Facebook algorithm changes are nothing new.
But the latest for 2018 did something that shocked the marketing world: it significantly limited organic reach for businesses on Facebook.
In this post, I’ll cover the major Facebook algorithm changes of 2018, what they mean for your brand, and how you can keep your content relevant on the channel.
It’s getting a little harder for brands to make a name for themselves on Facebook. But it’s not impossible.
It is absolutely still possible with ads. But how about organic reach?
Facebook Algorithm Change #1: “Meaningful Interactions”
I like to call this one “the Facebook change heard ‘round the world.”
But on a less dramatic note, let’s just say it was a big one.
On January 11, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg released a memo on Facebook stating a complete overhaul of the traditional newsfeed in favor of “meaningful interactions.”
And as you can imagine, the (business) world let out a collective: “Huh?”
So here’s the gist: Facebook intends to give priority to posts that create meaningful conversations (especially from friends and family).
To make it happen, the Facebook algorithm will be prioritizing posts from friends and family over content from Pages.
“As we roll this out,” wrote Zuckerberg, “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
He goes on to cite “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being” as the major reason behind the update.
Zuckerberg also concedes will have to work harder than ever to gain attention and awareness on Facebook.
What it Means for Brands: Sorry to say, you’ll likely see a decline in the overall reach and referral traffic from Facebook.
Facebook Algorithm Change #2: “High Quality News”
Right on the heels of the meaningful conversations update, Facebook announced its intention to also prioritize high-quality, trustworthy news.
Remember, Facebook is big on news, and historically has given priority to those operating in the news industry (it’s called the newsfeed for a reason, after all).
But the latest change announced a crackdown on the kind of news and the sources it comes from, with the platform now prioritizing:
- News from publications that the community rates as trustworthy
- News that people find informative
- News that is relevant to people’s local community
The trustworthiness of a source will be determined largely by user survey.
What it Means For Brands: Facebook says it best: In it’s official announcement, the platform states “publications deemed trustworthy by people using Facebook may see an increase in their distribution. Publications that do not score highly as trusted by the community may see a decrease.”
How the Facebook Algorithm Works
There’s no cut a dry answer to this one.
Like most algorithms, it’s inner workings are a closely guarded secret only the Facebook elite are privy to.
What we do know, according to recent Facebook News Feed Webinar, is that there are four major parts to the Facebook algorithm:
- Inventory (available content)
- Signals (consideration about content)
- Predictions (considerations about person)
- Overall score
Together, these four parts work to provide the best overall experience for each user.
As a brand, you want to focus on the signals aspect.
Pre-2018 major algorithm change, Facebook took a bunch of signals into consideration as it decided what best to show to users. We can sort those signals into two categories: active and passive:
- Commenting (active)
- Sharing (active)
- Reacting (active)
- Clicking (passive)
- Watching (passive)
- Viewing/hovering (passive)
Post-algorithm update, Facebook is putting a vast majority of its emphasis on active signals. That means likes, comments, and shares are more important than ever.
With that in mind, there are few ways brands can try to recover from the latest Facebook hits.
Continue to Focus on Engagement – And Start Valuable Conversation
The first step to producing engagement? Knowing exactly who your speaking to.
I don’t mean casual acquaintance basis; I mean knowing their hopes, dreams, fears, and what they ate for breakfast.
When Facebook ranks your posts, they look at how close you are to a given person, and how your post relates to stories they would share with their friends and families. That, and broader engagement signals like how often they’ve interacted with your posts in the past.
To crack the Facebook algorithm change code, you need a laser-sharp knowledge of this person is. Beyond the buyer persona you’ve already created, you need to look at factors like:
- Page and Video Insights – look at the audience that most commonly engages with your content; what do they like, where are they from? What kind of content do they share?
- Look at your competitors – before you publish a post, run a search to see if they’ve published something similar. How did it perform? Closely monitor any topics or posts that are particularly popular
- Do the same with influencers – what are the posting? Why is it resonating? Of course, a little influencer outreach will be key here as well.
- Use the tools that Facebook gives you – they’re the experts here, and their tools are designed with interaction in mind; make sure you’re experimenting with Instant Articles, Facebook Live, video, etc.
- Incorporate trending topics – remember, Facebook puts emphasis on (trustworthy) news. If you find a relevant topic in your industry, don’t wait to post about it. Find an angle suitable for your niche, and strike while it’s hot
You’re probably thinking this is just more of what you’re already doing. But the key here is making sure your content is 100% audience focused.
So when you’re telling your brand story, don’t focus on the parts you want to tell. Focus on the parts your audience wants to tell.
And remember, we dubbed the Meaningful Interaction update for a reason. Facebook is all about increasing those meaningful conversations (which is why they’ve given so much priority to family and friends – they tend to spark the best conversations.)
Which means you should leave your posts open-ended. Invite the conversation, don’t just wait for it to come to you.
…But Beware of “Engagement Bait”
This is an entire Facebook algorithm change in itself.
Known as engagement bait, this includes “spammy posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. For example, “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!”
Facebook listed five types of engagement bait:
- Vote baiting
- React baiting
- Share baiting
- Tag baiting
- Comment baiting
That means page’s can no longer rely on soliciting likes and comments, and need to find more authentic ways to produce reactions.
It also means that those that do “systematically and repeatedly” participate in the above tactics will suffer the consequences (i.e. strict demotions in the newsfeed).
Use Facebook Live to Beat the Facebook Algorithm Changes
Facebook Live is killing it right now.
