Facebook has announced a new change to its news feed algorithm, favouring personal posts over news stories, in an attempt to maintain its personal element. What does this *really* mean for publishers though?
Facebook is all about connecting people with their friends and family and despite attempts to divert from its original concept, it’s not ready yet to leave it aside. That’s why it decided to downplay stories from publishers on users’ news feed, in order to promote more personal stories from their favourite people.
This announcement was not warmly welcomed by publishers, as it means that organic reach will probably drop even more (as if it wasn’t already low) and it will be even more challenging from now on to make it to a user’s news feed.
RIP organic reach?
Organic reach was already on decline over the past few years and even before the latest algorithm change, SocialFlow observed a drop of 42% from January to May, which was alarming for Page managers.
It’s apparent that organic reach was becoming more challenging and only engagement and relevance could improve it. However, if there was already a drop of 42% in posts’ reach from January to May, what could we expect from now on?
Image source: SocialFlow
If Facebook is further promoting personal stories over news and brand posts, will we even able to talk about organic reach anymore?
Facebook confirmed in its announcement the possibility of seeing a reduced organic traffic:
“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.”
Publishers are starting to worry about the recent change and this brings about the need to re-evaluate their content strategy, in an attempt to maintain a successful Facebook presence.
Aiming for value and relevance
In Facebook’s own words:
“The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them.”
It’s not just about promoting personal stories then, but it’s also about highlighting the content that is relevant for every user. This means that Pages may still maintain their organic reach, provided they understand their audience.
It is becoming more important than ever for a publisher (and any Facebook Page) to post informative and relevant content for its audience, in a way that it will maintain engagement and ensure posts are still visible on News Feeds.
More over, shareable content, what we also call ‘viral’, will still be important, as this is the organic way to ensure that a page’s reach is increased. Creative, unique and authentic content is always appreciated and this is the only way to maintain the organic reach in the post-algorithm era.
This may require a more extensive analysis of the Page and each post’s performance, although we assume that native videos will still be more important than other types of content. Facebook was quite clear on its preference of native content so this might be a good start for your experimentation over the forthcoming months.
Source: Buzzfeed Pound data
Pay for traffic
It is inevitable that publishers will follow marketers in the ‘pay to play’ game on Facebook, in order to maintain their reach, but is every publisher able to do so? And what does this mean for smaller sites?
It won’t be an easy task for a small publication to maintain a Facebook presence without paying to promote (or boost) a post. This doesn’t mean that every small publisher should abandon Facebook, but it may become more challenging and there’ll be a need for more creative solutions.
Maybe it’s the right time for every publisher to understand that heavily depending on Facebook for traffic is not working anymore and it might be a good idea to consider further options, or simply to focus on other aspects of content marketing.
A change in news consumption?
A recent survey by Pew Research Center indicated that 62% of US adults are using social media to keep up with the news and Facebook is by far their first choice, with 67% of them using it for their news updates.
Image source: Pew Research Center
After the News Feed update, people won’t see the same amount of news stories on their feed and will ultimately affect the success of publishers’ posts.
Beware, this is not the end for publishers on Facebook, but it does call for more authentic, interesting, appealing, engaging content, rather than circulating the same old story across all publications.
Once again, big publishers will probably be less affected by this update, due to the authority, the budget and the engagement they already have.
People will not stop consuming content through Facebook, all publishers need to do is find is the right way to ‘get access’ to their users’ feeds.
(Hopefully the focus on engagement and virality will not lead to posts of lower quality, simply seeking to grab the audience’s attention)
Boosting the “echo chamber”
Another issue to consider is the filter bubble that Facebook has built over the year and how it only grows bigger with all the updates.
People are exposed to people, posts, stories that are relevant to their interests, their beliefs, their experiences and this ultimately affects their broader perception of the world.
Eli Pariser mentioned in his book ‘The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You’ back in 2011:
“Your computer monitor is a kind a one-way mirror, reflecting your own interests while algorithmic observers watch what you click.”
Meanwhile, Facebook published a post on its News Feed Values and mentions among others:
“Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see. We do this not only because we believe it’s the right thing but also because it’s good for our business. When people see content they are interested in, they are more likely to spend time on News Feed and enjoy their experience.”
This sums up its concept, the news feed updates and how our news consumption is changing. As more and more people use the platform to keep up with the news, and as Facebook keeps pushing personal and relevant stories, publishers are also becoming part of a changing reality, which affects both the creation, but also the distribution of their future stories.
What’s the next step for publishers on Facebook?
There’s no need to panic (yet) regarding Facebook’s new update, but it may be a good idea to start examining your audience and the reactions your posts trigger, in order to be ready to deal with the new #Friendmageddon.
Every site will feel the need to analyse its current marketing practices, in order to spot the opportunities for further development to maintain the referral traffic that Facebook may offer.
Whether you already have an engaged audience or not, Facebook kindly reminded us once again that nothing is for granted. Time to adjust our social practices once again then.