What do the new Facebook changes mean for businesses and brands?

Last Friday (12.01.18) Facebook announced that it would be introducing changes to it’s news feed algorithm in the coming year to ensure that posts by friends and family on Facebook are prioritised in the news feed.  The new look newsfeed will favour “social interactions” over other forms of content. Great news for users but what about businesses and brands?

It was the third paragraph that seemed to hit businesses hard.  “Recently 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,” Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, wrote.

This means there is going to less public content in your newsfeed; less posts from businesses, brands and the media. Perhaps good from the user point of view but if you’re a business it presents a new challenge.

Over the years Facebook has been focused on driving user growth and with over 2 billion users it’s fair to say they’ve been successful. However, former Facebook executives have recently described the negative impacts on consumers from those efforts. Time spent on Facebook has declined in recent years and Facebook is now concerned about user wellbeing and happiness. The social platform’s research shows that strengthening user relationships with friends and family is key to use happiness; hence these post taking priority.

So how can brands combat the new algorithms? As Facebook starts to invest in premium content so too must brands and businesses. The content they share must work harder to engage with their audience.

Bad news for businesses?

Well, yes and no. Yes in that business posts will no longer be a priority. But let’s face it, they haven’t been a priority for years now. In 2011, reach for organic posts was 26%. In 2016 it was 1%. This year it might reach 0%. What does that mean in real terms? If 100 people like your business page, in 2011 just 26 people would see an organic post from your page (on average). Last year that figure was down to just one person. With the new changes it might very well be that no one sees your posts.  But Facebook has been squeezing reach for years now so this new announcement isn’t such a surprise.

Look at it this way, if your reach is already struggling perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to review your approach to Facebook and have a strategy that’s in line with Facebook’s new goals.

Creative Content

To increase organic reach and get your content in front of people, businesses need to be clever with content. Posting randomly when you have something to say or something to flog isn’t going to cut through the newsfeed anymore (did it ever?). Businesses now need to understand what resonates with their audiences and why.

This is bad news if all you want to do is sell and have no interest in interacting with your audience. But if you’re focused on creating great content and you love engaging with your customers you can be a winner in the Facebook game.

The goalposts have moved “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions”. Brands now need to step up and have those meaning social interactions. Are you ready to play?

It’s time to up level your content. But how?

When you look at the businesses doing well out of Facebook, getting good interaction, great comments and incredible reach they are posting with intention and consideration. They are also posting consistently.

Instead of thinking about what you can gain from a post, you need to think about what you can give. Of course you’ll want to post about your business and the services you provide. But perhaps limit your sales driven posts to one in every five.

Do you matter to your audience?

For 2018 Facebook is going back to its roots. It wants to be a place where people can connect with the people who matter to them. Do you matter to your audience? Do they care about you? Do they look forward to hearing from you? If not, how can you make yourself matter to them. Add value to your posts; stop selling and start to be helpful and engaging.

Think ‘am I promoting conversation with this post?’ If you’re not, rethink it and consider the following:

  1. Ask your audience to interact with your posts. Ask questions, invite comment, make people laugh, ask them to share their stories and experiences. Facebook wants to see conversations around your posts. If people are interacting with your post Facebook will consider it a post people are interested in and will push it out to more people.
  2. Research your audience. Know who they are and what their interests are. Share content that might not be related to your business but is related to your audience. Be useful, be helpful and be kind to them. Think, what does my audience want to know, what can I help with? People will trust you, get to know you and when it comes to booking whatever it is you do, they’ll like you and more importantly, they’ll know you care.
  3. With this in mind, why not set up a Facebook group around something relevant to your services? If you run a pre-school, consider setting up a community group for mums and tots? Rather than making it a vehicle to promote your services, be the authority in our area on everything relating to pre-school kids; events going on in the area, a new café that allows pushchairs, great toddler recipe videos, discount vouchers for the local soft play, details of the local summer fair. Make the group a useful resource that people trust and engage with. Be helpful and reliable. And every now and then you can promote what you do; a new toddler session, or share a funny story from a recent session. People will get to know you, they’ll get to trust you and like you. And who knows, they’ll probably start to send their children to your pre-school!
  4. Share your stories, your business failures and learnings, share behind the scenes snippets. Posts of this nature are usually fun, human and real.
  5. Get personal. Think about how much of yourself you’re sharing in your posts. Remember, Facebook wants us to have meaningful conversations. People connect with people, people buy from people so think about the words you’re using. How human do you sound, how genuine and authentic are you posts?
  6. If you’re using scheduling apps (like Buffer, Meet Edgar and Hootsuite) to manage your social, well done for being so organised! But don’t use Facebook via these third party scheduling platforms. Facebook will penalise you for it. Why? Because Facebook has it’s own native scheduling tool. Use that to plan your content and you’ll find your reach may be more favourable.
  7. Start real-time conversations. If you post at 9am and someone comments at 9.02am, make sure you reply by 9.03am (well, it doesn’t have to be to the minute but you get where I’m coming from). If you’ve scheduled your post but are not around at the time of posting you won’t be able to have those all important real-time conversations.
  8. Create a support pod. Ask key members of your network to join a Facebook messenger group. When you know you’re going to be posting something that you’d like people to interact with, message them in advance and ask them to comment as soon after posting as they can (within minutes rather than hours). Although this might not feel authentic, it’s what load of businesses are doing so give it a go.
  9. Be brave and kick-start your content with live video. There’s much more engagement around live video than any other posts on Facebook. The platform is prioritising live video so put some thought into how you can bring your content to life via video. And the key is to keep it live. You want your audience to be commenting in real time and engaging with the video on it happens. So rather than get straight online with video, plan it, share that you’ll be doing a video at a certain time, ask people to comment with things they’d like you to cover. You want as many people to show up as possible but don’t expect high viewing figures initially. You might even find that initially you’re talking to no one. It doesn’t matter. Just get started. Just show up.
  10. And don’t rely on just one platform.  Facebook is changing constantly and you’re at their mercy! So have a great website where you control the content and play around with other, less populated platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.
  11. Pay to Play. Consider paying to advertise on Facebook. I would recommend advertising over boosting posts as the audience refinement is much more targeted. However, still make your paid posts engaging and interactive.  And before setting up a Facebook ad make sure you’ve got Facebook Pixels set up so that you can capture data.

Play the long game

There’s no point wasting time debating whether or not you think the new Facebook changes are fair. What’s important is that businesses are positive of the changes, see them as chance to switch up their Facebook content and be bold and brave. For 2018 embrace and implement changes to your strategy and play the long game. Your Facebook campaign isn’t going to be a quick win but it’ll be a journey to better engagement.

Do let me know how you plan to approach Facebook for 2018. I’d love to hear from you.