What do the Facebook News Feed Changes Mean for Brands?
Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook would be updating its News Feed algorithm to prioritize content from friends, family, and groups—especially posts that generate conversations.
“As we roll this out,” Zuckerberg wrote, “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
What does this mean?
Simply put, any and all brand pages will see the visibility of their posts—whether organic or paid—scaled back significantly. This might not seem like the greatest news if you've spent time and resources building up your Facebook account. But there is a bright side!
Zuckerberg's announcement made clear that pages posting low-engagement content will likely see the biggest decreases in distribution, but pages whose "posts prompt conversations between friends" will see less of an effect.
This algorithm change may present increased visibility (or at least less competition) for quality content that generates what Zuckerberg calls "meaningful interactions."
So how can I ensure fans are still seeing my posts?
"Meaningful interactions" effectively means more comments and shares, so keep creating content that sparks conversations. The best way to do this is to focus on timely and relevant topics that users will want to discuss or share with others. Netflix’s Facebook page, for example, remains successful because fans use posts to talk with each other about their favorite shows.
One way to trigger comments is to include questions in your posts. But be wary of manipulative framing such as "COMMENT if you love ____" or something similar. This is exactly the type of low-quality content that the algorithm was changed to deter. (Facebook specifically says that "engagement-bait" posts will be demoted in the News Feed.)
In general, you should probably publish *less* content through your Facebook page. Only post when you have meaningful content that you think will get real engagement. You can also encourage followers to add your page to their "See First" list. This is a simple step (see the image below) that ensures they'll never miss a post.
What does this mean for paid campaigns?
Organic reach was already declining, and the new algorithm trend will only amplify that trend—and drive up the price for advertisements. (Facebook concedes that users will now spend less time on Facebook, which means fewer opportunities to see ads.)
To get the most bang for your buck, paid campaigns have to be more strategic than ever in reaching the kinds of audiences that will actually actively engage in some fashion, preferably with a share. Promoted posts or ads will need to speak directly to these targeted users but with an organic rather than promotional tone—like something a friend would post rather than a brand. Obviously, this is a difficult balance to strike. However, if users are more engaged when spending time on Facebook, they might be more receptive to the ads they’re exposed to. Particularly if the content you’re serving them is meaningful.
What about video?
Facebook is ostensibly reducing the number of videos from publishers and brands that show up in users' feeds, claiming that this is "passive" content. But the company is also hyping its own Facebook Live videos as examples of content that "spark conversation."
News Feed head Adam Mosseri writes 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.”
There are good reasons to be skeptical about these figures, but Facebook is clearly still pushing brands and publishers to make a new pivot (to video… hosted on Facebook's platform), so now is a good time to allocate resources toward leveraging live streams. Brands and agencies alike need to be following this development closely.
Will Facebook ever settle on a single approach to brand content?
No, probably not. Social media platforms are ultimately rented space, and brands will always be subject to the whims of the landlord. That's why it's best to maintain a diverse digital marketing portfolio centered around your website—the one piece of web real estate that you can control. You should also consider working with an agency to ensure you stay on top of these ever-changing trends. (And yes, Beutler Ink is always available to help!)