Facebook Changed the Algorithm Again. What Do We Do Now?

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Facebook’s algorithm is changing again! Publishers are freaking out at the thought of losing news feed access, but Beth Becker has good advice for organizations and campaigns that still want to give their content the best chance of reaching Page followers organically (i.e., without paying for the privilege). But will that be enough? More on that question by Tuesday.

It’s true. Late last week, Facebook’s Head of News Feed (Adam Mosseri) posted on the Facebook News blog that the company is making a major change to the way it selects content to show people by default (and if you haven’t yet heard, read the actual announcement).

What does emphasizing content from friends and family mean for publishers, advocates and campaigns? Is it time to abandon Facebook altogether? How do we make sure people see our content?

So what exactly is this change? It’s really pretty simple: data shows Facebook that users feel like their newsfeeds are overrun with impersonal content from pages instead of content from their friends and family, and they aren’t happy about that. So, Facebook is adjusting newsfeed to give people more of what they want — personal content.

If you run a page for your organization, what exactly does this all mean? Will your organic reach plummet? Will anyone ever again see your content?

Short answer: not necessarily, and maybe. It’s true that pages will likely see drops in reach — some more than others. How do we mitigate that? A few thoughts:

  1. It starts with genuine two-way engagement. If you are using a page to just broadcast content about your work, then yes you, will likely see a large drop in organic reach. However, if you are using your page to engage in conversation with your community, if you are using your page to encourage conversation among your community members, the drop you see should be minimal, In Mosseri’s own words, “Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
  2. Great content. If you’ve ever attended one of my trainings, you’ve heard me talk about the sentences that describe great social content: content people want to be seen engaging with, that validates their social self and is snackable [Ed note: easily skimmed and easily shared]. Recently two more sentences have joined the family: content that makes people feel a part of something and content that is shareable**. If your community shares your content, their friends and family who regularly engage with them are likely to see that content. If you’ve never really focused on identifying your Facebook champions, now is the perfect time to do so, as those champions are the people who will help you to minimize any potential negative effect of this change on your organic reach.
  3. Engagement. Engagement baiting is still a no-no — deprecating content that explicitly asks for engagement was one of the first newsfeed changes Facebook ever announced and they’ve recently reiterated it. Genuine engagement will by default negate the need for engagement-baiting. That means delivering content that encourages people to talk with each other about it, asking open-ended questions with your content, or providing content that offers your organization’s views on things and encourages an open debate and conversation within your Page community.
  4. Video is still important, and live video even more so. The data is clear that live video and the way it is done on Facebook nurtures conversation and engagement. Caution: like everything else, it should be a strategic part of your content strategy…not every moment warrants the time spent to do Facebook Live. But when it’s done right, it will [Ed. note: “should”] help.

The upshot? Let’s boil it down to my 4 favorite sentences:

  • Respect the inbox.
  • Respect the newsfeed.
  • Respect your audience.
  • Respect yourself.

If you have something important to say, say it. If you don’t, then shhh. Posting content just to post content is probably the fastest way to ensure a drop in your organic reach. When you respect that inbox and newsfeed, you are showing your audience respect by not wasting their time on content that isn’t worth their time. And, you’re respecting yourself by not wasting your time creating content they don’t want to see.

Bottom line…it’s not just about creating content and expecting people to share it or expecting Facebook to deliver your content to people. You need to spend just as much time thinking about using that content to help build community as you do building the content itself.

If you’d like to learn even more about this and other social media strategies, I will be leading a four-day Advanced Social Media Strategy Training in Oakland March 26-29 and again in DC mid-May.

** Beth notes: “I saw someone in a FB comment today wondering how to figure out how to make their content more shareable- here’s the short version: Go back thru your Facebook data for the last six months and identify your 10 most shared posts. Analyze them and see if you can identify what they have in common that led to such shareability and then use that to create shareable content in the future.”

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