By now, you are well aware that Facebook recently rocked the digital world by announcing one of its biggest algorithm changes to-date: a shift to prioritize content from “friends, family, and groups” and less content from “businesses, brands, and media.”
Many brands and businesses are still trying to figure out exactly what the Facebook algorithm change means for them, so I sat down with Kate Crouse, D Custom’s director of digital media strategy and resident Facebook guru, to get her expert take.
Let’s Back Up. Why Did This Happen?
First things first: Facebook has been changing their algorithm on a semiregular basis since they showed up on the scene, so a change like this shouldn’t feel totally out of left field to most marketers.
But I think the timing of this specific change is a reaction all the negative press that Facebook’s been getting over the last year. Facebook contributed to a lot of pretty bad stuff — i.e., the spread of fake news — and many people turned against them. Their way of combatting that was to say, “Hey, we’re not the bad guy” — and to prove it, Zuckerberg has changed how Facebook functions by placing more importance on friends and family. And to me, that means more importance on real, engaging content.
So What Does That Mean for Businesses?
In this new feed, friends and family will take up the most space, ads will take up about the same, and your other content —branded content — takes up much less of the pie. So, what Facebook is really cutting into is the overpopulation of brand content.
Engagement matters, and Facebook is doubling down on that. By spending less time but more quality time on Facebook, the company hopes people will be engaging with content that they actually care about, with people and groups they are invested in. Which means the solution is to create the kind of content that your audience wants to see and engage with.
This Facebook algorithm change is the final nail in the organic reach-only coffin. Anybody who is still holding on to organic reach, it’s gone. That doesn’t exist. But this change doesn’t affect the ad algorithm, it only affects the organic one — for now.
I also think this is a wakeup call that brands can’t rely on Facebook so completely. That writing has been on the wall for a while, but this change really forces publishers to rethink their current strategies. If Facebook is providing 50 percent of your traffic, you need to sit down and think about your strategy and mix things up. When you rely so heavily on one source, anytime something changes, you could be risking your business.
How Do We Adapt?
In general, be prepared to spend a little more to get those impressions and clicks.
Aside from that, there are a few other strategies that can help:
Influencer marketing is going to become that much more important, particularly influencers on Facebook, obviously. Individuals with niche, engaged audiences are the perfect outlets for brands to get their messages out. Look for influencer importance to spike as brands try to reevaluate their strategies and access Facebook audiences in new ways.
Facebook groups are going to be a bigger deal because they are going to have smaller, more engaged audiences there. The size of your audience isn’t really what matters; it’s about connecting with the right people.
If you haven’t already diversified your strategies, it’s time to do it. No one can always rely on Facebook for traffic. Even paid traffic — like I said, just because they haven’t changed the ad algorithm yet doesn’t mean they won’t.
Quality content that people choose to engage with will prevail. Know what your audience wants and create it for them.
Will It Last?
Over the next couple of months, we will start seeing the effects Facebook algorithm changes and getting a better idea of what the real impact is. We’ve freaked out before and it hasn’t been the end of the world, and you have to keep in mind that this is not as cut-and-dry as it appears to be. Facebook can’t shut off their revenue stream. They aren’t making money off of Tom, Dick, and Harry posting about their family reunion; they’re making money off of publishers and content providers and brands.
Do I think six months from now they are going to pull back? I guess it depends on how much of a hit their profits actually do take. I’m not sure they will, because I do think that the gut reaction that publishers and brands are going to have is to spend more money.
Here’s one concern with this Facebook algorithm change, which I’ll be interested to see how they combat: What happens when a friend or family member shares something that is negative, inaccurate, or click-baitey and gets bunch of engagement? Since they shared it, presumably, I’m going to see it all over my Facebook feed, which doesn’t really solve the negative problems they’re fighting now.
This is one of many questions raised from all this. And furthermore, many people are unsure of the true motives in this Facebook algorithm change to begin with.
Zuckerberg did all this with full knowledge that their profits may go down. People will actually spend less time on Facebook, but the time they spend will be better time; more engaged time; not as passive. He actually said that. Zuckerberg is presenting this as Facebook making a change at the expense of themselves, for the good of the world.
So sure, there are questions. But what if we could take Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement at face value? What if they’re trying to save the soul of Facebook? I’m inclined to believe them. Time will tell.