What if Facebook Removed All Page Likes Data?

FACEBOOK FAN NUMBERSFacebook fans, or Page Likes to give them their correct terminology, have become a noose around the neck of many (most?) Facebook marketing efforts. So what if Facebook hid them?

A few years back, measuring the growth in fan numbers was a viable, if somewhat spurious, strategy. This was partly because growing our community size was what Facebook told us we needed to do, partly because the basic Facebook success formula necessitated a decent number of relevant fans, and partly because it was a tangible metric that those not-in-the-know could understand and latch onto to prove value.

Except that it never did prove value. It didn’t matter whether a brand had 1000 or 1,000,000 Facebook fans; if they never interacted with its content, shared its information, recommended its products or actually purchased anything, fan numbers were completely irrelevant.

That’s still the case now. Except that Facebook has moved on.

That formula no longer completely stands up without the addition of paid media. Organic reach on Facebook is down to around 4% for most Pages. And the new ‘See it First’ feature (which I’ve now had access to on my own profile for several  weeks) promises to erode that still further.

The number of Facebook fans is purely a vanity metric and nothing more. It is meaningless.

It’s not even a good vanity metric either. And yet many (most?) senior marketers and management personnel within brands still insist upon measuring fan growth and still seem to be obsessed with increasing the number of Page Likes at all cost. It can be very frustrating going over the same old ground again and again.

A couple of recent discussions about this prompted a thought: what if Facebook removed all data on the number of Page Likes?

  • If you had no idea how many fans you or anyone else had, would you change the way you approached Facebook or your activities on the network?
  • Would you have to change your strategy?
  • Would you struggle to know what to focus on?
  • Would it make a difference to how you measured ‘value’?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, your current Facebook activity is probably ineffective (unless, that is, you’ve worked out a magic formula that says for every X new Facebook fans you obtain, you make £Y).

Once again: it makes no difference whatsoever how many Facebook fans you have.

If your Page has 10,000 fans, any given post will probably only reach around 400 people organically. If you want to reach the other 9600 fans, or anyone else for that matter, you have to pay. And when you pay, you can be very targeted according to the demographics, interests and behaviour of users.

96% of Page administrators boost posts to custom audiences, with only 4% boosting just to current fans (source). So even when fans have signed up, they’re being largely ignored in favour of relevant, interest-based reach. And with good reason.

Just in case you haven’t got the message yet: whether or not people Like your Page is completely irrelevant.

I posed the question of hiding Page Likes to social media marketers on Facebook. I asked them if it would change their approach.

“In my experience it’s usually the client that’s obsessed with this number until they are shown/educated what the real value is”, says Jo Porritt, founder of Crowd Media. “In a meeting today I was asked “how many likes can you get us in a month?”, which typifies the start of every conversation I have with clients about social at the beginning. I have to shift the focus to the metrics that count. It’s better to have 50 highly engaged fans than 500 passive.”

“Not all your fans, no matter how many you have, engage with your Page”, adds Madrid-based independent social media consultant Corina Manea. “Brands should focus on quality engagement and content, creating a great experience for their fans. You have to innovate all the time and find new ways to engage your fans.”

On the subject of content Rebecca Maschke, social media advisor at DGUV in Berlin, says: “It wouldn’t change my activity because my content is for my fans, no matter how many of them there are. It could affect my linking, or tagging, to other Pages, as sometimes it helps me reach a larger number of people by tagging other Pages. But there is a reason I’m linking to another Page and it has more to do with my target group and/or relationship with the other Page than the number of fans it has.”

“It’s never really meant much, and it means even less now people are using Facebook differently to get content in front of users (eg targeted paid)”, says Victoria Coppin, digital account director at Cirkle.

And Rich Hikins, owner of IRepairTech, says: “I’d carry on as I am. It’s great seeing my Page numbers increase, but it wouldn’t change how I approach the management of my Page. It’s all about the results: do people message me and do I convert them.”

Personally, I’d love it if Facebook removed all Page Like numbers. But how would it affect you if Facebook suddenly removed access to that data? And would it help you to pretend that it no longer exists?

Lessons on Best Practice Facebook Post Boosting

Lessons on Best Practice Facebook Post BoostingFacebook post boosting is considered to be good value, but if you’re looking for tips on how best to utilise it from your peers, you might be out of luck.

That seems to be the conclusion from recent research I carried out.

A couple of weeks ago, I published a survey among my networks to try and benchmark how Page administrators are utilising post boosting with the intention of defining some guidelines for best practice.

Prompted by consultancy work I’ve been doing recently with different communications agencies, the topic of post boosting is one that I had an instinct that very few, if any, yet have a fully defined strategy for.

