How Facebook’s Algorithm Change is Making Our Lives Harder (And What to Do About It)

Social Media Marketing via Facebook, for most brands, started out like that perfect pair of shoes: comfortable, you know you’ll get noticed when you slip them on in the morning, and best of all, they were given to you as a gift so they didn’t cost you a penny.

Last night I gleefully rediscovered my favorite pair of kicks in the back of my closet, so forgive the continuing metaphor.

However, like most trends, such shoes don’t go unnoticed, and before you know it, everyone has them. You no longer stand out among the crowd when you wear them. You know that the quickest and simplest way to up your game is to invest in a new pair of luxury shoes at a luxury price. Alternatively, you could take the road less traveled and try to re-think your entire shoe-wearing strategy with careful (and risky) DIY touches of rhinestones and studs.

What is changing and how does it affect my business?

For the past year and a half, Facebook page owners have been able to drive traffic by simply posting linked content to Facebook. The posts are exposed to a wide range of Facebook users, and the reach can spread like wildfire.

Now, the landscape is changing. Facebook is making three significant changes to its news feed algorithm, which overall may trigger a steep decline in referral traffic and post reach. These changes are outlined below:

1. Users will be exposed to back-to-back posts from the same source (something Facebook had not historically allowed).
Facebook’s reasoning: Facebook is adjusting this rule so that users with few and/or inactive friends have more activity in their NewsFeed.

Effect on brands: This could possibly be beneficial to brands, as users are now able to see more than one of a brand’s posts in a row.

2. Content posted by friends > content posted by brands.
Facebook’s reasoning: To make the NewsFeed more engaging and to ensure that users don’t miss “big moments” in their friends’ lives, Facebook is showing more posts that users likely care about. Friends’ photos, videos, status updates, and links will rise to the top of the NewsFeed.

Effect on brands: Having more friend posts in the Newsfeed poses a direct threat to brands, given they are competing for the same real estate. If users enjoy content written by friends more than by brands, they’ll start seeing posts by their friends more than that by publishers.

3. Posts showing what friends have Liked or commented on will be hidden.
Facebook’s reasoning: Through focus groups and surveys, Facebook has determined that users aren’t as interested in this content. Moving forward, they’ll share these updates sparingly and lower down in the NewsFeed.

Effect on brands: Again, this update is great from a user perspective, but bad for brands, as it could really diminish reach and the ability to ‘go viral’, as second-hand interactions will be limited.

What can I do?

If you’re biting your nails as you read this, take your fingers out of your mouth. This isn’t Facebookmageddon, it’s just a more dynamic playing field. You really have three clear solutions: pony up money, be strategic in better aligning the content you publish with your audience’s interests, or leverage other platforms.

Pony up money
Promoted posts are an essential part of Facebook’s monetization strategy; it’s understandable that Facebook is comfortable limiting organic reach. If Facebook Pages are a key piece of your company’s social media marketing strategy, you should now consider using Facebook ads in order to get the same engagement that you’ve been getting with organic posts.

Be strategic
Are you a small business without the budget to spend on Facebook advertising? That’s okay, you just have to be a bit more prescriptive with your marketing dollars. Keep in mind that the NewsFeed experience is unique for everyone based on pages users follow, content they interact with, and closest friends. To visualize this, let’s assume three factors:
1. Amanda doesn’t follow news outlets on Facebook
2. Ariel is an avid news follower, especially MarketBridge’s Digital Bridge!
3. Amanda and Ariel are close friends

While Amanda has never heard of The Digital Bridge (what a shame), she’ll see Ariel’s post linking to Emily Macon’s blog discussing Facebook’s Algorithm change. Amanda is interested in Social Media marketing and trusts Ariel’s thought leadership. Viola! Amanda has been exposed to the Digital Bridge (and she likes it). Tying back to my previous shoe metaphor, there is the DIY solution. It takes time, research, and energy to produce content that is robust, interesting, engaging, and most importantly, relevant for your target audience, but it is possible.

Per this example, brands still have the opportunity for referral traffic and post reach, as long as their content is robust and relevant enough that users want to engage with and share it (perfect segue: is this article helpful? share it on Facebook!).

Think outside the box
Maybe you shouldn’t be thinking so hard about shoes, and instead invest in differentiating yourself via a statement necklace or fedora. For the foreseeable future, Facebook will continue to be a great place to build a free online presence, but may no longer be the best way to drive meaningful engagement with prospects and customers. You may want to invest more resources into email, although here you must be wary of Gmail filtering many promotional emails out of the primary inbox. Additionally, your company should consider other Social Media platforms, depending on your audience. For example, if your target audience is primarily millennials and/or females, your business should consider leveraging Snapchat. By taking a moment to stop and rethink your strategy, you may wind up with much more robust results down the line.

Facebook’s NewsFeed algorithm changes should be rolling out over the next several weeks. While the updates aim to improve the experience for most users, these changes could have a negative impact on business pages. To maintain high reach and coverage, businesses should consider paying for Facebook advertising, be more strategic in providing engaging and relevant content for its target audience, or begin exploring other platforms for lead nurturing.