Navigating the Changes to Facebook’s Algorithm

Niamh Parker Blog

Russian agents, fake news and a rigged presidential election. No, this isn’t the plot of the latest crime novel or the next Bourne movie, it’s a summary of allegations facing the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook and the catalyst for its most recent development.

In January, CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg announced that changes to Facebook’s algorithm will cause users to see less public content from businesses, brands and media, and instead see more content from friends and family, in an attempt to foster “more meaningful social interactions”, and while not explicitly stated, decrease the spread and influence of fake news and propaganda.

My initial thoughts on this change were mixed. On one hand, as a consumer and user of Facebook, I am happy that I will be seeing more pictures of my friend’s dogs, babies and selfies (although seemingly incessant) and less brands and click bait clogging up my newsfeed. On the other hand, as a PR practitioner, I wondered how this would impact upon my profession, my clients, and selfishly, would it make my job more difficult in the long run?

To find answers to my queries I did what any millennial would do – scoured the Internet for explanations and advice. The Guardian acknowledged that the change could “wreak havoc on the media ecosystem” while others pre-warned of a decline in revenue streams for many brands and businesses, which account for over 60 million Facebook Pages according to recent stats.

Personally, I think the changes in Facebook’s algorithm could be the perfect time for brands to take a step back and reevaluate how they communicate with their audiences on social media. From my research, I identified key learning’s for brands and businesses in the wake of the Facebook’s new algorithm.

  • Focus on publishing engaging posts that encourages lots of likes, comments and shares. For example, ask questions in the post or choose a topic or theme that is current, trending or resonates with consumers on a personal level. Here are some tips from Facebook on how to make posts more engaging: http://bit.ly/2u5oikw
  • Do not try and beat the system by asking your audience for comments and likes for the sake of it. Facebook says that “engagement-bait” is not a meaningful interaction, therefore will not be promoted in the news feed.
  • Engage with your users by replying to their comments. This will help create the two-way conversations and meaningful interactions that the algorithm favours.
  • Use Facebook Live. Facebook said live videos are totaling six times the interactions of non-live videos. One of the earliest success stories using Facebook Live is Buzzfeed, whose live video involving just a rubber band and a watermelon attracted over 807,000 viewers at its peak popularity. Find out more: http://bzfd.it/2FWYeto
  • Increase Facebook ad spend and knowledge. People are expected to spend less time on Facebook with the new update, reducing ad consumption. Brands must know how to target their audience correctly to ensure they get the most bang for their buck and are targeting people who are actively interested in what they’re promoting.

Considering my research and all of the above, I believe it is time we start treating consumers as friends and family and seek to create and fulfill the meaningful, valuable social interactions that Zuckerberg envisions. After all, no one likes to feel as if they are being sold to or that they’re merely a puppet in a brands plan for world domination. There is no doubt that brands and businesses need social media, the question is, how well are they using it?

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