The Facebook News Feed is Changing Again: Are You Ready?

You’ve probably heard by now that Facebook will be rolling out changes to their News Feed Algorithm.

And you may be feeling like this:

Relax.

You may think it’s all doom and gloom, but let’s be honest, this isn’t Facebook’s first move towards prioritising personalised content. This time round Facebook said:

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

But this is also what Facebook said in June 2016:

“We are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.”

Really this is just another nudge to the algorithm, with a lot of PR. Sure, you need to pay attention and consider your strategy (we’ll come to this in a sec), but for now, just take a couple of deep breaths.

The thing to take away from this is that as more posts fight for people’s News Feed attention, over time organic reach is always going to decline. Facebook wants to encourage ad revenue, and spooking you is one way to do that. What we recommend is thinking Smart about what you need to do to stand out for your audience on Facebook…

Quality Over Quantity

This is the main message from Facebook here, and really it’s good news for you: concentrate on creating exciting content, rather than filling up your schedule with quick and dirty posts. (This is why we created SmarterQueue in the first place: to free up your time to be creative and inspire people.) We already know that if content doesn’t get reactions or comments it rarely gets much reach on Facebook. Now, this is going to be even more obvious.

Facebook has clearly said they want to promote discussion over passive browsing, so you need to create posts that are likely to provoke comments and discussion. Activity on your post, like users sharing posts directly with friends (on the friend’s wall or in a PM), or attracting comments by users sharing on their own walls, are all pluses from an algorithm perspective.

Find Your Best Posts

Your next step: jump into SmarterQueue’s detailed analytics and take a look at which of your Facebook posts are getting the most comments (over reactions or even shares). Look for similarities between the posts: is there a pattern to how you’ve been inspiring your audience to really get involved? Whatever it is, do more of that. In other words, use your data to create the content your audience enjoys. Maybe you’re already doing this, but here are a few tips and reminders:

  1. View Engagement by Category. See which categories are getting most engagement. Check out the % Comments and our % Engagement Score—the latter is coming soon—for each category. The new % Engagement Score (coming soon) will add up all the engagement you got (clicks, likes, shares, comments), and divide by how many unique people saw the post. (FYI, You’ll find this under Reports in Analytics)
  2. Check up on your Evergreen posts. If any posts aren’t getting comments, shares or reactions anymore, then stop sharing them – these posts will now signal to Facebook that people don’t like your content, and Facebook will demote the rest of your posts too. To find this content quickly, go to Past Posts and filter by Facebook Page and Evergreen, then sort by Fewest Comments (%) to see your least effective posts first. You can also do this with your One-Time content, take a quick look for any patterns in the type of content, or the writing style that’s been least effective lately.
  3. Keep an eye on your Evergreen cycles. Once your evergreen posts have been through several cycles it’s worth quickly checking their engagement scores. You don’t want to keep them running after their engagement has hit a plateau.
  4. Consider experimenting with your posting schedule. If you’re posting very frequently, you may actually increase engagement by sharing less often. Remember—this is all about encouraging quality over quantity.

 

Strategies to Stand Out

There’s no getting past the need for a bit of analysis and reflection if you want to stay on top of Facebook’s new algorithm, but we do have a couple of other tricks up our sleeve:

Promote Your Facebook Groups
Facebook has always favoured Groups over Pages. The rationale is that Pages can be passively followed, while Groups should have a community dynamic, where all members feel involved. This means that conversations are more likely to arise in Groups than on Pages, and that’s exactly the type of post the Facebook news feed intends to prioritise in future.

In other words, there’s a great positive feedback loop for us to tap: users join groups to have conversations, posts spark conversations more readily in groups, and Facebook will prioritise conversations. If a really big discussion develops it can get featured in the user notification tab, this creates loads of post visibility – and it’s free.

Inc believes that this preference is here to stay, and so do we. So if you don’t already have one or more Facebook Groups, it’s time to establish one.

Ask Your Followers to turn on ‘See First’
Users have a few options when they Like your Page for how much or little they want to see your content, including the option to ‘See First’, bumping your content to high priority in their News Feed. To take advantage of this, just let your users know that Facebook is changing things, and point them to the ‘See First’ option if they want to be sure to still catch all your great content.

To turn on “See First” all you have to do is visit the Page, click on the Like menu and select “See First” in the “In your News Feed” section. If you have Events and Live Video in your social strategy too, then you can point them to turn on Notifications for these at the same time.

Facebook see first screenshot

Give it a Boost
If you’ve managed an entirely ad-free Facebook strategy so far then, congratulations, but you might want to think about incorporating ads now. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, just add a little boost to a post or two to get the ball rolling. You want to do this with posts that are important to you, or you think have a lot of potential for discussion (once it gets started). Once there are several comments on a post, you can stop Boosting it, and the organic reach will keep growing as more people join the conversation.

Follow Facebook’s Recommendations
Facebook recommends the following types of content for getting people involved:

  • Posts in Groups (as we mentioned)
  • News about important time-sensitive issues (that then sparks discussion)
  • Posts with particular local relevance (for local businesses) – easy to pick a good target audience for your ads
  • Videos designed as conversation starters (it sounds obvious, but asking questions in videos works)
  • Live video is even better (Facebook says it’s 6x better for engagement than standard video)

For more specific inspiration, dip into your Past Posts in SmarterQueue Analytics for some examples of posts that have gone down well with your audience in the past.

Don’t Forget Instagram
The curveball. If you don’t think you can up your Facebook game, try increasing your focus on Instagram. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is still a great place to get engagement if you play your cards right, and may be a better investment of your time and energy than fighting it out on Facebook. (Take a look at our blog post on Instagram for Business for some tips.)

Above All, Don’t Panic!

Facebook has clearly stated that “as we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease.“ So it’ll be happening to your competitors too. Sure, you need to make some changes, but they’ll be adjusting too, so if it doesn’t work immediately, don’t panic.

Whatever you do, don’t resort to “engagement-bait” posts. Facebook is very clear on this. Interactions generated as a result of these posts are worthless to you: they are on the watch and will actively demote your Page in News Feeds. Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste.

Yes, the Facebook algorithm change will be important to you, and yeah, you’ll need to take action. But the steps are straightforward and you’ve got SmarterQueue on your side. So take that deep breath and bring it on.

 

Sarah Lockwood

Sarah Lockwood is a senior Marketing & PR Consultant for SmarterQueue, based in London, UK.