The New Reality of Facebook

February 18th, 2014
flickr user mkhmarketing under CC BY license

flickr user mkhmarketing under CC BY license

By now you’ve probably heard about the changes Facebook made to their News Feed algorithms in December. These changes brought a negative impact to a substantial portion of Facebook users marketing their content and promoting their business. The change was implemented to allow what Facebook deemed “high quality content” (mostly news articles) to feature more prominently over “meme photos.”

For Facebook to want our News Feeds to be of higher quality seems like a noble cause, but what’s happened is that businesses that rely on Facebook to promote themselves find that their posts are reaching only a fraction of the people their posts used to, resulting in fewer fans seeing and engaging with their posts. Food blogger and cookbook author Stephanie Stiavetti publicized this issue back in December, when she noticed her engagement had nearly halted and that barely more than 1 percent of her followers were seeing her posts. An analysis by Ignite showed that organic reach declined an average of 44 percent, and sometimes as high as 88 percent decline.

What does Facebook have to say? Officially, not much. But in a post on Business Insider, Nicholas Carlson spoke with an anonymous Facebook source to shed light on the situation. Apparently, “Facebook has changed its mind about brands. It has decided that users do not really want to see a News Feed full of updates from brands.”

Another lesson: The number of fans you have is not and never has been the number of people who will see your message. Perhaps most importantly is that we all have to deal with the new reality of Facebook. This means our messages are in direct competition with major publishers who spend a lot of money on professional, journalist-vetted content.

So now that the reach of Facebook posts has diminished considerably, what’s a marketing or PR pro to do? Facebook would certainly like you to pay to boost your post or post an ad. This can be circumvented or reduced if your posts already garner a lot of engagement in the form of comments, likes, and shares, but that’s a pretty special case.

This means Facebook marketing is going to have to get a lot more targeted and relevant in order to garner the engagement necessary for people to see messaging, and content will have to be that much more compelling. And since it’s in direct competition with content created by organizations with big production budgets, messaging must be even more timely and viral-ready. It may also be worth targeting specific audiences through selective posts boosting and measuring results from that. Ultimately, we need to know our outputs/posts are driving a business initiative, or we need to retrench no matter what the algorithm.

Businesses for which Facebook is the main source of messaging are going to have to reevaluate. Putting all your eggs in one messaging basket isn’t a great strategy anyway, so it’s the ideal time to diversify and spread messaging on other channels. The appeal of Facebook was the higher engagement rate, but with that gone, will another channel rise up? Or will Facebook adopt the Google model of constant algorithm calibration, which can improve results depending on the alteration?

How will you change what you share on Facebook? Have you noticed a drop in reach, and how are you strategizing to compensate for it?

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