On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would change the algorithm of its news feed to emphasize and boost content from “friends, family and groups” in an effort to “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”
Five minutes later, the misery and wailing and gnashing of teeth began.
Learning curve and general distaste for change aside, some of the wailers had a point. This change could mean that businesses see a decline in the organic reach of their content on Facebook. It’s difficult to confirm whether this is true, because the changes haven't been in place long enough to call any dips or spikes a trend.
Currently, Facebook’s algorithm determines what posts show in a news feed using reactions, shares and comments on the post. The new version of the algorithm will be measuring metrics like discussion and “meaningful social interaction” (insert your own 1984 joke here, I’m too terrified). The more back and forth comments on a post, the more likely the new algorithm is to notice it and move it to the top of the news feed. The algorithm is also going to prioritize posts from a user’s friends and family, which is a part of the Facebook News Feed Values (which is a real thing, I promise, and has been since 2016). These changes mean that all public pages, be they business or organization, are going to have to work a little smarter.
Quality is the Watchword
The best advantage you have in your arsenal is good content – content that enhances the user experience and provides value to your audience. The better your content is, the more likely it is that people will enjoy engaging with it (and by extension, your Facebook page and probably your brand as a whole). If you’ve been waiting for the perfect excuse to up your content game, Facebook has just delivered it to you via express mail.
As a bonus, Facebook is actively de-incentivizing clickbait and “engagement bait” (think ‘Comment if you love chocolate and unicorns’). This is good because no one should do this – it’s the social media equivalent of fishing for compliments and it’s not a good look. Now brands have a great reason to never do it again.
All About That Face(book Live)
Video is still favored under the new algorithm, and Facebook is making a concentrated push to get users to ramp up with Facebook Live. Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his announcement that “live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook—in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.” This is an example of a content form that’s guaranteed to do well under the new algorithm, so it’s something to be thinking long and hard about in 2018. Facebook Live provides an easy, interesting and more casual way to provide value to your followers.
As always, make sure that you’re using best practices, especially when it comes to recorded video. If the goal is engagement (and it is) then the user experience of your content should be top notch. This is especially true of video. 85% of Facebook video is watched with no sound, so make sure you’ve got captions, and that all video is appropriately sized for mobile screens.
Consider Facebook Ads
Ad distribution probably won’t be affected by this change because…well, because money. It’s 2018, not 2008, and it’s increasingly difficult (many would say impossible) to grow your page and audience without spending money on Facebook ads as Facebook doubles down on a pay to play strategy. Currently, businesses can purchase Facebook ads or boost their content; which one you choose depends on the goals of your campaign. Boosting your content is a better choice for increasing engagement, since it makes your content visible to a larger audience. Facebook ads are preferable for direct response marketing; they allow for increased targeting and the option for a specific call to action on the ad itself.
Combining targeted ads with strategic boosts of all the engaging content you’re going to be producing will help communicate your message and improve the ROI of your efforts.
The new algorithm isn’t going to destroy your Facebook page. It’s not the Terminator. It’s just another in a long list of tweaks that Facebook has made over the years.
Facebook is continually updating the algorithm because they want to keep their users engaged, and that’s the same thing brands want. Looking at this change as an opportunity to up your social media game is a solid choice. There’s no substitute for cultivating genuine relationships with your users - listen to them to figure out what they care about and how your business can bring them value. The better your content, the less this change will impact your page.
And remember - social media is supposed to be fun. Finding your brand voice and making strategic choices are a big part of social media success, but users can tell when you’re enjoying yourself. Companies like DiGiorno, Charmin and Nike who work to make their social media accounts innovative and engaging are constantly creating posts that people enjoy seeing in their feed and their accounts places people like to visit. They succeed because creating that kind of environment means that you are creating value and engagement. To succeed on social media, you have to be SOCIAL. That’s a lot easier if you’re enjoying yourself.