Most (all?) seem to work on gut feel and their own beliefs, and I had a hunch that this has led to two distinct approaches: posting frequently to social channels with minimal paid media spend behind any individual piece of content, or posting infrequently with a heavy spend behind each piece of content.

In turns out, if the results of this research are to be believed, that I was right. And that I was wrong. Let me explain.

Spend on Facebook Post Boosting

The first questions I asked the 87 people who responded were how much they spend per month on Facebook post boosting, and how many times they post per month on average.

The vast majority of Page administrators spend less than £250/$380 per month in total. However, nearly one in five spends between £500/$760 and £1000/$1520 per month. This points, in part at least, to the divergent approaches I have previously talked about, with some using small levels of paid media and others large.

average facebook post boosting spendThe average Page manager is posting 24 times per month, with very few posting less than 20 times per month or more than 30 times per month.

I then asked what percentage of those posts people boosted every month, and there is a very clear split between those who boost less than one in four posts and those who boost virtually all of their posts.

This is more evidence of the differing mindsets that have emerged when it comes to Page management. Some are relying heavily on organic reach generated through engagement, while others are boosting heavily to gain reach.

Facebook post boosting frequency

If I stop here, my theory stands up. A little more analysis of the results tells a different story.

Boosting Variance

When I worked out how much individuals are spending per post on average, the variance is huge and there is no identifiable correlation between average post spend and how often an individual posts, which was the crux of my hunch.

Nearly two in three people typically spend less than £15/$24 on any given post boost, with many closer to £5/$8. Indeed, only 14% of people typically spend more than £50/$80 on any given boost.

What is revealing is that how much an individual typically spends on a single post boost bears no relation whatsoever to how many times a Page posts or what percentage of those posts are boosted.

And it’s that which blows my ‘post frequently with minimal boost or post infrequently but boost heavily’ hunch out of the water.

There is no discernible pattern in how Page admins are using post boosting. It definitely seems to be the case that there are two camps of people, one which uses post boosting more heavily in terms of volume.

But your guess is as good as mine when it comes to best practice in how much to spend per post. There is little, if any correlation between how many times a Page posts and boosts, and how much they are spending per boost.

The Value of Facebook Post Boosting

The final questions I asked were who people are boosting to, whether they feel their spend is likely to increase or decrease, and whether they feel post boosting is good value.

When it comes to audiences, 92% of Page administrators use the option to use custom targeting, pointing to a strategic use of demographics and interests. Interesting, only 4% boost to current fans only, suggesting that most see this option as ineffective in gaining engagement or community growth.

Facebook post boosting targeting

In the next 12 months, nearly two in three Page administrators expect their spending on post boosting to increase, with only 12% expecting it to decrease. Those 12% are all among the top spenders, however, so this would seem a reasonable conclusion for them to have come to.

So do Page administrators see post boosting on Facebook as good value?

The answer is a definite ‘yes’, but with a number of reservations.

“If your content is great, it can be great value”, says Viki Coppin, my former protege and now Digital Account Director at Cirkle. “But I’m a little concerned with how competitive the market will become with so many brands getting the need to boost content now; great for ensuring we’re all producing high quality content but I can see the budgets creeping up year on year.”

Danny Brown is concerned not so much by the value, but by the way Facebook goes about business, and (as usual) doesn’t hold back: “Post boosting is good value, but only for audience/page growth. Facebook as a business tool sucks. They’re happy to take your money for ads, but then won’t let you organically reach the audience you’ve paid for. I can’t think of another business model that’s so shitty.”

Others, however, disagree.

“Facebook gives you a targeted response that is far superior to Google AdWords”, says Rich Hikins from IRepairTech. “My conversion is far better on Facebook. And not only that but I can get rated by the customer. They share, I share and I get more business.”

And, in a blog post that stemmed from my initial query and a resulting conversation, Gini Dietrich says that she’s “a big believer in organic anything – media, content, search engine optimisation – but there also comes a time when throwing a few dollars at your efforts amplifies it in ways you just can’t get with elbow grease alone.”

What do you make of this research? Is Facebook post boosting good value? And have you identified any best practice tips you’d like to share?

Paid v Organic: What’s Your Social Media Marketing Philosophy?

social media marketing philosophyThere are two schools of thought starting to emerge around how best to implement social media marketing now that paid media has become pivotal to running a successful Facebook Page. And the increasing acceptance of promoted tweets and the advent of sponsored posts on Instagram are reinforcing this emerging split.

Each philosophy has its own merits, and each can achieve good results depending on how well it is executed.

Social Media Marketing Philosophy One

This involves posting frequently to any given platform (once a day to Facebook, a couple of times a day to Instagram, multiple times a day to Twitter) with minimal paid media spend behind any piece of content in order to encourage interaction and create reach organically.

It relies on the frequent generation of creative content that is interesting, informative and/or entertaining, but relies less on hitting the mark every single time as there is more room for error. This has always been my approach and it has served me extremely well.

