If you’ve been doing digital marketing for more than oh… two weeks, you know that one of the only constants in this line of work is that Facebook will announce a change to its newsfeed algorithm again. The latest announcement came on January 11. But unlike many past adjustments to the algorithm, Facebook is framing this change as a fundamental shift in the company’s direction—“from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” according to Mark Zukerberg. “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” he said.
In a time when social media may sometimes inflame and divide us more than uplift and bring us together, perhaps this move to try make Facebook a “happier” place is a smart one. But that happiness may not be shared by the businesses and organizations that rely heavily on the social media platform to communicate with the public. The company made clear in a January 11 post on its Facebook Business blog that the change would in fact, further diminish the presence of posts from businesses and organizations in users’ newsfeeds.
The new algorithm will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people” the company announced. Facebook’s Adam Mosseri, Head of Newsfeed, went on to explain the changes this way:
Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses. As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.
So what’s a business to do? You’ve spent years carefully cultivating a robust following of your business’s Facebook page. You diligently kept up with the latest news and updates as Facebook made changes again and again. You sought advice and insights from experts on how to keep your brand in front of potential customers. You finally resorted to some paid ads, still having to tailor your ads to Facebook’s specific preferences so that they wouldn’t squash your paid reach on top of everything else. And now this.
But don’t despair! There are still ways for businesses and other brands to stay relevant and visible in Facebook’s newsfeed. As Zuckerberg stated in his January 11 statement:
The public content you see more will be held to the same standard [as posts from individuals] — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
So your posts will have to do that! It won’t be easy. But here are a few things you can do to make sure your page stays in your followers’ newsfeeds:
- Videos. Live Videos, that is.
If you haven’t posted any live videos to your page yet, it’s time to get with the program, grandma, or your Facebook presence is at serious risk of being useless. Zuckerberg specifically mentions live video in his January 11 post, saying that they generally result in “way more” interaction than other videos. Anticipating a continuation of this trend, Facebook will therefore give live videos a considerably more generous boost than regular video or most other media content that you may post.
- Ask more. But be careful about what you ask for.
Facebook’s Adam Mosseri explains in the January 11 blog post about the newsfeed update that it will prioritize posts such as “a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.” So don’t be afraid to ask your followers questions that you think will illicit feedback or initiate a lively back-and-forth about a particular subject.
But asker beware: Facebook remains vigilant in its battle against what it calls “engagement-bait.”These include any posts that overtly ask for interaction from followers such as “comment if…” or “share this post to ….” etc. (See examples provided by Facebook, below.) Facebook announced last month that it will be actively monitoring for, and demoting these kinds of posts in order to promote a more “authentic” experience for its users. So when asking questions, “authenticity” is key.
Photo from Facebook.
- Prioritize yourself.
That said, there is nothing un-authentic about encouraging your followers to prioritize your page in their newsfeed. And did you even realize this was a thing?
Facebook doesn’t make it super easy to find, but there is tool you can use to choose which people—and which pages—you want Facebook to prioritize in your newsfeed, so you never miss an update. Roll your cursor over “News Feed” on the top of the left-hand sidebar in Facebook. From the dropdown menu that appears in the form of three dots, select “edit preferences.” The window that pops up will give you four distinct options for editing your newsfeed preferences. Select the first: “Prioritize who you see first.”
You’ll see a blue star on the corner of the people/pages you choose to prioritize.
Zuckerberg (like many of us mortals) claims to be searching for more “meaning” and a greater sense of “well-being” in life, as he uses these terms multiple times to explain his reasons for the latest updates to Facebook’s algorithm. Perhaps these changes are in fact inspired by deep soul searching. Or maybe they are just an avaricious attempt to squeeze even more money from the millions of businesses and organizations that rely on Facebook to reach the public.
Whatever the motivation, the newsfeed algorithm is changing. And it will change again. And again. But as long as the majority of Americans still use Facebook, marketers will likely still see it as an essential tool. Until that changes, we can only do our best to learn, and play by Facebook’s (ever-changing) rules.