When Facebook rolled out its latest News Feed algorithm in April of this year, the social media sphere threatened to implode in protest. The outcry and controversy hit the airwaves more profoundly than a lot of other news and fatalists even likened the changes to the onset of a seven-year plague.
Though a few brands did watch their audience-reach shrink while their marketing budgets grew, it’s a relief to see just six months later that the new algorithm hasn’t had disastrous repercussions. In fact, businesses that approached the change as a way to improve their page strategy may have actually advanced their brand by building new relationships.
If you’re still not up-to-date on Facebook’s algorithm changes and how they affect branding, here is a short rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of the new rules.
What Changed & Why
Before the algorithm change, businesses that operated by volume posting and building an army of followers with contests and promotions enjoyed a wide reach and generous organic traffic. The new algorithm sharply altered the organic distribution (dropping exposure from roughly 16% of all users to about 3%), making it necessary for businesses to invest in paid advertising in order to reach the same broad audience. Generating quality leads suddenly took more capital and more work.
Why the shift? Facebook asked for user feedback and learned that subscribers were getting bored with irrelevant content from pages they “Liked” showing up in their News Feed or being notified every time a friend of a friend “Liked” a new business page. According to an announcement about the new changes, Facebook said the guidelines offer “new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages” and less of what they don’t.
#2 Friendships Trump Business Relationships
Facebook continually looks for innovative solutions to help businesses improve their social media influence and optimize content consumption. Media plays an integral role in shaping social network experiences. Part of the strategy behind algorithm updates was to find the right balance between posts from publishers, businesses, friends, and local enterprises with whom users connect. Rather than giving preferential treatment to business pages, the priority is returning to a more friend-centric community. The rollout makes sure that Facebook users will see posts from “favorite friends” near the top of their News Feed so they don’t miss important details posted by the people they care about.
#3 More Content Posting Opportunities
The final major change is intended to make sure that everyone has something to read in the News Feed. Users with limited friends who want to see more content in their News Feed can now enjoy multiple consecutive posts from the same source, whether that is a business page they’ve “Liked” or a friend they follow. As a business, you should keep in mind while working on content that Facebook users don’t want to see posts in their News Feeds that have a purely promotional message intended to drive purchases. Instead, take this opportunity to build your brand with users who have small social circles by posting informative, educational content that excites and engages rather than repeatedly screaming “BUY NOW.”
Advantages & Disadvantages for Branding
On one hand, paid advertising that admittedly will reach only a small percentage of Facebook users may seem counterintuitive to many business owners. But on the positive side, the algorithmic changes did not eliminate free, low-maintenance pages that businesses can use to connect with their audience. Paid advertising is an option for business owners who want to design a marketing plan that includes content to drive social media traffic to their website and vice versa. A narrow focus based on consumer profiles and back-office analytics seems to be the best approach today. Building a digital presence on Facebook is still a cost-effective way to reach out to social media users with your best branding content.
Embrace the New Game
Facebook forewarned business owners that these changes “may cut into traffic” depending on audience composition and posting activity, and businesses have certainly seen declines in the breadth and depth of their reach and referral traffic. But it isn’t all bad. Based on anecdotal results from small business owners and bloggers who tracked changes after the rollout, there were big winners among the field of losers in the brand engagement arena.
Yes, the rules have changed and yes, Facebook controls the gamebook. So the key to successfully navigating the change is to stay knowledgeable and have a workable strategy. Here’s how:
- Page posts should be shareable, timely, and relevant to your audience.
- Stay engaged, i.e. build your community and intentionally drive interactions with people.
- Post based on your users. Track user views and post comments to determine the best time to publish new content. Partnering with a reliable web hosting service like Bluehost is essential to meeting your frequency benchmarks, too.
- Make consistency a priority. Followers want to know when you’ll publish news and information.
Some business owners have seen their traffic plummet and follower numbers spiraling out of control, but this doesn’t have to be true for your company. Facebook has 1.55 billion monthly active users, so this social platform is still an extremely viable channel—if you’re willing to adapt to the latest News Feed algorithm.