Don’t Panic – Facebook’s New Algorithm Change is No Armageddon!
A few years ago, Google said that it would start penalizing websites that were not responsive or mobile friendly. It was hailed as MobileGeddon!! Website companies the world-over blogged and emailed and advertised great rates for building responsive websites. It was a call to action for sure, a warning by the 800lb gorilla in the room (Google) that the world was shifting to mobile and that if you had a website, you probably should too … it was hardly an end-of-the-world scenario and neither was last week’s announcement about the new Facebook algorithm by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Inc. Magazine and other venerable business publications have started writing about the end of Facebook referral traffic. But while publishers and the media will definitely have to rethink how they attract views to their content, brands will be affected much less.
Brands have been treating Facebook like the “pay-to-play” platform that it is for a long time, and this algorithm change will not affect that model. The new Facebook is designed to filter out more of the “click-bait” type posts, memes that ask you to like or share if you think a post is cool or cute or you want to shame the #haters. They actually started doing that in June of last year, so it’s not actually new. But the intent here is to force brands to create more meaningful content. Content that matters to constituents, content that encourages interaction, beyond the common like or share.
Brands have been aware that they get little if any visibility from unpaid content on Facebook for some time now since the “throttling” of content that occurred back in 2014, forcing brands to pay for what they had been enjoying gratis. This trend will continue and the cost of advertising is expected to rise in future as inventory declines. This may encourage brands to interact with customers offline, in ways that will have an impact online. For instance, offering something of value in the real world (a free soft drink or points on a reward card) in exchange for some interaction online (Facebook’s new algorithm gives comments and replies greater value than likes and shares). This means we will likely see brands encouraging those interactions in store, from pulpits and on websites, but not on Facebook as that behavior is the very thing Facebook’s new algorithm is designed to punish.
Facebook has not yet said how much meddling if any, they will do with Facebook Live, so for the time being, brands can still leverage that channel in the organic, non-boosted news feed of fans, but the future of this remains uncertain. Instagram is also still a viable option for organic content since Facebook has yet to make such sweeping change on that platform, although we do not imagine this to last forever. Businesses can also add other social venues to their overall digital marketing strategy, such as Snapchat and should also be taking advantage of Google posts on their Google My Business page.
Email marketing is also a solid enhancement to social media marketing and is very effective at generating engagement, in most cases higher than that of social media. Click-through rates as high as 3.5%-4% depending on the industry are not unheard of and can be higher if the database of addresses is a cultivated list of existing clients, patients of customers.
As we see it, now more than ever, brands need to create the type of content that breaks through the noise and engages users in an authentic way. Videos continue to show an increase in engagement over straight text and even images, so now it is essential to include original video in your social media marketing plan. One way to do this is by publishing “value-based” content in order to give followers what they are looking for. This can be in the form of announcements or emotional videos that are created in ways that either reveal a pain point or elicit great pleasure. Another thing to consider when posting on Facebook is to ensure that you are speaking to followers as a friend, rather than pushing your brand or relying on sales-type language when sharing organically.
Brands are always going to be at the algorithmic whim of companies like Facebook and Google, but do keep in mind that both these giants rely on businesses to pay the bills. Facebook may have almost 2 billion users, but the revenue generated comes from businesses and brands, not posters of kitty-pics and vacation videos. With that said, while there may be twists and turns to keep us all from bending the rules or gaining an unfair advantage over the unwitting consumer, in the end, these companies want us to spend ad dollars to reach their audience and will always offer ways to segment, target and entice that audience to buy our products.
Last week’s news may have caused a ripple in the fabric of digital marketing, but like the old proverb says … “this too shall pass”. Reach out to your digital marketing agency (you do have one, right?) and work out a strategy to diversify your ad spend, maximize your reach, ride over these bumps in the road and plan to reach more people, more times, for less money … Now, where have I heard THAT before?
Director – The Ad Buyer