Facebook algorithm changes and what they mean
As the platform tries to get back to basics, brands and companies face an uncertain future.
- Facebook has announced a major algorithm change.
- This change is intended to connect users with more friends, less brands.
- This will probably signal a shift from organic content to paid content.
Last week, Facebook announced a major change to the way the platform works, and how their algorithm handles content from brands and companies.
Many digital marketers are still digesting just what this change means, what the implications of it are, and where things are headed in 2018. In this blog, we’ll break down our initial reactions and plans.
JUST HOW UNPRECEDENTED IS THIS CHANGE?
As we discussed in a recent post, Facebook has always been reinventing itself to meet new changes and challenges.
It’s one of the reasons that it’s survived as the dominant social media platform for so long, weathering tech changes (such as the rise of mobile and video-friendly formats) and shifting customer tastes.
So, “small-c” change is not new for the platform. This change, however, is noteworthy. It’s the platform attempting to return to what it once was—or some version of that past—to get back the “soul” of the platform, and alleviate concerns many have had about the impact of Facebook on our society.
Let’s dive into the details.
WHAT’S DRIVING THIS CHANGE?
Facebook has a genuine interest in making its platform better for users; if their research, as founder Mark Zuckerberg suggests, shows that users prefer less brand interaction, it’s not all that surprising they’d make this switch.
Recently, there has been a critical re-examination about the role of Facebook on our society, from politics to advertising, addiction, and more. Some even argued that Facebook was accelerating depression and feelings of loneliness and isolation. That’s not a sustainable position for a social media company to be in.
Let’s talk about what this change doesn’t cover, because it’s important.
AN IMPORTANT EXEMPTION
Are users really going to get less brands and more friends in their feeds? A footnote in most articles about this development is that this policy change only impacts organic reach, not paid reach.
That means that Facebook advertising and boosted posts are now more important than ever. With these algorithm changes, it might be the only effective way to reach followers at all.
With this change, sponsored posts and ads might be increasingly more effective ways to reach users than organic content.
STUFFING THE GENIE BACK INTO THE BOTTLE?
Talking about this change, Zuckerberg noted that he expected the time people spend on Facebook to become “more valuable.”
An unintentional double-entendre, perhaps? If brands can no longer reach customers through organic (read: free) posts and content, it’s unlikely they’ll throw their hands in the air and give up. Instead, we’ll probably see an increased emphasis on paid social campaigns.
Again: we’re not suggesting that this move is completely cynical. Facebook does have a legitimate desire to win back the hearts and minds of users who feel the platform no longer met their needs.
However, this user-focused paradigm shift also serves as a smokescreen for the platform quietly stuffing the genie back into the bottle backstage.
For years, brands have been able to reach their customers without investing in the platform itself. That door has finally slammed shut. Like Google before them, Facebook wants their cut.
IS THIS REALLY THE APOCALYPSE?
Probably not. Social media is an ever-changing field. This algorithm change may be greeted with consternation now (reflected in Facebook’s recent stock drop). But, at the end of the day, digital marketers, users, and industry experts will eventually do what they do best—and what they’ve always done—adapt.
The hardest change will be for businesses and brands. No one likes being told that something that was once free will now cost money.
For many businesses, there will have to be a re-evaluation of the value of their Facebook presence; in other words, how much is it worth to them?
Other unintended consequences: maybe this change gives another up-and-comer in the social media world leverage to climb up to challenge the Big F. We’ll have to see about that one.
HOW DOES THIS IMPACT MY CAMPAIGN?
DON’T GIVE UP ON ORGANIC CONTENT
We still maintain that there’s a place for organic social media content. First, Twitter and Google+ remain effective places for social content. Second, well-written and genuinely interesting Facebook content will still (according to Facebook) have a shot of making it, even with this change.
HOW YOU CAN PREPARE
If you’re a business worried about these changes, here’s what you can do to help ensure that your organic social media content remains effective:
- Get more personalized with content: Create content that connects with employees and customers and makes your business feel more “human” to users.
- Break away from the cookie-cutter: Send more photos and videos of your company. Make these videos unique, interesting, and filled with personality.
- Think about the value of Facebook: In the future, your social media will probably need a budget to manage paid posts and ads. Start thinking about how much you want to invest in this.