’s the start. If you are not using video now, you really have no choice going forward. Right now a bit over 50% of the users access Facebook on smartphones. By 2020 they estimate that number will be 90%. Given the limited screen space, video is the most efficient method to display content.

Encourage comments. Look in the mirror for your muse. What causes you to comment. What gets you to type more than yes” or “no.” Try to apply those motivations to your content to elicit complex (lots of words) comments.

Overall the game has not changed. The rules have been tweaked so you need to adapt. The talented marketer will work there way through this challenge.