In January, Facebook dropped a news bomb on marketers and brands by announcing yet another algorithm change -- but this time, it’s the mother of all changes. For months we’ve been asking, “how effective is organic content on Facebook?" Well, Mark Zuckerberg answered that question in a big way and didn’t leave the announcement open to interpretation. Here’s what you need to know and Room 214’s perspective.
What are the changes?
The goal of this change is to prioritize meaningful interactions between friends and family. After chasing brands and advertising dollars for years, Facebook says it’s time to stop. But wait! Don’t take your budget elsewhere, Facebook will still kindly accept your money. We’ve known this for years but Facebook has finally been unabashed in admitting it is a pay-to-play platform for brands. This means organic content posted by businesses, brands and media is as good as gone from the News Feed unless it’s promoted, sparks conversation between users or selected as a “see first” page for users (we explain what this means below).
Facebook is all about active interactions now. This means that likes and views are no longer a priority and comments are where it’s at. Of course, it’s not as simple as one comment to rule them all, it has to be a comment that inspires conversation between users. The second most important interaction is shares. Facebook sees this as an active engagement and as long as it garners engagements and starts a conversation with friends, you’re golden.
Facebook will still graciously accept your advertising budget. At this point, Facebook hasn’t announced any changes in their advertising platform so it’s business as usual here. Brands can still boost their content or place ads on the site to show up in the News Feed.
Facebook has put a lot of effort into video and they’re not going to ditch live streaming yet. With Facebook Live, a brand can see up to 6x more interactions than their regular content as fans interact with the live video through commenting to create more of a back and forth dialogue. But what about produced videos? Facebook’s new algorithm rules will apply to short clips and longer videos -- if they do not generate a conversation between fans and if they don't have paid support, it will not appear organically in the News Feed. In spite of all of this, it’s important to note, video is still very important when done correctly for the marketing ecosystem. Just because Facebook says video views are a passive interaction and shouldn’t be rewarded with a spot in the News Feed does not mean you should give up on these efforts. Be sure to continue on with your video strategy on other channels and tweak your Facebook distribution.
Facebook has noted, “The first changes you'll see will be in the News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.” Groups are a great opportunity for brands to insert themselves back into the conversation. However, this needs to be done thoughtfully and provide real value to the group members. Group content and communities inspire more conversation but be sure to think through the strategy and value of creating a group before you dive in. Remember, the new rules of the Facebook algorithm will also apply to groups so make sure you can create content that solicits active engagements.
Beware of engagement bait -- it’s now considered to be one of the ultimate Facebook sins. Facebook’s renewed mission to create meaningful interactions will not tolerate brands soliciting engagement. Long gone are the days of “like if…” or “comment to win…”. Links can still be included in your copy but Facebook does not see a link click to another site as a valuable interaction. It’s not clear if this rule will apply to paid advertising but either way, be careful and think about how you can really provide value to the conversation.
What should you do about it?
Not all is lost, it’s just a time to adjust. Brands that rely on organic posts that tend to only garner likes will feel the burn the most. Now that we know what’s in the rule book...what’s the play? Here are Room 214’s predictions and recommendations to stay in the game.
Paid is going to maintain the same functionality. But now that everyone has been directed to exit the organic highway, expect traffic in the paid lane. Ads will still be effective but there will be more competition to capture audiences and outbid competitors. This will lead to higher CPCs, CPMs, CPEs, CPAnythings. Make sure you’re promoting the highest quality of content that provides the most value to your fans and leads back to your main business goals. Now more than ever, it’s important to listen to the rule of quality over quantity in content creation. Invest in higher quality production with polished, eye-catching visuals and copy that provides value to the reader.
Owned media, distribution and subscriptions are critical. Establish your own way to effectively own your audience and serve content to them whenever they spend the most of their time. Email subscriptions, lead generating ads, text sign-ups, gated content on your own site, the list goes on and on. Facebook isn’t in charge, you are! Think very thoughtfully about the experience your fans are craving and build a distribution method around that need. Email is a great avenue for this and is becoming more valuable than ever. Facebook Messenger will also be something to consider. This will be a place to deliver content right to the source and have 1:1 conversations. The algorithms rules won’t apply here so you can provide links to send fans to your site and ask for a little help from personalized bots to help with the volume of conversation until your Community Manager can step in.
It’s time for Community Managers to flex their conversation skills. With renewed interest in active participation, it’s time for authentic dialogue. Groups can be a great way to go about this. What is the lifestyle of your fanbase? Create a group that talks about living your best life and if your product happens to fit into that conversation then it’s a win win! Fans don’t want to be sold something, they want to support a brand that represents their own values and self-image. Groups should be supportive of the lifestyle within your industry vertical. You can incentivize joining a group by rewarding active participants in that group with a giveaway but don’t do it for the engagement metrics, do it to show your fans some love. Get ready Community Managers, this is the moment we’ve been training for, it’s time to suit up!
Micro-influencers will be more popular and see a rise in power. They’ll be able to join conversations where products can be recommended organically within the discussion on relevant topics like lifestyles, hobbies, passions, etc. Fans can also help provide content through organic interactions. Whether they’re submitting user-generated videos through apps like Cinebody or sharing how they love your product in their own posts, if it’s authentic, it’ll work.
As Facebook Live will still be very valuable, it’s time to take your streaming efforts to the next level. Why put all the work in for one stream on only Facebook? If you have the right tools and distribution plan, you can serve that content across multiple streaming sites at once. It doesn’t stop at Facebook; YouTube, Instagram and even livestreams on your own website hold incredible value.
When Zuckerberg said, “...by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable”. Get ready, your organic Facebook metrics will see a dip that most likely won’t return unless you’re taking the steps mentioned above. But a decrease in vanity metrics is not the end of the world. It’s time to reassess what you are measuring and see if it ultimately ties back to your main business goals. If you’re revisiting your distribution plan and paid support budgets, adjust your reporting to hold more value too. Also, keep in mind that if your Community Manager is doing the right things, that will boost the audience’s conversation with the brand which leads to more brand love o and loyalty in the long run. But, if you’re seeing your Facebook stats diving in reach, video watch time, passive engagement and referral traffic, that shows you need more power than faith in organic. It’s also important to remember that if your content isn’t performing as well on Facebook, that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It could be super valuable for other social platforms, email, your website, etc. While we expect to see less Tasty style video clips, less animations and GIFs, a decrease in quote graphics and video views on Facebook, that doesn’t necessarily carry through to the rest of your content marketing efforts.
Be careful with the need to feel proactive. Hacking your Facebook efforts by switching your business profile to a personal profile will not work. This algorithm change is on the content level so no one is safe. However, you can ask your users to opt into “see first” for your brand which will keep your content in fans’ News Feeds. Facebook users can only opt in on the “see first” option for 30 pages. There’s not much you can do about that but it’s still helpful to know.
All of this information can be overwhelming and confuse teams on where to start first. That’s where Room 214 is ready to jump in and plan how to expertly execute on these recommendations and predictions. This POV is a preview on what to do next, but we can dive deeper into each of these approaches for you. If interested to learn more, reach out to us and we’ll get you rolling!