So, it turns out the world collectively panicked and freaked out last week, when Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to the Facebook algorithm. Yup, they were screaming it from the roof tops, blasting social media, going live on camera, and pretty much any other means they could use to alert us all to the impending "Facebook zero" that will arise from this. Meanwhile, I sat here going, huh, no big deal.
Am I crazy? Maybe. A little too overwhelmed post holidays to care? Maybe that too.
Or maybe I just didn't see the same doomsday message many others did.
Facebook's latest announcement about the algorithm didn't seem all that Earth shattering to me. Other recent announcements (like penalizing engagement-baiting) were much more catalytic to me than this one. And, fortunately, I'm not alone. A few other rational souls out there agree with me.
If you're confused about the whole thing or wondering how bad it really is, you are welcome to read my (more calm and practical) thoughts here. Or, you can continue to pound your fists that Facebook has taken away all of your reach and encourage the tantrums of others.
(Oh, and I did cover this exact same topic on an Instagram Live video. If you'd rather watch that video, you can see it here.)
First of all, if you haven't read Mark's post, you can read it here. But I'll summarize some key points throughout this post.
So, back in December, Zuckerberg said he wanted to "fix Facebook" in 2018. That was the ringing alarm bells that we knew changes were coming. I honestly think that statement from him is what got people so frenzied over this announcement. We were anticipating changes - most of us assume the worst - so when he said "you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media", everyone went to the worst case scenario:
Zero organic reach.
The end of Facebook pages.
Oh, pooey! So much drama!
If you actually stop to read what Zuckerberg said, he's basically admitting that we, as marketers, are ruining Facebook for everyday users. And, let's be realistic, if users aren't happy, they won't use Facebook. If they aren't using Facebook, then it doesn't matter what your reach is because it WILL be zero since no one will be there to see it!
And, yes, I wholeheartedly believe we, as marketers, have ruined Facebook for ourselves. We did this. A few years ago when people were posting 7-10 times a DAY on Facebook, creating such a highly saturated content swamp (and by swamp, I mean smelly, nasty, crappy content), that Facebook had no choice but to limit the amount of crap we, collectively, put in front of people.
And so, reach declined. And everyone complained. Boo freaking hoo.
Recently, Facebook has done more listening to their users and determined that they are still getting too much public content (from brands, celebrities, tv shows, non-profits, etc.) compared with what they really want - updates from their friends and family. It's easy to see this if you do the math. Let's say you have 100 friends on Facebook and each posts once a week. That's 100 posts in a week from your friends. Let's also say you follow 100 public pages and each of them post once a day. That's 7 posts for each of them, so 700 posts a week. Can you see how diluted your friends and family's content is in your feed? And, let's face it, I'm being conservative with 100 friends and brands. And certainly conservative with once a day for many public pages!
So, yes, Facebook, will continue to bury the annoying content that brands and marketers throw out there, to ensure that users get a positive experience interacting with those they actually really care about.
Ok. Now we all understand that component of the latest Facebook announcement. Now, let's look at another component that Zuckerberg stated.
"I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions."
What does this mean? It means Facebook wants you to connect with other people. In "meaningful" ways. How do you do that? Conversations.
Facebook will start pushing heavily for content that generates COMMENTS. Comments will now be the gold standard of currency on Facebook. Not likes, shares, or clicks. Comments. When people comment, they engage in an actual conversation with actual opinions. This is what Facebook wants.
Which means, if you create great content that generates lots of comments, guess what, your content will get great reach. If your content sucks, and if never generates comments, reach will decline, yes.
And, if the cynic in me can come out for a minute, I do warn you that those MLM marketers in your feed will only get more exposure and reach. They have "mastered" the trick-Facebook tactics to ask super annoying questions, post fluffy content, and post endlessly on their personal profiles to get in your face all the time. But they generate comments. Which means, with this new algorithm, they get more exposure. I am NOT happy about this.
(Side note. I have nothing against MLM marketers, and those who do it right. I have an issue with those who use their personal profiles to promote their business and cheat Facebook's algorithm.)
This does NOT mean you need to go out and start begging for comments. I already mentioned the engagement-bait issue. Facebook is scouring for these cheap tactics and won't reward you when you trick people into commenting.
Instead, may I offer a sage (if I do say so myself) piece of advice? Good. Here you go: Stop thinking like an annoying brand or business, and start thinking like a human being. Think about the types of content YOU interact with on Facebook. What makes you stop and watch a video? What posts get you motivated enough to actually leave a comment? What are you happy to see when you're scrolling through Facebook?
Ok, this doesn't mean changing everything on your page to cute animal videos 😉
But, you do need to stop and think about how your brand can stop pushing marketing content, and start creating real conversations in your community.
In line with this change, and what might freak a lot of people out, is the talk of video. Zuckerberg said "We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience."
They don't want passive experiences - they want direct interaction. By his own admission, this comes from live video.
Because people get to be a part of the conversation because it's LIVE. They're asking questions. They're offering opinions. They're being HEARD.
And, for all the push Facebook has done for live video, it is definitely not saturated. Not that many people are using it regularly so there's plenty of room to promote it when someone does go live. My recommendation: If you're doing live video now, you'd better start!
But, this does bring up a concern about regular videos. Facebook (and marketers) have pushed for more and more video content for the last couple years. People were saying that Facebook would be 100% video by 2020 (or something like that). And, now, here's Zuck saying video is a passive experience, and potentially a negative experience. So, what does that mean for video? I honestly don't know.
If your audience loves video and it provides real value to your audience, then keep doing it! If your audience likes short form videos, give them more of that and wean away from long form content. The key will be to test and adapt as changes roll out, but to continue to give your audience what they want, since it's their interactions that drive your results.
So, what should you do now?
- Post with purpose. Do not post to check the box that you shared something to Facebook. Instead, be intentional, strategic, and relevant with what you post.
- Think like a user. Not like a brand.
- Live video. Embrace it.
- Focus on positivity. Facebook has been rewarding this for a while. Use positive and encouraging verbiage. Share positive content. Be a happy brand!
- Groups. Start one, use it, see results. People feel "safer" in groups than on Facebook publicly so they often interact more there. Plus, Facebook is big on groups right now. So you should be too.
- Ads. Yes, you will have to pay to play in some way. But it shouldn't be your default solution to just throw money behind every post. That's wasteful and won't benefit your brand on Facebook.
- Don't rely only on Facebook. If all your eggs are in this basket... well, it's time to diversify. Consider other social media platforms to build an audience in addition to what you have on Facebook.
As always, Facebook is a moving target. It changes all the time and can be hard to figure out. But keep at it. Keep testing. And keep focusing on your audience first. It'll all work itself out!