Social Media Marketing Philosophy Two

This involves dropping the post frequency significantly (every few days on Facebook or Instagram, one or two tweets per day) but amplifying each piece of content more using paid media to generate reach.

It removes the demands of having to create good content on a daily basis but, arguably, necessitates content being spot on every single time; something that is very difficult to achieve.


With both approaches, content quality is paramount. No amount of paid media or post frequency will achieve results with poor content. Equally, philosophy two does not necessarily mean putting less money into paid social; it’s simply the case that the budget is utilised in a different way.

Philosophy one seeks to create ongoing, frequent interactions among its communities. Philosophy two seeks to generate short, sharp bursts of interactions. But the sum of those interactions, and the reach, may well be equal to one another.

social media marketing strategies

Personally, I would argue that philosophy one is inherently more social. It’s more about galvanising a community, about loyalty and about advocacy. But it also has limitations where short-term campaigns are concerned, when it’s important to generate large reach quickly.

To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying one philosophy is right and one is wrong. And which you choose can depend on your objectives, your resources and your audience.

But broadly speaking, where do you stand on this? Does your head and your heart tell you organic or paid?

UPDATE: On the back of this post I carried out some research into how Page administrators are using Facebook post boosting. You can read about the results of that research here.

Progression Paralysis & How to Overcome It

progression_paralysisOne of the questions I’m most commonly asked by communications professionals in social media training sessions is ‘how do you manage to keep up with all of the changes?’

Social media technology moves extremely fast, and there’s a real fear out there that if you’re not all over the latest network announcement, trend or thinking, you’re behind the curve. In many cases, it leads to what I call ‘Progression Paralysis’, where the task of keeping up seems so overwhelming that an individual doesn’t even know where to start and so does nothing.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the fear of falling behind leads to doing precisely that. Well, there’s bad news and there’s good news.

The Bad News: It’s going to get worse…

In short, the rate of change and development in technology and communications is getting faster and faster.

Moore’s Law describes a trend where, in terms of technology, the number of electronic chips on a circuit doubles approximately every two years. This leads to the performance of computers, mobile phones and other communications devices increasing at exponential rates.

In the early 21st century, Ray Kurzweil proposed ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’, stating that “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century; it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)”.

He says that whenever technology approaches a barrier to progress, a new technology is invented to cross that barrier. As we invent better technologies, we also discover more effective ways of doing things – like communicating.

So if you’re finding it difficult to keep up now, I’m afraid it’s only going to get tougher.

The Good News: …for everyone.

I’ll let you into a secret: everyone feels the same about trying to keep up. And I mean EVERYONE. All of those people you look at and think ‘how do they do it?’; we’re all in the same boat.

The difference between those who ‘do’ and those who don’t, is that those who ‘do’ try. And we’re actually fine with it when (not if) we miss things because we know that unless we sit in front of Twitter and the tech and social media news sites all day, we cannot possibly be on top of everything. Some things will pass us by. And we’re OK with that.

We’ve mastered FOMO (fear of missing out) and we don’t have a brain aneurism if we miss the news for a day or three. I do my best to skim social tech news and blog headlines on a daily basis. But when I’m really busy, I may go a week or more without doing so.

The way I see, if anything really important happens, the news WILL make its way to me somehow.

How can you avoid Progression Paralysis?

Here are my five top tips:


Establish a process that enables you to check social media in super quick time using relevant tools. I use Currently to check Twitter trends, Google trends to check search and Facebook Trending Topics for Facebook. It takes five minutes to cover off social media.


Research and subscribe to blogs in your niche using their RSS feeds. The benefit of RSS over email subscriptions is that you can skim headlines in double quick time. I use Feedly as my RSS reader of choice as it works equally well and syncs across desktop and mobile devices. You can read blogs in 15 minutes using RSS.

Scanning headlines on Feedly is quick & easy


Spend time playing with the tech that you read about. Curious about Ello? Then login and have a look around. Heard about a promising app, like Feedly or Currently? Then set up an account and test it out for a week or two. You’ll soon learn to pick out the the good stuff from the bad.


Set aside 30 minutes per day to do this stuff and be disciplined with it. Or if you really don’t have half an hour and can’t make half an hour, then 20 minutes. I do this first thing in the morning. But maybe it’d suit you better on your lunch break? Or after the kids are in bed? Doesn’t matter, but make it part of your routine.


Don’t beat yourself up if you miss something. The simple act of building, subscribing, experimenting and planning means you’ll catch far, far more than you’ll miss. And that’s better than being paralysed by FOMO, right?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. You can make a start today…or you can leave it until tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that. It’s your career.

