When Facebook announced they were overhauling the entire news feed, I was as shocked as the next brand-expert. Brands and publishers were all but banished from the news feed which now will favor content that inspires "meaningful interactions." 

The change was inspired by research that suggested Facebook was perhaps bad for us. A New York Times article published about one month before the news feed announcement discussed the research that determined that unless users were engaged in "meaningful interactions" on the platform, the platform actually made people feel worse about their lives. 

Though the research seemed about right (even I'd stopped spending much time on the social site because each time I exited the app, I felt a little less happy), the change was still a drastic one with much still unknown. 

One thing is certain; small businesses and brands are going to have to change their approach. Larry Kim, CEO at Mobile Monkey offered a variety of loophole suggestions, perhaps the most important of which includes a focus on brand affinity by conveying your value in a memorable way. Christina Garnett, a specialist in digital marketing for small businesses asserted brands will also need to be more aware not only of who their customers are, but who engages with your online content and shares it.

And though at first glance this all seems daunting, there may just be a light at the end of the tunnel. For years, brands have said they want to make more meaningful connections with their customers. Well, here's your chance; the opportunity for brands to connect with humans like, well, humans. The easiest way to do this? Through storytelling.

Storytelling Is the Key to Meaningful Interactions

Think about the most meaningful interactions you've had lately. Not online, but in real life. Was it hanging out with new friends a few weekends ago? Was it spending time with aging relatives? Maybe you took a trip with some friends from college and spent several evenings laughing over memories from the good ol' days. No matter the scenario, what makes interactions meaningful in real life is the exchange of stories.

The same is true on social media and, in particular, on the new Facebook. If brands start sharing actual stories whether written or in video, those meaningful moments will likely be organically rewarded in the algorithm.

How Brands Can Tell Their Stories Better

The problem is, most brands are really bad at actual storytelling. They pump out manufactured content or standard advertising and then wonder why people don't engage. Here are a few tips for better messaging.

  1. Share actual stories. On a macro level, share the story of how the company started. On a smaller scale, post stories of something funny that happened in the office or behind the scenes of a new product launch. These stories don't have to be long, but they should read like something a friend would tell you at happy hour.
  2. Share stories that don't have a marketing point. Or more specifically, stories that don't have anything for you, the business, to gain by telling it. The meaningful interaction of when my grandmother told me stories of her childhood didn't occur because she wanted something from me; she told those stories because that's what people do when they're engaging in a meaningful way with other people. Telling a story for story's sake is how you build true brand affinity.
  3. Invite customers to share their stories. These can be stories about their experience with your company, yes. But sometimes the most meaningful interactions (and therefore the ones that get the most Facebook algorithm love) have nothing to do with business. For example. I recently shared a photo of my view from the window seat of a flight on my "Public Figure" Facebook Business page with a short story about being the kind of person who stares out the window. The post received double the engagement of other, similar posts because people started sharing their own stories of sitting in window seats and it didn't cost a cent.

Perhaps this is the end of Facebook as we know it... but if it is, at least it died of a noble cause: trying to make us better. 

Published on: Jan 31, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.