The death of social media management, that’s a bold statement to make, and one not to be taken out of context. For those social media practitioners among you are who actively managing a Facebook page, you may well already be aware of the changes that Facebook just rolled out to its Edgerank algorithm. It seems this update has slipped under the radar for many, which could be due to the fact that the platform it was distributed through, the relatively new Facebook For Business, may still be unfamiliar to many in the industry. Before we descend into anarchy and panic however, it’s necessary to define our key terms and figure out exactly what this new update means and what it foretells.
What Is Social Media Management?
There are countless definitions of what social media management actually entails. I value simplicity, so I define social media management as: “The act of growing, developing and monitoring a social media platform to meet any number of business, or personal, objectives”. Simply put this can mean anything from the intern you hired to update your Facebook page, to a full team of managers, designers and developers running campaigns across multiple platforms.
At this point I think it’s fair to say that most people have an inkling of what social media management entails, what they don’t have however, is a thorough understanding of what it should entail and how to differentiate between Black Hat Social Media Management and White Hat Social Media Management. This is where things get tricky and where the new Edgerank updates are going to hit hard.
Black Hat Social Media Management? Isn’t Black Hat An SEO Term?
‘Black Hat’ is a term that we have begun using interchangeably to describe unethical, or ineffective, methodology in the online marketing world, it’s no longer just a term to be used by an SEO Company. There have been debates raging for years now about what effective social media actually entails, what are your vanity metrics, how do we measure and present a real ROI in terms of leads, sales, repeat purchases and so on.
Thankfully, over the past couple of years there have been some big leaps in terms of connecting the dots and plugging social into the bigger picture. I’m talking about advancements in Facebook’s own insights and measurement capability, as well as the ability to effectively plug in social referrals to Google Analytics, using Google’s URL Builder and more recently Google’s further focus on social signals and the introduction of ‘Contributed Social Conversions’ and ‘Last Interaction Social Conversions’. These last two metrics can be found under traffic sources in your social overview.
But back on point, what does ‘Black Hat Social Media Management’ actually entail?
The Black Hat Checklist
As Facebook succinctly describes unethical social practices; black hat social media is designed to ‘game’ the system. Black hat social media entails:
- The posting will consist primarily of low quality content that delivers little to no value to its audience, i.e memes, poorly constructed posts and content that does not resonate with its proposed audience.
- The posting will focus primarily on calls to action and ‘forcing’ an engagement from its audience, i.e “Make sure you like this picture”.
- There is little to no original content being produced, rather the focus is purely on syndication of others content.
- When content is shared, it’s shared from untrustworthy sources or communities with ‘low quality’ followings when taken into context with the sharer’s own audience.
- The primary objective of the posting will be to elicit ‘likes’, ‘shares’ or engagement at any cost, effectively chasing vanity metrics. This results in a poor experience for the user and a disconnect between organic page fans and the page itself.
Facebook, it seems, is effectively moving in the same direction as Google. These initial changes have been introduced to crack down on social media practitioners ‘gaming’ the system. As with Google, simply blasting a website with thousands of links is in no way a good indicator of context, or value, to the producer of a search query.
The typical example here with Facebook, is the page that is built primarily on ‘likes’ which hold no value to the page, or page owner, itself. It has become regular practice for many black hat social media practitioners to ‘share’ memes and other posts in groups, or online communities, with a large number of fans in order to generate engagement for their clients. As a result, these pages are being built on false hope and pure vanity.
For example, a local coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado, has no need of thousands of fans from Portugal, Spain, or Europe, unless they plan on exporting their coffee there in the very near future! Page size and engagement when taken secularly offer no value whatsoever, to the community or the page owner. These metrics need to be looked at with scrutiny and integrated into the bigger picture so to speak. A good place to start if you are looking to offer real measurements to a client is Nichole Kelly’s book on How To Measure Social Media.
The White Hat Checklist
Now that we’ve covered what’s considered black hat, let’s run through what we consider to be white hat social media management:
- The underlying objective of any social media campaign is to deliver value to its audience. Value to be defined as any content that will educate, inspire, or enrich the participants Facebook experience on a particular page.
- Posts will not attempt to game the system, or the end user, into taking action purely to generate an increase in engagement or activity.
- The focus will be on creating original, unique and valuable content for the fan base.
Running a white hat campaign is simple, and these principles will be familiar to any veteran social media marketer out there.
After defining our key terms and putting the recent Edgerank developments in context, I’ll now present my take on the recent changes:
- Is this timely and relevant content? The key word here is relevancy. As with Google’s continuing quest for relevancy and context, it seems Facebook is now placing a heavier emphasis on relevancy when developing its own algorithm.
- Is the content genuinely interesting to you, or is it trying to game News Feed Distribution? This is by far the most important development, in my opinion. This update is focused on quality of content and a heavy crackdown on vanity metrics. While it might seem great for a small business page to post a funny meme and have this shared in multiple countries and regions, it’s generating no affinity with its real fan base and thus ultimately hurting the pages ability to generate any real value to the owner.
- Is this content from a source you would trust? Vanity metrics might seem great to the uninitiated executive. They get to take a great progress report to their CEO, hundreds of thousands and likes and impressions, everybody wins, right? Wrong. When using the above black hat methods to generate engagement and results your pages Trust Rating is going to drop dramatically. Not only that, but any fan of substance, what I call an ‘organic fan’ (someone who is genuinely a viable prospect for you) is going to begin to disconnect with your page over time because they aren’t receiving any real value, and by now most people are aware of when they are being gamed by ‘forced engagements’ in the news feed.
You can review the full summary of the Edgerank updates here.
As with any batch of algorithmic changes, the impact will be small to begin with, then all of a sudden the social hammer will drop and thousands of black hat practitioners will be out of a job when even their black hat practices fail to generate any kind of result for their clients. Ultimately however, these changes are a good move in the right direction and should mean nothing but good things for all of the small businesses, agencies and practitioners out there who are working their butts off putting in hundreds and hundreds of hours to deliver engaging and informative social media campaigns to their audiences.