Facebook algorithm changes: What they mean for brands

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As you’ve perhaps heard, Facebook is making changes to its News Feed algorithm, starting this month. Now that the new year’s here, let’s take a look at the changes and what they’ll mean for your brand in 2015.

Facebook announced that soon its algorithm would be limiting the reach of certain brand posts, specifically those they considered “overly promotional.” And what did Facebook designate as such? They specifically cited three factors:

  • “Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app”
  • “Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context”.
  • “Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads”

These posts from fake (though slightly intriguing) brands illustrated what to avoid under the new rules.

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The rationale for these changes is nothing new. Facebook wants its users to be engaged. Some posts from friends do that, others don’t, and Facebook tries to show you more of the engaging ones and fewer of the less engaging ones.

It’s the same for brand posts, except that posts from brands that would normally be filed under “less engaging” and shown less often can instead become ads, which will increase their reach as well as Facebook’s revenues.

MINIMAL IMPACT ON SMART BRANDS

The good news is that for a lot of brands, the changes will not have a huge impact. Previous updates to the algorithm made it clear that reach was tied to engagement, and that strictly promotional content was not the best way to get that engagement.

If brands weren’t already in the habit of siloing content based on whether it aimed to engage their fans or sell to them, these changes are a signal that now is the time.

It will now be essential, rather than just advisable, to plan to boost sales content on Facebook from the start. It will also likely be a good idea that specifically sales-oriented content of the type that Facebook cited in its post be created as dark posts–while the algorithm remains mostly shrouded in mystery, it’s not inconceivable that posting occasional “overly promotional” content could result in a drop in reach for all of your posts.

The rest of what you do on Facebook should be geared on engaging, conversing with and helping your fans, along with driving them to content across your other web channels.

FOCUS ON FRAMING

Getting this right on a post level doesn’t have to be complicated. For posts that aim to engage, you need to know your fans well, and to think as much about what they will find interesting and entertaining as what you want to say about your brand. And the copy for your posts should reflect that.

To illustrate, a tale of two tacos:

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While both look delicious, under the new algorithm, the text in your post should be closer to the first than the second for maximum organic reach. Now, for a taco promo like the one in the second post, you might have to pay for the post to reach a wider audience.

Getting a handle on reach

This looks mostly like a bit of fine tuning from Facebook, with the goal of keeping people more engaged on the network. Despite the outcry from brands each time Facebook makes a move like this, the company wouldn’t ever risk changes that would really alienate the group its whole business model is based on.

But the negative reactions are understandable to an extent. I think that brands get frustrated because there’s a perceived lack of clarity in terms of reach, and every change made can seem to complicate the equation.

Matthew Klein is a content manager at Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Falcon Social. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Falcon Social enables enterprises to Listen and Engage, Publish and Measure – all from a unified platform.

Image courtesy of JuliusKielaitis / Shutterstock.com.
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