Facebook's Time Metric Is Great News For Brands That Are Serious About Content Marketing

It's not happening at the speed of light, but slowly publishers and advertisers are realising that time -- as well as clicks and shares -- is a useful metric. So it's very interesting to see Facebook add an element of time to its latest algorithm tweak. By looking at how long content has been enjoyed for, and not just whether it has been liked or shared, content marketers will be given a much-needed boost in competing with social clickbait.

We have all been in situations where we have read content a company has shared on Facebook but haven't liked or shared it. Until now, the algorithm has been weighted toward these public signs of enjoying content, but there are many reasons why you might not want to like or share. The most obvious is that the article was clearly from a corporation, so it would have to be simply amazing for a user to share it in comparison to traditional media sources who are most trusted and more usually shared. It could also be that you simply forget or get sidetracked, while often you may not want to tell the world you have just spent five minutes watching a guy do something crazy on a mountain bike or dogs surfboarding. I have to admit I recently read a Guardian article about famous last words from prisoners about to face the death penalty in the United States. It was interesting, but perhaps a little too macabre to share, so I didn't. The irony is, I remember that article more than I recall several that I have shared more recently.

So it makes perfect sense to consider a piece of content has been enjoyed if it has been opened, and presumably read. Videos must be a little easier here because the technology can measure how long the footage was watched for and make a decision that if it wasn't paused and was relatively short, there is a very good chance the video was watched to the end and enjoyed.

What does this mean for content marketers? It's probably good news and just might cut back -- or at least slightly counter -- the endless clickbait articles that tempt people to like and share as they tell the world what their Rock and Roll name would be or which character from "Game of Thrones" they are.

The good news is that time fits in perfectly well with what advertisers are trying to do around branding. While tactical messages are likely to be straight and to the point, longer-form content is there to show a reader that a brand has something to say that is worth connecting with. These are exactly the types of content interested consumers may read but not like or share because they are perhaps a little too dry or they are not something that consumer really thinks friends are interested in. While we share the content that appeals to a passion such as our favourite sports team or rock band, the content that applies to the humdrum of everyday life is less likely to get a public airing.

A home mover, for example, may well take in advice given from a bank on selecting a mortgage or researching an insurance policy, but they are hardly likely to shout about it. A car buyer looking for an estate with good luggage space and fuel economy may well get pointed in the right direction by a manufacturer's article, but again, they're less likely to share content that has clearly come from a corporation than a fellow fan of a famous pop group.

While Facebook has come in for a lot of criticism over its tweaks cutting back the organic reach of branded content, this addition of time spent on articles can only be a good thing for those brands who truly want to build deep, meaningful engagements with consumers but which cannot quite compete with sneezing pandas or the morning's big news story.

For serious marketers using content beyond clickbait and sharing coupon codes, this looks like it could be a much-welcomed shot in the arm.

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