Navigating the troubled waters of the Facebook algorithm change…

It seems Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year’s resolution to make sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent has caused a bit of a bombshell amongst marketers, so we’re delving in to see how the change will affect campaigns.

The Changes
What are they, and what do they mean?

The recent announcement may be causing a stir, but what does it actually mean for marketers? In short, brand and business pages will experience less reach on their organic posts.

Sending ripples of panic across marketers and publishers, the announcement stated that Facebook would be changing the News Feed algorithm to include fewer posts from pages, and more from users’ friends and family.

The Social Network’s objective is to ensure that users have a ‘valuable’ experience, despite predictions of decreased time spent on the platform. Zuck wants the platform to “spark interactions and meaningful conversations,” and as a result, highly commented posts are more likely to be seen.

To add to the algorithm change, Facebook has altered the way it reports reach on organic posts, so some Pages may note their reach stats have decreased, even though this might not be the case.

Paid posts are not being affected by the change, and it has long been speculated that Facebook’s end goal is a pay-to-play landscape, coined as ‘Facebook Zero’. The recent changes have provoked backlash from smaller businesses, which now feel the pressure as the platform becomes an unaffordable option. But the question on everyone’s lips is “how can we sustain reach, without forking out for paid ads?”

Weathering the Algorithm Storm
How can we prepare?

Facebook have already started rolling out the algorithm change, with some pages already seeing the affects, but what can be done to prepare? The purpose of content is shifting, from merely entertaining, to generating conversation. Where masses of likes previously meant increased reach, longer comments and back-and-forth exchanges hold the prevalence now.

Pages should take a quality over quantity approach, ensuring that each post is shareable, or conversation-worthy. In the media and entertainment sector, there is the added benefit of passionate fans, which will eagerly comment on content that excites them – as seen across several of our big-title campaigns.

Exploring New Territories
How to use the change to your advantage

With every cloud, comes a silver lining, and it seems that the coming tempest will push marketers to dip their toes into different types of content, and a fresh social strategy – bypassing the algorithm changes as they go.

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Live Video

The rise of Facebook Live video is undeniable – according to Facebook’s own Adam Mosseri, Live videos generate on average six times as many interactions as regular videos. This increased interaction of course means comments – the new golden ticket for Pages to get noticed in the newsfeed.

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Square Video

While we’re talking video, something to note is the square format’s usurping of landscape. In a test, square videos outperformed landscape on every social platform. The format not only lends itself well to mobile browsing by taking up 78% more on screen real estate than landscape, but also means it can be shared easily across all social platforms, including Instagram.

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Building Communities

As Facebook seeks more meaningful interactions, pages can look to build a community. As noted by Social Media Today, there isn’t one quick fix, but a cumulative impact of various efforts which will keep the best Page posts in the newsfeed. From personally replying to comments, to asking questions and encouraging user-generated content, brands and businesses can be savvy on Facebook to still get seen.

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Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are a powerful tool – they’ve accumulated more than a billion active monthly users; that’s more than Instagram and Snapchat combined. Hyper-targeted content can be placed in Groups to speak to an already captive audience. Mosseri even noted “In Groups, people often interact around public content. Posts shared in Groups should be as authentic as possible to ensure fans aren’t alienated with overly commercial messaging.

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Messenger

Taking a step away from the main platform, Facebook’s Messenger app is an increasingly popular targeting tool, as it boasts 1.3 billion users. With a pinch of creativity, and a brilliant script Messenger can host a branded Chatbot – an interactive user experience with a range of opportunities for driving traffic outside of Facebook.

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Cast Your Net Further

Despite Facebook topping the platform line up, marketers should never rely solely on The Social Network. A successful digital strategy will include a mix of the other big-hitters such as Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter. As they all bustle for user growth, new and exciting features are being rolled out across all of them, meaning fresh digital executions to explore.

The New Golden Rule
Conversation is king

Above all else, conversation is key. Posts which generate comments will have the best reach once the algorithm comes into play, so thought-provoking, entertaining and engaging content is still king. But note, Facebook will demote posts for engagement-baiting – soliciting interactions with messages such as ‘Tag a mate’ or ‘Comment to win’.

Expecting the Unexpected
What’s next?

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that Facebook changes, which is why we keep a finger firmly on the pulse of social and digital news.

The landscape of social is constantly evolving with new trends and features. Stories have spread far and wide from their Snapchat origin, with Mark Zuckerberg even stating Stories are a better format for sharing multiple quick video clips throughout your day,” leading to a mill of unconfirmed rumours about the ephemeral format replacing news feeds altogether.

No matter the fate of Facebook, we’re ready and waiting for whatever the Social Network throws at us. By closely monitoring engagement, and utilising a variety of formats, all Pages can stay ahead of the algorithm curve. But above all else, success lies in creating fantastic content that inspires conversation, drives engagement and cuts through the noise – which is exactly what we’re going to keep doing.