We all know how Facebook works or at least we thought we knew. Hundreds of thousands of blog posts and guides have been published on Facebook marketing and just as many social media specialists have been raised on these same guides. That’s part of the reason why I have never touched upon Facebook marketing topic on my blog.
But in the light of recent algorithm changes a lot of what we knew about Facebook marketing is no longer valid. It’s about time to step back and reconsider whatever strategy you are executing on Facebook.
What is so special about this Facebook algorithm change?
The news feed algorithm changes all the time, you might think. And you are right. But this time those changes will have a greater impact on business pages, so much bigger that you will end up with zero organic reach if you do not adjust your strategy.
So what the exact change is anyway?
The official statement by Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook, says “With this update, we will also prioritise posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” He then goes on to say that because news feed is limited users will see less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses. Adam also refers to Mark Zuckerberg’s facebook post where he explains this decision in more detail and promises to switch focus from helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
Now what does this mean for brands and businesses?
Your organic Facebook reach will decline even further. We all have seen and acknowledged that organic reach has been going down for quite a while and has been destined to hit zero some time soon.
It all started with a 2014 study by Social@Ogilvy based on the analysis of 100+ Facebook Brand Pages around the world with more than 48 million total fans. The analysis showed that organic Facebook reach had dropped by whopping 49% in just 5 months (Oct 2013 – Feb 2014) allowing brands to reach only 6% of their fan base in February 2014.
Another study conducted by Socialflow, a publishing tool used by media companies such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast and Time Inc, stated that Facebook organic reach has seen another 52% decline from Jan 2016 through mid-July 2017.
Although there is no official data from Facebook, we can reasonably conclude that after all algorithm changes throughout the years, organic Facebook reach is now hovering somewhere below 1% and is not getting any better.
3 Reasons Why
There have been a lot of speculations as per why this is happening and what is the real goal behind all of these changes. The first thing that comes to mind is of course some evil money-making intent, which might as well be true, but let’s go through a few cute logical reasons first.
1. Too much content. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Facebook is the most popular social network with 2B monthly active users and over 60 million active business pages. Facebook generates 4 new petabytes of data per day. Do you even imagine that number? I honestly can’t. So here’s another number to make more sense: more than 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every single day. This means huge competition for the news feed real estate. Only a tiny fraction of all these posts make it to users’ news feed. The funny thing is most business pages reacted to the organic reach decline by creating even more content and eventually making things worse.
2. Relevance and engagement. Another reason why organic Facebook reach goes down is the main goal of catering only the most relevant and engaging content to the user. The less users engage with your brand, the less they will see from you in future. This makes perfect sense from a user perspective and will make brands focus more on quality over quantity in the long run.
3. Social emotional considerations. Not long ago Facebook published a blog post about the psychological impact of social media in our lives. The main point was that spending a lot of time passively consuming information on social networks leaves people feeling bad. Whereas actively engaging with the platform, like posting, messaging and commenting with friends, is linked to improvements in well-being. A-ha! There’s the hook. So with this in mind Facebook will now prioritize posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments, the type of content you want to share and react to.
4. More ad revenue. Although Facebook wouldn’t admit to it, but pushing brands to spend more on ads is a major reason for the algorithm changes. This screenshot from a 2012 official Facebook post says it all 🙂 .
Facebook is now almost entirely a pay-to-play platform. You can either accept it or leave in an imaginary world of free Facebook marketing for another decade.
The New 2018 Facebook Marketing Guide
Now that we said goodbye to organic Facebook reach and wiped our eyes, it’s time to develop a new strategy and move on.
Analyze your existing fan base
The best thing you can do is start with a solid analysis of your facebook followers. Who are they? What type of content do they like most? Understand which posts have had highest engagement rates and why. Dig deeper into reach metrics and try to determine the historical best time to post for your particular page. When you have a full picture of your own best practices, you will be able to better inform your 2018 content plan decisions.
Invest in quality content
Each and every post you share on Facebook should either have a meaning or elicit a feeling. That’s a general rule of thumb you can follow. But ultimately you need to question every single post in your content plan. Why would anyone care about this? Will a busy 28 year old working mom of two react to this post among hundreds of other content pieces? Set a high standard for yourself and keep it.
Facebook is still prioritizing video content over other formats, especially live broadcasts, so try to integrate video into your marketing, if you haven’t already.
Plan for a bigger Facebook advertising budget
With a zero organic reach, even more businesses will turn to advertising as the only effective way to communicate their message. This will eventually lead to higher ad rates, so make sure you are prepared. You will need to spend more to reach the same KPIs you had before.
Optimize your ad campaigns
While your ad budgets grow, you need to be smarter about how you spend your money. Dig deeper into Facebook advertising and start implementing more advanced techniques (like lookalike and custom audiences, conversion tracking with Facebook pixel, etc) that you have been avoiding. Reconsider your targeting and timing. Make sure you are reaching the right people, otherwise your ad ranking will decline as well.
Comply with Facebook news feed values
According to Facebook’s official statement, news feed should inform and entertain. The stories you publish should be meaningful, informative or entertaining for the user. You need to spark a conversation with your posts, encourage comments without being spammy and using “engagement-baits”. Facebook also encourages brands to experiment with LIVE videos, as they tend to have better engagement in general.
Time and time again I come to realize that authenticity is the best strategy. Stay authentic and true to your brand. Don’t post for the sake of posting. But whenever you have something meaningful to share, do it with proper fanfare and push it to the right audiences.