By now, you’ve probably heard that Facebook has announced some pretty big changes to its news feed algorithm and the way it wants people to interact with the social network.
Because Facebook pretty much equals The World now, the announcement caused much fretting and gnashing of teeth amongst brand and publishers, many (if not all) of whom have come to rely on the traffic and exposure the platform grants them.
Well, you know what? It’s their own fault. And here’s why.
A few years ago, the Facebook news feed (timeline, home page, whatever you want to call it), was a very different space. One where brands, publishers and your mum could jostle for space on an even footing. Then, ol’ Zuckerberg decided to fiddle with the algorithm. Where previously you were shown content chronologically, now content was served to you based on algorithms - streams and streams of code guarded with secrecy that decided which content you’d most like to see and placed that in front of you first.
Nobody ever knew exactly how or what determined which content you saw, but there were certain signals and scoring factors such as number of likes, comments or shares – known collectively as engagement (the bread and butter of social media managers like myself) – that would determine how visible your post might be. Ultimately, this resulted in a slew of poor, unengaging content. The outcome of all this ‘non-tent’ was that audiences tuned out and Facebook took notice.
This led to the ‘reachpocalypse’. Social Media Managers, Agencies and entire businesses and brands were forced to tear up their social strategies as Facebook realised it should
raise more advertising dollars prioritise useful content and limit the number of branded posts people saw when they logged on.
At this point, brands were faced with a choice – invest serious time, money and resources to create a content plan and strategy that could live in the social space, delivering posts that engaged, inspired and added value to the user. Or pay. Guess what most of them did?
That’s right. Most people chose to pay. They chose the shortcut. The quickest way to the top…of your news feed.
By paying to appear in your news feed brands didn’t need to bother coming up with an updated content strategy, they could just set aside some $$$ for some boosted posts and carried on with what they had. The so-called ‘pay-to-play’ model also appealed to many businesses because the ROI was there for all to see. You paid X amount of dollars, reached X amount of people and got X new followers. Lovely. But they were all cheating. They got those comments, those likes and those shares by paying. They weren’t in your feed because you wanted them there, but because they threw enough money at it.
And now that’s being taken away, brands are panicking. Because they don’t know how, or can’t remember, what content they need to make to survive in the newsfeed in 2018. Much like SEO, brands will now have to go big with content over a sustained period. And like SEO, they’ll also need to be patient to see results.
One last point, however. That doesn’t mean adverts and branded posts will cease to exist on Facebook. What is likely to change is how much brands need to pay for those same posts to appear. With less space on people’s timeline given over to ads and brands, the cost of that lucrative digital real estate is certain to increase. The winner - as usual - will be Facebook.