7 things brands need to know about Facebook’s News Feed changes

facebook

Facebook recently announced some major changes to its news feed.

With Facebook becoming such an important channel for marketers, it comes as no surprise that any major algorithm changes attract the attention (and fear) of digital marketers.

There was a ton of talk and speculation about what the changes would mean for the company and for advertisers, and most of it was panicked and hysterical. There’s no doubt that the changes are going to drastically affect the Facebook experience for users and marketers. However, the effects weren’t being analyzed correctly or through the appropriate lens.

Facebook has dealt with a lot of negative attention over the past 12 months and have had to answer questions that society has never been asked before – big issues such as social media’s effect on democracy, the propagation of fake news, online behavior and addiction, and Senate testimony about Russian election interference.

Facebook responded with a rarely seen self-regulating move in which they updated the algorithm that determines which content gets shown to users. These changes will have negative short-term effects for the company but promise positive long-term effects, both for the platform and the user.

If these changes go as planned, users will spend less time mindlessly scrolling, and more time interacting with friends and family.

The amount of time that people spend on Facebook is going to decrease. That took me a while to digest and wrap my head around. It is brave of Facebook to risk a hero metric such as this one (22 percent of all time spent on mobile is inside a Facebook app. That’s more than all the other big platforms and apps combined). Facebook deduced that time on site is less important than valuable time on site, and it will be really interesting to see if the changes provide a better user experience.

If you’re advertising or promoting content on Facebook right now or you have a brand page, here’s a breakdown of some of the main changes to be aware of and what it means to Facebook advertising moving forward:

The most recent changes will not affect Facebook Ads

Advertisers need not fret, Facebook will not be changing its ads algorithm with this update. Keep in mind that engagement only comprises a small portion of the Facebook ad auction ranking. Therefore, advertisers will continue to be rewarded for producing relevant content and delivering to targeted audiences.

Reduction of organic business page posts will benefit advertisers (with a paid media strategy) as there will be less content that is seemingly “sponsored” in users’ news feed (Facebook analysis has shown majority of users will associate business page posts as sponsored ads in their news feed). One can assume a less brand-heavy feed will provide more visibility for paid ads.

Facebook will prioritize content from friends and family over organic posts to encourage meaningful social interactions on its platform

Facebook will also begin to phase out organic content from pages and publishers and instead focus on serving forms of content that generates the most conversations between friends and family. This change is positive because it will make news feed time well spent for people, more engaging and as such, is good for the longevity of the platform.

Related: Facebook partners with Canadian non-profit to help people recognize false news

However, with the change, businesses should expect their organic reach to be reduced dramatically, and as a result businesses should not rely on organic reach anymore.

Publishers and brands that boost page posts will suffer

Posts that create conversations and interactions (like reactions, comments, and shares) will be given priority on Facebook. It’s important to note that this change will also apply to boosted or promoted page posts. By boosting a post that does have engagement it will result in less reach, which means advertisers should opt for setting up ad campaigns instead of promoting posts.

I think this is a bigger deal than it sounds. While I can’t confirm the percentage of ads that are purchased as promoted or boosted posts, I suspect it’s really large. If you’re boosting posts and seeing a decrease in amplification, it’s time to head over to the ads side.

User experience will become really important

Facebook will make the user experience more important when determining which ads to show people. Facebook has a very complex algorithm that determines which ads to show. Examples of this are algorithms that take user experiences into account such as how fast a web page loads. Another example of this is that certain ads are screened and ranked by a panel of users.

Related: Startups can receive $100,000 through Facebook and the DMZ’s Digital News Innovation Challenge

It will become important for advertisers to take these things into account as Facebook ads not only have to look good and be relevant, but the overall experience users receive from Facebook ads has be positive.

Ad quality will become the single most important factor for your ads

Because of the above changes and recent additions to the Facebook ads algorithm, it’s becoming increasingly important to use high quality creative ads on Facebook — which means including thumb-stopping content, and creative and clever targeting.

Not only will low-quality ads be penalized by Facebook, advertisers not running well designed and relevant ads will simply pay higher CPMs (cost per impression) or even risk not getting any ad delivery at all!

Any kind of engagement baiting will be removed from Facebook

Facebook will crack down on advertisers using what’s called Like or Engagement baiting. Examples of this are advertisers asking users to like and share their ads and content. This tactic should not be used by any serious advertiser on Facebook, as it might get your business locked out from advertising on Facebook.

Focus on performance campaigns

Brands that run successful conversion-based campaigns will continue to get the best performance. These campaigns, with their high click-through and conversion rates, will signal “user value” to the Facebook algorithm and reward marketers for producing relevant ads. If there was ever a time to focus on performance over awareness, it is now! Facebook will roll these changes out gradually over the coming months, and it will be interesting to watch the effects.

Overall, I believe that the ad changes are going to reward the smart performance advertisers on the platform. They’ve been following many of these new best practices for a while, and with the reduction in noise from organic and promoted posts, the top advertisers have an opportunity to shine.

It’s moves like this – as painful as they may be for some – that will improve the chance of Facebook being a dominant platform for users and advertisers.

I’m old enough to remember MySpace really well – from launch to life support – and it seems like an interesting comparable to Facebook in 2018.

I can’t help but feel that this is the move that MySpace never made.

As MySpace pages were getting busier, uglier, and more dominated by spam, a lack of pivot or maturation of the site led to users leaving to newer, more relevant platforms.

If Facebook is going to play such a central role in our digital lives (can we just say lives yet?), they need to reinvent themselves, change with the times, and adapt to new user behaviours.

If these changes go as planned, users will spend less time mindlessly scrolling and watching videos and more time interacting with friends and family, reading relevant and community-based content, and their timelines should become less cluttered with spam and brand posts. This will result in more valuable time on site.

Brands and advertisers need to improve their game accordingly and avoid the strategies and tactics that Facebook is attempting to discourage. When you create ads or write content, focus on the specific user. Ask yourself how they’d like to interact with you in feed. Stop focusing on CPMs and engagements and drive actual business results. Most importantly, be experimental and don’t treat your brand so preciously. You can’t predict what will drive growth, you can only take enough shots to uncover it.

Mark Zuckerberg lost $3.3 billion overnight as a result of making these algorithmic changes. I’ve never had to make a $3.3 billion decision before, so I can only imagine what it was like. But I applaud Mark. I believe that he is proactively ensuring that the platform stays relevant, healthy and valuable. As a specialized agency that’s highly dependent on the future of Facebook, I’ve always felt in good hands with him, knowing that he will never sacrifice experience for ad revenue.

And it’s moves like this – as painful as they may be for some – that will improve the chance of Facebook being a dominant platform for users and advertisers for years to come.

Jeff Goldenberg

Jeff Goldenberg

Jeff Goldenberg is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Abacus, a digital agency focused on performance Facebook and Instagram ads.