As marketers, we have learned to accept that to connect with our customers using social networks, we must accept certain risks. A big one is that the social network might, without notice, entirely change their model. Overnight, our brilliant execution could be rendered inert. This has happened time and again.
And yet, very few us can just stop marketing on Facebook. It has grown into a behemoth, representing half of a digital duopoly formed with Google. Together, they command 63.1% of the digital ad spend in the US.
For better and worse, we are collectively at the mercy of Facebook (as marketers and, it would seem, as a society).
Changes to Facebook News Feed Algorithm
You likely already know this part of the story: on Jan. 19, Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to Facebook’s News Feed that drastically impact Pages.
News Feed FYI: Helping Ensure News on Facebook Is From Trusted Sources https://t.co/y11DTAaQpl— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) January 19, 2018
Here are the highlights of the changes:
1. Emphasis on More Meaningful Interactions
Diminished posts from brands, publishers, marketers, and news stories. Publishers and marketers should look to create posts that will generate back-and-forth discussion among Facebook users.
2. News to Only Come From Trusted Sources
The aim is to provide news stories in the timeline that only come from trusted sources. Facebook surveyed users to determine which news outlets are most respected and trusted. Tests for this update began rolling out the last week of January and will continue throughout the year.
3. Local News to Receive Higher Prioritization
If you follow a local news Publisher, or if a friend shares a local news story, you may see that post higher on your News Feed.
The Rest of This Post Is About Marketing, Promise
As a former journalist, I’d be remiss not to mention that over the past decade, Facebook has fundamentally changed the way 2.2 billion monthly users (citizens) get their news.
For example, this video of Larry Kim popped up on my feed this past week:
How easy is it to spread fake news on Facebook? 🔥🤔— Larry Kim (@larrykim) February 20, 2018
🚨 Watch my interview on Al Jazeera. pic.twitter.com/TNdcx835w3
Obviously, the trusted news sources change isn’t working yet. And I’m skeptical that surveying Facebook users is the right way to assign credibility to a news outlet’s content. After all, part of what fuels fake news is confirmation bias.
What’s a Facebook Marketer To Do?
Amidst all this tumult, here’s what we’re doing with our clients to adapt to the latest changes to the Facebook News Feed:
1. Keep Buying Facebook Ads
We’ve long known that buying ads is the best way to get our clients’ content seen on Facebook. These changes to the News Feed just mean we’ll need to keep buying ads to drive engagement with key brand assets, or reach users with various offers. For brands, Facebook is pay-for-play.
2. Build Community with Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups for Pages are an area for brands to explore. As with all things, it is important to have a strategy first. Key questions to answer before starting a Group:
- How will a Group improve the relationship with your target audience?
- What are the goals for your Group?
- Is community management aligned to support members and drive engagement?
- Have you set rules for your Group?
- How will you keep the conversation going and the Group active?
Facebook launched new insights for Groups, which, once your group reaches 250 members, can help community managers get a pulse on their members and use those insights to improve interactions.
Fundamentally, for Groups to work (or any other online to community) you need to connect with people who are passionate and will participate because they see value.
3. Deploy a Facebook Messenger Bot
A completely different way to think about engagement marketing awaits you in the world of Facebook Messenger chatbots.
Here are three excellent resources about optimizing your bot execution for users:
- Facebook Messenger Bots for Business: A Guide for Marketers [HootSuite]
- Top Tips and Best Practices for Using Facebook Chatbots [Recart]
- 11 More UX Best Practices for Building Chatbots [Chatbots Magazine]
4. Produce Facebook Stories
Pages and Groups can post Stories, which have their own unique value and can garner attention outside of the central News Feed. You can also leverage Instagram Stories for the same purpose and benefit.
5. Use Facebook to Drive Engagement in Your Owned Channels
So you've got a bunch of fans on Facebook. Now what? Don't forget to tap into your fans and drive them to engage in other channels, particularly where you make the rules. Check out this clever Facebook engagement marketing execution by the CBC, driving its Facebook audiences to subscribe to its newsletter (spotted by my colleague Andrew as we were putting this post together).
So, how are you going to make the most of the news feed changes at Facebook?
These days, no matter the risks, Facebook is required in your digital marketing mix. The secret is to strategically focus your execution—and always be ready to adapt when the rules change again.