Don’t Panic! Here’s what Facebook’s algorithm changes really mean for your business…
Business owners and some social media commentators might be flapping about the latest changes to Facebook’s algorithm, but what do they really mean for your business?
Facebook announced a series of updates to its algorithm and user experience during January. The long-term aim, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to focus on “fixing important issues” and make sure the time users spend on the platform becomes “more meaningful”.
Now, firstly, all social media platforms compete within a very dynamic and fast-moving marketplace. How users interact with, and via, each platform changes constantly. The user demographics also change over time, as trends in technology appeal to some groups more than others. As new platforms take off, those that came before look at how they can compete and prevent losses to the new, fresher place.
Some of you will remember MySpace; some may even remember Friends Reunited… These are two classic examples of how social media has evolved. Friends Reunited finally gave up in 2016, after several failed attempts to relaunch and revitalise the platform; MySpace is still there, hanging in. (Writing this post made me attempt to log in on my old MySpace account, but I can’t remember the password, it’s been so long since I was there!)
To keep up with the changing nature of its users, what they want and how they interact with the platform, Facebook, Twitter, et al are always looking at stats, patterns in usage and how they can improve the user-experience. This sometimes leads to front-end design changes, but more often results in amendments to the algorithm.
Facebook’s latest algorithm updates were announced in posts on Mark Zuckerberg’s page. It was this explanation that set the hares running…
“Now, I want to be clear: 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. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
There was a rush to sound the death knell for business use on Facebook. But, for people who use Facebook for commercial purposes, whether they are hobby clubs, business owners, or agencies, it added to their frustration. Over the past year, many business page and group owners have been voicing their concerns at how the platform is trying to ‘encourage’ businesses to pay to get their posts seen. Many of them have statistics showing drops in impressions and engagement, so anything that adds to that, is a problem.
But is this latest set of announcements really the huge news that some people are saying? (Or is it just being used by some, as a ruse to get you signed up for webinars and training on ‘how to beat the new Facebook changes for business’?)
Firstly, some perspective. This isn’t exactly new. Here’s what Facebook said when announcing algorithm changes in 2014…
“As part of an ongoing survey, we asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their News Feeds. People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”
“Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content in their News Feeds. …this means that Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”
Sound familiar? It’s almost exactly the same as what is being rolled out now. Essentially, people who use Facebook have said they want to see more local information, updates from friends, family and connections on the platform. Facebook is responding to that and giving them the service they’re asking for. Thinking about this logically, businesses should be listening to the feedback too. They could actually be putting prospective engagements off, by giving people too many overtly promotional and pushy posts. Rather than being something to fear, this is actually an opportunity for businesses to review their own Facebook output and consider how they can re-engage with their target audience.
The algorithm changes are designed to make interactions on Facebook more meaningful and add value to the user experience. Aligning your output to what your audience is seeking, will lead to more successful engagement. It’s an obvious equation really, isn’t it? If you have a page or group with an existing membership, there are several things that can ensure your posts don’t get lost. Facebook has a ‘see first’ feature, which allows you to prioritise posts from people, pages and groups. Notifications can also be set to alert users when new content is posted and you could consider creating a linked group for your page, which is a much more effective way of creating engagement.
In the meantime, there’s no need to panic. Periodic reviews of how you use social media are essential; maybe it’s just time to do that? Our key advice is:
1. Post interesting, relevant content. People follow your page to find out about your products, services and your business. Yes, you want to promote what you do, but don’t be too pushy.
2. Don’t be afraid to give your page a personality. Posts that are ‘human’ and not full of uninspiring, ‘corpo-marketing’ speak.
3. Create and share content that provokes discussion. News stories that provoke a reaction are great for this. ‘News-jack’ when you can to create topical features.
4. Use sponsored posts and ads to bolster your organic activity. Organic activity is no longer enough to build your audience.
5. Encourage your group members and page fans to activate notifications, or ‘see first’.
6. Use other relevant groups to spread the word, (don’t do a mass cross-posting of the same content though, as this will anger the Facebook spirits).
7. Use pre-recorded and live video to encourage interaction.
8. Make sure your website is regularly updated and full of interesting, valuable content – social media is not to be relied on for traffic.
9. Remember, people engage with other people, not logos or inanimate objects. If your page or group is overly ‘corporate’, your engagement rate will suffer.
10. Review which posts work best and get most engagement; build on that and post more in that style.
Facebook is the biggest social platform and therefore must form part of your plans. World events, the exposure of ‘fake news’ and cynical use of social media to influence events has taken its toll though. In 2017, despite a big increase in profits, Facebook use fell by 5% – that may not seem to be a huge fall, but it equates to a drop of 50 million hours per day! Mark Zuckerberg believes this will be good for Facebook in the long term.
For businesses, what this all means is that in order to have effective outcomes from using Facebook, you need to know your audience, to understand what they are looking for on the platform and target them effectively with interesting, inspiring and relevant posts. But isn’t that exactly what we should all have been doing anyway?