From ‘Shares’ to ‘Comments’ – conversation is Facebook’s new social currency

In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg will be making some big changes to Facebook. Gone are the glory days for businesses and brands. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms will have no time for likes and shares in 2018 – this beast can only be fed on conversation.

These changes have rattled some. But the updates are in response to the Fake News epidemic of 2016 and 2017. Over the last two years, Facebook was effectively hijacked by malicious parties looking to spread misinformation to the masses. They succeeded. Zuckerberg has since vowed to clean up Facebook and bring it back to basics. Those basics supposedly being a platform built on conversation, friends and family – rather than likes, shares and the media.

So where does this leave heritage organisations? We’ve spent years building up a dedicated audience on the platform – why should we be punished for the over saturation of sensationalist content from other publishers? Well, potentially, it might not be a death sentence.

In an interview with WIRED Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice-president in charge of newsfeed, outlined the impending changes for the platform. He highlighted a number of reasons for these changes, from Fake News to a glut of content. But the crux of his argument, of Facebook’s argument, is that people have a better time online when they talk to other people – rather than passively digest content. Shock.

This is good news for organisations that want to use social media to be social. Not so much if you’re just looking to advertise your latest exhibition.

For those who want to use their collections to create a dialogue, to foster conversations, you’re in luck. Mosseri pointed out that the new News Feed will highlight group / community content because it “tends to inspire a lot of conversation”. Who’s better positioned to spark conversation and nurture community than heritage organisations?

So here are a few tips for museums looking to make the most of Facebook in this brave new world.

Think about indirect conversation starters
There’s a lot to be said about the changes, but one of the key developments is that the platform is moving away from passive consumption and towards conversational engagement. Heritage organisations are a trove of conversation starters – from interesting objects to fascinating stories. Try to build your audience, and your content, around that concept. So think about the content that’ll make for a great conversation, rather than get the most ‘likes’.

Reply to comments in a conversational way
Don’t stifle the conversation. If people are having a debate, contribute to it. Raise an interesting point or ask an audience member for further insights. The longer the conversation, the higher your content will rank. But, not only that, you might also gather some great stories from your audience!

Look at groups
Groups have been around for a while, but it looks as though Facebook sees groups as a potential saving grace for the platform. Don’t be surprised if Facebook introduces some changes to groups to make them more user friendly and inclusive. Think about the types of interest groups that could be formed around your content and facilitate those conversations. Facebook has already started working on some changes for groups – so keep an eye out for more.

Avoid ‘promotional’ language
Avoid directly promoting yourself, your exhibitions, events, etc. Of course, you’ll want to let people know about what’s going on – but think about how you can create engaging content out of those promotions. Got an interesting talk coming up? Highlight some of the points that’ll be covered in the event and try to get people talking about it on the platform. Facebook will be actively demoting ‘promotional’ content in favour of content that sparks discussion.

Join the conversation
Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to share your stories and collections. Check out this example from Twitter (not Facebook of course, but the learning is the same). By tapping into current trends and interests, you can make your collections more relevant for your audience. Relevance is more likely to spark conversation, meaning your content is more likely to be seen by more eyeballs!

Focus on community
Last, but by no means least, the key to social media is to be social. Granted, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only talking about yourself. Even using the platforms to purely broadcast your messages (like events). But, if you want to make the most of Facebook from now on, you need to be building an engaged and interested audience. Think about the topics that might get your community engaged in your content. Be clever with how you present it and make sure you foster conversations whenever you can.

You might notice that I used the words ‘community’, ‘discussion’ and ‘conversation’ quite a bit in those tips. There’s a reason for that. Facebook, now so more than ever, is about being social. I know that it takes time – but if you want to make the most of the platforms (and your time in managing them) treat your online visitors like you would any person who walks through your organisation’s door. Find out why they’re there, talk to them and encourage them to talk to each other.

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