When you compare the slow-moving and methodical marketing platforms of print, radio and television with today’s rapidly-changing and unpredictable social media platforms, it’s like comparing the merry go round at your local state fair with the head-jerking twists and stomach-sinking plunges of the USA’s tallest roller coaster: the Kingda Ka at Six Flags in New Jersey.

One has you going around in predictable circles while the other leaves you wondering if you’re going to survive.

If you’re one of the millions of businesses using Facebook Pages as a marketing platform, you already know it’s no merry go round. The twists, turns and plunges of frequent algorithm changes can leave you dazed, confused and wondering which direction is up. It’s a wild ride – but with 1.5 billion users, it’s one that you can’t afford to miss.

Well, get ready to twist and turn: Facebook has changed the rules again.

This time the changes affect the way brands conduct marketing campaigns through their business pages, reflecting Facebook users’ discontent with the quality and quantity of promotional content appearing in their newsfeeds.

Q. What’s the problem?

A. Facebook users have grown weary of promotional content disguised as organic posts.

Posts, for example, that:

  • Hawk products or urge users to install an app.
  • Press users to enter out-of-context promotions and sweepstakes.
  • Repeat the same content found in ads.

Here’s what the social media giant posted about it:

“As part of an ongoing survey we asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their news feeds. People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”

Facebook’s ultimate goal is to keep their users engaged by showing them content they want to see. In response to the ‘ongoing survey’, Facebook users have seen less of this type of content in their news feeds since January. And if your business is still posting promotional content on its Page, you will have noticed a significant drop in organic distribution these past few months.

With these new algorithms in place, what can you do to reach your customers on Facebook without turning them off?

You have two options: you can purchase advertising in order to increase engagement on organic posts; or you can work harder – and smarter – to create organic posts that users want to see.

Ready, Aim, Advertise

Because social media giants like Facebook are experts at tracking demographics, they can offer more targeted advertising than traditional media. Plus, the medium is no respecter of budgets – you can advertise on Facebook for as little as one dollar a day:

  • Online ad tools enable you to narrowly target your demographic through a detailed selection process that includes age, location and even special interest (pet lovers, for example). You can’t target your market that narrow with television, radio or print.
  • If your ad budget is miniscule, you can set a daily limit that gives you as much bang for your buck as you can afford. A minimum of $1.00 per day gets you in the game. The more you spend, the further your reach; leveling the playing field to include even the smallest of ad budgets.
  • You can also pay to boost strategic posts to increase their reach.

Clearly, Facebook advertising can be a dream for the small business owner.

Retool Your Organic Posts

If you don’t have an advertising budget, or if that budget is too small to get the impact you want, you can still get further reach by creating the kinds of posts that Facebook users want to see. Here are some tips to accomplish that:

  • Value, value, value
    If real estate is about ‘location, location, location’ then the new social media mantra should be ‘value, value, value’. Throw out the self-congratulatory promotional posts and create content that provides value to your audience. Inspire! Inform. Entertain. Deliver value and you’ll make friends and build loyalty. Plus, your audience is not only more likely to engage with these types of posts, they’ll share them as well.
  • Post links in the correct link format.
    Facebook prioritizes posts that use the correct link format rather than copying links into the photo caption. Research shows that links posted in the Facebook-designed link format receive twice as many clicks. The advantage for the user: correct link formats show the beginning of the article which can help the user decide if he or she is interested; and this format makes it easier for mobile users to click through.What is the ‘correct link format’? This is where you paste the link from the url and Facebook does the work for you, grabbing a headline, photo and story intro and posting to your page. More info about that here: http://marketingland.com/facebook-reward-links-97390)
  • Post valuable advice over general messages.
    Rather than post a general message over a holiday such as, ‘Happy Memorial Day’; offer valuable advice – such as the recent viral Facebook ‘tip’ post featuring a photo of a small children’s swimming pool filled with ice and used to keep food cold during a holiday picnic. Over-deliver on value and you will build equity and loyalty on your Facebook page.
  • Post images and videos on Instagram and cross-post to Facebook.
    Remember that Facebook owns Instagram (purchased for a cool $1 billion) so the social media giant is likely to favor images also posted on its sister site.
  • Use a social media calendar to organize posts on Facebook.
    A calendar will help you: post strategically rather than haphazardly; balance various types of content over a week or a month; and plan for holidays and scheduled events.
  • Remember to respond.
    If you want your audience to engage with you, then you need to engage with them. Reply to comments. ‘Like’ posts. And be social – it is social media after all!

Takeaway: Facebook knows their users are opinionated, fickle and likely to jump ship if they become unhappy. Brands that take advantage of Facebook as a marketing tool must accept the fact that the social media giant will continue to tweak its platform to remain competitive.

Facebook is organic: twist and turn with it and you’re likely to arrive at your destination with a smile on your face. Refuse to budge and you’re likely to get thrown off the track.