Creating a Strategy for the World After Facebook

image

Is your news organization ready to react if Facebook fails? Photo by Loco Steve/Flickr.

This post is adapted from a discussion I started this morning with some of my colleagues at Gannett about planning for a post-Facebook world. The discussion was sparked by "The great defriending of Facebook," a post by Keith Morris on The Daily Dot.

Morris’ post was one of several I’ve read in the past two years that have predicted the demise of Facebook. The argument typically goes something like this:

Facebook has changed something.

Everyone hates that change.

So everyone is going to abandon Facebook.

While that obviously hasn’t happened yet, there are reasons to be concerned about Facebook’s future. As Morris notes, recent changes to the Facebook newsfeed have created a messy user experience that’s ripe for spam. And messy user experiences have led to the demise of other social networks. Remember this?

image

Some MySpace users loved the Tinkerbell GIF, which became very popular on the network just before its demise. That GIF and other sparkly images created a loud, messy experience on MySpace that sent many users looking for a cleaner social network.

They went to Facebook.

Now, as Morris notes, changes to the Facebook newsfeed are allowing “content spammers” like Dresses and Shut Up I’m Still Talking to create a mess out of that network’s user experience. If users begin leaving as a result, it might cost news organizations a significant amount of online traffic. Facebook continues to be one of the top referrers to many news organization websites, and it’s a vital tool for reaching online communities with news content. As an online and social media editor, I’m tasked in part with creating strategies to reach those communities. That means I spend much of my time thinking about best practices for Facebook and working to maximize engagement around content on our Facebook page. I want them coming from Facebook to our site, where they can see the ads that financially support our organization.

Morris’ post made me realize I need to start creating a strategy for a post-Facebook world. If users begin to flee Facebook, I need to be ready to reach them with our content on other platforms.

Here are my odds on what platforms will be best for reaching users in a post-Facebook world:

Email: even. Email continues to drive a significant amount of traffic and move users to action. It was key to the president’s re-election. Still, few news organizations have explored using it in the same matter as the president’s data team. It’s worth exploring.

Text messages and non-Facebook mobile apps and web: 2 to 1. Facebook’s user experience problems are most evident on its mobile app, which has become almost unusable. Meanwhile, some news organizations have seen their mobile traffic double in recent years. years. The number of consumers who own smartphones also continues to grow. News organizations might do a better job reaching these consumers with targeted text message strategies and by exploring ways to ensure their content is shared over multiple apps.

Twitter: 15 to 1. Twitter is a great platform for discussion and engagement. It has a young audience and an excellent mobile experience. Its ability to drive traffic, however, is questionable. Twitter typically isn’t among the top referrers to most news websites. Still, Twitter has value in reaching influencers whose can link to news content on their websites and help drive significant traffic.

Google+: 30 to 1. Is Google+ a social network or isn’t it? Google says it’s not; instead, they describe Plus as the social backbone for all their products. I’m not really sure what that means, and I don’t think users understand it either. Google will need to do a better job of clearly expressing the value of plus if it wants to be a force in the post-Facebook world.

LinkedIn: 50 to 1. LinkedIn has made several changes in recent years in an effort to become more than just a place to post your resume. Still, like Google+, it needs to work on expanding its brand. 

Have you started planning a post-Facebook strategy? Where will you be focusing your efforts?