You’ll have likely heard over the past week some apocalyptic sounding headlines about the Facebook News Feed updates.

But first – just in case you missed the release from Mark Zuckerberg and his team on the 12th January 2018 – let me give you a recap.

Facebook comes out with regular statements regarding the News Feed algorithm on a fairly regular basis. Usually these are standard, common sense changes which demote brands or people who are spamming the News Feed with ‘click bait’ or inappropriate content. You know, the type of fake news that Donald Trump is always banging on about…

So the fact that Facebook has released this statement is nothing out of the ordinary.

The one thing that is out of the ordinary about this statement is that Facebook – in a sort of vague, non-committal kind of way – have said that this update is going to have a direct impact on brands.

This does all sound like bad news if you’re a business owner, but let’s get into why Facebook has released this statement.

There’s no doubt that people are wasting time on Facebook. It’s likely that if you have a look at your own News Feed, it’ll be filled with articles about Top 10s, puppy videos and lots and lots of video. You could easily while away a morning by endlessly scrolling through the content and occasionally hitting Like on anything you find funny or interesting.

The trouble is that this isn’t why Facebook was set up. Mark Zuckerberg’s big idea back in 2004 was to connect people, not waste their time looking at vaguely interesting content. Now that things have veered off the track, he wants people to get back to creating meaningful relationships and interacting with their real friends and family, and create a space where people want to share news about their life.

Because let’s face it, who actually shares information or updates about themselves on their Facebook profile anymore?

Which from one angle sounds like a great update for people. I for one have moved my Facebook app on my iPhone from my home screen to hidden away in a folder because I’ve developed a habit of unlocking my phone and clicking straight on Facebook – even when there’s nothing to look at apart from recipes and puppy videos.

And I’m not alone. This trend is causing a huge drop in content from real people – and as a result Facebook is taking a hit on usage. It’s all going a bit stale, and people are looking at messenger apps like Whatsapp (coincidentally also owned by Facebook) and social platforms like Instagram (again, owned by Facebook) to connect with their friends.

All this means that this trend is not just one that goes against Mark Zuckerberg’s aim to connect people – but a financial one too. Less content and interaction from people on the network means that there’s potential for the number of adverts that can be delivered within the News Feed to take a dive. Which in turn will hit Facebook’s profits.

If you think that we should stop worrying that Facebook – currently the world’s 4th largest company – could wither away like networks of the not-so-bygone eras like Bebo or Myspace, then you don’t need to look any further than it’s ex-rival Twitter. Twitter has gone from the star child to ‘meh’ in the last few years – and in 2017 saw it’s usership fall into decline for the first time.

If you’re an average Facebook user then this update all sounds like great news. But what does it mean for brands?

In this new statement from Facebook, they say that:

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family, and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”

Pulling out the most important message in this – Pages whose post prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect – doesn’t immediately reveal anything particular new.

The News Feed algorithm has always favoured content that gets more engagement from brands over content that doesn’t. That’s why publisher and news content generally does better than sales messages, since it encourages conversation within the comments.

 

So what exactly can brands do to make sure that their messages are seen?

Look At The Numbers:

The easiest and quickest option for brands is to review their Facebook content by studying Page Insights. All Facebook Pages have the option to see which past Page posts have done well and which haven’t. By reviewing these you can learn which types of content are most likely to get engagement – and in turn are more likely to be seen within the News Feed. More similar posts in future is going to help your brand to reach more people.

Is This Actually Interesting?:

The second stage of this – and potentially the most difficult – is to shake up your social content altogether. If you’re a service or product based business then you’ve got the biggest challenge of all. How can you promote and sell, without promoting in the first place?

This is where research about the target audience comes into play. If you’re selling a bike cleaning product, then you’ve got to think about what kind of topics that cyclists want to discuss. Is it safety? Is it bike care? Is it how the latest bike frame is hugely overrated or overpriced? Any form of content that can “prompt discussions”  that Facebook wants to encourage is going to give you an extra boost without paying for it.

Test Live Video:

Another area which Facebook is clearly giving favour is Live videos thanks to the natural engagement and commenting that usually results. In fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos,” Facebook claims.

Live video is a cause of concern for a number of brands, but it doesn’t need to be. Thankfully people expect them to be unedited, a bit shaky and filmed on a phone, so there are absolutely no barriers to filming one.

If you think you’re brave enough to embrace Live video, the only thing to think about – as per above – is what your audience actually wants to know about. Often this can mean behind the scenes videos, a member of the team sharing their expertise or showing how something is made.

Create A Community:

One thing that Facebook has hinted at is the opportunity to use groups to reach more people. Specifically, they say: “The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.” If Facebook groups aren’t something you’ve considered in the past, now might be a good time to start.

Get Advanced With Bots:

I’ve also seen a good response in the past weeks to Facebook Bots. That’s a whole other blog, but if you haven’t seen them in the past then check out some case studies by other brands here. If you want to automate your responses and personalise the experience for your customers then I highly suggest giving it a try. It’s something that we cover in The Launch Platform for anyone wanting to know where to start.

Learn To Love Facebook Ads:

All of this shows that knowing how to get around Facebook Ad Manager and create profitable ads is going to become more important than ever. And if it’s something you don’t know how to maximise yet then now’s the time to start. If you want to create reach new customers without having to slave away at networking events, and build to ROI (Return On Income) upwards of 1,000% from just a few hours of work each week, then Facebook Ads are the marketing tool for you and your business.

If you’re getting started with Facebook Ads, get your FREE Facebook Ads Checklist here.

 

So – is it all doom and gloom?

Facebook has sure given brands a wake up call, there’s no doubt about that. But I would argue that it’s needed – after all, if you’re not willing to focus on your Facebook content strategy in the first place – why are you bothering at all?

*If you want to keep up to date with all of the Facebook News Feed developments then make sure to follow Brooke on Facebook or Instagram*