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Social Chain’s “Meme Factory” Method for Meaningful Engagement

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Social Chain’s Mike Blake-Crawford revealed in London what it takes to get called a “meme factory”—and what it’s done for meaningful engagement.

Mike Blake-Crawford shared early on in his session “Who Defines Meaningful Engagement?” two requests that he gets often from clients. First, “can you make it go viral?” (No.) But second, and more important to the task at hand: “We want an engagement strategy.” The answer to that, in his mind, should also be no.

“Engagement isn’t a strategy,” Blake-Crawford shared for his crowd of about 400. “It’s a tool to help facilitate real business objectives.” In his opinion, it doesn’t equate success as many assume or hope it does. What’s more, algorithmic feeds on Facebook and other platforms are prioritizing “meaningful engagement”—challenging brands to stand out in a crowded landscape. Blake-Crawford presents the question, then: who decides what meaningful engagement is?

Facebook Won’t Say

It wasn’t for a lack of effort on Social Chain’s part, either: they asked. They reached out to Facebook to see if they’d share what constitutes “meaningful engagement.” Facebook’s recent ad campaign, designed to exonerate them after challenges with privacy and misinformation, frames it as a greater focus on content from friends. What it has increasingly meant for brands and agencies is a drastic decline in organic reach, regardless of popularity.

But the news isn’t bad all around; as some may have expected, the drop in organic reach for brands has coincided with a rise in Facebook’s stock price, driven largely on confidence from ad placement and revenue. This means that brands wanting to focus on organic content needs to work a little differently. Social Chain then looked to the “experts,” or those online that claimed to have the answers.

Experts Don’t Know

Social Chain looked where we all look when we want to know something: Google. And the strategies they suggested—varying post types, aiming to solve the target audience’s problems, asking questions to create dialogue—all failed. In fact, asking questions caused a noticeable flatlining in engagement. Why? Facebook is sniffing out new strategies to boost engagement on organic posts, and penalizing it.

This lack of understanding on what works will likely not stop at Facebook either; Twitter has started to arrange posts with a type of algorithm, and Instagram’s recent leadership change likely means a more Facebook-like experience could be on its way there. And Blake-Crawford’s early survey of the room revealed too few of us are able to remember sponsored or brand-created content; the work we’re doing needs a better chance to make an impact.

It’s hugely difficult for brands to make an impact. But individuals stand out all the time. It invited the question: what’s the difference?

Enter the Meme Factory

What content rises to the top of our feeds? Memes. Shareable content. Content from humans. As Blake-Crawford put it, “the audience dictates the algorithm.” So Social Chain tried it, to such an extent that The Guardian called them “the meme factory.” And it worked. Really, meaningfully, worked. According to their analysis, “memes delivered an incremental revenue increase of 199.4% compared with product content.” That can’t feel good for companies who want to highlight their own products, but it is effective in getting messages across.

These findings hearken back to the session’s earlier lesson about engagement: engagement itself isn’t a strategy, but it can facilitate meaningful business objectives. Memes and shareable content didn’t just grab eyeballs; they impacted sales decisions all the way down the funnel.

The moral? Ignore what the platforms say. Ignore what the “experts” say. Put simply by Blake-Crawford, “the people that define meaningful engagement are you and me.”

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