Facebook Throws Curveball with New Algorithm

If you’re familiar with the show Westworld (we recommend you acquaint yourself if you’re not), you’ll know that things go awry when Anthony Hopkins begins to tinker with the robots’ central programming. The coding tweak led to a web of chaos across 10 episodes of amazing television. Don’t worry, we have a point.

Facebook recently made an algorithmic change that they’ve now implemented on the News Feed. They’re looking to foster genuine engagement amongst its users, reducing the organic reach of brands and publishers. Facebook says, “People have told us that they dislike spammy posts on Facebook… To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts.” In the process, Pages will see their organic reach drop sharply if they haven’t already. This could be a major headache for brands on the platform.

The Facebook team is looking to devalue the type of posts that ask you to “Leave a comment with your favorite color,” or “Click here if you eat breakfast sometimes,” or “Tag a friend who breathes oxygen!” The team is tightening up on the content going out after announcing that some users inadvertently engaged with fake Russian accounts. With a lack of trust circulating in the community, Facebook’s move towards fostering genuine engagement shows that they’re actively working to rebuild that trust. The algorithm won’t affect how you see content from your friends, just Pages. Yep, that long chain post from your best friend’s neighbor asking you to share the latest conspiracy theory about the moon landing will still be highly visible. We’ll dive into what this means for Facebook, your organic and paid strategies, and why your brand should rethink its current KPIs.

Zuckerberg Wants You to Spend Less Time on Facebook

You read that right. In a recent post, he states, “We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” Further down in his post, he mentions that he’s aware the time spent on Facebook and measures of engagement will decrease. Facebook is paving the way for connections to rekindle long-lost social friendships and keep engagement personal, narrowing the organic pathway for Pages.

The decrease in reach for brands ties directly into his statement. Our eyes are passively rolling over content and there are plenty of things that aren’t sticking. In the process, Facebook is losing younger members at an alarming rate. According to eMarketer estimates, “Facebook will lose 2 million users ages 24 and younger this year.” In that same statistic, eMarketer adds that Instagram and Snapchat are projected to add over a million users from the same range in 2018. Facebook is losing its younger demographic to other platforms, and as marketers, this affects how we optimize our social strategies.

Data from Global Web Index

Impact on Strategies

Your social strategy for Facebook needs to evolve. The organic and paid strategies you employed last December took a hit with the algorithmic change, so your content must carry its weight now more than ever. It’s time for the content we create to mean something, rather than just shooting for the month’s quota of ‘Likes’ as your KPI.

Facebook is not providing much detail into how the algorithm works outside of what we covered previously and the vague guidelines they’ve given around engagement bait and the News Feed. That means reading and understanding the right data again comes into the fold and will play an integral role in the evolution of your social strategy moving forward. In one of our previous posts, we mentioned that, “Big Data and analytics are transforming marketing. It doesn’t make marketing more strategic, it makes it more precise.” Hunkering down to interpret performance data is going to be the best way to gain valuable insights into how the change with Facebook directly impacts you.

The Facebook ad space is going to be a battleground. While organic reach decreases, the battle to catch your attention through paid media is about to heat up. As we like to say, “Time is precious. Attention is priceless.” The price to advertise is going to jump sizably in the blink of an eye. Some experts are predicting that the cost of advertising could bump up as high as 79% within the next year. You can prepare by doing a few things:

  1. Adjust your budget accordingly and get ready to spend some serious bucks. This is not necessarily the soundest strategy unless you have money to burn and you’re comfortable with spending wads of dough. If you don’t have the cash, you’ll need to rely on your data to determine the next best channel to spend on.
  2. Maximize your budget and promote the essentials. Place value on what you’d like your audience to see and hit it hard.
  3. If Facebook becomes too costly to promote, you’ll need to target your audience in other ways. You’ll have to ask the tough questions such as, “Is Facebook becoming a place that’s difficult to drive growth” and “Is Facebook the place to spend money?” If your audience lives on Facebook and Facebook only, start preparing for rising ad costs now.

Video’s Time to Shine

With Facebook pushing for authentic content, brands will need to elaborate on their messaging a bit differently. This is where video will come in. Video allows you to tell a story that a still image just can’t do. Rather than pumping out dozens of stories that skip across the surface, create content that dives deep and connects with your audience on an emotional level. It’s quality over quantity, people. Don’t strike out numerous times and push content for the sake of getting content out there. Give it some real thought and create with impact in mind.

Audience plays a central role in a brand’s success. It's time to push strategies a step further and to start treating audiences as more than just potential clicks on a ‘Like’ button. Show that you care and let your creative do the talking. According to Cisco, “Every second, a million minutes, or almost 17,000 hours of video content will cross the network by 2021.” Get a jump on the new rules while you can as Facebook essentially forces your hand to provide a fresh wave of authentic, engaging content. Focus on cultivating a meaningful connection with your followers, rather than seeking clicks. Be smart with your content, check often to see how it’s performing, and be empathetic towards your audience.

Image from KPCB

In a Nutshell

Facebook’s updated algorithm could be viewed as a challenge by some and a stepping stone by others. Take a moment to reevaluate your strategies, your content, and create something special. Treat your audience as human beings and remember that they’re more than a statistic. Push the boundaries on what you’ve done and create the authenticity followers are looking for. Christopher Nolan never made a movie he didn’t care about. We don’t recommend that you take a page out of the Fast & Furious book and churn things out just because the formula has worked before. Sorry, Vin. Love your work as Groot, btw. Maybe there’s room for a Treehouse in the plot of Guardians 3?

Data. Content. Budget. There are a lot of variables to consider as Facebook’s change shakes the digital world. Which eggs are you putting into your strategy basket? Let us know what you have in mind and spread the word by subscribing to our blog!