Why Being a VISUAL Storyteller Just Got More Important

Whether you call it PEOS or PESO, the "P" (which stands for Paid in the Paid, Earned, Owned, and Shared media segmentation) became a lot more interesting on November 14 of last year. On that day, Facebook said that they were going to rework how "promotional posts" (i.e. posts from brand pages) appeared on followers' news feeds, starting January 1. Essentially, Facebook made post boosting (paying for views) almost a requirement in order for brands to see the same results they saw just a month or two before.

I had the opportunity to speak at Social Media Week in New York City last Tuesday. While there, I spoke to social media professionals across many industries on how the change was impacting them. One leading brand I spoke to said that last year, they were seeing their posts viewed by 6-8% of their followers on Facebook. Since the January 1 change, they were seeing views closer to 2% for non-boosted posts. These statistics are pretty consistent with what I am hearing from other social media professionals. That's a huge change — especially when you've built your annual marketing goals on expecting a certain rate of return.

But this social media professional also said that posts with embedded video were performing much better — closer to the 6-8% marks they were seeing on average before the change. While the cost of producing this visual (or video) content is higher, it begs the hypothetical question: With everything else equal, is it smarter to spend additional funds producing visual content or to spend those same dollars on paid amplification of more standard content?   Everything being equal, this is an easy choice for me — you spend the money on better content. Why?

  • Visual content gets more engagement, sometimes 2-3 times as much, which is a better measure of social media efficacy than simply views. Our Social Engagement Benchmark Report: Twitter found that Tweets containing a photo generate 128% more replies and retweets than those without.
  • That engagement will lead to additional views from new potential followers (and customers).
  • Visual content, done well, is more memorable and can better establish (or reinforce) other marketing/communication activities in other media (cross-pollenization)
  • Visual content can be repurposed and reused in a variety of other social media channels — especially those like Instagram that require it. This is important given the higher cost of production.

In January, Facebook confirmed that more videos are being uploaded to their property — 75% more than just a year ago. And in the U.S., it's a 94% increase year over year. More and more brands are bypassing other video sites like YouTube and posting natively on Facebook. Why? It's where the engagements and interactions are taking place.

Is your non-boosted textual content going to break through among all of those videos?

Remember too that it's important to remain authentic with visual content and avoid the perception that it always has to be highly-produced. In fact, effective brands balance their highly-produced content with that which is more authentic. Effective social marketers also know the value of pairing their produced content with amplifying authentic posts from fans and followers (once securing the right permissions).

All this being said, though, the ability to showcase more highly-produced content is one thing that distinguishes a brand's own content. Celebrate and cherish the content, production budgets, and inside access that you have with your brand that cannot be duplicated by others. And balance your budgets between social media content production and amplification. In this area, social media is now no different than the same production vs. placement budget allocations our colleagues in traditional advertising have been making for decades.

For more research on social trends in 2015, download our latest 2015 State of Marketing report below.  

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