On January 11, Facebook announced in a Newsroom post by vice president of News Feed Adam Mosseri and in an accompanying Facebook post from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the social media platform would be changing its news feed algorithm to “prioritize posts from friends and family over public content.”
In other words, Facebook is going to de-prioritize the videos, photos, and posts shared by businesses and media outlets.
Facebook’s new algorithm will favor human interaction over brand content.
Why is this happening?
In short, content from brands and the media is taking up too much of the news feed. An excerpt from Zuckerberg’s post explains the intent:
“…recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
The change is Facebook’s way of trying to increase positive sentiment for users by increasing human interaction and serving less public content.
What does this mean for brands on social?
This change should cause a lot of brands to take a serious look at the content they’re creating, and evaluate whether or not it will hold up to Facebook’s new, more rigorous standards for being worthy of showing to its users.
The new standard for all public content: it must encourage meaningful social interactions.
That creates both good and bad news for brands.
The bad news: You’ll probably experience negative impacts.
Here are the negative effects you can expect.
Engagement and referral traffic will decrease.
Organic engagement, reach, video watch time and referral traffic will likely decrease as a result of the change. Unless you have an insanely engaged audience, your organic content, e.g., non-promoted posts, won’t be seen in the news feed.
According to Facebook, “The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution.”
Your content will be de-prioritized if it’s not engaging.
You’re going to have to work harder than ever to get and keep your audience’s attention on the social platform. The engagement considered most valuable at this point is comments, and if your content doesn’t inspire those, it probably won’t be seen.
Ad prices will most likely increase.
With the de-prioritization of public content, there will be more competition for real estate in the news feed. That means you’ll need to invest even more to get your content in front of your audience.
The good news: You can do something about it.
There are steps you can take to shift your social content strategy to prepare your content to weather the change and create meaningful engagement.
Dig into your audience insights.
Now is the time to invest in understanding your audience – who they are, where they’re from, and what content they crave when it comes to your brand. Digging into the data on who your fans are and what makes them tick will help you understand what types of content will be most relevant and meaningful.
Use Facebook Audience Insights to start shaping the content you create. Find out where your fans are from and what they’re interested in — Is there a location-specific event you can host or post about? What about a TV show they’re into? Or what are the latest fads around your business?
Keep content hyper-relevant and targeted.
As the old adage goes, it’s all about quality over quantity. You should reduce your post frequency to share only highly relevant and engaging posts. Use the targeting feature to focus on the audience you want to reach based on location, interests, behaviors, age, etc. The more targeted, the better.
Develop a live video strategy.
Video is one of the few specific examples of content that will perform well under the new algorithm mentioned in the announcement. Live videos will be even more important.
Zuckerberg wrote, “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 means that now is the time to invest the time and energy into creating a strategy around posting live videos on Facebook.
Get people talking.
According to Zuckerberg’s announcement, “meaningful interaction” means comments on posts. He wrote, “Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
This means brands should be creating quality content for the purpose of sparking conversations between users.
Dig into your post analytics — what posts are driving the most comments? What’s the subject matter of the post? What type of image was used? Study these posts to figure out what’s driving commenting and try to create similar content.
Try including questions in posts, or write about timely, relevant topics related to your brand that you know your audience will have an opinion on.
Users will be more likely to see your Facebook posts if their friends and family are commenting on it.
Ask your fans to follow.
One thing that won’t change about the news feed is the ability for users to make sure they always see posts from their favorite Pages by choosing “See First” in their news feed preferences.
Don’t be shy about asking fans and followers to identify your page as one they want to see through Facebook’s see first feature.
Tap into influencers.
Is there an influencer who currently speaks to your target audience? Try reaching out to involve them in your content marketing efforts.
The best way to go about finding the right influencer is to first understand what you’re trying to accomplish, then figure out what it is that influences your desired audience, and finally reach out to an influencer who is in tune with this type of audience and accurately represents your brand.
Invest in a Facebook Group.
Facebook is really building out groups, almost like another news feed. A group is a forum where, in addition to the creator of the group, any member can post updates.
It makes sense for a brand or business with a loyal following of advocates or an engaged community.
There should be a purpose to your group, whether it’s a forum for fans to share photos or to share how-to info with your customers — and that purpose should be obvious to members.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build a Facebook Group.
Local small businesses should take steps to be included in the Facebook Local, Facebook’s rebranded Events app that combines events and permanent places to a single search engine powered by Facebook’s 70 million business pages plus reviews and friends’ checkins.
Local businesses can connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events.
Last but not least, ditch the clickbait.
You might be tempted to try and hack the new algorithm by flat-out asking your audience for engagement with posts like, “COMMENT on this post if you LIKE puppies!!” …don’t be that brand. It’s social spam that users and Facebook both dislike.
In fact, Facebook says, “Using ‘engagement-bait’ on posts does not count as a meaningful interaction,” and will be demoted in the news feed.
Is Facebook still worth the investment?
Continuing to invest in a Facebook presence is worth it if you have the time and money to create high-quality, relevant content that’s meaningful to users.
Meaningful content lies at the intersection of what you want to say and what your users want to hear. The real investment is taking the time to understand what lies in that intersection.