Steve Rubel (@steverubel), Chief Content Strategist for Edelman, writes at Adage, Facebook Signals Institutions Are Out, Indidividuals Are In.
The same is true for law firms and individual law bloggers when it comes to posts and distribution on Facebook. Law firm pages for distribution of content are out. Individual lawyers sharing their blog posts in their personal Facebook updates is in.
Facebook announced last week it was building a better News Feed. The emphasis would be to prioritize posts from family and friends over content from publishers. Publishers includes both news publishers and companies that are publishing.
That’s great news for individual blogging lawyers and bad news for law firms looking to engage or publish via Facebook pages. Note that for a blogging lawyer, “Friends” on Facebook, in addition to family and personal friends, includes business associates, clients, prospective clients, and influencers (reporters, bloggers and association leaders).
Facebook has always been about connecting people. As Facebook’s audience grew to heights never expected, publishers looked to Facebook as a means of distribution.
With Facebook’s Instant Articles feature and a split of ad revenue with major publishers, Facebook sucked publishers in all the more. When Facebook Pages didn’t work in getting content in people’s News Feeds, Facebook allowed publishers and brands to pay extra to “Boost” their posts.
But Facebook’s announcement turns the lights out on publishers who publish as a brand, including law firms.
The changes will affect all types of content posted by publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it expected a drop in reach and referral traffic for publishers whose audience comes primarily to content posted by the publisher’s official Facebook page. Facebook plans to start making the changes as soon as this week.
Note the difference for individuals who are publishers and sharing on Facebook.
It will have less of an impact, however, if most of a publisher’s traffic comes from individual users sharing and commenting on their stories and videos. As has long been the case, publisher content that your friends interact with will appear higher in the feed compared to posts shared directly by a publisher.
Publishers took the news as expected, complaining that what Facebook giveth they taketh away and saying that people’s News Feeds would be filled with wedding announcements and puppy pictures.
But as Rubel says, Facebook was providing direction on how to get your publications seen.
Facebook’s public posture is clear: No organization will ever be on the same footing as peers. While on the surface this appears to de-emphasize institutions, the reality is that it gives every company — the press included — a clear roadmap for how to build organic engagement at a critical time.
With trust in institutions at all-time lows, facilitating peer-to-peer connections is no longer a nice-to-do but a must-do.
Peer-to-peer influence is more powerful today than top-down communications.
For law firms this means working with your lawyer bloggers so they understand how to extend their personal reach and trust on Facebook.
The road to organic reach and trust is built gradually by creating true one-to-one connections between employees and individuals. It’s a long process that requires patience to build earned one-to-one relationships between individuals that lead to a many-to-many scale. It’s networked thinking for a networked world. Paid plays a big role, but only to amplify.
The way forward for brands and media owners is simple. Invest in Facebook people, more so than pages. Activate as many credible employee voices as possible who are willing to make at least some of their content available publicly to subscribers.
In a corporate marketing context, it means activating internal subject-matter experts in the same manner and thinking about how to link them together to create true network effects.
I exchanged notes with Rubel on Facebook (after seeing his Adage article which he personally shared) about Facebook’s announcement making all the sense in the world. Social media, including blogging, has always been about real and authentic engagement between people. Facebook reminded us of this.
And like Rubel writes, “[W]hile the focus was on the impact on publishers, every institution should be paying attention.” Including law firms.