What Marketers Need to Know About Facebook’s Planned News Feed Changes
It’s probably come to all of our attention by now that Facebook is no longer playing nice when it comes to marketing. Not only is the social platform becoming more independent by the day (vowing to create its own search tool in place of Microsoft’s Bing), it’s also taking more control over how content is compiled and optimized.
Following a recent survey in 2014 involving over 7000 Facebook users, the social network has decided to clamp down on brands and businesses trying to promote their services on Facebook, in order to improve the quality of users’ news feeds.
So if you want to retain your existing social media presence, it’s time to read up on some changes that Facebook has planned for 2015 and take appropriate action.
Engagement Over Promotion
According to the 2014 update, the platform will be throttling the reach of posts that:
- Promote a specific product or service
- Re-use the same content as an advert
- Promote a particular call to action (such as entering a sweepstake or prize draw)
What does that mean for marketers and businesses?
First of all, it means that we can expect much less organic reach from promotional posts or posts with a means to gain a sale/gain a customer. Second of all, as a result of this, it’s going to mean a huge change in the way brands use Facebook to market and manage their business.
Businesses therefore have two choices:
- Purchase Facebook Advertising to get their promotional content out to a wide range of users, to the right demographics, at the right times.
- Make their posts more human; genuinely engaging, and more natural. (For brands that already have a strong presence and loyal Facebook following, this will not be difficult.)
How to Get Beat the Organic Reach Cap
We’d all like more organic reach on social media, but with levels on Facebook being down to just 2% as of February 2014, this doesn’t look likely to be an option. However, if marketers view their Facebook page as a medium through which they can gauge and interact with fans – not simply as a selling platform – there’s no real reason to be worried.
The type of content that gets seen on Facebook is that which provides real value to the reader – something they can learn from, or be entertained by. The more appealing and useful your content is, the more likely it is to be shared by users, thus boosting your organic reach.
Here are some steps you can take to begin revamping your Facebook strategy.
Evaluate your most recent 10-20 posts and determine how many of them are ultimately promotional in nature. Even if the text accompanying the link does not seem immediately promotional, try to imagine how you would feel reading it as an ordinary Facebook user.
See which of your posts have been getting the most engagement so far and, if possible, run a ‘post test to try different styles of post; types of content and tones of voice, to see what works best. When doing this it’s important to think about who the majority of your audience is. Are you posting the best content likely to appeal to your largest and most profitable demographic?
3. Consider Cross-Posting (but don’t overdo it)
As of March 2014, cross-posting Instagram photos to Facebook pages was found to help boost organic reach and natural engagement. Since there has been no update since then, however, it’s uncertain as to whether Facebook is still allowing such posts to gain favour.
Test the waters by including one or two synced Instagram posts in your trialing, but avoid making cross-posting a primary solution to getting more reach for your Instagram feed. This is 2015 now, and users want to have a reason to follow all of your feeds. Keep things varied on each social platform and only cross-post the things you think will be genuinely relevant to your audience.
4. Watch Your Structure
The structure of your posts can also have an effect on how many people will see them. Linked posts, for example (posts including an external web link) can be structured as follows:
- Text with the link embedded, displaying a featured image and a snippet/meta description of the content
- Photo with the link included as a caption
- No link, but just a photo with the call to action and/or web link included as part of the image.
Facebook’s survey was able to conclude that the first type – a post with a link and snippet – is most popular with users, as people like to be able to gain insight into what they are clicking before they choose to click through or not. However, the other two link-posting styles can work for less time-sensitive or less high-profile updates.
If Facebook is going to pull the right information for your content using the Open Graph tags, your content will need to be appropriately optimised to start with. And if it still refuses to display the image and snippet you want, head to the Open Graph Debugger tool to tell Facebook it goofed.
Value of Facebook Insights
Facebook has, however, done some things to make posting easier for marketers – starting with Facebook Insights. Use the Insights tool to see when you have the highest number of fans online. Post your most important content out on peak days, and pay attention to peak times of day for planning the rest of your posts.
You can also use this tool to view the demographics of your audience and determine what content will be enjoyed most by whom. Save Facebook for your best and most targeted content only, and remember to respond to all user engagement in order to stimulate further engagement from others.
The New Role of the Facebook Page
It’s high time that marketers realised the wide potential of Facebook pages beyond that of marketing. A brand can use its Facebook page for:
- Gauging audience interests and preferences
- Customer service
- A source of reliable, authoritative information, or of valuable entertainment
- Showing insight into your business, thus improving transparency and trustworthiness.