Facebook News Feed Changes - Same-Same, But Different
By Simon Wedde
Facebook changing the rules of the game is nothing new and is understandable - after all, it has a brand and a business model it needs to nurture.
It started with tightening the tap on organic reach over the last few years. Organic reach has been steadily declining since 2012 and currently, the average organic reach for pages is just 2-6%. We’ve all adjusted to this new reality, and the sky didn’t fall in. Facebook is still working exceptionally well, at least as a marketing and engagement platform. Then, in December, it shifted the dial slightly, announcing it was making an update to the News Feed ranking that will help show videos in people’s News Feeds that they are proactively seeking out and coming back to on the platform.
Most recently, on January 11, Facebook announced significant changes to the News Feed ranking algorithm prioritising content that "sparks conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”
The truth behind the Facebook algorithm change
There are lots of speculative theories about why Facebook may be making these changes. Mark Zuckerberg may very well want his daughters to “feel like what their father built was good for the world”, and you can’t fault that motivation.
Or, it may be that without more relevant content from family and friends, Facebook’s usage metrics would have declined. It's impossible to tell, but what we now know for sure is that this algorithm change has resulted in a reduction of time spent on Facebook to the tune of 50 million hours every day (roughly 5%).
Regardless, the upshot is that Facebook will show less public content from businesses, brands and media that people absorb passively, without discussing or sharing. And Facebook execs are confident that this will eventually bring usership back up.
The new prioritisation of friend and family content on users’ News Feeds will likely reduce the volume of impressions from publishers, which will impact overall inventory. That is, organic posts from brands are going to quickly disappear, while the value of paid support may actually increase because of the change.
The flow-on effects are likely to be that media costs will rise as more businesses chase this inventory. However, it needs to be said that Facebook is assuring us it is business as usual, and you would have to think it doesn’t want to cut its nose off to spite its face.
Advertising metrics VS business outcomes
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Facebook remains an amazingly powerful platform for reaching the right people, with the right message at the right time. It has become much more than another social network that garners clicks, engagements and likes. It's the world's largest database, with 2 billion active people, and has capabilities beyond most other platforms.
For example, using attribution measurement, it's never been easier to deliver actual business outcomes using Facebook - things like data capture and revenue.
The real opportunity that exists on Facebook is implementing a strategy that measures and delivers these types of business metrics, rather than digital metrics like likes and clicks, which can be a false proxy for success, as discovered by Cisco Networking Academy in a recent campaign with krunch.co.
How to stand out in the News Feed crowd
However, you can't just rely on robust data and strategy - you need compelling content that is purpose fit for your strategy. Combining all of the above delivers truly transformative digital marketing - the kind that delivers on business outcomes.
So what can you do?
- Build brands through quality content, not just reach. Brands need to up the game on built-for-social, high-quality content that engages people and stops thumbs.
- Try new formats (eg: episodical or series videos, live videos...the 2020 version of the Anchor Family?);
- Integrate offline and online activity through new tools like the Facebook Local app.
- Build a genuine community rather than just panning for superficial engagements with competitions or incentives..instead, motivating longer and authentic comments.
Customer experience wins all
Ultimately, if these changes to the News Feed algorithm achieve what Facebook wants them to do, it will be good for all - keeping people engaged with the platform and encouraging publishers to genuinely connect with their audiences.
And, of course, through digitization, stronger brand engagement and ownership of the customer relationship (and their data) businesses can reduce their dependence on platforms they don’t own (Amazon anyone?). Otherwise, brands will always be at the mercy of media platform changes.
So it is same-same, but different - because yes, these algorithm changes might have made it a little bit harder, but she who owns the relationship with the customer wins.