Facebook just announced major changes to its algorithm. Here’s what that means for your business

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

I was sitting aboard a plane last week when I read Mark Zuckerburg’s post announcing major changes to Facebook’s algorithm.

He said the changes would affect the reach of brands, businesses and media in an attempt to make the users’ feeds more meaningful and engaging.

I knew right away his statement would go viral, hit the mainstream news and scare the hell out of small businesses and brands (especially those that still haven’t figured out how to do Facebook well).

And that’s exactly what happened.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has made such a statement.

A couple of summers ago, Facebook’s VP of Product Management/News Feed, Adam Mosseri, said something eerily similar, “The strength of our community depends on authentic communication. The feedback we’ve gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most. That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine — so we can show more of them in News Feed. And we work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading, sensational and spammy, to make sure people see those less.”

Soon after Mosseri’s statement, some brands began to see heavy decreases in organic reach on Facebook.

Good marketers began to realize just how serious it could be to their Facebook R.O.I. to buck the social network’s News Feed Values. The wise ones began creating and distributing content that provided entertainment and information, enhanced the Facebook user experience and drove engagement. Businesses that continued to operate under the status quo got hit hard.

Take a look at Priceline. This multi-million dollar brand boasts over 700,000 likes on Facebook yet their posts are rarely seen in users’ feeds. When a post is not shown, there’s no chance that a user will engage with it. When users don’t engage with your posts, they’re telling Facebook not to show them your posts until eventually the only people who see your post are you and your boss.

This never-ending cycle is what I call a “negative snowball.” Rather than building positive momentum, your brand is collecting negative momentum. You’re just rolling down hill with no end in sight. You can blame it on Facebook’s algorithm, throw your hands in the air and say you can’t win. But your problem is you don’t know how to win.

Winning on Facebook starts with understanding what’s most important to Facebook (and this hasn’t changed… ever). Think about it.

Facebook needs to be that network you open forty times a day while you’re supposed to be working. It needs to be that network you kill time on while waiting in line. It needs to be your first choice for sharing personal moments.

The minute you decide to go elsewhere is when Facebook’s value tanks (and Zuckerburg can’t allow that). That’s why Facebook is all about presenting a news feed that inspires, engages and keeps you coming back.

As a marketer, you may have slid by the last couple of years with underperforming engagement. But when you consider Zuckerburg’s renewed passion (and pressure) to promote only content that encourages meaningful interactions between people, if your content doesn’t pass the scroll test and then drive engagement, then it’s not going to be shown (at all).

The good news is it’s really not that difficult to create engaging content. To win on Facebook, you just have to overstand these three principles.

1. Facebook is Personal

Facebook’s feed is completely personalized on a per-user basis (and in some cases, on a per-group basis). There is no one size fits all.

Facebook takes into account over 100,000 individual weights to produce the News Feed that you see, and this is constantly changing. To Facebook, the algorithm is only “1% finished.”

That means any attempt to “play the algorithm” will last only until the next time the algorithm changes.

Building your social strategy around Facebook’s tech is missing the point: an effective strategy has to be built around Facebook’s users.

There is one principle that stays constant through any change: Facebook is always testing to see what works for you. Keep in mind, their goal is to have you on their site sharing your opinions, attitudes and interests — all the time.

This means you need to build your audience one person at a time by delivering content that captivates, motivates and inspires each individual to have real conversations with others.

If you’re playing for the long-term, there are no loopholes or shortcuts. Facebook’s correction back to a focus on relationships and user experience was inevitable — and brands that build their strategies accordingly will weather algorithm changes in the future.

2. Engagement Rules

A lot of brands are making content for content’s sake. Marketing gurus urge them on with the catchy slogan, “Content Is King.”

But content was never king. Engagement is king, and smart brands make content not for content’s sake, but for the sake of their audience.

The real goal is to create content that inspires — in Facebook’s own words, content that “creates meaningful social interactions.”

How can business-people and marketers really tell the difference? Before you post something on Facebook, ask yourself: is this something that I would be willing to share, comment on or like or love?

If the answer is no, then why the hell are you putting that content out into the world??

Don’t waste your audience’s time — or your own. The real magic happens when your team starts asking itself the “would-I-love-this” question not before you post your content, but before you decide what content to create in the first place.

3. You Must Pay to Play

There’s only one way to get that positive-momentum snowball rolling: paid ads.

Through paid Facebook advertising, you can directly reach the audiences that care about the content you’re posting.

If you’re already running successful Facebook ad campaigns, Zuck’s announcement shouldn’t cause any major changes. Advertising in the News Feed will remain as-is.

On the other hand, if you still haven’t jumped into Facebook advertising, now is the time. While established Facebook brands will be stepping back and re-thinking their content strategies in the wake of the algorithm changes, it’s the perfect time for newcomers to jump in.

Not only is Facebook the best deal in advertising, it scales and delivers results too. With the right targeting, you can build audiences that interact with your content and respond to your offers.

The key is learning how to use Facebook’s advanced targeting features to build audiences that work for your business. I have a hunch a lot of other brands will be jumping into Facebook advertising soon. Don’t sleep on this any longer — the FOMO is real.

Final Thoughts

Don’t panic.

This direction is nothing new for Facebook. It merely represents what the social network has been working toward all along.

Your brand should already be doing what it needs to be doing to engage your audiences, and if that’s the case, then you have nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, if you’re posting content multiple times a day that no one cares about, then you have a problem. But you already knew that, right?

Facebook is changing its algorithms to emphasize personal relationships and genuine, social interactions. If your business was blindsided by that change, were you really doing “social media” marketing to begin with?

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Tyler is Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at SLAM! Agency in St. Louis, Missouri. SLAM! helps brands realize and reach their highest potential through content marketing, social media and paid amplification. Learn more at SlamAgency.com.