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Facebook’s algorithm change and how it affects publishers

Facebook Algorithim change

Last week, Facebook announced changes to its News Feed algorithms which could have huge consequences for publishers, small businesses and influencers who rely on Facebook as one of their key social platforms.

This change is largely prompted by the damaging impact of fake news on Facebook’s reputation, as well as Facebook’s desire to (1) increase its revenue from paid advertising and (2) re-engage a user base who are interacting with content in the news feed less than they used to.

What is the change?

Facebook is now attempting to make its News Feed a place for active interaction, rather than passive observation. This is due to an increasing number of people using Facebook as a platform for browsing, instead of interacting with content. By prioritising content which generates discussions, reactions and shares—and showing this content higher up in users’ feeds—Facebook hopes to help enhance relationships between its users.

This signals a return to the family-and-friends focus which was the initial foundation of the social network. When Facebook first began to prioritise publishers, both via organic and paid advertising, it was a move which initially benefited the network, though it also fostered the environment which allowed for the rise of fake news.

What does this mean for publishers?

For publishers who rely on high-frequency posting of organic content, this change is significant. Content which doesn’t generate either discussions between Facebook users or a large number of reactions will immediately be downgraded in the News Feed.

The kind of content that will continue to rank highly will be that which generates high levels of conversation and reaction. Content which does this whilst utilising Facebook’s native tools for video (live video in particular) will also rank highly.

Publishers and local businesses who have often relied on “engagement bait” tactics, such as offering users an incentive to like or share their content, will see their posts actively demoted in the News Feed.

An important thing to note is that this update does not mean that content from pages or publishers will be removed from the News Feed; it simply means that users will see less of it.

Will this affect paid advertising?

Currently, there’s no indication from Facebook that the change will have a large impact on paid for advertising campaigns, except that it may increase competition for News Feed real estate. This could, in turn, drive up the price of advertising on Facebook—though it remains to be seen just how large of an impact, if any, this will have on paid for posts.

So, what now?

In actuality, the change merely perpetuates what industry experts have been saying for the past couple of years when it comes to social media: consistent, high-quality content is king. In 2018, less is very much more. If brands and publishers wish to engage with audiences on Facebook, they will have to increase the quality of their content rather than frequency of posts.

Video should be a priority for all pages; its rise is seemingly unstoppable and Facebook will look positively on pages using its native tools to upload and share multimedia content. But simply filming content won’t be enough; it will have to provide value. This means brands have to refine their approach to multimedia. Shaky direct mobile uploads won’t be enough. Social campaigns will require coherent strategy, strong copy, high-quality photographs and excellent video.

If publishers and small businesses reassess their content strategies to ensure that their posts are informative, engaging and relevant to their audience, then it is still possible for them to gain traction. Pages and businesses should also use the time before this change takes full effect to remind users that they can still prioritise content from their page with the “see first” option.

The direct organic reach of content shared by pages will absolutely decline as a result of this change, but if content is being liked and shared by friends and family it will still reach people in the News Feed.

A new approach

The challenge for agencies, brands and small businesses will be adapting current budgets and content strategy, as well as moving on new technological trends such as the emergence of social SEO, the recent experimentations with advertising within the Messenger app, as well as investing in further paid advertising on the platform.

It is also worth noting that this change could see huge improvements in the news feed for Facebook users themselves. If the platform is successful at re-engaging its users, this could provide new opportunities to reach engaged audiences for brands who are willing to adapt to the changes and invest appropriately in great content which is valuable to their audiences.

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