Everyone is freaking out about the latest Facebook algorithm change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on January 11. And yes, the change is big. Facebook will:
- Downgrade in users’ news feeds the content that businesses publish.
- Boost posts from users’ friends and family.
This development has negative implications for any business that acts as a publisher, ranging from news outlets to content marketers. But the change is not the end of the world for brands. Corporate publishers will simply need to work harder and get more creative about posting content, such as relying on their employees and influencers to share the brand’s content on their personal news feeds.
“Meaningful Interactions between People”
In a post on his page, Zuckerberg wrote, “[R]ecently 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.”
As a result, Facebook is changing users’ news feeds to amplify content from users’ friends and family. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” he wrote. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Zuckerberg cited research indicating that Facebook users should spend more time interacting with each other and less time viewing news on their feeds. “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” he wrote. “We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
The change should surprise no one. Facebook has been marginalizing organic content from brands for quite some time in an effort to pressure brands to use Facebook advertising products such as sponsored posts. Despite Zuckerberg’s lofty words in his personal post about wanting to create stronger connections among its everyday users, let’s not kid ourselves: Facebook wants more money from brands, and the January 11 news is another cash grab.
What Publishers Should Do
The news is a reminder that when brands publish on social media, they are subject to someone else’s rules. And especially since Facebook has 2 billion users, any brand that publishes content there must constantly monitor Facebook’s every move and be ready to adapt. Here are a few options brands should consider:
1 Get Savvier about Relying on Your Brand Ambassadors
For example, convince your own employees to get more involved sharing company content on their personal pages – which is a reasonable tactic so long as the business does not overplay its hand. Don’t underestimate the power of asking nicely. In my experience, employees often respond favorably if they are asked simply, “Hey, if you like what we’re announcing today, please share the content on your personal socials.” Just be careful about the tone you use and the frequency of your requests.
Even better: get employees involved in creating their own content that involves your brand, such as photos of events your employees attend, community give-back programs, and other activities where employees are likely commenting on their socials, anyway. Give them the tools and guidelines to help them – and they’ll respond.
The Facebook change will also likely pressure brands to rely on individual influencers in their networks, both informally and as part of formal influencer outreach programs. An influencer outreach program should be part of your strategy, even if your outreach is small. In fact, a targeted outreach program that focuses on smart, selective content sharing is better than a broadly defined one that relies on the a spray-and-pray approach.
2 Create Content That Encourages Engagement
Facebook says that it will reward branded content that encourages engagement among users. According to a post from Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed, “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.” In other words, brand pages that generate user engagement will get more visibility. But he warned against click-baity content designed expressly to create a conversation.
Brands should consider encouraging user engagement via user polls and tools such as Facebook Live that are engineered to encourage people to comment. Brands will also likely play a more active role in responding to their own users’ comments in order to encourage more dialogue.
3 Look Elsewhere
Facebook is not the only game in town. For instance, Twitter remains an effective platform for sharing news, despite its flaws. And LinkedIn is becoming a more attractive destination as it builds more features and advertising tools. In 2017, LinkedIn made it possible for users to create original video content on the platform. It’s only a matter of time before LinkedIn introduces the capability to brand pages. Now is a good time to review your strategy for posting content on your LinkedIn page. How are you using your page to publish useful content to your followers? What are you doing to increase followers by sharing value?
4 Pay Up
Consider caving in and paying up. Increase your investment in Facebook’s advertising products such as sponsored posts (for content marketing) and display advertising. Especially with its audience targeting capabilities, Facebook remains an attractive alternative for customizing content for specific audiences. For instance, Facebook’s Collection ads give businesses a format for sharing video advertising customized for mobile.
Quality versus Quantity
Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg indicates that the latest algorithm change will likely cause time spent on Facebook to decrease as presumably users stop passively watching news feeds. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable” he wrote. “And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
For Facebook, doing the right thing includes generating more revenue. The platform is too big for brands marginalize. So brands will need to accept Facebook’s rules, get smarter about sharing content, and make sure Facebook is not their only play.