We are already used to Facebook changing its algorithm regularly, but the latest update left even the most prepared social media specialists flabbergasted. It seems that Facebook wants to return to being primarily a social network rather than a news organization and a marketing platform, which it has been for the last few years.
What this means for publishers and Pages, and how to overcome the changes is explained below.
Changes in the News Feed
On January 12th, Mark Zuckerberg announced a big focus shift on Facebook for 2018. Personal News Feeds will receive a big clean-up in order to improve user experience. In recent years the News Feed has become over-crowded with posts from news outlets, brands, and social media influencers. Clickbait titles and widely shared viral videos have turned into everyday occurrences and we as users have grown accustomed to it. However, this is not what Facebook was supposed to be. When it first became popular, Facebook was a social network used to connect with other people. It was a place where you uploaded photos, commented on people’s status updates, and shared your thoughts through posts.
According to Zuckerberg’s status update “when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long-term measures of happiness and health.” In other words, users will be seeing more posts from their friends than from their subscribed Pages.
This presents another season of decline in organic reach, and this time it might be the hardest hit yet. News Feeds will still contain posts from Pages, but the number of posts you will see from Pages will be significantly smaller. Only the most reliable and the most popular ones will probably be featured. Smaller Pages will have to start investing in paid advertisement in order to get noticed.
Another fear publishers have is that the cost of ads will go up. This we cannot claim with certainty, but “as Kevin Chan, the integrated performance director at iProspect, pointed out, if a boosted page post is getting less organic reach due to [the] changes, then that might impact the auction. Engagement is a ‘very small’ part of ad ranking on the social network, which relies on many other data points to determine what ads people see to ensure relevancy and value,” he said.
Explore Feed vs. News Feed
Explore Feed has been another novelty in the Facebook realm. Towards the end of last year, Facebook tested its new feature in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Bolivia, Serbia and Guatemala. All the Pages were removed from the News Feed and put in the Explore Feed. This caused major decline of engagement on the pages, especially journalistic organizations. Luckily, these were only tests performed by Facebook in order to learn what users really want to see in their Feed.
Explore Feed was later introduced to all users, and it is now a section where, as the name suggests, users can explore branded content. Even though it sounds helpful, because it enables the users to explore new pages based on their interests, it is also nearly a hidden feature. It can be found under the Explore option, but is close to the bottom of the section.
It is highly unlikely that people will consciously leave their News Feed and search for the Explore Feed in order to find interesting Pages. It will require a conscious effort to do so and we doubt that Explore Feed will become a thing of habit.
Win the Facebook Game
Although the fall of organic reach has been detrimental to some businesses, it does have some benefit to it. Since Facebook wants to stop “engagement bait” which mostly comes in a form of the fake news and the over-recycling of material, publishers will have to invest more time and effort into quality content.
It has been said many times that content is king, and now this is truer than ever. Brands who bring value to their customers such as a helpful blog, an interesting story or a high-quality video will have priority. Facebook Groups linked to a Page can also help you engage with your audience in a more meaningful and authentic conversation.
Facebook Live is currently a highly popular feature and it could be useful to start incorporating it into your publishing strategy. The most important things are to know your target audience and understand your data, so that you can adapt to the new changes appropriately.
As already mentioned, start investing in paid ads on Facebook. According to Dreamgrow, out of 50 million small business Facebook Pages, only four million are paying for social media advertising. No matter how great your content is, it is of little use if nobody is going to see it. Facebook ads look almost the same as regular posts and their return on investment is much higher than that of traditional forms of advertising. They are genuinely a cost-effective way to achieve brand awareness, generate leads, and get conversions. For an easier start with Facebook advertising you can check out our e-book.
All in all, the decline in organic reach won’t come overnight, you will more likely see minor tweaks here and there. The most important thing is to stay informed and to adapt your social media strategy according to the changes. Create authentic and interesting content, communicate with your audience, and invest in social media advertising.