How brands should work around the Facebook News Feed changes

Unless you’ve had your head buried under a rock, you probably know Facebook has changed its News Feed to favour updates from family and friends over public content.

For the outlets that rely on Facebook traffic to boost their bottom lines, the Facebook News Feed changes will no doubt be painful. But fear not – Ed Jennings, the head of social at GrowthMinds, argues that businesses can still be successful on Facebook by producing better and more engaging content.

The update will prioritise posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions by showing these posts higher on the feed. Posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to will be bumped up.

Researchers from Facebook acknowledged that too much time spent passively scrolling in the Facebook News Feed can be detrimental, and 11 days into 2018, Facebook announced the first round of changes – and then closed January with a renewed focus on engaging interactions.

The changes haven’t come without an impact on the platform’s numbers though.

Founder and chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said recently: “In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.”

And while billionaire Zuckerberg celebrates a decrease in the amount of time users are spending on his platform, where does that leave the start-ups and small businesses that want to grow their company seeds into blossoming plants?

It’s going to take a change in approach…

What’s the impact of the Facebook News Feed changes on organic reach?

Ian Lea, the marketing manager for Rafi’s Spice Box, a small business in the heart of York, UK, said he has seen a slow decline in organic reach through Facebook since the algorithm changes were made.

“We are now putting out better and more targeted content,” he said. “This has meant we have still been able to grow our audience and engagement. It is something we are monitoring, but at this time it is hard for us to predict the effects the changes will have.”

If a business has been using Facebook purely for self-promotion in a dry way, the Facebook News Feed changes will mean that they are likely to see a significant drop in both reach and engagement in these posts.

Facebook will push them further down the feed, meaning users – even if they have liked the page – are less likely to see the content.

So what’s the solution?

1. Focus on engaging posts

“Facebook still will promote more ‘meaningful’ posts in the Facebook News Feed. That means content that sparks conversation or is engaging. So, any small businesses already doing Facebook well probably don’t have to worry much, but that’s only a fraction of the businesses on the platform,” said Jennings.

It’s been an easy ride for start-ups to market their business through the platform, which has meant businesses have got lazy with their social media strategies. The majority use it in a fairly flat way, spending a few minutes a day on a bit of promotion. These are the businesses that will see their social impact drop.

Jennings continues: “Getting users to engage with your content is going to be key in getting it seen by more users, so it has to be as easy as possible for your audience to do that – have the main message front and centre, make sure video gets to the point quickly (and that most users watch with the sound off!) and keep things brief given how many users now use Facebook via mobile.”

2. It’s time to get creative…

While the 180-degree turn may be slightly jarring for many firms, it can seem like an insurmountable task for small businesses and start-ups that carry a limited marketing budget.

Lea noted that making changes and developing the Rafi’s Spice Box marketing strategy is an ongoing process, regardless of the changes to the Facebook News Feed.

Being able to get creative and find new ways to reach out to customers through the platform will be the pathway for success for small companies.

“We are always seeking to improve what we do and this includes adapting to the continual changes in technology and the way people consume media and content,” Lea said.

Whilst announcing the huge changes to his platform, Zuckerberg said: “Using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”

You have been warned!

Asking questions of your fans will be key, and engaging with them in response. High quality images that people want to open, like, and share will also benefit, as will original video content and live videos.

Jennings added: “Keeping up with changes to Facebook’s feed (and other social platforms) can be challenging – I’d recommend that any that have the budget to work with specialist digital or growth agencies should do so, if only so they don’t fall behind their competitors.”

3. Don’t give up… adapt!

“Being a small business, there are there are always new challenges we face. Sometimes however these challenges can be good and make us think in more creative ways,” Lea said.

“We are pleased to have such an engaged audience and we believe that this is in part from the time and care we put into the content that we share. We hope that this will continue to grow and people will want to be part of the online community that we are building.

“We don’t feel nervous about the changes happening. The changes are out of our control, so not something that is worth spending time worrying about. We just have to adapt accordingly.”

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4. It’s time to get to know your customers

Those of you who run the social channels for a business are sure to have checked out the Insights tab to look at analytical features such as organic reach, page views, likes, recommendations and engagement.

Most people will look at those to get a quick gauge of how an individual post is doing or the overall scope of your businesses reach. But it’s time to start REALLY using it to get to know the people you’re posting to and who is getting engaged with your content.

Jennings said: “Creating valuable content is key. In real terms, this means creating content that your audience actually cares about.

“As such, it makes sense for businesses using Facebook pages to use the Insights section of the page to get to know their audience – where are they based, how old are they, are they mainly men or women, and begin tailoring content based on that.”

And from there, you can begin to build content with those people in mind.

5. If you’re not already using Facebook groups now is the time to start

We don’t yet know if Facebook is going to alter its algorhythm again to remove Groups from people’s Facebook News Feed too, but for the time being, Facebook Groups content is still appearing just as before.

This offers a great opportunities to brands to still reach target audiences without having to spend.

Find a group with your target audience and engage in the ways that we’ve listed above. Go gently, no hard selling, be useful and insightful and it will build yor brand in the ways that you wish.

6. Experiment with other platforms

There’s no doubt that Facebook has been the marketing go-to for many years now. But it’s certainly not the only viable option for small businesses with low budgets.

Lea said: “One of our main strategies moving forward is to tap into the engaged customers that we have. Word-of-mouth, referral marketing is still the strongest tool we have to reach new people.

“By providing a service and products that go beyond expectations, we hope that we are creating something that people want to tell other people about. Any new campaigns and strategies will revolve around this.”

While many small businesses will be able to adapt to the initial changes, they are likely to keep coming, and no business should be relying entirely on one platform.

Instagram has a similar audience to Facebook, if not a little younger, and marketers are already seeing better results with organic video and image reach there.

Businesses should also assess whether or not platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn are relevant for them too.

If you would like any advice as to how to implement any of these changes, drop us a line – we love to chat!