On November 14, Facebook announced an update to the News Feed algorithm that could impact businesses’ social marketing efforts starting in January 2015. Essentially, they are going to punish brand posts that are overly-promotional. For a while now, we’ve known that organic reach is declining and this algorithm change could push it even lower. Facebook says this is a move to improve the News Feed for consumers.
What you really care about is this: how to avoid getting penalized by this update. According to Facebook’s blog, here is what the algorithm will penalize:
- Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
- Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
- Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
Aside from #3, these are pretty vague and subjective–what one person think is “solely” pushing may not be for another. Here are tips to avoid being penalized:
1. Write with your brand’s tone.
Fans follow brands that they want to associate with, so don’t give them something generic…give them the experience that is unique to your brand. And that’s done primarily through your tone. This Lilly Pulitzer post, for example, is essentially promoting their vests. They could have easily said “Allie Packable Quilted Vest — $198,” (which might be penalized by Facebook) but the fun and light-hearted tone of both the copy and image make it valuable to their fans on social–something Facebook wants from brands.
“Crushable. Packable. Slimming. This year’s must-have vest that folds itself into a printed pouch!
2. Pull your fans with intriguing copy.
The real value of your posts’ content often isn’t on Facebook, it’s in the link–the product, blog post, video, etc. The Facebook post is just the gateway. If your post is intriguing, it pulls people into the valuable content, rather than pushing it on them, which is what Facebook wants to filter out.
“Enter the grey zone.”
3. Share an interesting fact about the product.
Fans want to connect with the brands they like and with the products they purchase. Sharing interesting tidbits about products accomplishes both because it demonstrates that the brand really cares about their products (thoughtful and mindful enough to share the product’s backstory) and it gives fans deeper insight into the product and why the brands sells it.
“There are 200 steps involved in making the Alfred Sargent for J.Crew double monk strap. Go behind the scenes at the family-run factory.”
4. Share a post about a collection of products.
A great way to do this is to work the collection into a blog post or it’s own landing page. It informs fans about several products at a time and gives you an opportunity to share more than just a product description about each. They’re even better when they correspond with a time-relevant event, like Kate Spade’s Gift Guide which was posted during the holiday season.
“It’s here! Take a peak at our roundup of glamorous, gorgeous, got-to-get-them gifts.”
5. Ask a question.
Questions are great ways to introduce a product without overtly pushing it. Customers will read your question, ask themselves and then answer it without even realizing it. This post from Wayfair gets you thinking about Christmas decorations right away and then provides you an outlet to act on your thoughts–a great pull strategy.
“When it comes to a Christmas tree – do you go real or faux?”
6. Keep your copy short.
We recommend a 100 character limit. Every post needs to do two things to be successful: it has to get people to stop scrolling as well as give them a reason to click. That’s a tough task to do with fewer than 100 characters, which means you can’t be lazy and give a generic description. The end result? Better creative copy that pulls, rather than pushes. When you limit the copy of your posts to 100 characters or fewer, you force yourself to come up with something creative and intriguing.
“Remember the time.”
7. Show your product in use.
Nothing online looks more salesy than product on a white background. Showing it in-use automatically gives the post more value as it can be inspirational to your fans. Make your point by showing them the value, not telling them about it.
8. Show your customers using your products.
Very few things convince people to buy as well as a peer recommendation. It’s a great way to promote a contest or promotion while not getting penalized. Why? Your customer-generated content inherently adds context and demonstrates an engaged social community, which is exactly what Facebook wants.
9. Use the “will my fans think this is interesting and valuable?” filter.
Lastly, this filter should really be applied to everything you do as a marketer. “Valuable” can be anything from a moment of laughter to giving them the final reason that nudges them into making the perfect purchase. If you run every post through this filter, you will never have to worry about Facebook’s algorithm.