Like, really killing it:
- “Facebook Live Stream” search popularity has risen vver 330% since Facebook Live’s rollout
- Facebook Live videos are watched 3x longer than videos that aren’t live
- Users comment on Facebook Live videos at 10x the rate of regular videos
- Daily watch time for Facebook Live broadcasts has grown by more than 4x
- 1 in every 5 Facebook videos is a live broadcast
The content’s completely unique, it’s cost-effective, and clearly, it works.
It’s also one of the few sure things you can do to rank higher in the newsfeed, as Facebook itself favors live video over other types of content in its algorithm.
Here’s why I think it’s so successful: it’s simple. It paves the way for authentic storytelling, without sales gimmicks, page boosts or clickbait captions.
It’s an opportunity to not just stage a show but hold a real conversation.
You can show people your brand story and invite them to comment and ask questions. In that sense, a live video becomes just as much about the audience as it is your brand.
And that, my friends, is a meaningful interaction.
But beyond the philosophical stuff, one of the major benefits for brands is that when they begin a live video, your followers will receive a notification. And even after the video is ended, they can still receive a notification simply saying that you were live and they can still check it out.
It’s a great way to remain visible to your following by side-stepping the newsfeed completely and going straight to the notifications.
To make the most of Facebook Live, here are a few tips:
- Announce your broadcast ahead of time – don’t just hope people tune in; give them advanced warning, and give yourself the time to build anticipation and a bigger audience by letting your followers know when you intend to broadcast
- Add text – 85% of Facebook video is viewed with the sound off, so text to make your video more accessible
- Address commenters by name – that added personal touch will go a long way; also try to respond to questions and comments in real-time (or have someone on hand who can)
- Longer is better – the longer you broadcast, the more potential you have to reach a larger audience. People can join the video at any time, so aim for longer air time when you can
- Encourage comments – stage multiple parts during your broadcast to ask for user comments or questions, and include a Q&A portion at the end
- Share the video other channels – download the URL and promote it through blog, emails, and other social channels to reach a wider audience (and drive them back to your page!)
Host Facebook Groups to Beat The Facebook Algorithm Changes
Facebook Groups are a goldmine when it comes to customer engagement.
Among its many benefits, it allows brands to:
- Create more engagement
- Focus on their ideal audience
- Build trust
- Collect social proof
- Spark conversation
And speaking of meaningful conversation, one of the best ways to foster it is through a sense of community.
In her article on Medium, Alaura Weaver writes: “(meaningful conversations) means focusing less on business models that rely on publishing massive (unsustainable) amounts of one-way blog posts and focusing more on creating and engaging with communities — and standing back and letting those communities evolve into mini-ecosystems built on conversation.”
And she’s right.
Rather than preaching what you think your audience wants to hear, let them do the talking. You can facilitate, monitor, and manage, but at the end of the day, you want your users to have an equally active role.
Of course, you want the group to remain yours, which means directing the conversation, posing questions, and supplying answers when asked. It means listening to what your community is saying, and providing actionable advice, opinions, and strategies.
Diversify Your Strategy to Avoid the Facebook Algorithm Changes
You know the saying “don’t pull all your eggs in one basket?”
Well, the same applies to marketing. The more you rely on just one strategy, the more you stand to lose.
That’s proved especially true with brands whose strategy heavily emphasized the impact of social strategy – in particular Facebook.
According to SimilarWeb, over the past two years sites like BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Mashable have suffered the most from diminishing social traffic.
Why? Because they relied too heavily on the channel for traffic.
That’s not to say they were entirely wrong to do so. After all, the three sites derived about a third of their U.S. desktop traffic from social channels.
But if you look at them in comparison to sites like The New York Times and The Washington Post, you begin to see the holes in the strategy.
Those sites have lost only 10% of social media traffic, and their traffic has actually risen by 22% over the past two years.
The reason behind the relatively low traffic loss is that compared to sites like Mashable, they didn’t have that much to begin with.
The sites that stand to be hit the hardest by the latest algorithm changes are the ones without a plan to diversify their traffic and revenue.
So the lesson here is this: always have a contingency plan. Up your efforts on other social channels, and make sure you have a well-rounded strategy that includes:
You can also use these other channels to tease content from your Facebook and direct user’s there.
Use Facebook Advertising for to Best the Facebook Algorithm Changes
You knew this one was coming.
As much as we want a way around it, the truth remains the same: Facebook advertising works – now more than ever.
Ads and boosted content are a surefire way to put your content in front of your audience, and
Facebook continues to be one of the leading advertisers in the space due to it’s incredible targeting abilities.
But success in advertising still requires a very specific knowledge of your audience and what they will react to. And in many cases, you have to follow some of the new rules, even when it comes to advertising.
For example, your audience is still likely to react better to video, whether it’s an ad or an organic post. Experiment with different types – dynamic, carousel, lead ads, etc. to see which works for you.
Really think about you’re targeting (and employ the help of your Audience Insights to do so), and continue to focus on telling engaging, interactive stories.
Because the bottom line is this: organic reach is declining. But advertising reach? As effective as ever.
Wrapping Up How To Stay on Top of the Facebook Algorithm Changes
Facebook’s not what it used to be.
But that’s not really such a bad thing. An improved user experience is good will likely increase in more user’s overall, and help them get more of the personal connections and interactions they signed up for.
And it’s not over for brands. It’s changed, but the best brands will adapt. The strategies above will help.