We chatted with the founder of Social Media Examiner to learn more about Facebook’s News Feed algorithm changes and what they mean for your business.
At the beginning of each new year, Mark Zuckerberg shares his goals for himself and his company in the coming months. 2018’s remarks included “making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent”. But what could this mean for the company’s News Feed—one of the most used parts of the internet in the world?
“This will be a serious year of self-improvement and I’m looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together,” he shared in his resolution.
Facebook didn’t dawdle making good on its co-founder’s promises. The company announced a shift in priority in its News Feed, and is optimistic a shift in the quality its users get out of using the social media platform will follow.
“Just last week Zuckerberg said that he’s vowed to clean up Facebook,” shared Michael Stelzner, Founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner. “We’ve seen the signals the last few months […] This is just the beginning of changes from Facebook.”
The new algorithm will prioritize what a user’s friends and family share and comment on. Pages—most notably the way businesses, publishers, and people who decided cat videos should rule the internet—will take a back seat. For many of us on a personal level, this is great news.
Good for Users
“In surveys of Facebook users, people said they felt the site had shifted too far away from friends and family-related content, especially amid a swell of outside posts from brands, publishers, and media companies,” The New York Times shared.
But it goes deeper than that. In a post to its newsroom in December of 2017, Facebook publicly acknowledged that the passive consumption of information—where there is no need or want for the user to interact with the article or video—is bad for a person’s mood. This was further supported by a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2015, which extrapolated on the negative effect even just 10 minutes a day of passive usage has on students.
“Zuckerberg wants people to feel good about using Facebook. This sentiment most like comes from how the News Feed evolved during the election,” said Stelzner. “People were tuning it out.
“There’s a competitive threat from other platforms. But no guy on the planet has more data on these types of interactions. Zuckerberg and his team noticed a pattern change and knew something had to shift.”
Bad for Companies?
What’s good for the casual user, however, is not good for the millions of businesses that use Facebook as the tentpole in their outreach strategies.
Many publishers, nonprofits, small businesses, and other groups that may lack a huge advertising budget have, up until today, relied on Facebook to connect with its marketplace, current consumers, and prospective customers. Under the new algorithm, Facebook will mostly likely de-emphasize the mostly-passive content these organizations push out, potentially hurting these brands in the short term.
Adam Mosseri, VP of Product Management at Facebook who is responsible for running the News Feed, made it clear that there will most likely be “anxiety” from these players on the social media platform.
“One of the important takeaways from this release is that Facebook is committed to showing less public content on the News Feed, including videos and posts from businesses. They’ve never used the phrase ‘public content’ before, so this is a big deal” Stelzner explained. “They’re not going to be showing videos and posts from businesses in the same way. Part of that is for a cleaner user experience. Part of it is to open up advertising revenue for Facebook.”
Stelzner believes that for the more than 65 million business pages on Facebook, currently, less than five percent of them pay to advertise.
“This is a big threat for businesses that use Facebook as their primary social medium,” Stelzner said. “Pages began seeing declines over the past several months that have amounted to massive declines recently. Now they’re going to have to come to the table willing to pay for content to be seen.”
Facebook is known for its small, incremental changes in algorithms and strategies, and while Stelzner acknowledged that things are probably going to get worse before it gets better for companies, this is not the end of value from Facebook for business.
“As long as there are two billion people using Facebook, there will be value for businesses. They just have to figure out how they fit in.”
Although it’s too early to definitively determine what this means for businesses, Stelzner and Social Media Examiner have a few preemptive tips to start working on to evolve your social media platform strategy to align with Facebook’s News Feed announcement.
Accept That The Rules Can, and Will, Change
There is always an uproar when Facebook changes its experience. It’s important that your business realizes that this is not the last time things will shift.
“Social platforms can and will change the rules whenever they want,” Stelzner stated. “If you’re not developing deep communities on Facebook, and you’re not prepared for change, this could have a huge, negative financial impact.”
Create Edu-Tainment Content
Stelzner predicts one strategy that will gain a lot more steam is the creation of edutainment content.
“Companies will need to begin doing a lot more story-telling with their videos and content. Think the History or Discovery channel. Think episodic content. People have a big, insatiable appetite for this type of content, and it could drive interaction.”
This is key, as the more interaction—through likes, comments, and shares—a post gets on Facebook’s revamped News Feed, the more likely it will rank higher in the company’s new algorithm.
Live Video is a Must
Live video will be crucial to a brand’s social media presence.
“There’s so much value in going to your tribe and having a dialogue. Doing a live show once a week could create conversation. Businesses are scared to go live, but Facebook makes it easy,” he commented.
Zuckerberg predicted that a day might come where everything on the social media platform’s News Feed will be video. Is this the first step to that reality?
If You’re Staying on Facebook, Learn Facebook Ads
“News Feed equals Main Street,” Stelzner said, “ and businesses must learn how to advertise there.”
If Facebook is going to continue to be a part of your business’s strategy, there’s no way around it anymore: you’ll have to make a budget for advertising.
Stelzner predicts that businesses will become more strategic with the content they share. Instead of posting everything, posts with more value will become the promoted priority.
“The future of this is going to look very different, possibly similar to choosing a channel through cable.”
Collaborate with Colleagues
You’re not going to have all of the answers yourself—it’s time to go and meet with your colleagues and other experts in your field and marketing.
Social Media Marketing World is Social Media Examiner’s tentpole event and is taking place at the end of February. Stelzner knows this change will be the talk of the town. With 5,000 marketers in one place, there are bound to be a plethora of ideas on how to handle this shift.
It’s Time for Diversification
To the CEOs and marketing teams of all small businesses: this is the time to make sure not all of your eggs are in the Facebook basket.
“It’s a time for them to diversify,” said Stelzner. “If your business doesn’t have an audience on other platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram, now is the time to build.”
While this algorithm change doesn’t mean the end of Facebook for businesses, it’s not bad to have a backup plan, right?