One of the hardest parts about working in digital marketing is that the tools we use are always changing. What worked last week may not work next week, and we are constantly in a position of re-evaluating our strategies for clients to continue getting results.
Facebook is a tool we rely on heavily to serve our clients, but it’s also one of the channels that changes most frequently.
There are some changes coming to Facebook that all marketers and business owners should know about and plan for. The channel is rolling out a new News Feed algorithm that will hurt organic reach for businesses, possibly making it harder to connect with their fans.
But before you panic, educate yourself about what the changes mean, and what you should be doing to combat them. The bottom line is, if you are creating valuable content, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
A Change is Coming
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg says that he created the social network to help people connect, but that connection has gotten lost in the sea of content that passes through the channel daily.
“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,” says Zuckerburg.
So, he’s changing the algorithm so that users see more of the things they care about in their news feeds, and less of the things they don’t.
“You can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups,” Zuckerburg explains. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
Facebook admits that this change means that for many business pages, the organic reach will drop. And we know that when the reach drops, engagement drops along with it. When engagement is low, it’s hard to increase the reach. It’s the cycle every Facebook marketer fears, and it’s now being blatantly thrust upon us. Not a great day at the office.
But despite the initial panic, if you read closely, you’ll realize that this announcement isn’t really bad news at all. It’s actually great news for marketers that care about their audience and the content they’re delivering to them.
Here’s the official statement from the Facebook blog:
“With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people… These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion…
Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
What Facebook is telling us is something many of us already know. Valuable content matters. Telling your story matters. If you’re throwing up posts just for the sake of “doing social media” and not paying attention to how those posts are received by your audience, then let me be the first to say it: you deserve to have your reach lowered. Too many businesses do social media because they think they have to. They don’t have a strategy beyond just getting stuff up on the page, and they’re not concerned with creating a community as much as they are with just trying to sell stuff. I wish I could say those businesses were in the minority, but they’re not. And now Facebook is doing something about it.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
There’s another reason I don’t understand the hysteria over the most recent changes – if you have any longevity in the business, you’ll realize that we’ve seen this before. When you work in digital marketing, you know that algorithm changes are just part of the deal. These changes are not new or shocking; in fact, the algorithm is constantly being tweaked, and if you are paying attention you will notice shifts in post performance from week to week. Some weeks it works in our favor, other weeks we have to get a little more creative to get the same results.
It might be an argument for working with an agency – who’s job it is to stay on top of the changes – rather than trying to run your Facebook marketing yourself, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.
The fact is, as more businesses get on the Facebook bandwagon, there is simply too much content being published in the News Feed every day, and getting those eyeballs on your posts is becoming more competitive. I’m glad Facebook has finally found a way to weed out some of the clutter and let truly engaging content shine.
But, that means you have to create truly engaging content. Marketers, it’s time to up your game.
It’s Time to Tell Your Story
At KWSM, we have long preached the value of telling your story. Let your fans behind the curtain. Give them an insider’s view. What can you teach them about your industry or your company? What can you show them that they haven’t seen from your competitors?
Don’t think of Facebook as your opportunity to market your business or sell your product, think of it as your time to interact with a group of people who has expressed some interest in your business. What should they know?
Facebook says it is prioritizing meaningful content. You need to make sure you’re creating it. Being relevant is a good start. Sometimes things happen in the world that everyone is talking about. (Christmas, summer vacation, the election, the Superbowl…) Get onboard. When a topic is on users’ minds, they are drawn to content about it.
Next, understand who your audience is, and what they want from you. What kind of content do they respond to? Make more of that. Facebook says they will reward content that gets people talking, so pay close attention to interactions on your page – in this new world, the best thing that can happen to you is that your fans share your content with others.
Tactically, here are some things you can try:
You’ve probably heard by now that video is hot for 2018. Blame it on the algorithm, or on your fans’ short attention span, but don’t ignore it. Social media video doesn’t have to be a huge 60-minutes-style production. Sometimes more authentic is better. With the rise of live video, it can be as easy as taking a selfie. (But please put some thought into what you’re trying to communicate – and why – before you push record… bad video will hurt your brand more than no video.)
Do you have your posts set up to feed into your social media channels through a syndicator? It’s time to disconnect. We’ve known for a long time that Facebook wants you to log into the channel live, and now that’s even more important. Authenticity rules under the new playbook, and you want to focus on being a part of the community you’re trying to create – not just feeding random posts into the stream. Since you will now be rewarded for engagement, you need to engage. Fans can smell an unengaged business a mile away. Try asking some questions – and actually respond to the answers.
Try Facebook Ads
A paid strategy may be essential in this new environment. If you haven’t done ads before, get some advice on how to create a plan to drive leads/sales/website traffic – whatever is most important for your business. It’s easy to push the Boost button and throw a few dollars behind reaching a larger audience. However, it’s much more effective to go into the Ads Manager and run a real campaign. You’ll have more options – and there is some evidence that Facebook is prioritizing content from pages that prove themselves to be sophisticated advertisers. (Hey, what can you say, they like brands that make them money.)
Change Course, But Don’t Abandon Ship
I hear a lot of rumblings from business owners who say they’ll abandon Facebook in favor of other marketing avenues. To which I say, Great! More room in the newsfeed for the rest of us!
The fact is, Facebook usage isn’t declining. There are over two billion registered users, and millions of them log in multiple times a day. You may be mad at Facebook, but it doesn’t change the fact that your target audience is there.
But, that doesn’t mean that now isn’t a great time to revisit your overall strategy. The truth is, organic reach on Facebook has been declining for awhile. In fact, Zuckerburg admits the company “started making changes in this direction last year.” You’ve probably been noticing it for some time, but were just hoping it would “fix itself” if you kept posting. We now know that’s not going to happen.
So, what can you do? In addition to making sure you are creating valuable content, I think it’s time to consider other ways to get that content in front of your target audience.
Maybe your plan for LinkedIn has been neglected and it’s time to show that channel some love? Perhaps you could start an email newsletter to reach your audience in their inboxes. Maybe you want to improve your SEO tactics to get more eyeballs on your website without relying on the click through from social media? And, for goodness sake, if you’ve ever contemplated Facebook advertising – now is the time!
These are some of the approaches we’re exploring with our clients to diversify their digital marketing strategy so it’s not dependant on the whims of Facebook.
(Want our advice? Reach out any time.)
We even sent our Content Team to a 3-day retreat to learn the latest Facebook advertising tactics to ensure that we’re ready for the increase in clients who are going to rely more heavily on ads to reach their audience.
Overall, the News Feed changes are not cause for alarm. But they do make it necessary to take an honest look at your digital marketing strategy. If you don’t have a strong approach to creating content that your fans will love, it’s time to re-direct some energy there. And, if you’ve put all your eggs in the Facebook basket, look around and see what other avenues could help you reach your audience. As you set your business goals for 2018, it’s time to stop doing social media just to do it, and commit to having a relationship with your fans.
Here’s to more “personal moments” – on Facebook, and beyond.
P.S. Need more help creating a Facebook strategy for your business, enroll in our Facebook Bootcamp!