With the announcement that Facebook has updated their News Feed algorithm to focus more on users' personal relationships, many brands are left wondering how this change will affect their ongoing social strategies and marketing objectives.
We asked members of R2i's Strategy Team to weigh in with their thoughts on Facebook's algorithm change and the tactical steps brands can take in response to this shift.
Facebook's new algorithm is determined to elevate content that inspires "meaningful interactions" above content that encourages "passive interactions" like direct video views or direct-from-page static posts. Brands who intend to combat this change will see success if they spend their energy creating content that inspires active conversation. Facebook also intends to elevate the value of group or community engagement. That said, brands with large fan bases would be wise to consider posting their content among community or fan groups to inspire the sharing of thoughts, opinions, and experiences, rather than posting flat content directly from their business page.
Narcissism exists at varying degrees on social media. People enjoy talking about themselves. Content that plays to this key audience trait will find that content which solicits fans’ personal opinions and/or sharing of personal experiences will see more engagement.
More so, brands who have relied on fan metrics (page likes, post likes, and clicks) up to this point will be wise to recalibrate their strategies to focus on engagement metrics. Some marketers might argue that this is not a new revelation, as engagements have historically carried more water than likes, but it will still come as an earth-shaker to brands who have relied on fan metrics to indicate brand awareness levels.
It’s also important to note that Facebook Ads is not changing its system. Personally, I understand this to mean that brands who rely heavily on Facebook advertising to reach their target audiences will still be able to do so. The only difference now is that Facebook has turned up the pressure for pages who share organic content to create more interactive content than before.
I honestly think Facebook’s direction is a misstep. Their strategy around creating meaningful action is well intentioned, but assumes that all users care about is their friends and family. Friends and family are important, but not everyone on your friends list is created equal. It also ignores the impact that brands have on our daily lives – the organizations we volunteer for, the companies we work at, the shows we are die hard about. Brands can be just a much a part of our lives, if not more so, then your distant cousin you’re friends with on Facebook but haven’t spoken to or seen in years.
Though Facebook provides a valuable platform for marketing, this means it’s going to be even more pay to play, and brands' Facebook pages are going to be deprioritized over their ads. This means brands are going to have to be smarter – smarter about their content, smarter about their ad spends, smarter about how they engage their audiences.
However, this opens up other opportunities for other new or existing platforms to provide brands the opportunity to connect with their fans. The thing about social is that everything always changes, there is always room for disruption. I’m excited to see what new players will emerge.
Brands started investing heavily in the creation of video content once it became clear that Facebook was prioritizing video in their News Feed. However, not all brands had the budget or time to invest in video creation, giving larger, more established brands a clear advantage, even when it came to organic content distribution.
With this new algorithm update, Facebook has committed to prioritizing posts that drive more ‘meaningful interaction’ like lengthy comments, rather than those that drive ‘passive interaction’ like video views. This could consequently benefit small and mid-sized brands—by turning the focus to what their audience’s needs are, they can craft and deliver a message that really resonates and sparks conversation, rather than focusing on creating content in a format the platform favors, regardless of the audience.
With Facebook’s massive responsibility to the public, they walk the very thin line of overstepping their bounds to influence users while maintaining their integrity as a place for content consumption and conversations. I think this change is an indication for a more positive decorum on media platforms that encourages 1) storytelling, 2) well-being, 3) and trust.
Storytelling: As we’ve seen in the massive growth of content marketing, users don’t want to be sold. They want to experience a story that resonates with them, making the value of storytelling immensely valuable and a key to social marketing success.
Well-being: As we live in the Facebook age, more studies on its impact on society continue to grow, most notably the negative ones. Facebook plays a big role in the correlation between depression and self-doubt due to the difference between reality and our “online selves”. This change looks to bring a layer or reality into its update so the division between the two is not so volatile.
Trust: With the backlash of false news and the idea that Facebook creates echochambers that promote content that only corresponds to users’ interests and beliefs—which minimizes their ability to see the bigger picture or both sides to the story—Facebook’s change could be a step in the direction of a more crowd-source curated news provider that is trusted.
Facebook’s shift in the algorithm comes in response to research showing that passively consuming content makes people feel lonely, but engaging with friends and family online makes people feel more connected and can improve overall happiness. While it’s understandable why they would want to prioritize content from friends and family over content from news and brands, it means brands are going to have to refine what they share to reach their audience.
Facebook should be used as a place to build a community for those who are dedicated to your brand. To get any substantial reach organically you should ask yourself "will this stir up in-depth conversation?" before posting. If not, you'll need to utilize Facebook advertising to get it in front of people.