If you pay close attention to Facebook, they are constantly tweaking their formula.
In the last couple of weeks, there's quietly been a new re-focused emphasis on 'Viral Videos.' Every single day Popular Across Facebook scrolls onto my screen with short, inoffensive, quirky videos. What Popular Across Facebook doesn't seem to be, is organic. My friends, nor even my acquaintances, share these videos. Facebook is telling me what's "popular." With Facebook traffic down an amazing 50% in the past 2 years, what does Uncle Mark think that the kids love? Viral Videos. Let's roll out some clever little videos and the kids will come flocking back. The problem with that philosophy is that the kids are already gone. Having migrated to Instagram and Twitter, the way to trick the young people back to your platform isn't by trying to imitate YouTube. It's by trying to imitate McDonald's.
Yes, that McDonald's.
Today I caught a very interesting article at the USA Today saying that the University of Maryland is trying to pay students to come see their average (5-6) football team. Why would a college have to do that for? Well, for 50 years, Maryland was in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Some years Maryland was good, and some years....not so good. In 2014, the Big Ten Conference wanted to expand their TV network into the New York and and Washington D.C. markets and offered Maryland (and Rutgers) huge piles of money to join their conference. But being on the same side of the conference as Michigan and Ohio State has been disastrous for Maryland on the football field, and then, this year, Maryland is embroiled in a lawsuit that the football team may (or may not) be responsible for one of their own football players' death.
Now attendance for Maryland football is abysmal (by Big 10 standards) but for Maryland the problem is two-fold. The first layer is embarrassment. The esteemed regents at Maryland don't want the nation to see sections of empty seats. The second layer is a more serious, worst-case, doomsday-type scenario. The NCAA has a minimum attendance requirement. Never heard of such a thing? That's because the clause is usually reserved for bottom feeders like Kent State or Akron (Ohio). In theory, you can be booted from Division I if you don't sell a certain amount tickets to your Home football games. It would be an unmitigated nightmare for the University, and the Conference, to have one of its members kicked out.
So when brainstorming solutions, someone came up with the bright idea of giving away $5,000 scholarships to students at home games. The only requirements needed to win these raffles are that the drawing would be held in the Fourth Quarter and that the student had to be present to claim the prize. To you and me, $30,000 sounds like a lot of money (6 home games times 5,000), but the cash is just a drop in the bucket of a public school's advertising bucket or, in Maryland's case, their $161 million Grant and Scholarship Budget.
I've already telegraphed what I'm going to say next. Facebook needs to give away money. If Facebook wants teens back - Give away Chipotle Gift Cards. Give away Game Stop Cards. Give away Fortnite Upgrade Packs. You are basically bribing your customers to come back. Lots of little prizes. Every single day. Everywhere. Not unlike when McDonald's had hyped games like Monopoly. When McDonald's has a new game, the restaurant is swamped. Not because the Big Macs taste better, because everyone likes free stuff. It's hard for your local restaurant to give away a ton of free stuff, but a multi-BILLION dollar company can write giveaways into their budget.
Okay, it's not hard to look up. What is Facebook's marketing budget?
Nearly 5 billion dollars!
Easy. Pare down your marketing budget to 4 billion dollars, and give away 1 billion dollars. Not at one time, but in tiny increments. "Incentivize" those youngin's to return.
Now Mark Zuckerberg could be incredulous, I don't know him so I'm speculating. But he could be swearing at the all-seeing computer screen, "I'm not paying anyone to use Facebook." And to that I'd reply, "it's your funeral."
Because eventually another company with deep pockets WILL pay people to use social media. Maybe not in cash, but in easily won contests or random drawings. In my head, a company like VK (the Russian version of Facebook) could try to pass Facebook using that model, but more likely Google could try to rebrand their dormant Google+ platform as the Social Media that gives back to its users.
How does McDonald's stay #1? Upgrades in speed and convenience. McDonald's delivered to your home. McDonald's in every city, delivered to your door, and win cash and prizes. Their Trick. Treat. Win! Game just ended a few days ago. I'm telling you, Facebook needs to go the cash and prizes route. Because just like McDonald's, Facebook is not about the actual product, it's about everything BUT the actual product.
Giveaways will be the next wave in Social Media and Facebook needs to decide how it's going to ride that next wave.