The recent changes happening at Facebook HQ are reminiscent of those high school coming-of-age movies where the main character changes their look and how they act, only to realize they don’t like the people they are around anymore, and the future isn’t quite so bright. Facebook News Feeds have lately been inundated with crowds of business pages pulling any trick in the book to pop up front-and-center on their audiences’ feeds.
Calling a big-time audible last month on January 11th, Facebook announced a huge change to its News Feed algorithm, resulting in a mashup of outrage and confusion in the advertising and marketing communities.
Based on prioritizing family and friends updates, the algorithm change is pulling the proverbial rug out from those small-time business pages trying to trick the algorithm into top-tier audience attention through “engagement-bait” post copy.
With the new changes, less attention will be given to business updates, but rest assured, your favorite BuzzFeed articles, Tasty videos, and attention grabbers will still be available if you want to see them. The idea is that Facebook’s machine-learning model will weed out engagement-bait posts that serve no true purpose.
The quintessential callouts — “LIKE OUR POST if you think you need a longer vacation!” or “Tag a friend who would love this new smoothie recipe. If enough people comment I’ll give it out for FREE!” — will no longer be the focus of every content-hawking start-up on the social platform.
Though these algorithm-tricking posts were run-of-the-mill for a number of one-shot businesses, they will not longer be feasible with the new change. With Facebook demoting posts including this type of language, content-focused relevant posts will be the priority moving forward.
This is good news for folks who are tired of getting random promotional material at the top of their feed and for content creators trying to make legitimate communities. So, what does this mean for businesses trying to make a legitimate sales tool out of Facebook?
The trouble is that small publishers in niche verticals have been using these tactics for a while in order to try to break into a competitive market, opting for these short-term tactics as a holdover until legitimate audiences could be formed. Though organic reach may decline now drastically, the framework for building audiences and establishing growth still exists within the world’s favorite social media platform.
The new goal boils down to this: comments, comments, comments. More specifically: legitimate comments, good comments, lots of comments.
Engagement is critical
Not important, not key, not crucial — critical. The most important factor. The aim of this Facebook redirection is to declutter the News Feeds currently crowded by promotion after promotion, contest after contest.
In the announcement post from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he states that the big algorithm change is designed to facilitate “meaningful interactions between people” meaning that posts will be prioritized if they have the ability to “spark conversations” and begin legitimate discussions about relevant topics.
We talked in another blog about how conversational marketing will be a key this year. People want to talk to brands, and brands want people to buy their products, or provide data. Moving forward, this will mean focusing on quality above all, and avoiding the engagement lines coupled with all caps rage: “COMMENT WITH YOUR BEST GIF!!”
Already rocking the heroically detailed, hyper-focused, persona-centric content? That’s great! Encourage users to select the “See First” feature on Facebook, and you won’t have any issue remaining top of mind.
Curate and Create content
The most inherently interesting content is always going to be the well-produced, relevant quality content rather than consistent insubstantial chunks of a single idea. Broadcasting and highlighting other pages content isn’t passé on Facebook, it’s encouraged. This is why our pages are still referred to as Feeds rather than Blogs — because we have the opportunity to share, or curate, content. A wedding venue, for instance, can share a caterer’s menu, without worrying about misunderstanding, because of their shared exposure and audience development.
It’s time to button it up, too. Having your content mix and editorial calendar down will help you avoid getting caught in the mishaps when more Facebook changes come down the pike, and rest assured, they are coming:
- Facebook Local is replacing Events — showing users recommended restaurants, attractions, etc. based on its database of business pages
- Users will have more control of the content they see, once businesses inevitably start trying to exploit another FB loophole (likely Groups)
- Advertising* will have to be narrowly targeted or they’ll stick out like a sore thumb (in a bad way). Ex: You shouldn’t be touting your water ski rentals in the middle of the Arizona desert.
*An entire blog could be written on the advertising implications of this algorithm change, but until it shakes out, know that you need to start a conversation, and that the ad spend will likely have to increase, because organic reach will naturally decrease. For brands that want to maintain high awareness and engagement numbers, monthly budgets will need to compensate.
The short of it is this: do not be passive. Active content will win-out in the new Facebook realm, regardless of applicability. Essentially, half-hearted attempts to slap content onto the feed just won’t cut it anymore.
Capitalize on Content Type
With our clients, and certainly across the board, the standard out-of-the-box Facebook page downfall is the lack of content variety. Without diversity in your content mix, static posts will eventually lead to pitiful engagement metrics. By mixing it up, and adding content like Live Video, slideshows, and galleries, users are more likely to click through, stay on the feed, and/or engage with the content.
The nature of Live video in particular is such that users naturally engage multiple times per stream, and continue to visit the content afterward. With the new algorithm change, there is no doubt that inclusion of live video will help some pages to stay relevant and therefore present on their customer’s personal news feeds. That being said, the new algorithm will be prioritizing removing viral videos that do not result in engagement or meaningful conversations.
As Josh Sternbeg, Tech Editor for AdWeek said, “companies in the content business will quickly find out the difference between traffic and audience.”
What’s the difference between traffic and audience? It’s the ability for a brand to speak directly to a target market as opposed to casting a wide net and hoping the tagline lands. It is appropriate then, it seems, to end with what might be the most important factor in the algorithm change — community.
Many business folks and marketers pitch Facebook (and social media as a whole) as a way to develop and engage with community. However, the various capabilities of Facebook have taken that old maxim and formed it into a misshapen sales outlet for business. Eventually, Facebook may come to be recognized as a pseudo-sales opportunity for businesses rather than the direct to funnel lead generation tool that it is so often pitched as now.
Until then, we must continue to explain the “intangible”, yet apparent need for social media in establishing brand community.
Will Facebook still be necessary for business owners to use, if sales are not the primary focus? Absolutely. Facebook should never have been about tossing more potential into the sales funnel and praying for a customer to come out on the other side — it’s about developing relationships, and humanizing brands. If businesses can successful accomplish this, those ambiguous social acquisitions become a direct link to brand advocacy and profit.
Mountain Mojo Group is practiced in the subtly and creativity it takes to create quality-crafted content designed to facilitate brand-centric conversations. Let us know how we can usher your business through the new algorithm change!
By Alex Carel