Times are changin’ – literally and figuratively. Yes, we’re moving into 2015, switching over our calendars and preparing ourselves for another countdown. But the countdown we should really be paying attention to is the countdown to a very, very new Facebook (at least where marketers are concerned).
We’ve talked about this before – organic reach on Facebook (and soon other networks) has already decreased for most brands. But in January, Facebook plans to make an even more substantial change to its algorithm (not EdgeRank anymore), significantly decreasing organic reach for any Facebook content that is deemed as promotional in any way. If it looks like an ad, smells like an ad, reads like an ad, you’ll have to pay to ensure that users see it starting in January 2015.
Here’s the deal. Facebook reports that an average of 1,500 stories are generated each time someone logs in. Of those, a user’s Newsfeed only displays around 300. And its algorithm is the deciding factor as to which stories you see – it filters based on factors relative to what each user likes, their clicks, articles they’ve commented on, etc.
And recently, via a user experience survey, Facebook found that users wanted to see more stories from friends & pages they care about, and less promotional content. This didn’t mean ads, though. This meant salesy posts from the pages users already “Like.” So in response to this, Facebook has rejiggered their algorithm to filter out any “overly promotional page posts.”
Facebook constantly makes updates to its algorithm, however this recent change is one of the most substantial updates they’ve made so far. In effect, Facebook is forcing marketers who often use the network as a means of promoting their contests, new products and events, to spend money on ads, if they want these messages to be seen (even by their existing followers).
And, not only does Facebook want to control how & how many promotional messages users see, but they also want to control who sees them. If someone is going to see a promotional message, Facebook wants to make sure that it’s marked as such AND that it’s shown only to users who will find it highly relevant. And the only way to do that, is by paying for an ad and selecting a very specific target audience. In theory, the more hyper targeted your ad’s audience, the more relevant the ad creative can be, the higher the engagement rate, and the more satisfied Facebook users will be.
This is certainly great from a UX perspective. But for marketers, this means more money, more creativity and, our favorite, more time. And we’re a little suspicious of Facebook’s actual motives i.e. Facebook is likely looking to get rich quick (or wait, have they already done that?).
Okay, so what’s all of this mean for YOU?
- Take a deep breath.
- You need a budget. No matter what you have planned for the next year on Facebook, if an ad budget isn’t a part of that plan, you need to start over. Facebook ads are no longer an option, they’re a requirement, especially if you want to increase your reach and amplify your promotional messages. Remember, if your post has any of the following involved it MUST be posted as an ad: contests, events, product-heavy, “buy this.” The specifics are outlined here.
- Get creative with your organic posts. You can’t post about a gift card sale. You can’t post about an event. You have to add value to people’s lives in some way. You have to provide quality content that’s creative, that makes people stop & think, and then share.
- Be relevant. If you want to increase your organic reach, you must increase your engagement rates. What’s the best way to do that? Talk about what matters. Have a point of view about trending topics and always think about what’s going on seasonally, and personally for your community.
- Measure. If you’re not already tracking your social metrics, get on it. You’ll need to ensure that both your organic posts and paid ads receive high engagement rates. Because this will be one of the biggest factors determining whether users will see either type of post. Now, you not only need to spend more money with Facebook ads, but you also need to spend more money reporting out on organic and paid content.
- Optimize. And what should you do with those reports? Use them as the basis for continual optimization. Use the insights to discover which content is best performing and replicate it. Do A/B tests with your paid ads to determine what’s going wrong with the ads that receive low engagement rates – is the creative off or is your targeting off? Or both?
This is a lot to take in. Facebook and the constantly changing world of social media can be a bear. Fortunately brands who are already leveraging paid social will have a little easier time making this transition. They’ll just need to review their ad creative and optimize for the highest engagement rates and be sure not to post any ads to their wall as organic posts.
But for marketers who have yet to explore the world of Facebook advertising, this may take some ramp up time and potentially some consultation with someone who knows the ins and outs of paid social.