Facebook’s announcement that “The new algorithm will emphasize posts from friends and family over viral videos and clickbait headlines from Pages.” doesn’t mean you need a new social media strategy. It means you’ll need to execute better against the same social media strategy you should have been deploying all along. Let me show you why.
This Is Not A New Facebook News Feed Problem
There has been a lot of chicken little “the sky is falling” posts since Zuck’s announcement, which is kind of funny since the announcement clearly states as one of its goals; the elimination of click-bait headlines, which is exactly what those posts are doing.
Because Zuck’s announcement is vague at best and contradictory at worst.
For instance, Zuck says, “… 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.”
But, there is plenty of research and articles that all prove Facebook Page Organic Reach has been trending downward for a number of years now. Here’s Facebook’s response from 2014, which notes, “There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.”
That means that since circa 2014, brands have been forced to buy their way into the Facebook News Feed if they hoped of actually getting any eyeballs on their content.
So, all of that brand/media page content folks are now complaining about, the stuff that gets in the way of seeing what their little nephew did last night, is more than likely PAID content.
And, that is probably the biggest reason, I think this whole announcement is much to do about nothing. As long as Facebook is primarily an ad driven revenue company, I just don’t see the Zuckster voluntarily reducing the number of advertising spots in any Facebook News Feed. So, what I’m reading here is that Facebook will further reduce ORGANIC PAGE REACH, to force advertisers to buy more Facebook Ads and likely pay more for them.
Meaningful vs Relevant Facebook Content
Zuck does attempt to clarify his vague algorithm announcement by pointing out, “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
Well that’s just about as clear as mud, right?
On one hand, I’m not sure how anything can be meaningful without being relevant. On the other hand, there are tons of relevant things in my life that aren’t very meaningful.
This begs the question, how does an algorithm know what I consider meaningful?
Most pundits have translated “meaningful” to “drives comments, especially longer, complex comments.” Why? Because twice Zuck references, “it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.” That word, “between” is pointing everyone towards comments as the number one predictor of “meaningful interactions.”
And you know what? That makes perfect sense. Only, it’s pretty impractical in my opinion. Here’s why.
I like to cook. Let’s say a brand posts pictures of a killer dish and the associated recipe. Those pictures and that recipe are relevant to me. I might choose to do a couple of things. I might just click through, print out the recipe or Pin it and then move on to the next post in my timeline. I might also like it or share it with one of my fellow foodies and possibly include a comment suggesting they check it out.
BUT, if the pundits are correct, I’ll begin to see less and less of that content even if I liked it. Nope, to be considered meaningful to the algorithm, I’ll have to comment on the recipe.
BUT, what we don’t know is if that single comment is enough to qualify the content as meaningful. Is a one way conversation really a conversation? Or do I have to share it with a fellow foodie with a comment and my foodie friend then has to respond back to me to have this exchange qualify as “meaningful” in Facebook terms?
You see where I’m going with this? Relevant is easy on algorithms. If the post drives engagement, it’s a pretty small logic step to then classify that engagement as an indicator of relevance. But deriving meaning from virtual consumption of content… well that’s a very different ballgame.
I might like seeing all of the recipes from brands and friends that flood my feed, but I just didn’t need to drop a comment. I mean I might have been willing to talk about the recipe, but it may not have been convenient for me at that moment. But, if Facebook was to start culling those posts from my feed, how would that make me feel? How valuable is Facebook in a world where content that I subscribed to is no longer flowing into my feed because Zuck and his band of merry engineers don’t think the content is meaningful enough?
I’d argue less valuable. And when a social platform becomes less valuable to the users, usage drops. We need look no further than Twitter to see that dynamic in action today.
What’s Really Going To Happen When Facebook Changes The News Feed?
Well, that is the $64,000 question, isn’t it. Here is what we think will happen. We’re basing this prediction on historical evidence that we’ve witnessed over the last decade as a social media agency.
First, everyone is going to freak out. Social Media Gurus are going to write a bazillion posts on the subject. Social Media speakers will submit and deliver hundreds of social media conference talks aimed at telling you dear reader how you can save yourself from the Facebook Apocalypse. And most of it will be sensationalized bullshit, virtually devoid of any meaningful content. Hee hee, did you see what I just did there?
