Facebook’s latest algorithm changes are being called a ‘nightmare’, even ‘apocalyptic’ for businesses and publishers.
Yes, the update will make it more difficult for SMEs to reach their target audiences than previously. But we’ve been here before. And businesses will simply have to adapt their social media strategy to remain competitive.
Why the changes?
The writing has been on the wall for some time. Previous tests by Facebook focused on prioritising content generated by family and friends over that from brand pages. In certain countries, they created the “Explore Feed” as a place to house brand-driven content, freeing up your News Feed for more interactions with people you know and engage with most.
This latest update is a continuation of that line of thinking. In a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do – help us connect with each other.”
Zuckerberg added that Facebook is looking to increase “meaningful connections” on the platform. A noble effort, but let’s also get real. By making it more difficult for brand content to reach audiences, the changes will also allow Facebook to make advertising a necessity for brands, while also increasing the cost.
The post has cost him around $US3.3 billion in recent days, as Facebook tumbled 4.5 per cent on Wall Street. It’s also left brands and publishers asking, “Now what?”
How brands can mitigate the impact of the changes
The changes essentially mean that all business pages will see a drop in reach and engagement. Brand pages with posts that generally don’t generate reactions or comments currently will see the biggest decrease.
Facebook will prioritise posts that ‘inspire back-and-forth discussion’ and as with previous updates, brands that use like or engagement baiting – such as ‘like if you agree’ – or generally posts that ‘goad’ people into interacting will be demoted in the News Feed.
With that in mind, here is what brands should be doing to lessen the impact of the changes and continue to drive engagement:
Focus on quality over quantity.
With Facebook reducing the number of brand posts that are seen, it is more important than ever that you make your posts count. Consider spending more time on your content, even if that means posting less frequently. Think about how your brand content can provoke discussion and enable your fans and the wider Facebook community to help one another.
Be sure you are posting when your community is online.
Use Facebook Insights to learn more about when your specific audience is engaging with your content. Posts will be evaluated not only by overall engagement but by how quickly it is generated. Posts that receive lots of likes and comments quickly will take priority. Draw attention to your content, be active in responding to comments and drive the conversation forward, where possible.
Post about trending topics.
Timeliness is becoming increasingly important across all platforms, including LinkedIn. Post about what’s happening now and about what is already getting your audience talking. Joining an existing conversation is much easier than starting your own. You can still have ‘evergreen’ content in the mix, but look for opportunities to add in timely posts that build on the latest trends.
Consider your video strategy.
Video is still a big engagement driver, especially Live video. Live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos so be proactive in creating opportunities to include it in a way that’s relevant for your brand. If you’re already using video, look for ways to improve engagement. Grab your audience’s attention in the first three seconds and consider using a ‘square’ format, as the videos appear larger in the mobile News Feed. Also try using captions and encouraging viewers to ‘Tap for sound’.
Accept that it’s pay to play.
Facebook is a business, not a megaphone or a community bulletin board. Brands can no longer expect to be successful on Facebook without advertising. Take time to evaluate your targeting, boost your top posts and again, focus on quality over quantity. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make an impact.
These changes will force some brands to re-think their social strategy completely, specifically if it’s been passive to-date. Both brands and content creators need to push the boundaries and create content that matters to their target audiences. This makes it more important than ever that brands understand exactly who that audience is and what they want and need.
About the author
Lauren Trucksess is an independent content marketing and social media consultant. She founded Latitude Content as a way to help brands create content that drives stronger business results. Originally from the US, Lauren has worked in Australia’s best integrated communications and public relations agencies and has led content-driven campaigns for some of the world’s top B2B and B2C technology brands.