5 Things To Know About Facebook’s Algorithm Change
” To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, we put those posts toward the top of your News Feed.” – Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, (Facebook) News Feed
You may have read that Facebook recently announced an algorithm change, stating that “friends and family” will be prioritized over Page content in the Facebook News Feed. While many writers (particularly The New York Times) have been critical of the change, this is the natural progression of branded content to “pay or play” status anticipated by Oglivy with their provocative “Facebook Zero” pieces.
This is an important development for communication and marketing professionals for sure: any consistent, free benefit of posting to Facebook is effectively nullified. However, the change may not be as drastic as some people are anticipating. Which is only to say that organic Facebook reach has been marginal for a long time.
What I want to do in this post is to share five insights around Facebook’s algorithm change that are important for communication and marketing professionals to know.
1. Pay the man (“Pay” = buy advertising, “the man” = Facebook)
At extreme scales (hyper-local and large-scale), Facebook’s organic reach may have had an impact on sales or awareness. For anyone else, the change from 1-3 percent reach to 0 percent is probably negligible. Most businesses who use Facebook to communicate with audiences already promote posts or explicitly advertise on Facebook.
For communication and marketing professionals who count on a small amount of free promotion through Facebook, this algorithm change should effectively end that. That said, spending a lot of time optimizing content for organic reach (like using Facebook’s now-somewhat-dissonant organic reach optimizer) is probably not an effective use of resource.
2. The importance of Facebook “Fans” diminishes
Vice-Presidential hopeful Mark Cuban broke down the exorbitant costs of communicating with Facebook Fans four years ago. Flash forward a few years and the capability to reach Fans has become even more difficult. Considering acquisition cost and the cost to reach much of your audience, well-targeted advertising on Facebook may be preferable to organic audience building. The practice of restricting reach isn’t entirely disheartening for Cuban: last year he also recommended buying Facebook stock (so he wins either way).
Facebook Fans are largely symbolic for PR and marketing professionals, anymore. They provide a certain amount of social validity, but are ineffective for communication purposes unless Fans are proactive with you (unlikely) or you pay to reach them. AND, with Facebook’s advertising targeting tools it may be as effective to do segmented advertising to prospects as it is to do Fan promotion.
3. Instant Articles aren’t impacted by the News Feed change
Facebook Instant Articles are a new(er) means for publishers to publish mobile-optimized news to the Facebook platform (this is one of the emerging tools for distributed content). You might wonder what impact the algorithm change will have to these, and the short answer is that it shouldn’t.
Instant Articles are (purportedly) independent of the branded News Feed, although the content is tied to your Page. So, while the short answer is that this doesn’t impact your Instant Articles, if you see anything diminishing in your analytics….you may want to revisit that strategy.
4. News Feed changes coincide with the depreciation of Paper
Facebook’s independent Paper app is simultaneously deprecating with brand reach. One of the coolest apps that I rarely use, Paper was intended to allow for simultaneous news and social consumption with improved visuals from the native Facebook app. Despite its design improvement and ease of use, people (like me) didn’t use the app.
Facebook has shown with Messenger and Moments that it sees benefit to standalone apps, so it will be interesting to see if there is a Paper 2.0 for news consumption (similar perhaps to Apple News).
5. This is a pretty masterful PR campaign by Facebook
Whether you relish the thought of an advert-free News Feed or suffer loss aversion for the reach you never had, you have to respect how Facebook positioned their algorithm change. Although the end-state of this is to communicate explicitly to brands that they must use Facebook advertising, they consistently position the change as positive for Facebook users. Despite some criticism in the press (talking to you New York Times), their messaging has been solely focused on the user benefits of the algorithm change.
I suspect that News Feeds will continue to show promotional material (the only change being that it is all paid), and thus very little will be demonstrably different from a user perspective. Yet, Facebook’s revenue will likely increase positioned with a populist message.
The overarching theme of this post is that very little is changing except for talk about change. Businesses who were getting little benefit from organic Facebook posts will get less than little, and users will continue to see promotional content on Facebook — all of it will be paid. After deprecation, Paper’s audience will remain more or less the same as it has been. And Instant Article distribution won’t change… unless it does.
So here’s a thought experiment: if Facebook didn’t tell you it was changing their News Feed algorithm, would you realize it changed?
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