Facebook announced that it would be changing its newsfeed algorithm at the start of 2018, shifting the focus from passive consumption of content created by brands and publishers to meaningful interactions between friends and family.
The Facebook news feed has become saturated with random videos, tabloid-style news headlines and company posts, as well as an explosion of ‘Fake News’ which became so prominent in 2017 that it was named Collins Dictionary’s official word of the year.
Mark Zuckerberg cites “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being” as the rationale behind the change, adding: “Time spent is not a goal by itself. We want the time people spend on Facebook to encourage meaningful social interactions.”
For brands and publishers, the change will bring new challenges as visibility and engagement on the platform drop further – a trend that has been on-going since 2016. This may seem like more bad news, but the reality is that in the long-term, these changes should be a good move for businesses and users alike.
Facebook’s goal is to make the news feed as interesting and relevant to its users as possible in order to keep them coming back and spending their time on the platform. 1.37 billion users are now active on Facebook every day, an increase of 16% year-over-year, but community feedback and Facebook’s own research has shown that people need more connections with family and friends and less passive consumption.
“Anything that nudges the Facebook experience back toward genuine engagement is a good thing,” says Dom Dwight, Marketing Director at Taylors of Harrogate. It remains to be seen what Facebook regards as ‘meaningful interactions’, but if brands focus on creating genuine value and discussion with their content, there is still a place for them in the Facebook news feed.
It’s the opinion of many that brands and publishers have become lazy with their content strategies, regurgitating tired, trivial content and using ‘engagement bait‘ to goad people into interacting with their posts. These tactics have been adopted in order to maximise a post’s reach, but have reduced the quality and relevance of users’ news feeds.
Now brands will need to be smarter with their approach, making sure they understand what resonates with their target audience and creating content that genuinely meets their social needs and motivations.
Quality Over Quantity
Change is always essential for survival in the world of business, and the rapid rate that technologies and consumer behaviours change in modern times means that brands need to be more agile than ever. Complacency is a killer, and businesses should always be looking at ways to diversify their strategies to meet their audience’s expectations.
One thing that will remain constant in the sea of change is that quality content will always win. As Ed Beard, Strategy partner at DigitasLBi, says: “[The algorithm updates] won’t be bad for brands who think both they and customers can win at the same time. And above all they won’t be bad for brands who know that they only exist because people are willing to welcome them into their lives.”
The steps to improve Facebook’s news feed will impact publishers like LADbible and Buzzfeed most. These pages have focused on building audiences within Facebook, creating content native to the platform rather than channeling users back to their own website. These pages often publish as many as 50 posts per day on Facebook, and will need to diversify their approach to protect their long-term survival.
“You can’t build a business around the Facebook algorithm because you don’t know when it’s going to change,” explains David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance.
Pay To Play
Brands already know that they get little visibility from organic content on Facebook, and the latest changes are not going to impact the ad algorithm according to Zuckerberg, although CPM rates (cost per thousand impressions) may increase over-time.
Brands will need to be more strategic with their paid strategies though, focusing on meaningful interactions that drive real business results, rather than simply driving engagement for the sake of engagement. With less competing brand noise, click-through rates might even improve.
Resources for organic content production will likely be transferred to Facebook’s younger, trendier sibling, Instagram where organic posts already receive significantly higher engagement rates.
If the updates make Facebook a more attractive platform to its users, where it is more trusted and more used, then that is ultimately a good thing for brands who want to advertise in that space.
Platforms and behaviours will change, but quality will always win.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can reach your audience using a considered social media strategy, open the conversation.