So Facebook makes an algorithmic change, and the end result is mad panic and hysteria.
In contrast, Google makes on average 550 changes to its algorithm every year, but few people lose their minds. Why? Google wants to improve the overall customer experience and ensure that the content we are served is relevant—exactly the same as Facebook is trying to achieve with its latest change.
I’ve read what feels like literally hundreds of posts and articles this year already about the detrimental effect Facebook's changes are going to have on publishers, brands and media companies. The truth is, I actually don’t think things are going to be all that bad. In fact, the complete opposite. I for one am sick of waking up every morning and scrolling through my newsfeed only to see advertisement after advertisement and tons of sponsored content that has zero relevance to me and my everyday life. And clearly I am not alone.
Facebook has plenty of reasons for making these changes, including the negative publicity of late, particularly surrounding the US general election and fake news. But more than that, it has to be about overall user experience. It's no surprise that Facebook's numbers have been slowing and sentiment has not been as positive as in previous years. Due to all the clutter, it feels that the ‘social network’ has lost its ‘social’ element.
How will this affect brands?
The days of organic reach are definitely over. Businesses already have to invest in ads on Facebook to get their content in front of their audiences. But there will be fewer opportunities to buy ads, so the prices will be higher. However, the relevance and return is likely to be much larger. Quality will prevail and the ‘spray and pray’ approach used by most advertisers recently will no longer drive results.
I think the change will also impact the way that we talk about the value of Facebook for advertising, and that the meaningful interactions that are important in paid really are about driving business outcomes, and not about driving engagement for the sake of engagement.
If anything, this update will further support the point of view I have had on using paid social to drive true business objectives—not engagements—for a while now. It will also impact the way we monitor the performance of any boosted content, in case we do see an impact there.
Additionally, paid placements are largely unaffected by the change. Advertisers who boost organic content may see a small impact if the content did not receive enough meaningful interactions before it was boosted, but I really think the impact will be minimal.
My advice to brands:
- Publish less content via your Facebook page, but focus on more meaningful content that reinforces key brand messages.
- Use Facebook advertising for awareness and promotions.
- Stop any engagement baiting in your posts now—the kind of posts that say, ‘Like this for yes, angry for no,’ and so on. This will not work.
- Stop posting any content with a link to your blog or website. You cannot rely on Facebook for traffic.
- Go back to your community and produce content that encourages meaningful one-to-many discussions. Engage with your followers, like the good old days!
- Produce more live videos (not pre-recorded ones). Facebook said Live videos are totalling six times the interactions of non-Live videos.
- Look at setting up groups to build your community; this will ensure you are pushing relevant content to the right people, a sure way to increase the number of meaningful interactions.
- Look at the areas that are growing. Chatbots and messaging should now be a definite focus, alongside your Facebook brand page, creating and maintaining one-to-one conversations with your followers will be key. Social CRM is the way forward.
Lastly, apart from consumers, influencers will also be winners in this change. Connecting with Influencers who have a growing audience that they truly understand will be at a premium for most marketers. It will continue to be the most effective way to influence consumer behaviour via social media and beyond.
The key is for influencers to have a deep understanding of their followers and of their brand's equity. The real question is, will Facebook begin to regulate Influencers and treat their organic content the same way it does businesses? Will Facebook use measure the amount of posts from influencers that seem to contain brands, either in the content or caption, and then begin to penalise their reach, just like it does for media companies and businesses? After all, Influencers began their accounts as regular people, connecting with friends and family and not partnering with brands. Only time will tell.
James Gaubert is head of digital and social at Ogilvy & Mather Malaysia.