The recent Facebook newsfeed changes are driven by big picture stuff. On the one hand the Facebook newsfeed is bursting at capacity, and on the other hand it’ s being used by Russians to facilitate a new cold war. Regulation of some kind was inevitable, and self-regulation might be the most favoured type of regulation. Short term it will hurt Facebook financially, but when you have under utilised platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp and FB Messenger in your back pocket, that short term could be really, really short.
How did we get here?
Newsfeed ad inventory: Since 2016 Facebook has been flagging it’s newsfeed ad space is running low. This new move allows them to charge a premium for less newsfeed placements.
Instagram Business Profiles: We knew converting our personal profiles into Business Profiles (in return for the worst analytics dashboard ever) would catch up with us one day. As organic reach diminishes on Instagram, today might be that day. Instagram is doing a better job of converting businesses into advertisers than Twitter is, and with new features people actually like (Stories vs 280 characters #wtf), it’s much better placed to take the lions share of left over Facebook budget. Looking at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for a lot of brands Instagram might be the best of a bad lot, expect to see Facebook paid budgets move more into Instagram.
WhatsApp & Messenger: Facebook own these too and you can now place ads in Messenger, while brands are adding Whats App for their customer service (an area Twitter excelled at). On the one hand there’s less Facebook for us, but Facebook has left us with lots of other options.
Russia: You may have heard of that thing where a foreign government meddled with a democratic election facilitated by Facebook? You know the thing, the new cold war is happening on Facebook, and it was only a matter of time before something or someone was going to rein in Facebook. Self regulation versus actual regulation? Let’s dress that up as doing users a favour.
So what can brands do now?
- Content that drives discussion: If content drives meaningful discussion ie. it’s not just me tagging a mate but leaving something that Facebook decides is meaningful (I’d bet meaningful is measured by character count rather than substance) it will get around the algorithm. Brands will need to find a prompt for discussion between fans (which will be tricky) and don’t forget you can’t ask for engagement or use click bait. That’s a big no-no!
- 2. Live Video: Facebook are decreasing reach for video, but not for Live Video as this format drives discussion – and it does. As events unfold people are compelled to comment as they know it’s in real time. The great news for brands is that the average person produces fairly crap live videos*, brands have more budget so could produce something that drives discussion. (*and some brands.)
- Instagram: Facebook circa 2014 in terms of organic reach. You might have less followers here than on Facebook, but the organic reach is free for now. Look at reducing your posts on Facebook and increasing them on Instagram. Do the maths 6% ER off 10,000 Instagram followers is the same as 1% ER off 60,000 fans.
- WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit: Other ‘organic’ channels that are also available where you could do something that doesn’t require ad spend.
- Facebook Groups: Remember the push to start FB Groups for brands last year? This is the most social feature Facebook has rolled out in years – a place for like minded people to chat about topics they love. That’s so Facebook 2008. They’re a thing and they can work, but they’re not for everyone but might have success for very specific projects.
- Facebook Ads: These will still work, but they might cost a little more.
As a user maybe this change won’t be so bad. If there’s content I’d love to see less of it’s those pointless products that actually don’t exist, except to be a piece of content. For example, a wine glass that screws to the top of a wine bottle and allows you to drink through it. It’s both wrong and pointless, I don’t want to stick a funnel on the top of a wine bottle. And melted cheese, does the world need another melted cheese video? At least now they’ll be replaced by videos of my friends kids doing hilarious things.