Have you heard? Facebook significantly changed its algorithm several times in the last few months. Beginning last August, brands across the platform saw reach suffer tremendously. (In case you need a refresher, think about reach the way traditional media measures impressions; it’s just Facebook’s way of counting how many eyeballs are seeing your content.) Essentially, brands began experiencing a huge drop in the number of people who actually saw their postings. The content strategy didn’t change and they weren’t doing anything different. In fact, we did a test on one Likeable client where we took a post that had performed well in the past and re-posted it to the community. We changed nothing and the difference in reach was astounding.
So how did we combat this change? First, we needed to understand how Facebook was weighing content.
Here’s what we discovered:
1. Timely, relevant content matters.
That means no more recycling old blog content to get clicks to your site. And those “Most Interesting Man” memes? Nope. Quality content from reputable sources is important, and Facebook will punish posts if they don’t adhere. We get enough spam to our inboxes as it is, and Facebook decided to clean up shop.
2. You need to measure what matters.
Guess what? Facebook doesn’t want to be considered a PR channel. It’s social media, after all, and engagement is what they want us to consider. Instead of presenting impressions (or reach), Facebook showed us that engagement rate is what really matters (engagement rate = engaged users/reach). And you know what happened when we looked at engagement rate? It was the same (or better) in almost every case after the algorithm changed as it was before. And that’s because Facebook is choosing to show your content to the people who would be most inclined to actually take action. Not so dumb, right? For a network with over a billion active users, they’re pushing quality not quantity.
3. You scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours.
Facebook is a business. And businesses exist to make money. So while building a connected world is a noble cause, Facebook wouldn’t be able to take part in $19 billion acquisitions if it wasn’t a money-making powerhouse. So what’s happened in full force (and all social media marketers saw the writing on the wall for some time) is that pay to play is now permission to play. If you want to get your content in front of more people, you have to spend on promoted posts. But don’t worry, when you spend on one post, it will organically help your reach a bit after. Remember, Facebook will show your content to people who have previously interacted with your content. When you spend for an engagement once, you’ll get the opportunity to engage that person again, this time organically.
While all these changes make sense when you look at them through the lens of the consumer (it does create a better experience for them), it’s making things increasingly more challenging for brands and marketers alike. When we all take a step back, it’s hard not to ask ourselves: When it comes to Facebook content, what’s the point? And to that I say, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Great content still resonates with your consumers, the advertising platform is allowing us to hyper-target at even more granular levels than before, and following some simple guidelines can get you in the News Feed.
Here’s a quick tip sheet:
- Keep it short and compelling. I recently spoke on a panel about the future of content and publishing. The single most tweeted statement I made was this: We’re a headline culture. What I meant is that we read headlines, not articles. I guarantee most of the tweets from this very post won’t have even read it in its entirety. We want to digest quick and interesting pieces of information. When you’re creating content or hiring copywriters, look to employ the same techniques that work for great headlines
- Include a call-to-action. Remember, impressions are low when engagement is low. Make sure your content encourages engagement–whether you ask for it directly or imply it in the copy.
- Use rich media. Another change in Facebook’s algorithm was around text-only content. At one time, Facebook would organically give greater reach to text-only updates. Then, it got smart and was able to determine what posts were coming from brands and what posts were coming from friends. Friends posting text-only got the reach, but brands got it taken away. Content from a brand is all weighed the same; there are no easy ways to cheat the reach system. Now, you need to just stand out, and rich media (think big, bold images and video) are what will get attention. Pro-tip: Think about it from the consumer perspective and you’ll realize the content needs to feel gritty and not too polished. You want to capture attention AND get engagement. A billboard from your brand won’t do it. Your media should look too good to be created by the average person, but not so good that you expect to see it in the pages of a magazine.