5 Corporate Facebook Lessons from an Indie Band [Case Study]


This week, rock band Embrace’s eponymously-titled new album entered the UK chart at number five. Which is quite an accomplishment for a band that sunk without trace eight years ago and whose last album, ‘This New Day’ released in 2006, really wasn’t that great.

So what on earth does this have to do with PR, communications and social media?

I’ve been following the band’s activity on Facebook for the last few months in the lead up to the new record, and it’s no surprise to me that it should chart so high given the way the band has gone about whipping its fans into a frenzy of anticipation. Me included, I should add.

They may not know it, but Danny McNamara and the boys could teach a lot of brands a thing or two about the power of social communications and advocacy. Here’s how they did it…

The Set Up

It all started back in September 2013 when the Embrace Facebook page sprung into life with a sudden announcement that attracted a lot of attention. Note the number of shares.

embrace september

This set the scene for a seven month-long campaign that drew fans in and generated excitement and expectation the like of which I’ve rarely seen.

Embrace fans have always been pretty ardent and hardcore in their support of the band. Of all of the bands I’ve seen live, Embrace were rivaled perhaps only by Oasis in the fervour at their gigs. Embrace fans LOVE Embrace.

What the band has done so well, whether or not they’re aware of it, is to leverage that zeal through Facebook to generate hundreds (thousands?) of ambassadors who went out to spread the word about their comeback.

Following that initial status update, a series of mysterious secret gigs were teased, announced and reviewed with intriguing imagery over the course of the next three months. Boiler suits, radioactive iconography, graffiti and night vision photography hinted at something new and exciting from a band that, despite having become a little stale and predictable, was much missed.

danny mcnamara

boiler suits


And then, come January this year, the band stepped things up a gear by posting a series of teasing and unexplained tally mark images over consecutive days, culminating with the announcement that all Embrace fans were hoping for.

album announce

The Reveal

13th January was a big day for Embrace. And the band used Facebook to great effect. There followed in quick succession the announcement of a new EP, a video for the ‘Refugees’ single, more secret gigs, and a series of radio interviews. All generating great social engagement to spread news far and wide.

By the start of February and despite there being three months until the release of the new album, Facebook fans were already in a frenzy of anticipation.

At this point you may think Embrace had peaked too early. Community managers everywhere will know that Facebook fans are fickle, and that maintaining a high level of expectation and engagement over twelve weeks is a big challenge. Especially in an age of Facebook Zero.

But thanks to daily updates from the band themselves (no community managers or PR people in obvious sight, by the way) with plenty of exclusive content from gigs, teasers of what was to come and eye-catching imagery, interest was not only maintained but built. Embrace were back.




box sets

The Conversion

On 28th April, the big day arrived. By this point the expectation of the new album was almost palpable. The secret gigs and the singles ‘Refugees’ and ‘Follow You Home’ had whetted fans’ appetites for the new material, but it didn’t stop there.


The following week saw the band up the activity again, engaging fans with multiple updates per day, asking for feedback and comments about the new record, and questioning people about how they’d been spreading the word (thus encouraging them further to do so). All of which was creating overwhelmingly positive flows of information into fans’ Facebook news feeds.

Above anything else, the tone of this activity was spot on. As I’ve already made reference to, the band run this page themselves. There’s little evidence of any pre-planned marketing here; no social media guru guiding them; no overt selling. They sign off their updates personally. They come across as genuinely grateful, warm, authentic and likeable guys. And, as Embrace might say, ‘The Good Will Out’.


The result? An album from a band that could very easily have lost all relevance after an eight year hiatus that sold enough copies in its first week of release to make the top five.

The Lessons

It may, at first glance, seem like a stretch to offer Embrace up as an example of great social communications. After all, Embrace is a band. If you’re reading this you’re probably working for a company or a product or a comms agency. But look beyond the topic and you can learn a lot. The same principles apply. In short:

  • Draw your fans in with activity that piques their interest. Be original, surprising, eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
  • Offer exclusive content they won’t find elsewhere.
  • If you’ve got something to announce, do it with style. Tease and build anticipation.
  • Treat your fans like people. Be personal and make them feel special. They’re not robots and neither should you be.
  • Create reach by encouraging genuine, meaningful engagement.

Adendum: The Album

As an aside (although this isn’t a review post), ‘Embrace’ is a great comeback album. The band has updated its sound to something distinctly 2014 that is still immediately recognisably Embrace. Each of the ten tracks on the record has something to offer, whether it’s a driving baseline, Joshua Tree-era U2-esque guitars, Danny’s soaring vocals, prominent synth riffs or surprising changes of direction mid-track. It’s an interesting listen, and it’s a very welcome return for a very well-loved band. Go buy it!

Download my FREE ebook Addressing Facebook Zero now!

