Facebook’s recent changes aren’t the only hit brands will take this year. Changes in socials and customer behaviour means brand pages will begin to hemorrhage audience members if they don’t start to adapt.

The first quarter opens the floodgates for new gym memberships, refreshed wardrobes and of course, the mass clean outs of social media accounts.

These unfriending sprees will see thousands of unfollows not just for old high school friends, but for plenty of brands too. If your socials are sub-par, this should concern you, especially because online engagement with brands is on the decline.

The recent Sensis Social Media Report 2017 found that people who followed a social channel associated with a brand or business fell from 36 per cent to 24 per cent between June 2016 and 2017. The report found the factors most likely to deter people from following a brand include irrelevant or unappealing content, excessive posting and too many blatant sales messages.

It’s no coincidence then, that Facebook announced newsfeeds will gradually show fewer posts from businesses, brands and media, and more from friends, family and groups.

Mark Zuckerberg says “public content- posts from businesses, brands and media- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other”.

Is your brand bound for the chopping block?

If you’re overwhelming your followers with frequent, mediocre posts, then probably.

Data from Digital Stack’s marketing platform suggests the best performing brands post consistently, across a variety of platforms. The data indicates brands should aim to post 3-4 times per week on Facebook and Instagram, and once a week on LinkedIn. Tweeting on Twitter can be more flexible given the shelf life of a tweet is rarely more than an hour. The rule here should be quality over quantity and not tweeting for the sake of it. Brands posting more frequently than necessary demonstrate lower levels of engagement and less growth in followers. In short, when frequency increases too much, quality suffers. Any good ad executive would agree better to have one great post with an audience reach of 8,000 with shares and likes, than 20 posts with zero interactions and a combined reach of 1,000 (a subset of your followers only).  The same goes for brands who neglect their channels. Consumers are less likely to follow brands who do not engage with their followers regularly.

However, spamming and ghosting aren’t the only factors costing brands valuable customer eyes. The type of content posted arguably impacts the likelihood of gaining followers more so.

2017 was a highly political year across the world, a lot of which spilled over into the social media realm. For users, it was almost impossible to avoid reading a tweet about Donald Trump or being bombarded by anti-marriage equality rhetoric from obnoxious parties and brands. Social audiences are already exposed to enough politicised content and are still recovering from the fatigue of a tumultuous 2017. Unless the issue aligns specifically to your brand, don’t give your followers another reason to tune out, or worse, skew your brand identity.

While it’s nothing new, it’s worth mentioning this evergreen follower-repellant that social teams continue to forget. Stop selling at your brand’s followers. Turning your Facebook page into a pricing promotion live-feed is a guaranteed way to loseengagement and followers. Keeping sales-based posts to 20 per cent of your content or less is a lot more effective. While nobody is interested in scrolling through feed of advertisements, small amounts of high-value sales content is actually welcomed. The Sensis report found consumers are looking for value driven content like discounts and giveaways specifically for followers

Digital Stack data indicates highly emotive stories featuring images of customers and staff performs 2-3 times better than average brand posts, particularly if in video format. Post with highest levels of engagement often include customer success stories, authentic testimonials, and staff picks or insider tips.

Not only do engaging posts drive business, they also promote trust. Brands that interact with customers in a positive way and post engaging, relevant content are trusted by almost two thirds of their followers. People are also likely to inspect a brand’s social media presence before making a purchase if they’re first time customers to determine the credibility of the merchant. If the content is outdated, too “salesy” or poorly produced, the likelihood of a purchase is understandably slim.

Interacting with customers is a fine art to perfect. In 2017, we saw the rise of the “troll” customer service identity, which saw brands like Coles and 7-Eleven take a tongue-in- cheek approach to responding to customer feedback. From playful “roasts” to clever memes, some brands executed the strategy well. Unless your company has the clout and the right audience however, this approach can easily make you look like the ‘cool dad’ at the bluelight disco. Nobody wants to follow a channel that uses the word groovy or the Doge meme.

Top performing brands like Showpo, Kmart and Snap Fitness, tend to stay true to their brand identity, post a variety of relevant content to their audience (both branded and shared content) and most importantly create a two-way conversation with their followers.

However, if you’re looking to lose followers in 2018, try your hand at bombarding followers with obnoxious, sales-focused, distasteful content that bores and likely offends. Jumping on the bandwagon is a surefire way to win – just look to Pepsi’s collaboration with Kendall Jenner for inspiration. Cringe.