On January 11, Mark Zuckerberg—Facebook’s creator and CEO—announced coming changes to the way Facebook displays content in its News Feed. In a lengthy Facebook post, Zuckerberg explained that the News Feed would start prioritizing the content from user’s friends, family and groups as opposed to posts from businesses and publishers. In the post, he noted that Facebook had received feedback from its users that posts from businesses, brands and media was “crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
This comes on the heels of recent algorithm changes where posts that ask users to like, share or follow, and posts that are overly promotional are ranked low, making it unlikely users will ever see them. It also follows more than a year of criticism about their perceived inaction on Facebook’s problems with fake news, and its possible influence on the 2016 U.S. election and the U.K. Brexit referendum.
Over the next few months, users will begin to notice more from their personal connections and less from businesses, brands and media companies. As a Facebook user, this is great news—less ads, more interaction with the people you’re connected to. If you’re a company or brand that uses Facebook in your marketing, this news isn’t great at all.
Marketers and media organizations have become very reliant on Facebook as a promotional tool over the last decade, and it’s easy to see why. Facebook is free to set up, cheap to advertise on and easy to use. It has two billion users around the world, and the amount of information it has for businesses to target potential customers is astonishing. With these new changes, the party may be over for marketers. So now what? How do businesses continue to use Facebook for marketing? Industry West reached out to two local experts to ask what to do next.
Jeph Maystruck, Partner, Strategy Lab Marketing
“I’ve felt like since Facebook went public, it lost its ‘friend’ focus,” says Maystruck. “Facebook needed to make money, and we’re their product. They shifted to advertising for brands and businesses and here we are.” The marketers at Strategy Lab are taking the Facebook changes in stride. “We’re just testing to see what’s changed right now, and we’re finding out what we can and can’t do,” says Maystruck. They’re trying different posts, seeing what can be boosted and what can’t, and how often content should be posted. Maystruck advises to do the same. “Focus on engagement. Consistent, organic engagement is the goal and the hardest one to get,” he says. “Test it all, and compare to your previous metrics to see what works and what doesn’t.”
Maystruck also notes that social media is not the only promotional tool in the marketing chest. Check your web traffic and see where your good leads are coming from. Is it Facebook, or somewhere else? If your good leads come from other places, you have nothing to worry about. Maystruck says Facebook should never be your only tool. “Facebook is free, and home to the biggest audience in the world for sure. However, you don’t own your page—they do. At any moment, it could be gone,” he says. “You need a home base that is yours alone. Plus, with an audience as large as Facebook’s, it’s really hard to get anyone’s attention.”
There are other social media platforms out there to reach prospects. Knowing your target audience is the key. “The biggest thing you can do for yourself in social media marketing is find your audience,” says Maystruck. Instagram is a great place for connecting with your audience in a highly visual space. “Instagram is good for engagement. It’s easy to use and feedback is immediate,” he says. “Snapchat is great for anyone good with a camera for short videos, especially if your targets are young.” Wherever you choose to be—Facebook or elsewhere—it has to be where your prospects are in order to be effective.
Brian Webb, Web and New Media Specialist, Regina
Images are important. “Make sure you include a photo or video with every organic post. Text-only posts by businesses are not worth the time it takes to write and post,” says Webb. “Videos are served to more of your followers than photos, so video is preferred.” If you’re looking to overtly market a product or service, prepare to open your wallet. “Any post that markets or sells a product will need to be boosted in order for it to have any impact,” he says. “Sales posts should have a clear call to action and link to a sales or information website. When you are boosting a post, it’s a good idea to use the button feature that Facebook provides to direct your traffic.” Webb also anticipates the cost to boost posts is going to change. “I expect the price of a boosted post to fluctuate in the short term,” says Webb. To get the most from your boosted posts, he advises using a custom-defined audience—don’t just aim for your own followers.
And always remember, there is a world outside of Facebook. “Google Ads are cost effective alternatives to Facebook, but they take a bit of practice and you may see your first couple of campaigns needing constant attention,” advises Webb. If you’re going to try Google Ads, start small until you’re comfortable with how it all works. LinkedIn and Instagram also provide excellent marketing opportunities. “If you have an active LinkedIn presence for your business, LinkedIn can be a positive tool through their sponsored content feature,” says Webb. “If you sell a physical product, Instagram can be a great way to market, and content can be automatically shared on Facebook as well.”
It’s not all bad news. You’re going to have to test how Facebook will react to your posts, but it’s not the end of the world. Facebook is just one way to reach your prospects. Like we all learned in Marketing 101, it’s all about finding your targets where they are and engaging. The tools change, but the principle stays the same. Good luck!