Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is like a social media marketer’s Holy Grail. Understanding how the world’s biggest social network functions to surface content deemed interesting or relevant would give brands the key to reach potential customers at will.
Like most cure-alls, the Facebook algorithm has been nebulous at best and, for marketers, a complete guessing game at worst. That’s why last week’s update—in which Facebook announced that it was changing its News Feed algorithm, and dove into the specifics—is unprecedented.
So, what does this mean for publishers? Should you or your brand be worried? Here are the big takeaways:
Family and Friends, First
Let there be no more ambiguity: Facebook has explicitly confirmed that posts from friends and family appear “toward the top of your News Feed.” It gets down to individual specificity, too. If Facebook senses that you tend to like photos from your sister or cousin, those particular people will gain even higher ranking authority.
Facebook alludes to Live videos, funny photos, and athlete stories as examples of content types people find entertaining. Even if it’s an uphill battle against similar posts from friends and family, every brand should be able to follow suit. Incorporating content that’s completely conversational and bears no connection to your product is healthy and helps convey authenticity.
Information is Key
Facebook tells us that “people value stories that they consider informative,” and that this can include “a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe.” To the new generation of content marketers, this makes intuitive sense. The very best way to succeed is to create content that your audience will find useful—a video that speaks to their pain point, or a blog so useful they’ll want to keep it on-hand.
“Consider how your potential customers interact with your brand via social media,” says Shawna Kenyon, Director of SEO. “If they aren’t yet engaging with you, they need a reason—something that’s educational or informative. Special offers and discounts only really speak to a customer who’s already engaged. The more you understand about where the general social media user is in the customer journey, the better suited you are to create and share content that speaks directly to their needs or challenges.”
What Brands Can Do
Facebook admits that publishers’ referral traffic and reach could decline as a result of this change. However, publisher content that is shared by friends will continue to be shown in the News Feed. In other words, if your brand relies on page posts to generate traffic, you should be laser-focused on spreadable, engaging content.
How do you create this? Here are 3 things to consider when drafting every social post, regardless of platform:
Sharable content begins with creating stories that are relevant to your audience. Think about the kinds of stories you personally comment upon or share with your followers. Most likely, your frequent shares consist of stories that are funny, feel-good, about exciting innovations, and the like. When you are deciding what to post, consider what kinds of things your audience is most interested in. Hard data and facts can help, but an intuitive sense can work better. Your audience wants something to care about your posts, so give them a reason to be interested in what you are saying – make it relevant to them.
A sales pitch won’t go far on Facebook. It is, after all, a platform focused on creating and maintaining connections, not sales. Speak to your audience like a friend, not a potential customer. Using a friendly and personable tone will help your audience feel more connected to your brand through identification. People don’t want to be told what they should think or buy, but what are their concerns and needs? If you give them some useful tips along the way, they might just try your products or develop brand loyalty. People may even come to see the brand as a friend or feel like they have a relationship with it. Become an engaging thought leader in the industry, not the annoying seller that gets ignored.
Brevity and Visuals
The average human now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, at only 8 seconds. So, if you have made it this far into the blog, congratulations! Keeping Facebook posts and articles short is key to keeping your audience’s attention and increasing engagement. There is a reason that list posts are typically more engaging – they don’t take as much time or attention to digest. Adding images or videos is another way to keep your posts interesting. Visuals are more compelling and take less effort to understand, making them more sharable than posts containing only text.