In January of this year, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be making significant changes to its News Feed algorithm over the next few months. The new algorithm will prioritise content from friends, family, and groups, at the expense of public content from businesses, brands, and media organisations.
Why? Zuckerberg explains that “recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” Zuckerberg wants to fight this trend and facilitate more meaningful online interactions. He cites research which suggests that social media is only good for a user’s wellbeing if they use it to connect with the people they care about. This follows a post in November of last year which claimed that too much “passive” social media use, such as watching videos and reading articles, could be harmful.
What does this mean for businesses? At face value, it might seem pretty bad. Businesses have had their organic reach falling for some time now, and it can be tempting to see this algorithm change as the nail in the coffin. This, however, would be too hasty. All the new algorithm really does is weigh posts which generate genuine interactions such as shares and comments (the longer the better!) more heavily than those which generate simple likes and reactions. It is perfectly possible for businesses to keep up a wide organic reach by producing well-timed, engaging, high quality content that encourages their audience to interact. Sound like a challenge? Here are some tips to help get you started:
- Know your audience
If you want your audience to engage with your posts, you need to know what makes them tick. Facebook Audience Insights is a tool designed to help marketeers learn more about their target audience, providing aggregated and anonymised data on the age, gender, lifestyle, interests, and educational background of existing and potential customers. Insights also provides information on where, when, and how people access Facebook. Once you know the composition of your audience, you’ll be able to tailor and target your content in order to make it as relevant and engaging as possible – you can even time your posts to coincide when your target audience is most active on Facebook.
- Encourage meaningful engagement
You might think that you can get around the new algorithm by simply prompting your audience to comment on your post. However, posts with headlines like ‘Comment if you like chocolate!’ or ‘Tag a friend who would eat this’ hardly promote genuine interactions. In fact, posting this kind of content is known as ‘engagement baiting’ and Facebook has made it clear that they “will continue to demote these posts in News Feeds”.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can encourage meaningful engagement. One great way to engage your audience is to ask for their advice and / or stories about the products or services they use. If you’re a delivery company, for example, you could ask for people’s best and worst delivery experiences. If you’re a pet store, you could ask what people do to keep their pets warm in winter.
Another great way to engage people with your content is to have them feature directly in that content. Celebrate your customer’s stories (with their permission, of course) and you’ll find that they not only share your post themselves, but that their friends and family do too. If, for instance, someone’s been coming into your café every week for the last ten years, you can see if they’re up for a photoshoot and telling the world a little bit about why they keep on coming back.
- Build a following
After the algorithm change, users will still have the ability to make sure they always see content from their favourite brands by following their page and selecting the ‘See First’ option. You can encourage your customers to follow your own page by keeping it up to date and using it as an exclusive platform for announcing important information such as discounts and sales. The more dedicated followers you have, the wider and more sustainable your reach.
- Go Live
Zuckerberg noted in his own announcement that live videos tended to generate far more interaction than pre-recorded footage. As Miguel Lantigua, social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations puts it, “for brands that haven’t done this yet, this is the signal to get on board the live video train.” Some of the most popular live videos go behind the scenes to explore how the product is made or involve demonstrating and launching a new product. Simple Q&A sessions with customers are also a big hit.
- Make a group
Facebook have stated explicitly that content from groups will be prioritised, and so it would be foolish not to form your own for your dedicated fanbase. In July of last year, Facebook launched ‘Groups for Pages’, which allows you to link groups to your pages. So, you can form a group, link to your page, and direct your followers to join. Once they’re members, you can interact with them more directly and facilitate discussion between them on a regular basis.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Facebook may change their algorithm again, and indeed that any social media site may change their algorithm in the future. You can minimise the impact of these changes by having a strong presence on multiple sites – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – but also by having a successful platform that you control. It’s therefore important not to neglect your own website and mailing list. As Aly Jamison, owner of Jamison PR says, “Invest in social media, but know that at any point you could lose that reach and traffic channel.”