If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last week, you have probably heard that the social media industry is in meltdown after Facebook announced further changes to the News Feed that will affect Pages.
There’s been a lot of hysteria around these changes and there are influencers within the industry labeling it as the “biggest change to the News Feed yet”.
The changes focus on increasing the number of “meaningful interactions” that users have on the platform.
In mid December 2017, David Ginsberg, Facebook’s Director of Research and Moira Burke, a Research Scientist at Facebook co-published an article to the Facebook Newsroom exploring how social media use impacts mental health both positively and negatively in their users. The article essentially acknowledged that yes, hanging out on Facebook is contributing to mental health issues like depression, anxiety and suicide.
The studies cited, however, found that it’s not social media use in general that is having these negative impacts, it’s more about how you use social media.
“In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward.”
While this seems like a pretty controversial opinion to profess (why would Facebook openly admit that it’s negatively impacting our lives?), it has paved the way for the latest changes to the News Feed Algorithm.
This same study found (perhaps a little conveniently) that when users spend their time on Facebook actively engaging with their close friends and family it was linked to improvements in wellbeing.
What changes are coming to the Facebook News Feed in January 2018?
In an effort to ensure “the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent”, the Algorithm will be updated to favour person-to-person content. This means that organic reach on business pages will decrease. While this is unfortunate for businesses, it’s not anything new.
The News Feed has always had an Algorithm that helps to determine what shows up in your personal News Feed and where. This is determined by how likely you are to enjoy and engage with the content being displayed. If you follow Tailored Media on Facebook and you’re always reacting to our posts, leaving comments and sharing our content, it gives our content more “points” in your ranking system. This means our content will appear in your News Feed above content from a page that you don’t interact with as much.
This latest change will give even further “points” to human-to-human content that you interact with. If you regularly leave comments on your friend Brendon Sinclair’s statuses, even if it’s fewer comments than you leave on Tailored Media’s content, you’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of Brendon’s content (lucky you!).
Facebook will also be taking into account the quality of your interactions with this latest change. So if you only leave a “lol” on Brendon’s posts, but you’re leaving long comments that encourage a conversation on my personal content, then you’ll see more posts from me than you would from Brendon.
Facebook has kindly provided us with this neat little video that explains these updates in more detail:
Is this the biggest change to the Facebook News Feed ever?
Short answer, probably not.
I’ll repeat myself. While this is unfortunate for businesses, it’s not anything new.
Organic engagement rates have been dropping off across the board for business pages for years. We’ve all known it and it’s been a case of adapt or die. That’s the nature of the digital marketing industry and it always will be.
It should be noted though, that when asked if they were eliminating Page content from the News Feed that Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri had this to say:
“No. This update is not the same as the recent tests where all Page content was moved to the Explore Tab. Page posts will still appear in News Feed, though there may be fewer of them.”
Pages are just going to have to be more creative and work harder to produce content that encourages “meaningful interactions” between users. A post that encourages conversations in the comments can still, and most likely will, show up in users’ News Feeds.
Why are these changes happening?
These changes had to happen. Without the algorithm, the average person would have around 10,000 posts to sort through on a daily basis and quite frankly, 90% of it would be crap.
If you opened up your Facebook app and had to scroll forever just to reach something that interests you, could you see yourself sticking around? Not only is this the mindless scrolling that affects your mental health, it’s also a recipe for disaster in Facebook’s business model.
We could talk about how noble Facebook is being by making changes that will positively impact their users – and I sincerely hope that this is actually a motivating factor for them – but I do also think we need to acknowledge that they are a business at heart and a business has to make money.
If their users aren’t engaging with the content they’re seeing and not returning regularly to see more content, they simply can’t sell advertising spaces. No one wants to pay to try and sell a product to an un-engaged audience – it’s a waste of time and money. As Facebook’s overall strategy evolves (they’re starting to move into the broadcast industry, among other areas), engaged users are more important than ever.
Facebook is never going to charge their users for Facebook but Pages are fair game. I think, what we will see over the next couple of months is a situation where having an advertising budget behind your social media content becomes more valuable. Especially for businesses that have relied heavily on organic engagement to drive traffic to their website.
Having a strong understanding of how to laser target and optimise your Facebook ads and knowing what and when to spend money on promoting is going to be essential.
Mark Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged that these changes will decrease the amount of time users spend on Facebook, at least initially.
This announcement has caused their stock value to drop by over $10 since the 11th of January because less time users spend on the platform means less advertising spaces.
Will these changes affect Facebook advertising?
As with all Facebook announcements, the details are pretty vague. There is nothing that says that advertising will be directly affected by these changes but I do predict that they will be indirectly affected.
These changes will see more businesses advertising on Facebook. I believe we will see a massive spike in pages boosting the type of content they served organically in the past.
Combine this increase in the number of people bidding for advertising spaces with a decrease in actual advertising spaces, we’re going to see an increase in the cost of ads. Getting your ads in front of 1,000 people is about to get a lot more competitive.
Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see a massive spike in Pages paying to distribute content in an effort to “chase the likes” and not all of this content is going to be content that delivers value to users.
There is definite value in paying to distribute content to Facebook users. Perhaps you’ve written a blog post that provides your audience with some really valuable knowledge (and demonstrates your authority in your industry). This type of content can be a great way to support a higher value sale and get potential clients over the line.
Paying to promote a blurry selfie of you and your team at your Christmas party? Please don’t do it. These posts can have a place in your marketing strategy, but 99% of the time, it’s not the part of the strategy where you allocate an advertising budget.
There are strategies to reduce your advertising costs and while Facebook has been a really cheap advertising medium in the past, I think we’re about to see prices increase pretty quickly. Understanding (or having someone who does understand) how to target your audiences correctly and how to produce ad content that will perform well is going to be essential in minimising how these price increases will affect you.
What can you do to minimise the impact these changes will have on your business page?
Re-evaluate your content strategy
Does your current content strategy encourage users to comment and interact in a meaningful way with the things you post?
Encouraging this interaction will become a balancing act. While Facebook is giving more weight to posts that generate engagement, it has to be the right sort of engagement.
Posts that encourage meaningless interaction will be demoted. Reaction polls – we’re looking at you.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to a content strategy. What works for one Page will not work for others so it’s going to be a case of test and measure on a case-by-case basis. For some, Live videos will work like magic, others may find that including outbound links in every single post kills their reach. Work out what works for you and be prepared to adapt again when the next change to the Algorithm is dropped. Our social media team is always working on making these changes and implementing them for all of our clients.
2. Think about allocating some advertising budget to your social media strategy
Don’t suddenly start boosting all of your posts, but if you’ve published something that’s pretty top notch and you need your audience to see it, consider allocating a bit of money to a targeted promotion featuring that post. Test and measure, test and measure.
3. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
If Facebook disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, would your business be able to carry on? If the answer is no, you need to re-look at your marketing strategy.
You can not rely completely on one platform to drive customers to your business. It’s dangerous and it leaves you completely vulnerable to the next change Facebook makes. And believe me, there will be more changes.
Diversify your portfolio so to speak and ensure you’re working with alternative marketing mediums and channels. Collect actual data from your clients and leads, like emails, so you can reach them directly.
As much as I love Facebook, a Page like doesn’t mean a whole lot to the bottom line of your business.
Yes, there are changes coming to the Facebook News Feed.
Yes, they will affect the reach of pages.
Yes, it is likely that the cost of advertising on Facebook will increase.
No, it’s not the end of the world.
Such is the nature of digital marketing, you’ve got to keep moving and adapt to the changes.