The new Facebook algorithm will have a significant impact on how brands get their message out.
I was going to write this month’s blog on why brands should increase their video content this year. Until Mark Zuckerberg rained on everyone’s parade and changed Facebook’s algorithm. Oh if only he’d announced it last year before everyone’s media budgets were signed off. Because the biggest thing this algorithm change is going to affect is your budget.
The algorithm is the mechanism that determines how users see content in their newsfeeds. Long ago it was purely chronological – nice and simple, and if you ask ordinary people what they prefer, most would say that was the most meaningful and honest version of the newsfeed. Instagram followed suit and changed its algorithm from chronological to something obscure, and I still see people moaning about the change and that they keep missing their friends.
According to Zuckerberg, the new algorithm places more emphasis on meaningful interactions, rather than content which users consume passively. How does it do this? Basically, posts from friends and family are prioritised. These posts also get dibs on the newsfeed. To determine what meaningful is, Facebook looks at the interaction each post gets. Shares and comments trump likes. And the longer the comments, the more meaningful Facebook sees the post. So if you get all that right, Facebook sees this as a worthwhile piece of content and bumps it into newsfeeds.
The new algorithm has been called Facebook Zero, basically because if brand posts don’t meet the ‘meaningful’ mark, you can expect zero organic reach. In a nutshell, it means there is no more free ride.
Of course the algorithm does not affect the weighting of sponsored ads. In fact it plays nicely into the company’s pockets – in order to get posts into newsfeeds, brands must boost. And so we get back to your budget. But don’t despair. Here are some key factors to remember for your Facebook marketing plan. (Take note for Instagram as it is Facebook-owned so likely to follow suit.)
Facebook Zero Cheat Sheet
1. Boost every post
Even if you have a cracker of a content idea, you risk obscurity. So put budget behind it.
Shift to posting less often and boosting everything.
3. Nobody goes directly to a fan page
People use their newsfeeds. Don’t expect your customers to say: “Oh I wonder what Brand X was up to today”.
Given point three above, start to segment your audience and create the content accordingly. Then refine your audience parameters and boost the posts to match the segmentation.
5. Organic reach
The only way to get organic reach is to have content that people share and comment on. Longer comments carry more weight. Relevance is key here.
6. Audience baiting
You cannot bait your audience into commenting and sharing, but you can encourage user-generated content. For example, a DIY brand asking people to share their latest project with images and details.
7. Size is irrelevant
One of the startling things about the algorithm is that the size of your following now means nothing because you’ll get into newsfeeds through ads. And remember you can include your followers in the audience parameters.
8. See First
It’s not totally out of our hands, people can choose to See First. This sets your content as a priority in the newsfeed. There is no harm in creating a little explainer video showing people how to use the See First setting.
9. Instant articles
This is the way forward for all blog content – keeping it in the app. You can still direct readers to the brand website at the end of the article. If people spend time reading an article, it will ping as worthwhile content and Facebook will upweight it into newsfeeds.
10. Messenger bots
These are a huge opportunity for brands and have been very good at generating sales leads for the likes of insurance companies. Again, Facebook measures the time people spend interacting with the bot and then upweights the post that generates the interaction.
11. Sweetspot video
This brings me back to the blog I was originally going to write – creating more video. Engagement on Facebook has always been higher on average for video than a normal post. Use this to your advantage. Make videos relevant and meaningful to your audience and there’s a good chance of people commenting and sharing. Short, 15-second videos are a winner, especially for brands with a tight budget, and we’ll see more of these this year. But longer videos are good too, if the content is relevant and holds attention to the end. At the end of the day, however, there is no way around it: brands must spend money to guarantee eyeballs.
Robyn Daly is content director at Narrative, an award-winning content marketing agency.