Facebook’s Algorithm: How Businesses Can Cope With Changes

SocialTimes wanted to find out more about how the changes to Facebook will hit businesses, and Branndon Stewart, founder and CEO of OutboundEngine, was nice enough to do a quick Q&A

It’s no surprise that Facebook keeps evolving, but those changes often impact businesses the most.

One of Facebook’s latest algorithm changes will limit overly promotional organic posts from Pages that are show in News Feed.

Social Times wanted to find out more and Branndon Stewart, founder and CEO of OutboundEngine, was nice enough to do a quick Q&A.

ST: What do the changes mean for small to midsize businesses/startups?

Stewart: It will become harder for SMBs to earn space in their customers’ News Feeds, and they may have to pay to reach the same number of people that they used to be able to reach for free. But, it also means that when businesses do successfully land in the news feed, they’ll have less competition and a greater share of the audience’s attention. This change is important for the overall health of the Facebook ecosystem–a relevant and uncluttered news feed keeps users coming back. SMBs may not like the change, but the alternative is that users abandon Facebook and flock to the next social network, meaning yet another web property for business owners to manage.

ST: What are the top tips that SMBs/startups can do to ensure that they are using Facebook effectively?

Stewart: The most important thing a business owner can do to be successful on Facebook is share great content that followers find valuable. That means a mix of original content, links to interesting third-party content, and meaningful offers from the business. Businesses shouldn’t be posting the same thing over and over, and they certainly shouldn’t be constantly selling at their audience. Don’t forget that Facebook is a highly visual medium, so content should have a high level of professional polish — users expect to see beautiful photography and thoughtful design. Finally, SMBs shouldn’t overlook Facebook’s paid advertising platform. The costs are still reasonable (unlike Adwords), and the ability to target your message is unparalleled. The number of options available in the platform can be overwhelming, but business owners who take the time to understand it will find a big opportunity to get ahead of their competitors.

ST: How will brands and businesses need to think differently to be seen?

Stewart: Businesses will really need to think about how to play the long game with customers, and in many cases that may mean not being seen at all. Originally, you could simply broadcast messages at customers. With the advent of social, it became about joining the conversation, but that was more about following them onto social networks rather than thinking about how those interactions should happen. Now, consumers expect a flawless social media experience, and if they’re going to allow brands into it, they won’t tolerate interruption. So, businesses have to learn to be both present and invisible, subtly interacting with consumers and resisting the temptation to shoehorn in their own messaging until they really have something compelling to offer. When that moment comes, they’ve established trust and credibility and consumers are more likely to react positively.

ST: Any examples of how they can be creative? Or is quality of content more important?

Stewart: Quality of content, including photography/graphics, is paramount. Facebook’s goal is to make advertising appear as seamless as possible for consumers, so there are pretty strict guidelines about what you can get into the news feed. But businesses have a lot of room to get creative in their messaging. What will you give consumers if they engage with you? Can you create a compelling online interaction? For example, we work with a lot of real estate agents, so at one point we created an online quiz about real estate marketing that agents could take to see how their marketing programs stacked up. That’s something they don’t see every day, it’s a 60-second commitment at best, and it’s both valuable for their business and fun for them–we had great results. Anything to reduce the number of “Top X” lists! And, I hate that I even have to say this, but resist the temptation to insert your business into conversations about current events. Almost every brand that tries to get clever with the news looks out of touch at best and downright offensive at worst.

Image courtesy of Gil C / Shutterstock.com.