What your social network says about you

By Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development

My colleague recently blogged on the phenomenal success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – and how it had been swept up into a social media storm that raised unprecedented levels of awareness.

For a three week period in August, Facebook newsfeeds just like mine were dominated by friends, family, colleagues and the like dumping cold water over their heads.

However, let’s consider another major event that took place that month.

On August 9, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident sparked waves of protests and even resulted in the National Guard being called in to assist.

There can be no doubt that Twitter helped raise the profile of this tragic event, with 3.6 million Ferguson-related tweets sent between August 9 and 17.

But if Facebook is your social network of choice, you were unlikely to have seen this story at all. A thought-provoking article in the Guardian cites SimpleReach, a social media analytics company that said “stories about Ferguson and/or Michael Brown published since Aug 7 have generated fewer Facebook referrals on average (256) than stories about the ice bucket challenge (2,106).

This is interesting for many reasons, but not least because it shows social media cannot be lumped into one umbrella term. Facebook and Twitter are clearly separate entities with the ability to hide or elevate news stories. It’s all in the algorithm.

The Guardian article says your Facebook newsfeed is “curated” by the company’s algorithms, based on what they think will interest you. Twitter, meanwhile, shows content based on who you follow.

The point behind all of this – apart from highlighting the treatment of two polar opposite yet global news stories – is that brands must give a great deal of thought to their social strategies. What works on one social network may not translate to another. We are fortunate at Whiteoaks to be able to tailor our content accordingly, but this is certainly not the norm.