On January 11, Mark Zuckerburg updated his status, confirming plans to change the algorithm used to prioritize organic content shown in the Facebook News Feed. The new algorithm is assumed to re-prioritize content published by a user’s friends and family, i.e. actual people that they actually know opposed to brands. Posts which have received active engagement (shares and comments) over passive engagement (views and likes) will be favoured. The hope being that #meaningfulcontent will better find its way into your Facebook News Feed. Great news for your mum’s friend who still insists on uploading 80-photo-strong albums entitled “Becky’s Baby Shower 2018”. Not such good news for publishers and brands.
The social role played by Facebook changed drastically between the years of 2009 and 2016. Originally a community platform, the main purpose of which – as far as most Millennials are concerned – was to tag yourself in official nightclub photographs, The Social Network morphed into something very, very different. Largely an advertising platform from the perspective of brands and companies, it’s also now a meaningful source of real information for individual users. A survey in August of 2017 found that 67% used social media as at least one of their news sources. Now, here we are in 2018, and Facebook’s like: Let’s. Get. Back. To. Basics.
The change was not unexpected. In some (lots of) ways, this is a response to criticism of Facebook as a contributing factor in the spread of false and misleading information online around the 2016 election. The new algorithm will rank publishers based on how reputable they are – although it wasn’t specified how this will be defined. Forward-thinking companies have been planning for the algorithm change for some time. So, what does this all mean for the future of branded content on the platform and how should we prepare to weather the storm?
Valuable Content & Meaningful Contributions
The algorithm change means asking yourself three big questions about your brand: What changes will we need to make to the kinds of content we’re producing; What role will Facebook play in our content strategy as a whole; How will we measure success? It’s been highlighted that Facebook will deprioritize organic branded content which appeared to users as being overtly promotional – i.e. content pushing users to shop, buy, download or enter a promotion. Facebook has remained a major source of referral traffic for most brands (with Google only recently hitting the number one spot). With content intended to drive your audience away from Facebook on the out, this will need to change.
Brands should now focus on creating Facebook-specific content. From Digiday: “Digital-first publishers allergy have focussed on building audiences within Facebook, creating content native to the platform rather than funnelling audiences back to their own sites”. Video will still be favoured in the Facebook News Feed, so this remains a huge priority. And Facebook Instant Articles will be a big one for publishers and editorial-focused brands: posts in the form of articles that load in Facebook as opposed to taking the user away from the site. You’ll also need to abandon your obsession with views and likes – these are no longer meaningful metrics and clickbait-y posts are a no-go.
What About Paid?
It’s clear that there will need to be some refocusing when it comes to creating meaningful, shareable content that prompts conversation, but there’s also the question of how you get that content in front of your users in the first place. With organic branded content deprioritized in the Facebook News Feed, paid advertising may need to play a bigger part in getting your content in front of your users. It’s predicted that the increased competition will drive up costs for ads. To clarify: now, more than ever, if you want to market stuff to your audience, you’ll need to pay to do it.
Facebook Groups & Community Building
We can all admit that, without much opportunity to acquire new audience through organic content or guide that audience back to where you want them, your Facebook Page may very well now be dead. The focus now on building an audience within Facebook may mean more brands making use of Facebook Groups for Pages – launched back in summer 2017. The Facebook Group or Community can work well for brands and publishers with active, passionate followers who are willing to contribute to a conversation. Big names like Vox, Buzzfeed and the New York Times have all been running groups to grow subscriptions and promote articles for a while now.
It changes the role of the brand as a “voice” within these communities – community managers will now need to lead and curate conversations on specific topics, prompting dialogue between users. In July of last year, The New Yorker went live with The New Yorker Movie club – “a place for people who love films to gather with other like-minded people”. This works incredibly well as a means of targeting specific content to a niche part of their audience. One of The New Yorker Movie Club’s ground rules? No political campaigning.
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