It’s a new year, and Facebook is making changes. Once again, Facebook has publicly announced some new tweaks are coming to their proprietary News Feed algorithm. The change has marketers scared because this impacts a large number of companies who leverage social media in their marketing.
But how did we get here?
Just five years ago, the world of social media was a much different place than it is now. Facebook was the biggest out there, but it almost felt like new platforms were emerging every day.
- 2013 was the year people first started paying attention to Snapchat, especially after declining billion-dollar acquisition offers from both Facebook and Google.
- Vine was at its peak, and Twitter was optimistic about its future.
- Pinterest and Tumblr were the most exciting platforms for potential growth.
However, flashing forward to 2018, a couple of things have changed.
- Snapchat is struggling and may very well reconsider being acquired before the end of the year.
- Vine is no more (RIP).
- Despite having strong numbers, Tumblr struggling with new user growth. In a similar situation (albeit a larger number of users overall), Pinterest growth stalled in 2017.
But the one thing that may have been easy to predict several years ago – the fact the Facebook is still the undisputed king of all social platforms.
Between a constant flow of new features such as Facebook Live, a robust ad-platform, and the sheer mass of users worldwide, Facebook has fought hard to stay on top. Despite being one of the original social platforms, they’ve adapted appropriately to be just as relevant as ever.
The latest change coming to the News Feed could spell disaster for brands and publishers. But this isn’t the first time Facebook started making changes to its algorithm.
What is the News Feed Algorithm?
In the end, Facebook’s ultimate goal is to keep users on their site for as long as possible, and that usually means observing how engaged its users are.
Facebook’s News Feed has been around since 2006 to provide users with an easier method of keeping up with their friends and family. The creation of the “Like” feature in 2007 was Facebook’s first step towards offering a new dimension of engagement.
But then in October of 2009, Facebook launched a huge update by changing the default sorting order of posts from reverse chronological order to posts by popularity. Essentially, the News Feed algorithm is Facebook’s method of sorting posts based on a few factors, but mainly about user engagement. This includes likes, comments, shares, post clicks and photo/video views a post may receive.
This became known as Facebook’s EdgeRank, and although the algorithm has not been referred to as such internally since 2011, the concept remains the same. The more your audience engages with your content, the more likely your future posts will be inserted into their News Feed without dedicating advertising dollars.
According to some brands and publishers, this change to the Facebook algorithm is a sign of the apocalypse.
Shortly after 2018 kicked off, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg posted an open letter detailing what envisioned as the company’s list of new years resolutions:
Zuckerberg announced its commitment to “bring the world closer together” by emphasizing personal connections in the platform. But here’s the bombshell that Zuckerberg dropped in his post regarding how Facebook intends to bring people closer together:
Facebook’s change to the News Feed will essentially make content from brands and publishers show up less often, causing a drastic decrease in organic reach. Here’s a video from Facebook’s Director of Product Management Mark Hull to explain this in further detail:
What This Change Is Trying to Combat
Despite what Facebook says goals surrounding their new mission, there are two underlying reasons why this change is happening and why they feel this is necessary to right the ship after being criticized heavily in 2017.
1) Fighting the rise of fake news
Fake news has been a hotly debated issue since the recent U.S. presidential election cycle. At a high-level, Facebook admits that foreign powers abused the platform’s tools in hopes of influencing the election. While they must remain vigilant against such activity, the spread of articles from extremely biased and shady publishers continues to grow.
With the new change to the algorithm, this should, in theory, be a viable way to fight back against fake news.
2) Putting an end to “engagement bait”
Publishers and brands know that engagement is important to their organic reach, and rather than creating engaging content, they’ll resort to explicitly asking users to engage through spammy looking posts. It should be noted that this isn’t something specific to Facebook, but they announced their efforts to crack down on this back in December 2017.
Why The Change Isn’t a Big Deal
This isn’t the first time Facebook has tweaked the algorithm in a way which hurt the organic reach for brand and publisher pages. The first change to the News Feed was first reported in 2013, and DOM wrote a great article on a previous algorithm change back in 2015.
Facebook has been ramping up the difficulty for brands and publishers for several years, so this isn’t necessarily news. The fact is that popular pages like those of celebrities, big publishers like Buzzfeed, and sports publishers will continue to do well because they are creating world-class content or connecting with their audiences on a personal level.
“Boring” industries will suffer, and the winners will keep on winning. If we’re perfectly honest, organic reach on Facebook isn’t nearly what it once was and is rarely an effective distribution channel for most businesses.
What You Can Do Moving Forward
If you still want to give Facebook a shot, there are a few things you can do to make it work. First, just accept that no matter what, your overall reach will go down. How much it goes down is entirely up to you.
1) Reevaluate Your Content
This is the perfect time to develop a level of self-awareness about the quality of content you’re creating. Really ask yourself if what you’re sharing is connecting with your audience. This means reinvesting in creating better content that excites, entertains, or triggers some level of emotional reaction from your audience.
2) Go All-In on Facebook Live
When you broadcast on Facebook Live, there is no better way to foster engagement with your audience. Consider the growth of Twitch, a video streaming platform where the biggest personalities are live-streaming themselves playing video games to thousands of viewers. What makes the experience so special is how interactive these broadcasters are with their audience through the live chat. Viewers can interact with the broadcasters directly which adds a deeper level of engagement.
3) It’s officially the age of “pay-to-play”
Organic reach may be dead, but Facebook advertising will always be a viable option. Whether it’s boosting posts or pivoting to a solely advertising focused campaign, Facebook has one of the best digital advertising platforms on the planet. Facebook still has an insanely large user-base and targeting options that can make your head spin.
Sponsoring posts or investing in ad campaigns will definitely cost you more, but it’s still worth considering.
This Isn’t The End
Just because Facebook organic reach is dying doesn’t mean it’s the end times. By adapting to these changes to the Facebook algorithm, the world’s largest platform can still be a great way to reach your audience.
Do you think this is the end of Facebook for marketers? Do you feel like this will be detrimental to your social media strategy? Tweet at us and let us know!