February 16, 2018: Facebook announced on January 11th that it was changing its newsfeed to serve users more content from their close connections (friends and family) and less content from publishers and brands, or as Hootsuite put it: “News feeds will likely start to show more pictures of your uncle’s dog and fewer Buzzfeed listicles.”
As the Facebook algorithm change rolls out over the next few months, businesses will likely see a significant decrease in organic reach, and users will probably spend less time on the platform itself, although the hope, according to Mark Zuckerberg, is that the time on the platform will be “well spent.”
Because Facebook is prioritizing “people content,” influencer content won’t be curbed in the same way as brand-supplied content.
So what does this mean moving forward? How can brands adapt?
1. Consider Facebook a pay-to-play platform
“Brands already know that they get little visibility from unpaid content on Facebook,” Brittany Richter, head of social media for iProspect, told Digiday. Most brand content on Facebook is in the form of posts that don’t necessarily show up on a company page and are distributed through ad filters, and ad ranking won’t change under the new algorithm, although CPM rates for new ads may rise. Facebook’s change will force brands and companies to create more content that their audience cares about.
2. Invest in strategic relationships with influencers
While it’s unclear if or how Facebook plans to regulate influencers, the platform still treats them as individual users and not businesses (no matter how massive they are). Because Facebook is prioritizing “people content,” influencer content won’t be curbed in the same way as content directly from brands. Companies that strategically partner with influencers can continue to reach their target audience, with added credibility coming from influencers whose image and activities genuinely align with those of the brand. According to Andrew Burgess, CEO/Co-Founder of UGC Factory, “The best type of influencer is the one who is already a loyal customer of your brand. When they promote products or services from your brand it’s more authentic because their social followers know that the influencer already loves your products. The best part is that you won’t have to put in too much effort to convince them to become your brand advocates.” A study by Cohn & Wolfe found that “64% of consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic over and above competitors,” so while partnering with a mega influencer might yield the biggest reach, partnering with an influencer who has a smaller reach, but more brand alignment will be more effective.
3. Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket
This isn’t the first time Facebook has changed its algorithm and forced content creators, brands, and news outlets to change their strategies.
As Motherboard pointed out:
“Entire business models have risen and fallen with Facebook’s tweaks to its opaque algorithm: First, companies chased Facebook virality, regardless of the content of their articles; then, they made videos specifically to chase engagement on Facebook’s newsfeed; then, Facebook prioritized live videos which, in one case led to a Washington Post journalist literally eating his newspaper article on camera (later, the company would pay media companies to make these videos, a program it quickly dropped). Serious reporting and journalism became “content” subject to A/B testing and paid promotion. Small changes to the news feed would make the views on our articles rise and fall.”
It’s important for companies and brands to use a diverse portfolio of marketing and communications to maintain their brand image, reach their audience, cultivate interest in their products and services, and generate sales. The best way to hedge against future uncertainty (Facebook changes, Google changes, etc.) is to use a blend of traditional and digital marketing tactics, such as direct mail, PPC, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, and PR.
You wouldn’t put all of your investment eggs in one basket, and you shouldn’t do the same with your marketing dollars.
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