Almost weekly, someone asks us about the changes that Facebook has made to their algorithm. The minute we heard about these updates, we started researching what they meant for our clients. We read articles, monitored Page Insights and even met up with Facebook directly to ask them pointed questions about the real impacts to our customers’ social presence. If you haven’t yet heard of Facebook’s recent changes, or you feel like you’re not as well-versed in what it all really means, buckle in. We’re about to go for a wild ride.
The Ever Changing Platform
In 2007, Facebook launched Brand Pages, which allowed users to connect with brands and celebrities, and moved away from the former “college-kid” only model. In 2009, Facebook shipped the “Become a Fan” functionality, allowing a user to “vote” for the brands they loved most.
As the Wall (no, not that “Wall”) transitioned into a user’s News Feed, content coming from a brand or personal account was weighed similarly for distribution within the News Feed. Whether it was a post from your favorite restaurant or a photo of your cousin’s baby, there was an equal opportunity for this content to be seen amongst your friends.
This opened up a significant opportunity for Brands to create awareness organically within unreached audiences. Brands did this by creating content that encouraged engagement. As fans engaged with a brand’s content, the power of social sharing took form. For example, if a social follower of Nike shared a post from their Page, their friends could potentially see this post within their News Feed as something their friend had engaged with.
As a brand, the ability to have a loyal fan provide a pseudo-referral within their personal social network was incredibly valuable and cost-effective. Shortly thereafter, Facebook began to promote a new addition to its advertising platform, turning News Feeds into digital billboard space. Not only was this a great opportunity for businesses to further their brand, it helped users find products they “should” be interested in, thanks to Facebook’s super-segmented targeting abilities.
But, as time went on, users began to get frustrated with the combination of these ads and the business content still being served up organically. In fact, listening to Facebook’s earnings call in January and talking with Facebook representatives in February, it was clear the platform was struggling to foster an authentic experience and user engagement was waning.
“But in the last couple of years, the ecosystem of public content like video, news, and post from businesses has grown massive to the point where it’s starting to crowd out the personal connection that people value most.” – Mark Zuckerberg
On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg dropped a bombshell to the Facebook world: Facebook will be changing the way that content is served up:
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. —Mark Zuckerberg
Now, if you are a long time Facebook user, you may be thinking, “Hey this is great news!”, and it is from a personal use standpoint. But, if you are a business that counts on Facebook as a channel to reach new customers or drive revenue within your existing Facebook audience , you have felt the impact on your top and bottom line.
Zuckerberg addresses this in his announcement:
Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too. —Mark Zuckerberg
To quantify “down,” here is an example of the impact we have seen with one group. You will notice “Reach” is down 41% from the date of the algorithm change referenced by Zuckerberg above.
In some cases, our clients are seeing up to 80 percent less engagement and reach than before the changes were announced and, on average, we are seeing about a 45% decrease in these indicators.
A New Approach for Businesses?
We’ve done the research on how to best tackle this changing landscape, and we have some answers. While no one, not even Facebook, knows how this is going to pan out in the long run, we have some ideas on how to compete in the social game. We’ve employed some of these strategies with our existing clients and, while we’re still testing out these new waters, we are seeing success:
- Pay to Play- This is straight from The Book itself. If you are a business page that wants and needs interactions and exposure, you are going to have to pay for it. This may sound like cheating, but trust us, it’s the only way to make up for the de-prioritization of business content. We’ve seen as little as $20 make a huge impact when boosting a post.
- Quality over Quantity- When social media first appeared, businesses who posted frequent content flourished, because they were appearing in news feeds sorted chronologically. Since the Facebook algorithm has reprioritized, and only serves up content to users that it believes they want to see. If a business is pumping out shallow content that isn’t garnering any reactions, Facebook is not going to serve up that content. However, if the business creates genuine content that people react to and share, this content should be shown to more people. So, going forward, we are becoming more intentional than ever in how we approach social content with our clients.
- Earn Genuine Interactions- Once, there was a time when you could buy followers and likes. Now, Facebook has caught on to this, so if they suspect that your followers are not genuine, then they will not serve up your content. Piggybacking off of the above point, post content that you know your audience will love. Put in the extra effort to make a great post that highlights something special about your organization, and earn those likes! The more genuine interactions you receive, the higher Facebook will prioritize your content.
Let Us Help
You may be reading this blog and panicking. We don’t want that. We want you to be equipped with the knowledge you need to understand Facebook and their changes. If you want to talk about it over coffee (or pizza), we would love that! We’re always here to help.