Second, obvious click-bait, link-bait and fake news type posts are definitely going to start disappearing. You’ll know it because all those social media gurus will be documenting every instance they find and sharing it liberally via blog posts, LinkedIn posts, etc., all with a handy dandy CTA button encouraging you to sign up for their latest online course to save yourself and your company.
Third, after about six to nine months everyone will settle down. There will be some brands, pages and media outlets that will suffer a reduction in reach and awareness. But honestly, it will be brands, pages and media outlets that deserved to see a reduction because their content sucked to begin with and no one will really miss it.
Fourth, Facebook will achieve their goal of increasing interactions between Facebook users and brands, pages and media outlets. Now how meaningful this interaction will truly be is anyone’s guess. BUT, there will be more interactions and more content designed to produce interaction.
Fifth, smart brands… I mean the really smart ones will actually thank the Zuckster for making this change. These brands, the ones that truly understand how to use of Facebook will begin to see improved ROI on their Facebook investment and they’ll begin to see a gap between their ROI and their competitors’ ROI.
How Can Brands Benefit From Facebook’s News Feed Changes?
If you’d like to know what we think those smart brands will do, read on.
The short answer is they’ll continue to do what they’ve been doing thus far. They aren’t going to develop a new Facebook strategy, they’re going to continue to leverage Facebook for what its always been great at — creating ongoing, deep, powerful fan/brand relationships at scale.
First, they’ll continue spending a little bit on EVERY Facebook post they publish. They recognized early on that they have to buy around the algorithm. They’ll just continue to do this and as a result, they’ll continue to see decent amounts of engagement on all of their posts vs having some big winners and a bunch of losers based on which posts they support and don’t support with ad spend.
Second, they’ll continue to use content that speaks “to” not “at” their audience. They’ll continue to make it about the fan and not the brand. They’ll continue to analyze their content for overarching insights into the why behind the what. So rather than just knowing what content is successful, they’ll understand why it was successful.
Third, they’ll continue to see their community managers as online brand ambassadors. They’ll continue to metric these brand ambassadors against KPIs rather than just base online engagement numbers. They’ll track and reward the brand ambassadors for building relationships, creating offline sales opportunities and for developing relationships that lead to increased brand awareness and preference without having to pay, as in a traditional influencer campaign. In short, they’ll continue to see these folks as the Pied Pipers of the brand.
Fourth, they’ll arm these brand ambassadors with Social CRMs so they can create relationships at scale. The best funded brands will eventually build or buy super Social CRMs. The Social CRM of the future will automatically add every fan, commenter, liker, etc., to the CRM, tag them by platform and content where they were originally engaged. Then, every time they interact with the brand in the future, the CRM will automagically record that interaction, again, save the content that caused it and adjust the fan’s Super Fan score. This kind of tool will be absolutely essential for any large brand to meaningfully engage at scale in a strategically focused manner.
Fifth, they’ll continue to value their social media efforts based on the lifetime value of their social fans and Social Agents. Social has always been a long ball vs small ball kind of game in our opinion. With Facebook’s news feed change, it will up the ante even further because to get engagement you will have to put in more effort on the front end content creation. This will continue to throw the traditional ratio of content creation cost vs content dispersion costs even further out of whack. Thus, to generate a positive ROI on your social efforts, you’ll need to understand the value of a long-term, repeat customer or Social Agents vs just the short-term direct impact of your social media efforts on immediate sales.
Sixth, they’ll reduce the amount of Facebook Video you see in their feeds. There are a lot of brands jumping on the video bandwagon right now. We do a good bit of social analytic tracking, what we call GBI (Guaranteed Brand Interactions) reports for various brands. The reports track all brand engagements across all platforms for the client and their defined competitive set on a monthly basis. Where video is concerned we count a 10-second video view vs 3-second view as a Guaranteed Brand Interaction.
One of the trends we see, is that a lot of brands lean on the 10-second video view as a primary driver of their overall GBI. It makes sense and it works. Except, with this new change to the news feed, it’s not going to work anymore because Zuck explicitly notes that “On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.” and thus, we think those video posts are definitely going to start disappearing from fans’ news feeds quickly.
Need Help Overcoming Facebook’s News Feed Changes?
If you feel like your Facebook content and social media strategy is going to get dinged by this new change and you’re not sure how to overcome it, call us. We’ve been building successful engagement based Facebook marketing programs for almost 10 years and we’d love to create one for you.
Whether you need fully outsourced support or just strategy and creative development, we can build a project scope that works within your budget.