“How do we get more likes on our Facebook posts?” If I had a krona for every time I’d been asked that question by our foreign missions, the International Space Station would have to adjust its orbit to dodge a copper-plated tower every time it floated past Stockholm.
But rest assured, space people – my employer’s salary structure is unlikely to cause you any problems. The question remains, though. So, what do I answer?
Well, it depends.
The Swedish Foreign Service has been active on Facebook for more than half a decade now. In that time, it’s safe to say that digital communication platforms in general – and Facebook in particular – have gone from being ‘annoying’ add-ons to a public diplomacy tool like any other. But while this process has served us well in terms of establishing social media as a communication asset, it has also made us very Facebook-centric. This wasn’t really an issue in the mid-2010s, when Facebook reigned supreme. But the rise of Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and many others combined with changes in Facebook’s algorithms meant that we needed to change our approach. We have to stop asking ourselves how we reach our target audience on Facebook and instead consider how we reach our target audience full-stop. This does come with a proviso, however: a very large number of users still consider Facebook home, and in some countries it’s the only slice of the internet available. In other words, we’re not jumping ship just yet.
While Facebook’s algorithm changes were frustrating at first, they’re increasingly looking like a blessing in disguise. They’ve forced us to pinpoint our target groups even more precisely and produce more targeted, relevant content. Putting the target group front-and-centre has also led to a push for increased autonomy among our 135 embassy-related Facebook pages, with the Ministry in Stockholm focusing more on providing policy framework and support and less on ready-made content.
Granted, tips such as posting more native videos or holding Q&As on Facebook Live might help nudge engagement figures in the right direction, but core message and tonality will always win in the long run. And the key to unlocking those factors boils down to knowing your target group. Because the type of content that works for urban Romanians in their twenties doesn’t necessarily set the news feed ablaze among middle-aged Chileans or Swedish expats in Bangkok.
See? It depends.