How Facebook has changed its algorithm, and what it means for advertisers

  31 October 2018 - 3:12pm |    Tom Webster

At the start of 2018 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social media platform wanted to get back to its roots.

“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,” he said.

This might be good news for those of us that want to see more pictures of our friends’ pets and babies, but it didn’t come across as good news for the businesses that had spent big on getting their promoted posts in front of a targeted audience of buyers.

This doesn’t mean that retailers should ditch Facebook but it does mean that the goalposts have moved once again, and marketing managers might need to readdress how they go about posting.

Interaction is key

Facebook’s stated aim is to get more ‘interactions’ on posts – put simply the more that people like, share or comment on a post, the more it will appear on users’ timelines. Not only that, but Facebook will even prioritise posts that get longer comments, as the theory is that shows people are more engaged with the post.

Several people simply saying “Cool!” will not necessarily be enough, and self-serving marketing messages are much less likely to cut it. The site is also prioritising local news, which is good news for smaller retailers or companies that allow individual sites to post, but bad for larger businesses that like to keep a close eye on everything from a central location.

Relinquishing control to remote locations might require a leap, but with the right training, support in the form of someone at head office on call, and monitoring to ensure that messages are on brand, this could provide dividends.

Tips to try include asking open-ended questions to provoke discussion, using Facebook to highlight limited term deals or exclusive offers and celebrate customers and their stories in a way that will engage with their friends and other fans of the brand.

Combine paid and organic

Although Facebook says that advertising is kept on a system with a different algorithm, there is a chance that it might become more expensive to get your ads in front of users, partly down to increased competition with the changes to the news feed.

The thinking is that it is worth bringing paid-for and organic plans together, with both elements approaching matters from a similar point of view.

Rather than adverts simply stating facts, they should be being created with the same intentions as organic posts – it should be quality content looking to engage consumers rather than just put information in front of them.

Trial and monitor

Despite the changes, Facebook remains the biggest social media network on the planet, with more than two billion active users per month. With this in mind, it is definitely worth not giving up with it, and worth adapting and finding what works for your business.

One thing to avoid is so-called ‘engagement baiting’ by creating lots of low-quality posts, photos and videos that are designed to stir up debate. This is something that has been on Facebook’s radar for a while, and pages that engage in this tactic will be shoved ever further down the priority list.

Whatever you do, make active use of the analytics, in Facebook and Google, to monitor what does and doesn’t work in terms of engagements and click throughs.

Facebook Insights will give information on who your fans are, when they are active and even when they are physically near your business, for example.

Live over recorded

One element that will need addressing for some retailers is video. Facebook would much rather push ‘Live’ videos, which apparently gets six times more interaction than pre-recorded videos.

The issue here is maintaining quality – not every company has someone willing or able to stand in front of a camera and present live broadcasts, and simply putting a camera in the corner of a room and leaving it running might not excite viewers.

If you have a particular event, or are happy producing live footage that is snappy and entertaining, then the rewards will be there. Events that could work well on live video include live tours, how-to guides, product launches or even product walk throughs to explain how a car or a piece of equipment works.

Another feature to consider jumping onto is the Facebook Stories, which offers an opportunity for short pre-recorded video snippets and images.

They can be viewed twice and are automatically deleted after 24 hours. This is currently limited to personal profiles, but it is expected to roll out to brand pages in the future.

The feature is currently positioned at the top of a user’s news feed, so early adopters could reap the rewards.

Quality over quantity

The temptation might be to shove as much out on Facebook as possible to boost the chances of your posts being seen, but in reality, this is more likely to irritate fans, bore them, and reduce the chances of them interacting with a post.

Fewer interactions means lower visibility, so a considered schedule of three or four posts a week might even work in your favour.

Rather than posting whenever the mood takes you, making use of Facebook Insights will help you pick the time of day that is best for the people you are looking to target. Take pride and care in the quality of images used, and check that the language is appropriate for your target audience.

YOUR ACTION PLAN

  • Prioritise posts that inspire comment
  • Don’t ditch advertising spend, but be clever with promoted posts
  • Monitor what works and what doesn’t
  • Embrace live video and Facebook Stories
  • Go for quality over vast amounts of quantity

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