Facebook has undoubtedly become an important marketing channel for brands, celebrities & companies alike. It’s a great way to reach a wide, global audience from your desk & hence has become a part of every marketer’s campaign. However, Facebook recently announced changes in its News Feed algorithms to decrease the organic post reach of brand pages. This could be bad news for a marketer. Now, when I say ‘changing their news feed’, I don’t mean their regular tweaks. According to Adam Mosseri, Facebook News Feeds VP, “This one is bigger than the average tweak. It’s not a tweak.”
On January 12th, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced the change in Facebook’s News Feed algorithm to prioritize content from “friends, family and groups.” He also stated, “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media. And the public content you see more of will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
What are the changes Facebook is making?
With the change in algorithm, the visibility of organic posts by brands will decrease. This could be a concern for the 6 million businesses that advertise on Facebook.
The second change is the bigger concern. Facebook plans to make the platform less addictive to encourage time well spent versus more time spent, reducing the overall usage of the platform. Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down”.
With this second change, users will spend less time on Facebook which means lesser opportunities for brands to reach their audiences through organic posts. Let’s take a look at Facebook’s current revenue model and what the new model is likely to look like.
Drop in Organic reach
Over the past few years, brand pages on Facebook have been seeing a decline in their organic post reach. There were two reasons that Brian Boland, Facebook’s VP for Advertising Technology mentioned back in 2014-
- There was simply too much content crowding timelines, making visibility competitive
- Facebook deliberately wanted to show people content that mattered to them
In 2007, when ‘fan pages’ were launched, admins were under the assumption that all their organic content was reaching their followers. It was only in 2012 that they learnt that only a fraction of their Facebook fans were seeing their posts. This was at a mere 16%.
It was then reported (in a study by Edgerank Checker) that this number further dropped from 16% to 6.5% between February 2012 and March 2014.
Further research from Social@Ogilvy suggests that for pages with more than 500,000 likes, organic reach could be as low as 2%!
In 2016, Facebook tweaked its news feed algorithm again to further prioritize content. Lars Backstrom, Facebook’s Engineering Director warned page organic reach could dip further which left reach at less than 2%. Between January and July 2016, page managers saw a decline of 52% in organic reach.
With the new changes announced, this could mean that organic reach for brand posts will be almost non-existent!
So what are the changes for?
Facebook’s Revenue Model
Facebook’s business model is driven by advertising revenue. The revenue model is:
The 4 metrics are defined below:
- Active users: the number of monthly unique visitors or users on the platform.
- Time spent: how long – each user on average spends on the platform.
- Ad density: the average number of ads shown to each user.
- Ad price: the rate each advertiser pays on average for each advertisement.
New revenue model
With decreasing opportunity for brands to reach their audiences due to decreasing time spent on the platform, the need to reach audiences through ads increases. The new model will probably look something like this:
What does this mean for you?
With the decrease in opportunity to reach target audiences, we predict:
- Advertising prices will rise significantly
- Businesses will see a significant decrease in organic reach
- Users will spend less time on Facebook which means brands have to work harder to gain customer attention
How can business/ brand pages continue reaching their customers?
While it’s not certain exactly how these changes will affect brands, there are few things brands can do to continue reaching their customers:
- Post quality, engaging content: If you’ve already been doing this, great. Continue to do so. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “meaningful interactions” translate to comments & lots of it. Be careful not to get caught in the ‘engagement bait’, though. Engagement bait is where brands & business pages post with captions like “COMMENT if you like french fries”. About this, Facebook says, “Using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”
- Engage with Facebook groups: With Facebook underscoring its focus on engagement, Facebook groups which are engagement hubs will be good footing for you under the new algorithm.
- Use more of Facebook Live: If you’ve been following the changes Facebook makes to its algorithm time & again, you’ve probably noticed that video content is favoured. This will continue to remain so. In fact, in this announcement, Mark said, “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.” So I urge you to invest time in Facebook live videos as they’re guaranteed to perform well under the new algorithm.
- Bump up your spends on Facebook Ads: With the changes in the algorithm, as I mentioned earlier in the post, Facebook will decrease organic posts by brands and business pages. With this change, it becomes all the more important to focus on ads to reach your target audience.
In my six years work experience with social media, I’ve come to realise the importance of valuing your followers. And, as difficult as it may be through a computer, it’s important to provide conversation, engagement & customer support as close to human interaction as possible.
With things changing often and quickly in the digital world, there’s no real cause to worry about social media algorithm changes if your priority has always been and will always be providing quality content to your followers. Do let me know in the comments section below if there’s anything else you’d like me to address on Facebook’s changes. Until then, ciao!