What the latest Facebook algorithm change means (and what to do)
January 29, 2018
If you’re an inbound marketer, you know that sinking feeling. You wake up, stretch, start your coffee, and check your phone—only for your stomach to drop at that horrible phrase “algorithm change.” Depending on how long you’ve been in the game, you’ve ridden the ups and downs of the Facebook and Google algorithms as they throw constant wrenches into our carefully strategized content plans. Our friend Mark announced some changes last week, citing that one of Facebook’s major foci for 2018 is “making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.”
What happened (& why)
A disconnect between Facebook’s purported goals of bringing people together and users’ experience prompted Zuckerberg and Facebook to change. Facebook has been confronting and acknowledging criticisms lately, even to the point of blogging about how social media may be bad for your mental health (TLDR: passive consumption of social media is bad for your mental health, while active interaction with social media is actually good for your mental health). Another factor was feedback from user surveys suggested they felt that content from family and friends was getting drowned out by content from brands.
Now Facebook is planning to prioritize posts from family and friends over material from brands and businesses. Zuckerberg wants to curate an active experience for all users, encouraging personal connections and “meaningful interactions,” to maintain Facebook as a positive force for mental health and society.
Here’s the scary part. We’re to expect that brand content will be devalued and personal content will be privileged, so someone who follows your page will be less likely to see your latest sale if their cousin just had an especially cute baby. However, it isn’t necessarily an either/or, and the Facebook algorithm isn’t exactly transparent.
Furthermore, adjustments to the News Feed algorithm aren’t brand new. If this announcement of a move to prioritize posts from family and friends sounds weirdly familiar, it’s because it is. We went through this in the summer of 2016, and throughout 2017, as Facebook continues to balance revenue with product. If your brand page is still reaching your audience today, then you’re already doing something right and are likely poised to weather this latest storm as well.
How it will affect your business
Now’s the time to break out the smelling salts and get back to the drawing board. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is a game-changer. This change likely means a decrease in your brand’s organic reach and more pressure to “pay to play,” supplementing your organic social reach with boosted posts and ads.
Watch your performance and engagement metrics over the next couple of weeks to measure how your page performance is trending. Zeroing in on Zuckerberg’s statement on public content being held to the same standards as personal content, the important takeaway is that it should “encourage meaningful interactions between people.” We predict that Facebook is doubling-down on its effort to privilege content with high engagement, and that branded content with likes, tags, shares and comments will continue to thrive on the platform, but that daily post no one likes might drop from 120 impressions to 30.
What to do this exact second
Rethink your social content calendar: don’t post every day just because. Analyze your engagement and know that you’re digging yourself deeper every time you post something that no one engages with.
Build your paid social strategy: crunch the numbers. If you’ve got a message that you need to get in front of your followers, consider that one boosted post with a small budget will get your more exposure than five daily posts for a week (see #1). Use your paid social budget to grow and engage your audience, as well as ensure that crucial content gets seen.
Don’t be exclusive: maybe it’s okay to admit that we’re a little too into Facebook sometimes. Use this as an opportunity to step back and evaluate your overall social strategy. Have you thought about Snapchat filters or LinkedIn lead generation ads?
Stay ahead of the game
From Google to Facebook, each and every algorithm change and subsequent strategy adjustment has been panic-inducing and frustrating for digital marketers, but they’re all trending in the same direction. Strategists and AI are constantly tweaking our platforms in pursuit of one goal: to connect people to the content they need, want, and celebrate. So to get ahead of this week’s shift and stay ahead of future shake-ups, focus first and foremost on useful, engaging content that is helpful and enjoyable. So finish that coffee and get started on your new social strategy today.