When Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook way back in February 2004, he (and his college roommate Eduardo Saverin) limited membership to just fellow Harvard students. It was designed to be a place where they could share information, photos and contact details.
As of January 2018, Facebook boasts a monthly active user base of 2.2 billion [source: Statista]. It’s used by people all over the world to share photos, information and updates with their friends and loved ones. To say it’s a far cry from the limited student directory it once was is an understatement.As of January 2018, Facebook boasts a monthly active user base of 2.2 billion.Click To Tweet
But while much of Facebook’s charm has been in its ability to seamlessly connect people and enable them to share personal moments online, it has, in recent times, become increasingly crowded.
With updates from friends, family members, groups, and business pages, as well as paid ads, people’s Facebook News Feeds have become overloaded and chaotic – something Facebook knows is detracting from the whole user experience.
The Sky’s Falling: It’s News Feed Armageddon
As most marketing professionals know, organic reach on Facebook has been steadily declining in recent times. The success of the social network’s native ad platform has been one of the catalysts for this change. After all, why would Facebook let businesses enjoy lots of free exposure when they can make them pay for the privilege and generate enormous profits as a result?
In the third quarter of 2017 alone, Facebook raked in $10.14 billion in advertising revenue [source: Facebook], which represents a 49% year-over-year change. In fact, in Q3 2017, advertising revenue accounted for 98.2% of Facebook’s total revenue.In the third quarter of 2017 alone, Facebook raked in $10.14 billion in advertising revenue.Click To Tweet
With figures like these it’s easy to understand why Facebook wants to put more emphasis on its native advertising platform going forward.
That’s why it didn’t come as that much of a surprise (to people in the marketing industry at least) when Facebook recently announced it was changing its News Feed algorithm so that people see more posts from friends and family, and less posts from business pages.
According to Facebook, the change is all about enabling people to “have more meaningful social interactions” [source: Facebook]. In short, Facebook is looking to clean up the News Feed and ensure people see more pertinent posts to them going forward. The knock-on effect is that business pages will find their organic reach reduced even more.
This will likely cause the following to happen:
1. Facebook Ad Costs Will Rise
As demand for ads on Facebook rises, so too will prices. While this is to be expected, there is no guarantee if the higher prices will equate to greater exposure. That’s because Facebook has vowed to keep the News Feed personal, so we could see brands spending more money, but actually realizing worse results than they were before the change.
2. More Advertisers Will Move To Alternative Advertising Platforms
Many brands are likely to try out the advertising solutions offered by other online giants such as Twitter and Google. As these offerings experience increased demand, their prices will likely rise too and in-turn they’ll become more crowded (which could again lead to higher prices being paid for less exposure).
So What Can Businesses Do In Light Of This Change?
Even though it might seem like the floor has fallen out of the Facebook marketing market, there are a number of things businesses can do to give themselves the best chance of standing out on the social network.
1. Utilize More Live Video
First and foremost, Live Video is going to be more important than ever going forward. In the blog post in which they announced the change, Facebook even went as far as to say: “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…”
If that’s not a hint that Live Video is going to be pivotal once the News Feed algorithm change has been fully rolled out, then we don’t know what is.
The bottom line is that Facebook users have embraced Live Video. It’s intimate and interactive nature strikes a chord with people, and it is an absolutely fantastic way for businesses to put a face on their brand.
Ignore Live Video at your peril, it’s a serious opportunity.
2. Steer Well Clear Of So-Called ‘Engagement Bait’
Facebook users dislike spammy posts and that means Facebook dislikes them too. Facebook even has a term for posts that goad users into interacting with them – engagement bait [source: Facebook].
Basically, posts that say things like, “Like this if you’re an Aries!” are classed as engagement bait and will be demoted in the News Feed accordingly.
So, if you’re a business that’s been using similar tactics to encourage likes or shares, stop now! Facebook is taking no prisoners on this one.
3. Laser-Target Your Facebook Ads
Paid ads that are a little loose when it comes to targeting will waste money once the Facebook News Feed change is fully implemented. Brand campaigns that target custom audiences will need to be much more refined. That’s because you pay every time an ad is shown to someone, regardless of whether they click-through to your offer or like your page.
By laser targeting your ads, you can ensure that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck and that your advertising dollars aren’t being wasted on someone who is never ever going to buy one of your products or employ your services.
Think carefully about your ideal customer and create ad campaigns that are tailored for them accordingly. Use the incredibly powerful Facebook targeting options to get your ad in front of these people only.
4. Make Your Social Ads Friendlier
In addition to making ads more laser-targeted, also try and make them friendlier. The Facebook News Feed change is all about boosting engagement, and there’s a much greater chance someone will engage with an ad that’s friendly and personable, than one that’s heavy on sales talk and product pushing.
The brands that will really get the most out of their Facebook ad budgets will be the ones that create ads which get conversations started and encourage natural engagement based on catering to an audiences want or need.
5. Experiment With Advertising On Other Social Channels
As we’ve already mentioned, many brands are likely to start trying the advertising solutions offered by other social networks. And while many of these solutions have been neglected in the past because Facebook was considered king when it came to paid social media advertising, the impact of the News Feed change could see many of them experience a renaissance.
If there was ever a time to brush up your Twitter ads and Google PPC skills, it’s now. As Facebook ad budgets struggle to keep up with rising costs, the advertising solutions offered by Facebook competitors will be more pivotal than ever.
6. Re-Evaluate Your SEO Strategy
With Facebook reach all but dead and advertising costs almost certain to increase in the future, your SEO strategy will be more pivotal than ever. At the end of the day, the Facebook change won’t (in theory) impact how well your website ranks in the search engines, but that really depends how big a factor social signals really are (it’s the subject of much debate).
The bottom line is that organic search engine reach is one way you can stand out from the crowd, without having to invest in paid advertising campaigns. In some respects, it’s better to focus on things that are within your control (SEO), than worrying about factors you can’t influence or that are difficult to influence (organic Facebook reach).
7. Rejuvenate Your Newsletter
Even though your followers might not see all your posts in the future, there is one way you can highlight them and that’s in an email newsletter.
Many companies canned their traditional newsletter in favor of social posts, but the good old newsletter could see adoption increase once again as brands alert their followers to some of their best social posts.
8. Encourage Your Followers To See Your Page Posts First
Facebook was very specific in the blog post they wrote talking about the News Feed change. They specifically mention that users can choose to see more posts from pages they like by using the ‘See first’ News Feed option.
There’s absolutely nothing stopping you encouraging your followers to use this option if they really want to see your posts at the top of their News Feeds. Obviously, don’t spam them in every post about this, but maybe mention it every once in a while when you’ve produced something that’s a really cracking piece of content.
While it might seem as though the sky is falling and these new changes will undo all your previous hard work, you do have options. Get your SEO game up to scratch in the first instance and then start creating highly-engaging posts and utilizing other social ad platforms.
The successful brands will be the ones that adapt, not the ones that continue as they always have.
COO and co-founder of Creative Mindscape. Lover of marketing, psychology, tech and all things sport. Family man with a passion for living life outside the rat race and chasing your own dreams.