Facebook’s Algorithm Change: Help Your Content Stand Out in the News Feed
On January 11, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement on his personal Facebook page that forecasted a cataclysmic storm for brands and publishers who had long relied on the platform to drive their social media marketing efforts. It was this quote in particular that had marketers considering the possibility that doomsday was indeed upon us:
“[W]e’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.
“We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Thanks to a new report from Buffer, we now have an indication of how Facebook’s algorithm change will affect brand content in 2018 and beyond. I encourage you to read the report in full, but here are my key takeaways:
What’s The Big Change?
We know that four factors are evaluated to determine whether someone sees a post or not. While each piece merits a much deeper discussion, those elements are:
1. Inventory – Simply put, the space in a person’s News Feed. If you have only two Facebook friends and follow one page, you will see most, if not all, of the content shared by them all. If you have hundreds of friends and follow as many pages, the real estate for any given post is much more limited.
2. Signals – Generally speaking, this is the manner in which users interact with your content. Actions as passive as time spent lingering on a post, or as active as sharing a post and then having a conversation with friends about it, impact your post’s organic reach.
3. Predictions – Facebook uses a person’s individual News Feed behavior to determine the type of content that they see most. I tend to be a more passive browser of Facebook content, so I will be served different posts than someone who clicks, watches videos, comments, or shares more often than I do. This is also why you see more posts from friends and pages you interact with most often.
4. Overall Score – The quality of your content as judged by Facebook. Tactics such as “engagement baiting,” or urging your audience to take a specific action in your post copy (share if…, tag a friend who…, etc.), hurt your content’s overall score component and hamper your reach.
The latest algorithm change falls into the Signals category. In an effort to prioritize the most engaging posts, Facebook is deprioritizing passive signals like post time, creative format (video vs. photo), and time spent lingering on a post in favor of active signals like comments (on the original post and on shares), replies to comments, and replies to links shared in Messenger. In short, this change is forcing us as marketers to foster the kinds of meaningful conversations that we should have been striving to create all along in order to survive.
What Should You Do?
This newest change to the Facebook algorithm means that the days of broadcasting marketing messages to your audience and expecting consistent reach are now over. Organic reach has been in steady decline for years now, but now that passive signals such as clicks and time spent reading effectively don’t matter, there is simply no room in your Facebook strategy for closed-ended content. Your goal should be to elicit feedback – again without baiting your audience – and then to do your absolute best to continue those conversations through proactive community management. Here are some steps that you should take to ensure that your social media strategy – both on and off Facebook – is prepared to meet this new challenge:
Audit Your Facebook Content
Look for post types and topics that have received more comments and shares than you are used to receiving. On posts that have been shared multiple times, check to see if there have been comments on those shares. Virality on Facebook will now be closely tied to these earned interactions, so you’ll want to make sure that your content strategy incorporates more frequent posts on these topics.
Listen To Your Audience
Step outside of Facebook for a while and consider what your audience typically has to say about your company or your products and services. What questions do you typically receive that you may be able to discuss with your Facebook audience? What types of stories do people tend to share about your products or services? Your customer service team will be an invaluable resource for this step.
Measure Twice, Post Once
If you manage your company’s account in-house, look for trends in your reach, impression, and engagement metrics over the next few months. Compare the first few months of 2018 against as much historical data as you have available. If your account is managed by an agency partner, ask them what they are seeing in your data compared to historical performance. Compare your Facebook metrics to your performance on other channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram where you may be posting. If your Facebook performance is beginning to suffer considerably as compared to other channels, it may be time to reevaluate your marketing mix while you seek out ways to foster meaningful conversations with your audience.
Always remember that no matter what the platform-wide trend may be, your unique data will always be a better predictor of future success than what other brands are experiencing. Here at MassMedia, we’re collecting this data for all of our clients so that we can deliver personalized insights and content recommendations based on what we are seeing. As a last piece of advice, I urge you to remember the “social” component of social media. These networks were designed first and foremost to help people connect with each other, and when businesses joined the fray, that goal became diluted in the mad dash to build the largest audience possible. If you can connect with your audience more effectively than your competition can, you will position yourself as a trusted partner to an engaged audience that will be more likely to consider your products and services for years to come.