What the Facebook News Feed Changes Mean for Marketers

If your goal for 2018 is to grow your brand on Facebook - which is for the majority of brands doing digital marketing today - then staying on top of the updates to the Facebook News Feed algorithm are going to be critical this year.

We summarized the four most important changes to the Facebook News Feed. While Facebook might have made it just a bit more challenging to gain audiences’ attention on the platform, we know seasoned marketers are well accustomed to correcting strategy mid course. That’s why we’ve also included a few tips to help you come out as a top performer once the changes come through.

1. The News Feed will favor friends over brands and publishers

On January 11, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted that the platform would tweak their News Feed so that users will “start seeing less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” and instead "expect to see more [posts] from your friends, family and groups."

This comes in response to the feedback they received from their community with how public content is crowding out personal moments. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, posted a separate article where he emphasized that Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decrease in distribution. In contrast, Page posts that generate conversation between people will have priority in the News Feed.

How to respond

Tip 1:
Be ready to measure - and extensively. One way to stay stay ahead of the game over the weeks to come, is to closely monitor what type of content is losing engagement and reach fast, but even more critically, to benchmark if it’s happening just to your brand or all pages overall.

According to WIRED, here are some points to take note of when analyzing your social media performance:

  • The number of comments on a post will count more than the number of Likes. 
  • Posts where people have taken the time to write long comments will get more weight than those with only short comments.
  • News and video will continue to appear in News Feed, but the number of friends sharing it will matter more than its overall popularity. 
Tip 2: 
Prepare to invest in paid social media. Facebook advertising has been growing steadily over the past few years. However, just before the end of 2017, the platform announced that it will not continue growing so much in the amount of advertising space available, but rather in it’s cost to marketers. While it sounds concerning, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, not if your brand is ready to make less ads investment mistakes. According to Socialbakers data, 44% of all ads on Facebook are of low quality and costing marketers more than they should. The first way to keep costs low is to bring social media optimization to a strategic level in the business. Second, to benchmark your advertising investment against competitors

Tip 3:
Leverage Live video content. If your aim is to generate engagement and free organic reach, Live video should be a no-brainer. It’s the content format that gets audiences talking the most and encourages meaningful interactions that Facebook rewards, such as likes and comments. Though, according to Socialbakers data only 11% of brands have tapped into Live video. 

2) Facebook is cracking down on engagement bait

Have you seen posts in your News Feed that start with “Like this if…” or “Tag a friend who…”? The kind that encourage you to Like something because you’re a Libra, or they invite people to Like a post for a chance to win a free gift? These type of engagement bait posts will be devalued as part of the latest News Feed update. Both people and pages will be impacted by these changes - and posting engagement bait will result in lower reach and impressions.

Here’s what qualifies as a bait:

  • Tag Baiting - Asking people to tag their friends.
  • Comment Baiting - Asking people to comment with specific answers (words, numbers, phrases, or emojis).
  • Share Baiting - Asking people to share the post with their friends.
  • Vote Baiting - Asking people to vote using reactions, comments, sharing, or other means of representing a vote.
  • React Baiting - Asking people to react to the post (includes like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry).
As Facebook stated “using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”

How to respond

Tip: Focus on creating meaningful conversations with your audience. Hacking your way to the front of the News Feed isn’t possible anymore. Instead think of what value your brand can provide to its audience on Facebook. Learn their interests, and know what gets their attention in your industry. Strive for repeated engagement with your brand.

3) Native videos, repeat viewership, retention, and intent matters

In February 2017, during an earnings call with investors, Mark Zuckerberg outlined why his company was making significant investments in video: “I see video as a mega-trend…That’s why I’m going to keep putting video first across our family of apps.”

To leverage video on Facebook, it’s important for marketers to understand the factors that bring their videos to the front of the News Feed. In early 2017, Facebook adjusted the News Feed to prioritize videos with a higher retention rate on the newsfeed. At the end of 2017, Facebook rolled out another update to the News Feed algorithm with the following recommendations:

Tip 1: 
Create videos audiences deliberately search for: if people are going out of their way to find your video content through searching on Facebook or going directly to your page, your videos will receive greater distribution and will reach more people.

Tip 2: 
Create videos that audiences view often: if people are watching videos from the same publisher frequently, these videos will get preference in the News Feed making it easier for new people to discover that content. As Facebook explains, this could be “shows or videos that are part of a series, or from partners who are creating active communities.”

4) Links to low-quality websites will be devalued

There is a lot of spam and junk out there on the internet that gets fed by social media traffic. In the beginning of 2017, Facebook began combating this by devaluing links to websites which provide poor web experiences such as low-value content, spam, and fake news. Focus on the user experience. Here are a few key tips from Social Media Today on how you can avoid your site being penalized:

Tip 1: Ensure that your landing pages do not have disruptive, malicious or shocking ads.
Tip 2: Ensure your page load speed is up to par – slow loading sites will likely be impacted.
Tip 3: Make sure your landing pages have substantive content. Put effort into the landing pages where you intend to send traffic.
Tip 4: Monitor your bounce rates and pages per session metrics. If people are going deeper into your site from your landing page, it’s a good sign.

The Takeaway

The changes in the News Feed are a clear message to brands and publishers that creating value for their users is more important than ever. All of Facebook’s updates are designed to achieve a better experience for their audience and stimulate conversations in their community.

At the moment, it will be essential for marketers to re-align themselves with Facebook’s new objectives and focus on delivering value by providing their audience with relevant content. These changes are not the first, and not the last. The lesson is that the social media landscape is constantly evolving, and the only way to be prepared is to have context by monitoring industry benchmarks. Be the first to understand what’s working and what’s not, and adapt to change faster than the competition.

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