Facebook’s news feed change – what does it mean for brands?

Some have called it the Facebook apocalypse, but does Zuckerberg's latest update really spell the end for brands on the platform?

facebook news feed change


Remember when Facebook was all about poking old high school friends you hadn’t seen in years? Turns out so does Mark Zuckerberg, and he’s pining for a return of the good old days.

Yep, Facebook announced recently that its going back to basics. It wants to dial its news feed back to when its main focus was on personal connections.

Said Zuckerberg in his statement: “Recently 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.”

If you run a brand’s Facebook account then these were not the words you wanted to hear.

The headlines aren’t good, with some sources describing the change as the ‘‘Facebook apocalypse’.

But what does it actually mean for your Page? Let’s take a look…

RIP organic reach

It’s no secret – organic reach has been a dying art on Facebook for years. As long ago as 2012, Facebook began restricting organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 per cent.

A raft of regular changes since then has drilled it down even further, and research by BuzzSumo in 2017 found that engagements with posts created by brands and publishers had dropped by more than 20 per cent over just a few months.

The new changes are “practically the nail in the coffin for completely organic posts,” says Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of digital agency 360i.

While it’s true that the update is significant, no brand worth its salt will have been relying solely on organic reach for its referral traffic anyway.

What’s important to note, however, is that if you routinely produce high quality content that drives natural engagement then you have a very good chance of dodging the bullet.

Part of Facebook’s statement said: “As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it.

“Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”

Translation: If your Page followers don’t routinely engage with your posts then your reach will be about to plummet. If, on the other hand, you’re lucky enough to have an engaged audience then keep up the good work.

“The knee-jerk reaction is to think, ‘Oh my God, this is awful and very bad for publishers, and therefore brands,’” said Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer at We Are Social, which counts Netflix as a client. “But longer-term I think this is a positive thing… facilitating interactions between people is what social has always been about before Facebook even existed.”

READ MORE: The most important Facebook statistics for 2017

Advertising price hike?

Many feel the only way forward for most brands is to up their ad game. But with Facebook all but squeezing businesses out of the News Feed, will prices increase to reflect demand?

Some think so. “It’s simple mathematics for a display business: Less time on Facebook and fewer ads can only mean that the ads that do show are more expensive,” said Paul Mead, chairman of London-based media agency VCCP Media.

Compounding the issue – as we highlighted in our post looking at social media statistics for 2018 – is the fact that Facebook is running out of ad inventory.

So while advertising on Facebook hasn’t traditionally cost very much, that could be about to change. In fact, we’d say it’s almost inevitable.

READ MORE: An 8-step marketer’s guide to nailing Facebook ads

5 ways to survive the apocalypse

So we know organic reach is dead. And we also know that to continue picking up referral traffic on Facebook you’re going to have to pay for it.

But don’t rush to open that budget spreadsheet just yet. There are still a handful of tactics you can use to drive organic engagement on your Page…

Live video is now essential

Not all organic content is about to flatline. Live video has been specifically namechecked by Facebook as a way for brands to retain a slice of the organic pie.

“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed,” said Facebook. “For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers.”

You can interpret this as a clear sign that Pages that use Live video will reap the benefits. If you haven’t yet shot your first live vid, you’re holding your Page back.

READ MORE: 7 golden rules for producing brilliant live video campaigns

Post less

This sounds like an easy one – do less work. Don’t get too excited, though, that’s not what we’re saying.

Facebook is looking for quality over quantity, so post less but spend the time making your output as good as it can be. Posting just a handful of times a week is going to be more effective than blasting your Page with multiple updates.

You’re after engagement, and the chances of that happening are higher if your followers don’t get bored of you.

Avoid engagement baiting

Facebook will reward Pages that provide a platform natural conversations between users. The emphasis here is on the word natural.

Pages that fish for engagements by telling people to Like, Share or Comment to enter a competition, for instance, will be blackmarked and demoted in the News Feed. You’re better off erring on the side of caution and not ever using the words like, share or comment in any of your posts. Ever.

READ MORE: 5 outstanding Facebook marketing case studies

Facebook Groups

You’re probably a member of one or more Facebook Group. It might be a fan group for a TV show, maybe an environmental cause or a local community group.

Whatever it might be, people tend to interact more in groups than they do with Pages. Facebook has also indicated that they are working on creating community through groups with more group features like insights and the ability to schedule posts.

The New York Times, BuzzFeed and the Today show have all launched special-interest groups on Facebook in the past few months. These groups give users a community-focused platform to discuss issues around brand stories.

If your brand doesn’t yet have a Group, now’s the time to create one.

See First

There is one guaranteed way of ensuring your Page followers will continue seeing your posts in their news feed.

You’ll need to tell your users to click on the ‘Following’ button under your cover photo, and then select the ‘See First’ option from the dropdown. Your posts will now be apocalypse-proof.

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