Mark Zuckerberg's statement on 11 January 2018 effectively marked the end of the Facebook News Feed for brands and publishers as we know it. That might sound dramatic, but the impact of the Facebook's imminent algorithm change really will have a seismic effect on social media marketing strategies!
Enchant Founder and CEO, Philip Storey, discusses the big implications of Facebook's latest update and new vision for the way users engage with content, but offers hope for forward-thinking brands and marketers.
Is this the end of organic reach for brands?
Yes, this change to the Facebook News Feed really spells the end of organic reach for many businesses and marketers. It should come as no real surprise though, as this move has been coming for a while.
Brands publishing content on Facebook have long bemoaned the crippling impact of Facebook's algorithm and how the reach of their organic posts is minuscule, compared with the number of fans and followers they've racked up. This recent proposed algorithm change will further reduce organic reach for publishers.
The writing was on the wall in December, when Facebook announced that it was aiming to tackle "engagement bait" – punishing those using certain language and tactics to bait users to engage and react to boost their posts' reach – with its machine learning model. Here are some examples they gave below:
This crackdown on people and Pages using engagement bait soon evolved into a bigger plan from the minds at Facebook, when, in January, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would "help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us." His statement talked about the need for the network's experience to reflect what Facebook was originally created for; putting friends and family first, and to "encourage meaningful interactions between people."
It's also a tangible response to ongoing criticism, including that from former Facebook President, Sean Parker, on the addictiveness of Facebook and the impact on people's health. Zuckerberg said: “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being." He even recently expressed that he hoped the move would help reduce the time people spend on Facebook.
This interesting article from Fortune on Facebook's news feed change focuses on how Zuck's announcement is also a move to crack down on fake news.
Here is Mark Zuckerberg's full post below:
How will users find business page posts?
All the positive sentiments from Mark Zuckerberg may sound like good news for Facebook users, especially those sick of having their news feed filled with spammy posts. But what about users who want to keep up with news via the Facebook channel, as well as personal posts from friends, families and baby pics? How will marketers and publishers reach users with their content?
Well, it seems that only way that brands will really be able to reach their audience organically, going forward, is through the upcoming “Explore Feed" tab, which will separate Page posts away from the News Feed. See image below from Medium:
Obviously, many of us won't think to check this Explore Feed, because it's not where our friends and family are. And there's a chance this feed will act almost like a junk folder for branded content. This is why Facebook's News Feed change will cause so much disruption for marketers!
Opportunity for brands to revamp tactics
Whilst the change will be a big blow for many marketers, there is a customer-centric lesson to be learned here. Publishers and marketers should take this opportunity to reassess their current social strategy for Facebook and aim to create content that's more useful and relevant to users.
Econsultancy called the Facebook News Feed update a wake-up call for marketers, saying that it would force brands to create content that is verifiable, interesting and warrants genuine engagement in its own right. And, hey, if we see a reduction in click-bait and engagement-bait tactics from brands, surely this is a good thing, right?
Facebook is essentially encouraging brands to produce truly engaging and relevant content for the users on its network. And in the long run, those brands that do this will be rewarded and see their content reach users through shares and genuine engagement.
However, make no mistake, the change will present a big challenge for social media and content marketers, as they strive to make an impact on Facebook and reach user news feeds. New metrics will likely emerge for businesses analysing Facebook performance and making decisions about future strategies.
Businesses pushed further towards paid social advertising
Brands that rely on organic Facebook posts to drive traffic, interest or revenue will be most severely impacted in the short-term and will be forced to seek new ways to attain these goals, such as paid campaigns.
Publishers posting frequently each day will also be highly-affected, as this trend won't viewed favourably by Facebook's algorithm. Brands continuing to post in this way will see a big drop in reach, engagement and traffic. And for those of us in the retail world, this will obviously negatively impact revenue.
Over the past few years, Facebook has been steadily nudging brands towards sponsored posts and paid social advertising, by suppressing organic reach and arming brands with an array of native business tools to operate paid campaigns. Many brands will see paid content as the only way to make a big impact on Facebook.
Other marketers will focus on producing and publishing more timely organic content. One of my key predictions for the future of social media marketing is that all organic publisher posts will become time-based or have a short expiry time, whereafter they disappear. Following the trend of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, it's possible future published social posts will disappear after, say, 24-hours. We shall see!
Will some brands give up on Facebook?
Possibly, but I don't believe that this is the right approach. At Enchant, we have worked with numerous brands on their social media marketing strategies. What I've learned over years of working with companies, across all sectors on social media strategy, is that there are very few businesses that are brave enough to play the long game with social, and really do it properly.
Obviously, this is driven by the culture of focusing on short-term targets and goals that the marketing industry is still polluted by. This is why I think that Facebook's News Feed change announcement will actually prove to be a good thing for marketers.
Once the dust has settled, those brands which embrace Facebook's update and find creative ways to earn engagement and placement in the news feed will be the ones to not only win on Facebook but go on to dominate all channels. Customer-centric marketing strategies will set brands on the path to long-term success.
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