Socially Awkward: Publishing in the Age of Facebook and Twitter

Third time’s the…charm? Facebook is once again admitting to metric errors, this time in mobile search and live video user reactions.

“A discrepancy was identified for counting the use of like and share buttons, as well as the counts when you enter a weblink into the search bar of the Facebook mobile app,” writes Omar Oakes in Campaign.

This comes after the social platform was called out for wildly overestimating its video ad metrics earlier this fall, a move that left many agencies and advertisers shaken andincreasingly skeptical of the video balloon, and dealing with visitor metrics problems too.

“Last month, [Facebook] found a bug in Page Insights that miscalculates the number of unique visitors a Facebook page might get in a week or month,” Oakes continues, which only added to the growing distrust of digital advertising.

Facebook, for its part, is promising better methodology and reporting, including third-party verification, something they have been talking about for more than a year now.

And yet, advertisers are reluctant to abandon their ad programs there because Facebook is clearly an important platform. Even media companies, traditionally keen on Twitter, are edging more toward Facebook these days, according to Lucia Moses in Digiday.

“Social publishing is becoming a zero-sum game. As media companies clamor for reader attention on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, there’s one place that’s getting less attention: Twitter,” Moses writes. In fact, the typical publisher gets less than 2% of its traffic from Twitter, compared to 40% each from Facebook and Google.

According to Paul Berry of RebelMouse, Twitter “has lost the attention battle. We don’t see any media companies on our platform who are either having success driving traffic on Twitter or have that as a goal anymore.”

This, Moses notes, is significant, given that Twitter is “at its core a news platform.”

Even more significant to us is the way platform is influencing content. Facebook Live is hot, so media companies are now video companies…in spite of the vagaries of the reporting metrics. Publishers jumped on board Facebook’s Instant Articles in a similar way, giving away some of their best content, and are now feeling the chill there. And Twitter, still an important source for discovery for media companies, is getting the scantest share of reader eyeballs.

Being a media brand these days is certainly challenging. We are dealing with problems that couldn’t even be imagined just ten years ago. The process of trial and error as publishers figure out how to play in these new sandboxes is intense, and requires creativity and perseverance. Yet the one thing that publishers must maintain through it all is a solid brand identity.

Are you publishing videos because Facebook told you to? Are you parsing your content into 140 characters because Twitter said so? There is some merit to adapting your message to your audience…but if the adaption moves you too far from your core mission and content’s value, the risk is too great. As we think audience first, we have to remember their experience as your primary source of revenue is what matters most.

News brands need to be careful they aren’t chasing a future that doesn’t exist, giving away their most important asset in the process.