Facebook's News Feed algorithm is changing to further prioritize posts shared and discussed by friends over public posts from brands, according to a Facebook post from Mark Zuckerberg. Beginning over the next few months, users' feeds will be largely determined by the content their social networks choose to share and interact with.
Here's a quick overview:
What You Can Expect
This announcement goes beyond the "we're prioritizing quality content" mantra we've seen from many platforms recently. Facebook is being clear that even brands that publish valuable, well-crafted content will be affected. In his post, Zuckerberg says:
The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos—even if they're entertaining or informative—may not be as good.
Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
This change is expected to significantly reduce the organic reach of page content published by companies and media outlets, including pre-recorded videos.
Potential customers, even those who follow you, will see more from their friends, family, and groups, and far less from the brand pages they follow. It's unclear whether the changes will impact content you produce that people share to their feeds from your Facebook page, website, or another platform.
Regardless, you can expect less organic reach for your Facebook posts, and probably less organic traffic from Facebook to your website. Our Facebook Business representative assures us that changes to the news feed algorithm won't affect ads, but as Facebook marketing expert Jon Loomer points out, less organic reach could increase ad competition and costseven if ads aren't directly affected.
What You Can Do
Firstly, make sure you have a realistic understanding of how much you rely on Facebook right now. It's easy to find out your own referral traffic volumes with Google Analytics, and Facebook Insights can tell you a great deal as well. Then, you can weigh strategies based on how much impact you could potentially experience, and the resources you're willing to devote to counteracting that effect (or not).
If you're a brand that produces "public content," as Zuck calls it, be aware that it will be "held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people." In a Facebook Newsroom statement accompanying Zuckerberg's announcement, Adam Mosseri is clear that they mean long, thoughtful replies and "back-and-forth discussion," not just cursory comments and likes.
We are specifically warned against "engagement bait" tactics, like the classic comment-to-win contest. Facebook promises that they will "continue to demote these posts in News Feed."
Mosseri is also clear that person to person interactions will always be considered more valuable than those between a person and a page. Facebook takes care to say that "Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect." Note that they specifically refer to conversations between friends, not strangers with shared interests—bad news for niche publishers who cater to audiences connected only by hobbies or values.
Moreover, Facebook is actively attacking behaviors they see as negative, including passive scrolling and watching videos without sound (which they have addressed before). Even simple, quick engagements like reactions and short comments appear to be devalued in favor of the lengthy discussions with friends that Facebook feels we need to be having for our health.
Since groups appear to be exempt from these changes, some brands and publishers will be able to shift content delivery to groups. However, for that delivery method to be successful, it's essential that your posts provide strong, ongoing value for your members.
You can also create content that isn't "a passive experience," particularly live video. Here's Zuck again:
We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.
Brainstorming opportunities for live video content will no doubt be easier for some businesses than others, but what can you do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Oh wait—you can buy ads. In addition to exploring new strategies to encourage sharing, many companies will be forced to spend more on paid ads to maintain their reach. Very clever, Zuck. Very clever.*
If you are a content-heavy brand, make sure you're encouraging people to share posts, particularly your strongest brand advocates. It's unclear whether this algorithm change will distinguish between posts shared from your Facebook page or content shared from your website directly, but it's something to keep an eye on as we experience this roll-out.
If you have a strong Facebook audience who values your content, you can also remind them about “See First in News Feed” option, which will still apply, even for brands.
Another impact is that your owned channels become more important, particularly your email list. You may want to look at shifting your core communications focus from Facebook to email.
You'll still need to post key information to Facebook for anyone who would expect to find it there, but as your reach decreases, you'll have to turn more to other platforms to get the word out. Return to your data—what other social channels do you use and get high-quality interactions? If you're able to track the ROI of these channels, where are you getting the most value?
At the end of the day, marketers are doing our best to interpret the impact of the announcement, but we'll all have to wait and see how it plays out. Stay tuned for information about Facebook best practices as they evolve! In the meantime, let's start working on your email marketing...
*He would strongly dispute this motivation, but like... you don't make $74 billion by being stupid about money.