FACEBOOK NEWS FEED UPDATE, JANUARY 2018
To the chagrin of social media managers everywhere, Facebook has announced another algorithm update that promises to affect organic visibility for brand pages and publishers. Founder Mark Zuckerberg cited the well-being of users as the primary reason for–again–limiting the reach of commercial content, favoring instead posts from family, friends, and groups, which are thought to be more meaningful.
In a post detailing the motives behind the algorithm change, Zuckerberg indicated that the update will gradually affect publishers, brands, and businesses. Facebook also expects some enterprise-level engagement metrics to decline as public content is pushed down, but the hope is that engagement on the social network will be “more meaningful”.
Combined with an update to Page performance reporting that was announced in December, social managers and analysts will begin to see lower and lower average reach and impressions from posts. The shift to viewable-only organic reporting will compound the impact the News Feed algorithm update has on post visibility benchmarks.
A NEWS FEED IN FLUX
Since the News Feed was first introduced in 2006 and modernized in 2011, the social network has updated the algorithm powering post distribution at regular intervals. Adjustments over the years have limited brand and publisher reach to single-digit percentages of total followers.
With limited reach and visibility, many brand teams have already begun treating the social network as a pay-to-play marketing channel. Regular post amplification and paid “dark post” campaigns extend the reach and visibility of businesses on Facebook and enable social marketers to target key segments of consumers, including page followers and website visitors.
ACTIONS SOCIAL MARKETERS CAN TAKE
To combat the continuing decline of organic reach and retain Facebook as a priority social channel for driving engagement and referral traffic, social media marketers must alter their content and channel strategies to adapt to the algorithm changes.
Prioritize Post Formats that Earn Meaningful Engagements
According to Facebook, not all post types will be weighted equally within the newest News Feed algorithm update. In his post, Zuckerberg called out live video as a content type that generally earns meaningful, real-time engagement, implying that it may be favored by the algorithm. Prioritizing post types that earn reactions, shares, and meaningful comments will help to extend the visibility of post content.
Additionally, the actual components of individual posts, like post text, links, images, or videos, will be more important than ever. Because Pages will still reach a small portion of followers, ensuring the content is engaging, high quality, and relevant to fans will give posts the best chance of reaching more users. As always, it is crucial that social managers keenly monitor social content performance and compare content themes to determine the topics and post types that are most engaging to their unique community of Page followers.
Leverage Employee Advocacy to Distribute Branded Content
For many brands and businesses, employees and associates can help to extend post reach and distribute key content to a wide network of friends and family members. Under the new algorithm powering the Facebook News Feed, content shared by friends and family is more likely to reach users. Brand managers can use this to their advantage by implementing a social advocacy program that leverages the friend networks of employees.
An advocacy program can be formal or informal, depending on the size and infrastructure of the organization. A formal advocacy program uses tools to manage employee advocates and the content that they share. Smaller organizations can leverage a less formal program, utilizing existing internal communications channels, such as an employee intranet or email distribution lists, to circulate content sharing prompts.
Regardless of how an advocacy program is managed, regularly recognizing internal ambassadors who represent the company well on social media will ensure continued activism, benefitting the brand. Employee advocacy content, however, should differ from general brand content. Whether a business asks employees to share existing social posts or create their own, employee advocates should be inspired to share the content because they are proud of the message being communicated and know they will be recognized for supporting the brand.
Augment Organic Strategies with Post Amplification and Paid Social Campaigns
The final tactic social marketers can leverage to extend the visibility of content on Facebook is to utilize the social network’s sophisticated advertising capabilities. By layering both paid and unpaid content distribution, marketers can communicate key messages to a variety of audiences.
Content amplification uses media dollars to extend the reach of a Page’s existing posts to fans and non-fans, as determined during the campaign setup. Post amplification is best used to increase visibility and engagement with public content. Dark post campaigns, on the other hand, are not public prior to promotion and can only be seen by audiences identified in the campaign setup process. Dark post campaigns are best used to increase brand recall, earn direct response goal completions, or drive website traffic and conversions.
Whether amplifying content or running dark post campaigns, URL tracking parameters should be appended to links to help differentiate the activity of targeted users from general Facebook referrals. The Facebook Pixel can also be used to track key conversions (both online and offline) and to build audiences for retargeting and prospecting.
Adjusting to Lower Reach and Fewer Organic Impressions
As social media managers adapt their channel strategies to account for lower reach and fewer impressions on Facebook, channel hierarchies should be closely reviewed to determine if other social networks can be prioritized to make up for lost impressions and engagements. While Facebook will still account for a major portion of branded social interaction, alternate social networks–think Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn–can be leveraged to earn additional engagements and referrals.
Additionally, publishers that have relied on the social network to earn critical web traffic should look to their content distribution strategies. Paid media tactics intended to earn highly valuable traffic can be leveraged, so long as the return on ad spend is worth paying for content promotion.