Facebook's News Feed Algorithm Change: What It Means For Your Facebook Marketing Strategy
Facebook turned 10 this month! This seems like a birthday worth celebrating as we have all watched Facebook grow from an exclusive college-only social club to a social platform dominating the internet and connecting the entire world through likes, pokes, and shares. I remember several years back peering over my sister’s shoulders while she used dial-up internet to connect to this mysterious thing called Facebook on the family computer, which resembled an oversized microwave and weighed more than my dog (who was not “health-conscious”).
The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie recently interviewed Zuckerberg and asked if headlines like “Facebook’s For Your Grandma” bother him, but why should they? As Zuckerberg pointed out, “We pay attention to every demographic in every country.”
With over 1 billion active users, it is pretty clear that Facebook is a crucial vehicle for every marketer to be advertising on (your target audience is on there somewhere!) or at the very least have some sort of presence on. But with the newest change in what Facebook will display on one’s news feed, it might be a bit more difficult for social marketers to reach their buyer personas.
How Did Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Change?
As you know, search and social algorithms are always changing, but with Facebook it is clear that as time goes on it is becoming more and more difficult for marketers to reach their potential customers. Back in the day the typical Facebook marketing strategy included creating a company Facebook page, posting on a regular basis, and interacting with those who wrote on your wall or commented on your content. Now to get great exposure marketers need not only eye-catching, engaging content, but must also keep up-to-date with ever-changing product updates, use complex strategies to grow their audience, and often invest in some paid social advertising.
So let’s talk about the new algorithm. Previously social marketers could share an interesting tidbit of text, possibly even re-purposing a company tweet, paste a link if relevant, post and all was merry and grand. Now Facebook has taken a step back, and has found that users are really not that interested in seeing boring business text updates – and that makes sense, wouldn’t you say? Facebook users are interested in what their college buddy Bob or sister Lola are up to, but they could care less about Chipotle’s Valentine’s Day Haiku (not to hate on Chipotle – their rice bowls are delicious). The new algorithm is encouraging more “link-sharing” i.e. when you share a link and it generates the small preview of the article and a photo as opposed to simply pasting a link with plain text.
Facebook wants this (link-share with social media image):
Not this (text ad with link):
Chris Turitzin, Product Manager at Facebook wrote, “Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types.”
So let’s dive into what this means for your social media marketing strategy.
Your Facebook Marketing Strategy: How to Make the Facebook News Feed Update Work for You
You’ll need to share more visual and media-rich content.
If you have been marketing on Facebook at all you probably are already aware that visually engaging content far outperforms non-visual content. This is now even more important since Facebook has taken it upon themselves to limit the exposure of text content from business pages. I understand this can be challenging – visual content can be expensive, time-consuming to acquire, and there are all sorts of restrictions on sharing photos that you do not technically own (in most cases it is illegal to just grab photos from a Google image search). Of course you can always outsource for quality media-rich content or purchase photos through sites like iStockPhoto and ShutterFly, but this can get expensive. So what can you do to ease the pain?
- Create a company dropbox, and request employees to share photos from the office or related to your business. For example if you own an outdoor apparel website ask your employees to share photos from their active lives (or from people they observe being active if they’re more of the Netflix and Doritos type). Offer a gift card to the employee who shares the most quality photos that month. Starbucks does a great job of this, and I’d be willing to guess they utilize employees for a lot of these photos.
- Ask your happy customers to share photos – Focus on those that are promoters. Maybe you have worked with them for a case study or a joint speaking opportunity in the past. Prompt them with a reward – for example, if you sell software you could offer a few months for free in exchange for sharing their photos of them utilizing your services or products.
- Utilize office hours and company events to gather high-quality photos of employees interacting. Not only will this humanize your brand and make it more attractive to your followers and potential customers, it is truly an easy way to get great photos quickly. Here at WordStream we do this all the time! For example this album was shared from our holiday party in January.
Find alternative ways to drive visitors.
A large change was made to the Facebook News Feed in December, which emphasized that they would be giving “high-quality content” more visibility and reducing the presence of “memes.”
According to Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson, “Facebook's December change made it so that when they posted to Facebook through their fan pages, a shockingly small amount of their ‘fans’ actually saw their post. Cookbook author Stephanie Stiavetti said that when she posts now, only 100 or so of her 8,000 fans see her updates.”
A lot of small businesses that do not have the marketing budget to drive brand awareness were pissed when this new algorithm rolled out – just check out Stephanie’s furious blog post on the topic. And now Facebook’s news feed is becoming even more restrictive, so marketers need to find other ways to drive engagement to their Facebook fan pages. Here are a few alternative ways to drive Facebook traffic aside from the news feed:
Leverage other social channels.
Leverage other channels to distribute messaging that directs users to actively engage with your Facebook page. If you get your page on a user’s radar they are more likely to like your page and interact with your content, which ups your chances of appearing not only on that individual person’s news feed, but in front of everyone who follows that person. See the example below, which appeared in my news feed since three of my Facebook friends “liked” Tobi’s page:
Intrigue visitors with a contest.
Expanding on the point above, leverage other channels to drive engagement through incentives to win a prize. I was impressed by Fitness Magazine’s social strategy of using three of their social channels to drive engagement. First I noticed this tweet regarding a prize of $500 to spend on workout gear.
As a running fanatic I was already intrigued – clicking on the link I was then directed to their Facebook page (which I “liked,” and I have been seeing frequent updates on my news feed from them ever since), and finally after entering the contest I was directed to Pinterest, as the CTA was “Pin to win.” I spent a minute or so pinning some items, and voila! I went from viewing one tweet to following and engaging with Fitness Magazine on three different networks in less than a minute.
Include links to company social channels in your email signatures.
This one is pretty straight-forward, and is something that should already be an employee requirement. When you think about how often you send and receive emails, including a simple email signature link to your company social networks is sort of a no-brainer. According to online marketing strategist Frederic Gonzalo, “We sometimes take for granted the fact that employees are a brand’s best ambassadors and that not everybody knows about your Facebook page or Pinterest boards.”
Incorporate Facebook buttons showing and prompting likes and shares on all of your landing pages.
Another no-brainer, especially if your Facebook page has likes already. This will not only prompt visitors to like and share your page, but also serves as social validation of your business, which will increase the likelihood of a conversion. Social media influencer Steve Olenski spoke with Jacob Baadsgard, CEO of Disruptive Advertising, who found that 2,000 or more Facebook likes displaying on a landing page gave a 30% higher conversion rate than without. In the example below you’ll see Evernote has Follow buttons on all their landing pages, and also a Facebook “Like” button which provides social validation of their brand.
My advice to social marketers is that in order to keep up with the social game, you need to be flexible, adaptable, and open to change. Similar to Google's ever-changing algorithms, Facebook, as well as its social neighbors will continue to change, grow, and shock the marketing guru out of you, so make sure you don’t get too comfortable or rely too heavily on any one strategy.
Readers, I’m curious...
What are your thoughts on the most recent Facebook algorithm updates?
What have you done to cope with less visibility of your text ads in the Facebook news feed?
How do you keep up with Facebook's (and other social and search networks) always changing algorithms?