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Posted by Paul Sutton

[ebook] Addressing Facebook Zero: a new era for Facebook marketing

Addressing Facebook Zero

Over the last couple of months there has been an increasing sense of frustration and, recently, desperation with Facebook as a marketing channel. It’s long been understood by Page administrators that they could expect to reach a maximum of only 16% of their fans with any given status update. But Facebook threw the cat among the pigeons in December 2013 when it confirmed a “leaked” update to the newsfeed algorithm resulting in that figure falling dramatically to between 3% and 6%.

In the last couple of weeks, rumours have started to circulate that a further update will reduce organic reach still further to just 1% to 2% in the very near future.

Facebook Zero, the point where organic reach is at, or very close to nil, is imminent.

This has spawned a million and one blog posts in the last couple of months with titles such as ‘9 Ways to Game the Facebook News Feed’ and ’15 Free Facebook Marketing Tips’ that promise much but deliver very little. So rather than simply adding my own perspective, I decided to ask a number of highly respected Facebook marketers and community managers within my network for their opinions on the future of Facebook marketing. I also asked them to share their own experiences and thoughts on tackling dwindling organic reach.

The result is the ebook you see before you.

Addressing Facebook Zero is available on a number of platforms:

Addressing Facebook Zero contains varied viewpoints, perhaps illustrating that there is no simple answer. There is advice on advertising, content generation, analytics and community management, from those advanced in their use of the network on both sides of the Atlantic. Each contributor has provided a unique and valuable outlook, the combination of which makes fascinating reading. I recommend you connect with each of them.

Many thanks to Brian Carter, Emeric Ernoult, Danny Whatmough, Eb Adeyeri, Luke Williams and Alex Pearmain for their input.

The days of free Facebook marketing are over. Facebook Zero, a term coined by Social@Ogilvy, is a reality.

I hope this ebook helps you to make effective long-term decisions about content strategy, audience targeting and advertising strategy to make the most of Facebook going forward.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

Facebook’s New Look and 3 Social Layout Tips

Social Layout Tips

This is a guest post by Rob Sutter.

Just recently, Facebook rolled out its newest layout; something that I am sure most social media enthusiasts have grown accustomed to. After all, it seems like every other week there’s something different on a particular site where there’s a massive audience, so news like this isn’t totally surprising. With that said, Facebook executed a layout change that could best be called ‘minimalist’. My take on the matter?

The layout looks fine. It doesn’t look sloppy or extravagant, which is fine on paper. As long as the overall functionality of the site is kept intact and the buttons remain where they were before, you will not hear many individuals complaining about a layout change. However, there are those who have taken to airing their grievances about this particular shift. Facebook now looks more like its mobile version on laptops as opposed to a proposed format which would feature prominent media like photos and videos.

Discussion regarding which layout would have been best is subjective, but it does raise a point that any online marketing company should be aware of. What makes a good layout on any social media platform or any website in general? What is it that drives visitors to come back time and time again?

Here is a list of 3 tips for those who would like to create the best possible layout.

1. Keep your layout aesthetically simple

One of the biggest turnoffs for me regarding any website is clutter. It doesn’t matter how well-designed certain images are or how many colors are utilized; if the layout itself is too busy, chances are that my attention is not going to be kept for long. While certain companies may want to go big – and understandably so – I’d argue that it’s much more effective to keep layouts more basic. Yes, identities should be clear on any website, so brand logos and aspects of that nature should not be cast aside. However, they have to be integrated in ways that doesn’t make the visitor feel overwhelmed.

2. Lower the number of pages as much as possible

Another aspect that should be seen in the way of simplicity is a minimal amount of pages to click between. There’s nothing wrong with a broad scope for your website but, ultimately, adding too much can wind up turning many people away. For example, what if you wanted to start a business that focused on repairing computers? Those who are tech-savvy may not be turned away by multiple pages but what about those who wouldn’t know the USB port from the HDMI port? The latter may feel intimidated to visit your page as a result, so it’s important to minimize the number of clickable links, which is a challenge that the strongest designers can overcome.

3. Make sure your layout is mobile friendly

CNN.com recently posted an article that covered how mobile app usage is greater than that of Internet through PCs. More specifically, this past January, 55% of Internet usage came from mobile devices like smartphones. It’s clear that there is a shift occurring in this regard and companies have to account for it. When they create layouts, they have to make sure that their layouts will not only fit computers but iPhones and other such phones with Internet access. If you are unable to cover both fields, the number of visitors that you retail might not be as high as your competition, so be mindful of various platforms.

Rob Sutter is a content writer for fishbat, a digital marketing firm in Bohemia, NY.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

Facebook, Maslow & the Psychology of Social Media

A couple of years ago, Boston University released the results of a study into the psychological aspects of why people use Facebook. It looked at how Facebook specifically, but in a wider sense social media in general, fits into the context of human needs.

