As all social-inclined marketers have heard, Facebook has again changed its News Feed algorithm at the expense of publishers and brand pages. After extensive user research and soul-searching, Facebook determined its platform should make people feel good and enhance well-being, and the best way to do this is to focus on interactions with people you love, know and trust – not with news outlets, click-bait aggregators and businesses you spend time with.
So where does this leave brands that have relied on Facebook for marketing reach? Many are firmly in Camp Ticked Off, arguing they’ve spent thousands and even millions of dollars buying ads and investing in page content in order to grow their Facebook audience and take advantage of organic reach, only now to have their access cut off. However, it didn’t exactly take anyone by surprise, given organic content reach was already at a measly low.
With the new change, we can anticipate this number will dip further, which amounts to three things: You must have top-notch content, you must have budget to promote it, and you must be diversifying.
Below we look at key insights around the algorithm change and five things brands can do to combat it.
The Impact of the Algorithm Shift
Why is Facebook upending its News Feed again?
It’s no secret that Facebook has been constantly tweaking its News Feed in pursuit of more engagement. Following last year’s fake-news backlash, Facebook has actively sought ways to rebuild its reputation. The new algorithm shakeup is geared to increase the amount of positive content on the network while moving away from politically charged articles and videos. In a post from Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the changes were spurred by research that showed people have a more positive response to social media when interacting with people they care about, such as friends and family … so, those posts are now the priority in the News Feed, with all other content taking a very distant back seat.
Who is most affected by this change?
This update hits publishers the hardest, as they’ve been relying heavily on social referrals to spread the news (some estimate 25% of all news organizations’ traffic comes from Facebook). In 2014, Facebook made its first attempt to prioritize high-quality content in its News Feed, and many publishers saw their traffic drop (for example, Upworthy experienced a 48% decrease in traffic following the update). Although it is still too early to estimate the actual impact of the update and which publications will be affected most, it is clear news organizations need to stop relying as heavily on Facebook and find new ways of generating traffic (we’re looking at you, Google and Twitter).
What does it mean for businesses and Brand Pages?
The good news is that brands won’t be significantly affected by this News Feed change. The bad news? The change is minimal because the organic reach for brands on Facebook is already almost nonexistent (1%-2% by most estimates), so Facebook will continue to be a pay-to-play platform – via boost posts or targeted ads – if brands want their content seen. However, even with that in mind, analysts expect ad prices are likely to increase as more companies and publishers advertise and as users spend less time on the platform, so expect to pay more to reach your target audience.
5 Things Brands Can Do to Combat the Change
While this algorithm update is likely to have only a minor impact on brands, now is a good time to make sure your social media strategy is up-to-date and laser-focused on quality and engagement.
Here are a few next steps we suggest:
- If Facebook is an important marketing platform for your company and you don’t advertise on it yet, now is a good time to start. We recommend having a standing budget for boosting posts to ensure you have enough reach to generate engagement. Otherwise, your posts are unlikely to reach a wide-enough audience to get comments, likes, and shares, which in turn will de-prioritize your posts in the News Feed.
- While Facebook advises not altering your advertising strategy yet, we think it is a good time to ensure your ad strategy includes a strong focus on high-quality content that can drive meaningful engagements and conversations. Do not use any click-bait headlines or explicitly ask users to share or comment, as Facebook penalizes both practices. Provide value to your audience and the clicks will follow.
- Experiment with Facebook groups. Facebook has recently made it easier for businesses to create their own groups to use for engagement with super-fans. Groups take just a few clicks to set up, and their content is highly prioritized in the Facebook feed.
- Facebook live video is another great way to drive engagement on the platform. On average, live videos receive six times more interactions than regular video. If you haven’t live-streamed via Facebook yet, now is a good time to try it out.
- Make sure your marketing mix is diversified. Facebook will continue to tweak its algorithm and ad prices will continue to increase, so don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket.
With Facebook’s algorithm update still fresh, the true impact of these changes remains to be seen. But as we know, the one constant with social media is change – so marketers can assume that Facebook and other social-media platforms will continue to evolve, and brands will need to adjust to the shifts in order to stay visible.