Facebook’s Local News Audience Bump: Old Marketing Rules Still Apply

Opinion: The only way to guarantee reach and impact is to participate in the paid space

Local news publishers shouldn’t expect a windfall Zerbor/iStock

Read all about it! Facebook is prioritizing local news in users’ News Feeds.

Prioritizing local news over national news topics (which you can argue are more politically polarizing) is an extension of Facebook’s intent to reduce sensationalism and make its News Feed more meaningful for users overall. After all, what’s more relevant to individuals than what’s happening locally? We’ve seen Facebook take multiple steps in this direction recently as it tries to reduce fake news and ad fraud and rebuild the community feel of the News Feed.

With these moves, Facebook is merely doing what it has always tried to do: prioritize relevant content in News Feed.

Theoretically, local publishers should see a virtuous cycle. As users click on and engage with local content, Facebook’s algorithm gets tuned in to recognize those publishers as “high-quality.” This elevates the content in the streams of fellow local users.

While these recent algorithm changes feel like a big shift, I doubt users will see a massive difference overnight in whether or not they see more content from their local blogs or local and regional newspapers, and less and less of CNN, Fox News or Tasty videos. Chances are, the algorithm has already picked up on their local interests.

And keep in mind that none of Facebook’s recent changes has made any impact on how paid ads appear in News Feed (so far), as those posts will continue to optimize toward the users who are likely to find value in and respond to them.

That aside, this move reminds the market of the larger importance of creating quality content overall. According to Facebook, it will “continue to work to understand the types of posts that promote meaningful interactions.”

In order for local news outlets, companies and marketers to take advantage of the potential for added reach and engagement, the old rules still apply around creating engaging content. This includes highlighting new products and services, responding to customer interactions, featuring upcoming events to connect with customers in the local community, uploading relevant videos and providing important updates.

And I can’t emphasize enough that the only way to guarantee reach and impact toward business objectives is still very much about participating in the paid space. This means that marketers or local publishers that want to amplify their content in social should:

  • Identify their best-performing organic content by looking for themes around what types of images, videos or text tend to resonate and generate reach and engagement. Boosting this content is a good place to start, but using these creative insights to develop or tailor native ad units that are optimized toward your campaign objective should be the end-business-goal.
  • Define the business objective and what measurement to track as an indicator of success on Facebook. Is it building brand awareness with a reach or an ad recall key performance indicator? Is it driving site traffic with a cost-per-click or cost-per-site-visit KPI? Or is it online sales or leads with a return-on-ad-spend goal? This determines the budget to spend in order to accomplish those results.
  • Determine who your ideal audience is—geographically, demographically, and from an interest/behavior standpoint—to help refine campaign targeting parameters.
  • Test and learn. The great thing about paid social is that it’s easy to see, in real-time, how audiences are responding to your campaign and creative. If you’re not accomplishing the initial goal you outlined, try adjusting your targeting or your creative slightly and monitor campaign results closely for improvements or declines in performance.

Facebook’s changes to its organic News Feed make it even more important to craft a solid, full-funnel paid social strategy in order to ensure that marketing teams and organizations are reaching customers where they spend their time—whether that’s on Facebook, Instagram or other social applications and websites.

Local news publishers shouldn’t expect a windfall (although that would be welcomed), but instead, they should use this time to evaluate and refresh their marketing strategies to see if they align with how their readers experience their content on social media.

Amy Rumpler is associate director of paid social at digital advertising planning and buying software provider Centro.