The research concluded that, in line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Facebook meets two human desires; those of belonging and self-presentation, both linked closely to self-esteem and self-worth. It hypothesised that there are differences in the way people use and share on Facebook according to cultural factors, and that there is an aspirational element to how we portray ourselves online.

Now, flip your mind from user to marketer if you’d be so kind.

What do you think, given what I’ve just described, should be the key characteristic of social communications professionals in 2014?

I’d like to suggest ‘empathy’. The capacity to understand why people follow your brand on Facebook or have tweeted you.

But when we talk about social media marketing we tend to talk in phrases like ‘reaching out’, ‘building relationships’ and ‘engaging in conversation’. Huh?! When was the last time, talking to friends on Facebook or Twitter you ‘reached out to build relationships by engaging them in conversation’?

At the end of the day, I’m ‘me’ and you’re ‘you’. If you believe Boston University, we all just want some recognition from that fact. People respond to people. And we respond to innate human characteristics like understanding, humour and compassion. We respond to others’ ability to put themselves in our shoes, to appreciate how we feel and to make us feel great about ourselves.

So, as social marketers, should we not drop the bullshit and just ‘be human’?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

3 Steps That Will Completely Transform the Way You Use Facebook

d3e68cf1e59a3122b075260a010d612adc1dade0904b9bbef42f5cf80eacab8dOver the Christmas holiday I had something of a social media-related epiphany. With space and time to observe Facebook from a distance, it hit me just how overrun my newsfeed had become with irrelevant nonsense, and how many of the people and Pages I really wanted to hear from simply weren’t showing up at all.

For every intelligent, interesting or useful conversation or genuinely funny status update, there were 50 bits of inane rubbish from friends of friends and people I hardly knew. I started to question what the point is of investing time into a platform where you have little personal control over what appears in your own newsfeed.

A week ago I was so disillusioned that I was seriously, seriously considering ditching Facebook in favour of Google+. The one thing that stopped me switching was that there are some people I’m in touch with through Facebook and nowhere else.

And then I had a thought: what if there was a way of bypassing Facebook’s increasingly annoying algorithm and the newsfeed entirely?

The great news is that, as it turns out, there is. After a bit of lateral thinking I came up with something that’s extremely counter-intuitive as it involves removing pretty much everyone and everything from your newsfeed in order to actually see more of them. And it also takes time and thought to set up initially.

But within a matter of just hours of trying what I did think at the time was a last ditch attempt at making Facebook useful again, I was seeing the value I’d been missing. Facebook is now completely revitalised for me and a new place to spend time. I haven’t looked back since.

With a bit of effort you CAN beat Facebook at its own game. Here’s how…



What we’re going to do here is to strip out your newsfeed so that it ONLY shows you the people and things you highly value. You’ll still be able to see everyone and everything else, but you’ll access it via a click on the menu rather than in your newsfeed.

The first step is to sit down with a pen and paper and spend some time carving up ALL of the people and Pages you follow into lists. (Note: you can do this just with people if you wish.) Keep your lists fairly generic and limit their number to as few as makes sense (I’d suggest no more than half a dozen). This is important due to the way you’re going to use Facebook in future; you don’t want to have to be accessing many lists.

How you organise your other lists is up to you, but there are two that you MUST make.

The first is your ‘Value List’: the people you really, truly value for their insight or humour; the people whose status updates you look forward to; the people you’d really miss if you left Facebook. It’s important to be candid: no-one’s going to see this, so if your best friend posts too much nonsense and doesn’t make the cut, then don’t include them. Remember, you will still be able to see everyone’s updates, just not in the main newsfeed. Add to this list the Pages you follow that you definitely want to see a lot from.

If you’re honest, this list will probably be pretty short. And that’s a good thing as you’re trying to extract value from your Facebook connections. Mine, for example, contains only 17 of my 200 Facebook friends.

The second is your ‘Meh List’: people whose status updates you’re not bothered about seeing but don’t want to unfriend. Maybe they post too much. Maybe they post dross. Maybe they’re not that interesting. Maybe you’re just not that close (think ‘old school friends’). You’ll probably find that, if you’re truthful, this list is fairly long.

After trial and error, I opted for five lists in total:

  1. My Value List
  2. People I see often in real life (hence not necessarily needing to see their status updates)
  3. People I know professionally who I want to maintain friendly relationships with
  4. Pages not on my Value List that I’d like to see sometimes
  5. My Meh List



You’re now going to transfer your paper plan into Facebook.

First, create and name the lists you’ve identified. Note that you do NOT need to create and name your Value and Meh Lists. This is because you’ll still view your Value List in the newsfeed and you won’t see the Meh List at all unless you actually visit those people’s profiles.

