Facebook can be a tricky landscape to navigate. One minute you’re on a roll with organic engagement soaring, and the next… an algorithm change that sends your likes, comments and shares spiralling down. But before you reach for quick-fix boosted post and paid adverts, let’s take a look at why the change occurred so that you can adapt your strategy for the long-term.
Why the Change?
Since the 2016 US election, Facebook has come under rapid-fire over the role it plays in distributing news – or more specifically – Fake News. The Russian linked posts that helped influence the election, alongside other foreign interference, has forced Facebook to clamp down on news outlets and give preference to trusted news sources.
There’s that side.
And then there’s the issue of health and wellbeing. Research has shown that feelings of depression and loneliness improved when users interacted with other users via comments, messages and posts to their profile, versus passively scrolling through their feeds for 10+ minutes staring at viral videos, celebrity news and brand posts.
This led Mark Zuckerberg and his team to test a few different strategies. Facebook rolled out a ‘secondary’ News Feed in late 2017 called Explore whereby posts from Facebook Pages people didn’t follow appeared in a separate feed to the Pages & Friends News Feed users did follow. Rather than going ahead with that method, the idea morphed into giving preferential status to friend pages, meaning time spent on Facebook would decrease, but that time would be more valuable. Essentially, Facebook would be going back to the whole reason it was created in the first place: to connect with friends and family.
What Does This Mean For Your Brand?
You’re going to have to learn to predict Facebook’s next move, or at least be flexible about it. Brands were already ‘penalised’ back in 2009 when the algorithm began tracking your movements. It took into account all of your recent posts, checked for signals of what posts you might like, and created predictions on which posts you might like by showing those posts first. This meant brands had to start including paid into their strategy to have their posts be seen. Which makes sense. Facebook is a business and it must make money. But this most recent algorithm change puts greater pressure on brands to be seen – and that means more and more brands will rely predominantly on a fully paid strategy.
And quite frankly, brands shouldn’t. Here are 7 tips for maintaining your organic engagement.
What Can Your Brand Do To Adapt to the 2018 Algorithm Change?
1. Up your Video Game
With Facebook’s investment in WATCH (the company’s dedicated section for TV-like content), they will automatically boost more motion content in an effort to get users and brands to use it. The 90-second stock videos with captions and no sound are going to lose favour to Live Videos and those which elicit discussion within the comments. Facebook has even introduced ‘Watch Party’ in Facebook Groups where members can watch content together and have a live discussion.
2. Create Content which Sparks Discussion
Posts that create an authentic back-and-forth conversation among users will increase your posts’ visibility. That means tagging a friend with a one-liner won’t cut it anymore.
3. Nix the Engagement-bait
While more valuable comments will increase your posts’ reach, explicitly asking your followers to Tag, Like, Comment or Share (especially for a giveaway) will be seen as engagement-bait, and will not work in your favour.
4. Get Creative with How You Ask Things of your Audience
The easiest way to get around this algorithm is to ask your followers to click, “See First’ in their news feed. Your posts will automatically show up once they login. Truly dedicated fans won’t mind the sales pitch, as long as you keep it on brand.
5. Consider starting a Facebook Group
If your business has a loyalty programme or features different membership programmes, or anything of the sort, consider establishing a Facebook Group to connect deeply with that audience and stimulate conversation.
6. Your Audience Needs to Speak for You
Quite a few people have noted that this is a great opportunity to feature your very own users through User Generated Content (UGC). This means taking their reviews and creating paid ads, publishing photos taken by your audience with your product or partnering with key influencers. Depending on your business purposes for Facebook, this might be an area worth exploring.
7. Re-evaluate the Times at which you Post
Facebook Insights are great. But make sure you’re using them in conjunction with Facebook Analytics. Retest optimal posting times by looking at the ‘Active Users by Hour’ feature, or mapping retention. Reacquaint yourself with your audience’s patterns. With the new algorithm, it might be posting less goes a long way…