Baton down the hatches! Stock up on food supplies! Hide your kids! Facebook has changed its Newsfeed algorithm… again! What used to feel like the end of the world (at least for us lot working in Social Media) is starting to become such a regular occurrence that not only do we accept it but, if it gets to three months without an update, we even expect it.
If you’re thinking “Will, you lost me at ‘algorithm,’” then let’s take a step back. The average Facebook user has so many friends and Page Likes that every time they log in they would have about 1,500 stories battling for attention in their Newsfeed. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm stops this information overload by choosing what will appear in front of each user based on 3 factors: affinity (how close they are to the person that created the post), weight (the action taken to create the post) and time (how recently the post was created).
Put it all together and that’s the reason only about 2% of your fans see your brand’s posts, but with this latest update, Facebook has made things even more interesting by prioritising posts from people – not brands.
People first? On a social network? Designed to connect people!? From an advertising perspective, it’s frustrating, but it makes sense for Facebook to play to their strengths. These days my beautifully curated Newsfeed (if I do say so myself) is full of all the best content from BuzzFeed, The LAD Bible and Match of the Day – so unless I’m searching for something on Google, my Newsfeed has basically become the internet for me. Facebook may now be the only online destination I need, but if real people stop creating their own content (which is what the rumours online suggest), Facebook stops being a social network and instead becomes… a browser? You can find BuzzFeed’s latest listicle all across the web, but a single place to meaningfully stay in touch with real people I’ve actually met is what makes Facebook unique.
So what does this mean for advertisers? Facebook recommend that brands “post things that their audience are likely to share with friends,” as these will now get priority in the Newsfeed over brand Pages sharing the same content organically. But to be blunt, Facebook’s organic reach has already been so low for so long that you should have stopped posting anything without paid support anyway. The best way to beat this and every future change to Facebook’s algorithm really is to support your posts with paid media, ensuring the high-quality content you’re spending time and money creating gets seen by the most relevant users – not just a 2% (or less) pocket of your existing fans.
Facebook’s organic reach is literally lower than this.
Back in 2007 (before Facebook even had a Newsfeed algorithm), Mark Zuckerberg explained that “A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.” This latest update will help ensure that referrals to your latest product launch, brand partnership or even a skateboarding cat video gets seen between trusted friends, but only paid media will get your content in front of the relevant people who’ll do that sharing in the first place.