The quickest way to do this is to choose someone from each of those lists, visit their profile and click on ‘Add to another list’ in the Friends dropdown. You can then click on ‘+New List’.

new list

Having done this, complete your created lists in Facebook. Visit each person on those lists and on their profile do two things. First, add them to the appropriate list within the Friends dropdown as above, and second, Unfollow them by unclicking the ‘Following’ button. This second action is very important as it cleans up your newsfeed to just the people and Pages you really value (identified in your Value List).


Next, visit each of the people in your Value List and add them as ‘Close Friends’, a pre-determined list in the dropdowns. Unless you want a Facebook notification every time they post something, make sure you unclick Get Notifications. DO NOT Unfollow them.


Now visit each of the people in your Meh List and simply Unfollow them. And finally, visit any Pages that aren’t in your Value List and Unfollow them too (you can add them to an Interest List of your choosing so that you can easily find them again).



You’ve now done all the hard work. The final step is to edit your Facebook ‘Favourites’ menu on the left hand side of your newsfeed.

Under the Friends section of the menu, click on the edit button of each of your created lists in turn and ‘Add to favourites’. Do the same under the Interests section if you created a list of Pages.

Once you’ve done this, click on the edit button on one of your lists under the Favourites menu and on ‘Rearrange’. Then just drag lists into the order you want (I recommend putting your lists directly under the newsfeed as they’re easy to find, especially on a mobile).


That’s it. You’ll probably want to tweak people over the next few days as you may have missed some or want to move them, and you need to remember to add new people and Pages to lists as you go, but essentially, you’re done.



When you use Facebook now, all that will appear in your newsfeed is updates from the people and Pages you have identified as truly valuable. So the newsfeed is still your first port of call. If you’ve been strict, you’ll be amazed how much more you see of these people and Pages as they’re no longer competing with all of the other stuff that was clogging your newsfeed.

What you’ll also do now though when you use Facebook is visit the lists you created to check in on others. And here’s the kicker: EVERYTHING from those people will appear in your lists as Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm doesn’t filter these. You can adjust the level of detail you see using the ‘Manage list/Choose update types’ function, which you can’t do in the newsfeed. But you’ll probably find, as I have, that after a week or so you visit these lists less as, if you’ve done your filtering well, all the valuable stuff should be in your newsfeed.

Using this method, you’re by and large side-stepping Edgerank and taking back control of your own profile from Facebook. You’re telling it what you want to see, rather than letting it show you what it guesses you want to see.

It’s early days for me using this method, and it will undoubtedly necessitate honing as I go, but I can honestly say that mass Unfollowing and using Lists instead has saved Facebook for me. It’s like an entirely new platform that I have complete control over, and I’d thoroughly recommend investing a couple of hours of your life to make this work for you.

Let me know what you think below. Will you be trying this? Any questions on the process? 

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Posted by Paul Sutton

20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014

20 Awesome Tools, Apps, People & Resources to Watch in 2014As the new year gets under way, I thought it might be useful to take a look at some of the people and resources that have been positively impacting my working life over the last few months and which will give you a kick start in 2014.

I’d dearly love your input too, so please leave a comment at the end with any additions you feel would benefit others reading this.

So without further ado, here goes…


6 PR Tools to Simplify Your Life

Releas’d: launched midway through 2013 but still in early development, Releas’d is an incredibly simply and intuitive way to create one-off web pages that can be used for interactive news releases, event invitations, reports, creds, case studies and more. It’s a tool that the PR industry has been crying out for for years.

InkyBee: blogger outreach made simple. Having tried several blogger outreach tools in the past, InkyBee is, for me, easily the best. It enables you to discover topic-related blogs, create and track campaigns and evaluate results.

Agorapulse: there are many Facebook Page management systems out there, but Agorapulse is the one that stands out for me in terms of simplicity and effectiveness. With multiple applications, statistics for reporting, CRM processes and moderation, it’s a great and reasonably priced all-rounder.

Pixlr: online photo editing software has always been a bit hit and miss, with nothing ever really coming close to Photoshop. But Pixlr is now a realistic challenger. And it’s free. For editing images wherever you are it’s worth a look, especially if you don’t have access to Photoshop.

Feed.ly: there was much ado about nothing when Google ditched Reader last year. I’d been using feed.ly for some time before then and others I’ve recommended it to since have never looked back. It works beautifully well (and seamlessly syncs) on both mobile and web, and is a must-have for tracking RSS and topic feeds.

Brandwatch: I appreciate that not every PR agency can afford to buy in a paid-for social media monitoring tool. But if you can, you could do a lot, lot worse than Brandwatch. It’s formed the backbone of many of BOTTLE’s campaigns in the last year, providing insightful data for campaign planning or management or evaluation.


