Our Views | 28.01.2018

There’s no need to panic, just put content back on center stage

Adjusting to Facebook's new algorithm

Don’t panic over what might feel like apocalyptic news, there is hope! While many Facebook changes often go undetected, the latest one has understandably raised some concern among everyone involved with ‘paid content’. The platform announced it will change its algorithm to prioritize content from ‘friends, family and groups’ rather than ‘more passive content’. You’re now more likely to see posts from people you’re connected to that will drive engagement through comments and discussion, not shares and likes.

The initiative is part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public 2018 resolution to “fix” Facebook. Facebook’s mission statement had been to make the world more open and connected, but it changed in mid-2017 to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The company has long strived to distance itself from being called a media company and this latest update is designed to drive ‘meaningful interactions’. The platform defines meaningful interactions as content that elicits a positive reaction from people, and while that typically entails content from friends and family, it could also include brand messaging.

How will this affect brands?

Facebook has been the go-to-place for brands to establish personal traction with customers. For years, brands encouraged users to like their pages to then push organic content on their feeds. Organic exposure dropped after that now infamous 2016 update, when Facebook and Instagram limited reach to an average of 30% of the follower count. This allowed the algorithm to decide what content should be displayed in users’ feeds, and social media was changed forever, forcing brands to shift more budgets towards promoting content to make up for the lost reach.

With this latest update, organic distribution of content will likely continue to decrease. Effects will vary by page, but posts that garner reactions and/or comments will place higher in the news feed. Brands will now need to do a better job in creating content that will resonate with their audiences and spark conversation – changing the way content is planned from the very beginning. Facebook will also still penalize ‘click bait’ which entices users to react to content. Users who want to ensure they continue to see content from pages they follow can select “See First” in news feed preferences.

How will this affect advertisers?

Many advertisers are still feeling unsure and cautious about the update. Will this reduce the amount of available inventory? Will it increase costs? Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions is confident that the ad game isn’t going to change. “If you take a real step back, on the ad side of the business, the [ad-ranking] algorithm has always tried to optimize in terms of the value to people.” As always, the more relevant the creative is to its target audience, the lower the price an advertiser will pay.

Although Facebook is not making any changes to ad ranking, the historical performance of posts will be taken into consideration within the auction. Advertisers may see a slight impact on performance if they are boosting content that has been negatively affected by the news feed change. In instances such as these, there would be value in running dark posts to avoid any potential penalizations.

A change in approach: make content king once again

The effect of Facebook’s algorithm update is yet to be fully understood, so we’ll keep a watchful eye. For now, take advantage of this, rather than focusing on the doom and gloom response that the coverage has so far favored. Our main takeaways are:

  1. Embrace the change and revamp your social strategies: Sticking to your current way of doing things may not give you the same reach. Stop, think, adapt.
  2. Look at the bright side: It will bring about a purge of brands that have been paying their way into people’s newsfeeds for far too long and filling it with largely irrelevant content. This change will unclutter and level the playing field, paving the way for brands to create lasting relationships with their consumers.
  3. Concentrate on making ads relevant to consumers again: Facebook will prioritize posts that generate meaningful responses (comments, shares and interactions) so it is up to us (brands and agencies) to analyze which posts generate these responses and build on these. Remember, relevance fuels meaning.
  4. Master your video content: Experiment with live video and stories as these generate significant interactions from consumers. FB live video is watched x3 longer than regular videos, shows up higher in search results and get x6 interactions. Live and short videos are the best performing formats of content.

Brands simply need to rethink their strategies and put more stock into the value of their content. So, let’s put content back on center stage, let’s make content great again, and then and only then, will we have a chance to make a meaningful impact.

This article first appeared on PHD MENA’s Our Views

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