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How Facebook is changing the web as we know it

Originally posted on Social Media Today.


For over a decade, Facebook has served as a key player in the social media game. While others have tried to compete, very few have been able to achieve the same level of prominence as this social media giant. In fact, back in August, Facebook announced that they have reached over a billion users, making it one of the most in-demand social platforms of all time.


While Facebook certainly knows how to engage a community, using their site as a primary method of developing a strong brand to customer relationship has its drawbacks. Though we all know the site has a massive reach, by keeping all your conversations on another site, you are basically pushing your engagement elsewhere while simultaneously reducing your user retention.


THE PROBLEM:

Essentially, Facebook is trying to do it all. The social network's features have now expanded exponentially to include tools for businesses such as ecommerce, advertising, customer service and more. Now, they are trying to take on content as well. With Facebook's revamped "Notes" section, the site encourages average users and bloggers alike to use their platform for content creation. While this may sound encouraging as bloggers will now be able to post instant articles with an almost unlimited reach, online publishers are already taking the fall as a result.


What does this mean for the future of content and online publishing? As we know, Facebook has rights to most of the content we post. This means, your pictures and other content are all accessible to them. Now, when you post to "Notes", they will own your content as well. As a result, your blog posts and the conversations surrounding them will help bring your community to Facebook rather than your own site. Needless to say, you will now have less control over your communities conversations as well as the branding behind your content.


THE SOLUTION:

Make your site do it all by challenging Facebook's social game in order to keep ownership of your content. Here's how to make it happen:


Create a place for conversation


Conversations are what Facebook is all about. That's why there are quite a few different places for dialog throughout the site. From status updates, to comments, to chat and "likes"--there seems to be endless ways for users to put in their two sense. Of course, this is one of the major reasons people continue to come back for more.


According to recent statistics, 2,716,000 messages and 10.2 million comments are posted on Facebook every 20 minutes. Clearly, this highlights the fact that people are attracted to social media as a platform for sharing and relating to one another.


Therefore, in order to take on Facebook, your site should first and foremost feature areas for your users to converse. Whether it be through chat tools like Spot.IM, or using a comments system such as Disqus--giving people the opportunity to communicate is the first and most fundamental step to creating an online social experience.


The rise of the onsite chat has been becoming increasingly more prominent in recent years--and for good reason. According to EMarketer, 63% of online users reported they would be more likely to come back to a site if there was an onsite chat option. Therefore, it's worthwhile for all websites to explore which type of communication tools they should employ to keep their users talking.


Utilize visual content


We all know content is all the rage, but Facebook and Instagram in particular have created a name for themselves by enticing their users with visual content. While Instagram and Snapchat have certainly taken visual content to the next level, if you have taken time to glance at your Facebook newsfeeds in the past year or so, you will have noticed the rise of video and and photo content in your feed.


Why is that? Research has shown brands that posted visual elements such as videos, pictures, or infographics saw more engagement. Even more telling, 87% of these brand's social media interactions can be attributed to visual posts.


So to successfully compete with Facebook, try implementing a visual content strategy. Throw in pictures on blog posts, create infographics, and upload videos to make your site truly stand out. Make sure to vary up the types of visual content you display. For example, if you have a lot of statistics, try to use graphs instead of numbers.


Most importantly, make your visual content shareable. After all, your content is meant to spark conversation--and if it's not shareable, it will be be far less effective in doing that.


Get Personal


Let's face it, one of the main reasons Facebook became the phenomena it is today is because people can use it as a means for personal expression. As was previously mentioned, people love to converse and share ideas, especially when those ideas can be attributed to them.


So take advantage of that individualistic inclination by employing personal features on your site. Let your users have accounts featuring a profile picture of themselves. This way, they feel more involved in the content they post as it becomes more of a reflection of their personal beliefs.


Take it a step further by doing the same for your own personal account. Reply to comments your users write through using your own profile. This way, conversations between customers and brands are more authentic, making it much easier for users to connect with you. Lastly, reward users who actively participate. By doing so, you give them encouragement to continue posting and to play a central role in building your online community.


Obviously, using Facebook as a means for businesses to connect with customers has its benefits. However, while most believe that it can bring people into your site, more and more businesses are finding that it actually transports all interactions elsewhere--dramatically decreasing user retention and causing sites to lose ownership of their own content. Yet, since social media has become essential part of marketing nowadays, most companies feel that it's worthwhile to continue going in that direction despite the fact that it may not be ideal. So get the best of both worlds by making your site social in its own right--and you'll never have to rely on social media to do the talking.

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