5 People You Simply Need to Know on Twitter

Emily Leary: also known these days as @amummytoo, Emily is one of the most knowledgeable and approachable people on the web. Digital consultant by day, she’s highly respected for her work with the likes of BT and E.On. But arguably it’s her ‘mummy blogger by night’ creds that really show how good she is. Inside of 18 months since launching her blog, she’s hit the top 10s of most UK parent blogger charts, she’s been nominated for awards, she’s been on online chat shows and is a regular on the parent blogger speaking circuit. And she’s quite possibly the most helpful person on the web. Go follow and make friends.

Danny Brown: if you work in marketing, you probably already know of Danny Brown through his award-winning blog. Or you may have read his 2013 book, Influence Marketing. Danny’s someone who says it as it is, and for that deserves massive respect and is worthy of your time. I recently culled the list of blogs I’m subscribed to, but Danny’s is one of the few that I retained. A must-follow for anyone who seeks continuous improvement.

Gini Dietrich: I’ve had a running battle with Mrs Dietrich for about three years now. In a good way. Both she and I were too busy to lock horns in 2013, but I feel worse for that. Gini knows her PR stuff like very few others in the world and is someone whose opinion you simply have to respect (even if you…well, I…don’t agree with it all the time). If you work in or around PR and social media, you’d be a fool not to follow and get to know her.

Gabrielle Laine-Peters: I wrote back in October of my respect for Gabrielle and, without wishing to repeat that post, she’s someone who truly understands the social mindset. A voracious reader and tweeter, she’s someone who supplies a constant stream of interesting articles and nuggets on varying topics. She’s also generous with her time, opinions and conversations, and is someone you know you could rely upon.

Danny Whatmough: Danny’s someone who I’ve known for a few years and who has gone from strength to strength over the last year or so. Now working at Ketchum UK and chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, he knows his digital beans and is highly respected. If you work in PR and are based in the UK, Danny’s someone you should know.


5 Mobile Apps that Will Rock Your World

Zite: a lot is made of Flipboard, but for me, Zite is the de-facto news app I use every single day. Others such as Circa and Pulse show a lot of promise, but something about Zite’s layout and programmability, and the content it pulls in, makes it more efficient and useful than any other news/interests app I’ve tried.

MightyText: this Android only app provides a seamless link between mobile and desktop. It runs on the background of your device and enables you to text using your desktop screen and keyboard while your mobile is in your pocket or bag. Simple, but hugely effective.

Wunderlist: not a new app by any means, but as far as productivity management goes Wunderlist is a gem. Create multiple to-do lists and reminders, sync between mobile and web, collaborate with others – it really does help make life simpler.

BufferApp: you may already be familiar with Buffer, but if not check it out. Buffer enables you to schedule posts for multiple Twitter profiles, Facebook profiles and Pages, LinkedIn profiles, Pages and Groups and Google+ Pages according to a pre-set pattern with just a couple of clicks on your mobile. Also syncs with the web version to save huge amounts of time.

SwiftKey: I only discovered SwiftKey at the back end of the year, but it’s transformed the keyboard on my HTC One. It’s not just the speed with which you can enter text that counts, but the way SwiftKey intelligently predicts the next word you may use that makes this so impressive. Takes a little get used to initially, but it cuts typing time down by over 50%.


3 Slices of Top Notch Bedtime Reading

Newsjacking: Published in April last year by the authors of the Urgent Genius blog, Newsjacking is a great reference book of real-time advertising case studies from around the world. Beautifully presented and easy to flip through, it’s almost a coffee table book for geeks. If you’re seeking inspiration to cut through the real-time dross that’s emerged over the last few months, Newsjacking is a great guide to what can be achieved with data, insight and creativity.

Groundswell: this is not a new book. In fact, in social media terms it’s positively old, first published in 2008. Even the revised version (2011) could now be considered dated. But such is the trend it describes that it’s still hugely relevant and a book that everyone working in PR, social media and marketing should read and understand the implications of. If you haven’t read it yet, make a point of doing so soon. And if you have, read it again!

SpinSucks: I don’t know whether this is a good book or not as it’s yet to be published! But from the pen of Gini Dietrich, founder of the wonderful SpinSucks blog, it’s a book I’m very much looking forward to reading when it’s released in February. And if you work in PR or social media, you should be too.


1 Campaign You Should Know About

Pompeii Live: there’s no such thing as the perfect marketing campaign, but the British Museum’s Pompeii Live from last year is an example that many could learn from. Devised to promote an exhibition, the campaign fused elements of social media, real-time marketing and PR with an engrossing multimedia approach that paid huge benefits for the British Museum. Understanding how this worked and what went into it opens up all sorts of creative avenues, and if more campaigns like this emerge in 2014, we’ll all be better off for it.


That’s it for now. I hope you find the above useful, and please do leave your own recommendations and additions in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and I wish you and yours a wonderful 2014.

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Posted by Paul Sutton