On January 11th, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced radical new changes to how Facebook’s news feed would work, as they are changing the algorithm.
The change is that content from friends, family members or groups will be prioritised over those from followed pages or brands. So what does this mean for small businesses and brands who use the platform for digital marketing?
What will the algorithm changes actually do?
Facebook is essentially updating the ranking so that people have more of a chance to interact and engage with other people they are friends with on the platform, rather than inundated with posts from brands or pages they perhaps care less about.
As it stands, Facebook uses signals on how people react to, comment or share posts in order to determine where it appears in the news feed.
However, now Facebook will give priority to posts which spark conversion or interaction between actual people. Facebook will predict which posts are most likely to be the ones you wish to interact with your friends about, and will thus show these higher in the feed. These include posts that have discussions in the comments, posts or photos you share and react to, and similar posts.
Posts from family and friends will be given priority over public content.
A quote from Zuckerberg’s post:
We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
As we roll this out, 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.
Why is Facebook making this change now?
The platform has become bloated with features as it has grown, and has largely lost focus of what it set out to achieve. Over time Facebook and has shifted from a social network where you share photos and status updates with friends, to a platform aimed at ensuring you stay engaged through content from many different sources. Much of this would involve sponsored advertisements you didn’t choose to see, posts from brands or pages you have liked, live videos, news articles, and much, much more. The fact of the matter is, in order to find the content you want to see, you need to cut through the noise yourself. You shouldn’t have to scroll through 3 pages of ads, articles, and unrelated videos in order to actually find the photo album of your Uncle’s latest family BBQ. And that’s what Facebook is fixing.
Zuckerberg’s reasoning is that:
We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.
But 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.
It’s easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. 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.
We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being. So we’ve studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.
What does this mean for pages and small businesses/brands on Facebook?
As the news feed space is limited, less public content will be shown to everyone. Which includes posts from publishers or businesses.
Pages will see the reach, video watch time and referral traffic go down when this change come into play. This, of course, will be driven by the type of content and how many people interact with the content put out.
If pages make posts that don’t lead to engagement, then these will see the biggest fall in reach. However, those which produce posts which spark discussions will not see as big of a drop.
What does this mean for Facebook users?
Facebook is aiming to reinvigorate the platform, and ensure more people are using it on a daily basis.
In the long-term, this should benefit Facebook and social media at large. By seeing more content they actually wish to engage with, this means more people will use the platform consistently. It’s likely you’ve already heard from someone that they barely go on Facebook anymore because “it’s full of ads” or full of “posts they don’t want to see”. This should put people at ease, and pay off in the long-term, winning back lapsed users and bringing new ones on board.
By encouraging user growth, this means the advertising side will also benefit, and give you more of a chance of finding an active audience.
How do I make sure my page’s posts are visible in the news feed?
Page posts which generate engagement will still be shown higher – so the focus should be on creating high-quality content that sparks engagement.
Live video has been a big focus for Facebook, and on average sparks 6x the interactions as a regular video. This is a good way of getting more engagement.
Otherwise, you should focus on quality content which aims to create conversations or discussions between users. This could include posting questions, or timely topics that people may want to chime in on with their opinion. I’m sure there are a few specific issues to your industry every now and again, so it’s worth looking for engagement there. Facebook users will then be more likely to see the posts if friends are engaging with it.
However, it is a mistake to focus solely on engagement. Many brands may use the “comment if you’ve ever ___” or “like this post if you’ve been to _____”. But this isn’t high quality, and seems spammy. It may work for some brands, but for most pages, this is not what you want to be doing. Facebook has claimed it will also not count “engagement-bait” as a meaningful interaction, and this will get demoted in the news feed.
Also, you can reach out to those who follow your page, as there is an option for page-followers to choose “See First” in their News Feed preferences. This ensures they can see posts from their favourite pages. While we all have pages we have liked we don’t care about, there’s always a couple you might miss if they disappeared. So you can encourage customers to do so if you think they would find this useful, or already regularly find your posts of value.
And if anyone thinks posts will be disappearing entirely and there’s no point in posting updates anymore, you’d be mistaken. While Facebook recently experimented with moving all page content to the Explore tab, page posts will still appear in the news feed. It’s just going to have fewer page or brand posts, and more from family members and friends.
Should I be advertising?
Almost certainly. Whatever your industry, it’s likely you can find an audience on Facebook.
Up until now, it’s likely you weren’t getting much reach in organic Facebook posts. Even if your page has thousands of followers, your reach would have been severely limited. This is because Facebook is pushing advertising, and ideally wants you to “sponsor” posts in order for more people to see them. It’s just now it’s been taken to another level entirely, so advertising will be a must.
If Facebook is integral to your digital marketing, or you feel you could have an audience on the platform, then you should absolutely be advertising on the platform. Whether this is advertising products, contents or otherwise, you should be able to find a way to reach people you otherwise wouldn’t.
Should I look at other platforms?
Definitely. Whatever your industry, niche or audience, there’s likely a place for you.
If you can generate great visual content, Instagram should be on your list. If you are B2B, LinkedIn. Do you post news articles or content on a regular basis? Then use Twitter more. And on these platforms you can advertise too – so if your audience is likely to be found somewhere other on Facebook, use that platform’s advertising instead.
Below you can see a video on the changes put forwards: