The article imbibes insights from a cross section of industry experts on news of the social media giant testing replacement of Facebook Share option with ‘message’.
The news of Facebook testing an update wherein the highly used ‘share’ option will be replaced by ‘message’ button in the user’s newsfeed caught attention of many. It will allow users to share the news or post with their friends via DM (Direct Message) which could result in a dip in organic reach.
According to statista.com, the most popular types of shared content are photos and video but also third-party content such as online articles and links are frequently shared online. Worldwide, 57 percent of social content sharing activity took place on Facebook. The move is likely to impact everyone – right from users to brands and content creators, as more number of shares and views, pave the way to higher engagement and big monies.
93% of social marketers use Facebook advertising regularly and 50k links are shared every minute. Facebook however, reportedly found that more users are indeed sharing content via message, as opposed to sharing them publicly.
Impact on the existing marketing efforts
For Soham Bhagnari, Business Head – West, FoxyMoron, replacing the share button might be a welcome change. “In an era of content explosion, spam shares on Facebook can evoke the same feeling as spam mails in your inbox. Hence, replacing the share button might be a welcome change.”
Ramya Nagesh, National Planning Director, The Glitch thinks that people are becoming more conscious of what they share in public. “They are moving towards sharing content with people they know will resonate with it. However, public sharing is essential when it comes to starting conversations and this move will reduce the larger impact that a piece of content could possibly have. Now, conversations will be limited to the closed group where the brand will miss out on the spillover that they usually get from shares on a social network.”
According to Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor, Facebook is testing the development mostly because they already have data to show that a lot of people, if not most, are sharing privately via messages. “The test will either confirm that, or they may choose to add an additional button. Virality, by brands on social media, has usually been paid for to get it to an inflection point; so while removing share button will inhibit organic pushes of content, ‘viral’ content growth was still going to be inorganic.”
The other consideration to this could be Facebook trying to make Messenger the WeChat equivalent outside China. They have seen the power of We Chat as a platform that goes beyond messaging and they are encouraging more integration across Facebook for Messenger.
Binit Thacker, Founder, Yellow Media Labs noted that Facebook has been relentlessly trying to declutter it’s Newsfeed since a while now. “The reason for it ranges from personal social circle to fake news and more. On other hand, Facebook has always betted high on messaging platforms and has been trying to build an ad product around it. The acquisition of WhatsApp, the pushing of Messenger, launching Direct for Instagram as a seperate app etc.”
Shares have always been the highest importance while calculating engagement. Sahil Shah, VP Operations & Media – South and West, WATConsult said, “In fact, with most of our scaled clients, we work on a weighted average engagement score that gives “number of shares” the highest possible points for judging the effectiveness of content. Facebook, with this move, will reduce the share of negative/unwanted content but the whole charm of it being a social platform where virality of content also comes into play will go away. Essentially Facebook will become a 100% reach platform with little or no extended organic reach possibility. More than brands, content creators will get affected as a part of the reach of their content used to come from organic sharing which will literally be 70% less than what it was”
Aanchal Arora, Founder, 1702 Digital explains that Facebook, or for that matter any social media platform, is very user biased.
“Advertisers will inevitably bleed and put in still more money to push the already dead organic reaches if a platform has active users. Twitter did this with its purge recently. LinkedIn too has been aggressive with its user updates of late.If it does get implemented, marketers will have to push more towards strengthening other public engagement metrics.”
Zafar Rais, CEO, Mindshift Interactive also feels that the message button will push brands and creators towards spending more as it will directly reduce the already shrinking reach of a post, and will serve as a push towards Facebook Messenger Ads, in another attempt towards monetizing Facebook further.
Dropping in the brand side, Sirish C, Head – Marketing Services Group, Titan Company Limited stated that when large players bring in feature changes, consumers too evolve their behavior. Marketers need to swiftly assess the impact of behavior change and revise metrics accordingly. This particular move by Facebook seems interesting; does provide brands the opportunity to connect directly with prospects. Every message can be responded to individually. Has the potential to improve conversions by optimizing the online buying journey. The other upside is brands can better understand ROI of paid messaging.
The publisher perspective
“The impact of this change would primarily be dependent on the base this functionality is being tested on, it would affect the overall traffic by 10 – 20 %, but the engagement with the content will increase due to direct and close group interaction, said Palki Malhotra, Vice President, Plixxo (POPxo’s influencer marketing platform).
BV Rao, Editor, Firstpost too agrees that the move will have an impact on the existing creators on Facebook. “It is obviously going to severely impede reach of marketing products and content products like newspapers and digital publications. However, that is not Facebook’s immediate big concern. Facebook’s big concern is a total shut down by the Government if it doesn’t do anything to arrest fake news.”
Meanwhile, Dhimant Parekh Co-founder, The Better India observed that Facebook’s current emphasis is on building a community and sharing content within its universe. By removing the share feature, it becomes more of an interaction platform – similar to Instagram – where you can see and engage with the content, but you can’t do much else with it.
The up side
Malhotra is of the opinion that the shift to private sharing will lead to a deeper and more authentic engagement. Audiences are more likely to see and react to a private message from a trusted source.
“The conversions will also go up because only the most interested group of people will be engaging with the content.”
Thacker too opined that to advertisers and marketers, if anything, this would create more ad avenues, that too, on a personal front. Ideally, they want people to not leave the chat boxes and make things happen within that. That’s the same thing even Google and Apple have been trying.
The ‘share’ to ‘message’ update will reduce the clutter on a profile and the introduction of the Message button taps on the insight that consumers prefer to have private conversations versus commenting for public view so this would bring about more personal brand engagement.
The advancement of AI & ML inside chatbots on Facebook Messenger will make one on one conversations with the consumers/fans much more engaging and richer to ensure the loop is closed.
“The share button worked well when brands had stories to tell and wanted to engage with like-minded consumers. But the shift from public sharing will significantly reduce the organic reach of such messages. Closed groups seems like a great idea – brands will be able to bucket consumers into distinct segments and craft campaigns accordingly. Would deepen engagement. However, it is consumer adoption that will finally decide how brands leverage these new features,” shared Shirish.
“The obverse of this development could be that genuine interactions will happen; their engagement could actually be genuine rather than considering scrolling a video for three seconds a view. “Audience will start getting more genuine and valuable engagement, rather than sleeping engagement which is called engagement, and it is not. Publications like us, marketers, brand consultants and everybody will have hell of a time re-calibrating,” FirstPost’s Rao added.
Facebook’s certainly having an hard time these days. It’s now to see whether the update gets implemented and what it has in store for the FACEBOOKERS including you, me and everyone around.