January 17, 2018 Nick Cicero

Here are six ways publishers can evolve a social distribution strategy with Facebook’s new algorithm change

Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced a change to the Facebook Newsfeed Algorithm that has been sparking a frenzy of discussion.

In his post, and their subsequent blog post, they described the update:

Today we use signals like how many people react to, comment on or share posts to determine how high they appear in News Feed.

With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people…These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.

While many brands and publishers definitely have expressed frustration, it’s important to note a few key things:

  1. These changes are happening to Newsfeed content only, do not impact ads, and do not impact the multiple other ways that content can be consumed and discovered on Facebook, including sponsored content, Page notifications, the Watch Tab for Video Discovery, and more.
  2. This is not the first time Facebook has throttled reach for non-friend content in the newsfeed, in 2014 Ogilvy’s well-publicized study showed organic reach for brands had dropped considerably.

So what can you do to improve your strategy with all these platform changes from Facebook? Here are just a few of our suggestions:

1. Focus on reliable reach

It should go without saying that no publisher should live and die based on changes to Facebook. So if referral traffic or the total value of the time you put into any platform like Facebook isn’t delivering returns, you need to swiftly diversify and continue to increase reliable reach.

Reliable reach is the ability to send a message to a person who has asked to hear from you, and for that message to reach that person.

As Jay Baer popularized during the weeks following Ogilvy’s study on decline of organic reach:

“If I send out a tweet, the 124,000 who have said they want to hear from me won’t see that tweet. A small cross-section (usually about 2,000, according to my Twitter stats) will see it instead. Thus, my theoretical reach is 124,000, but my reliable reach is about 1.6% of that, and the actual people comprising that 1.6% shifts somewhat from tweet to tweet. The same dynamics exist on Instagram and especially Facebook.”

Email has reliable reach, but unless you pay for distribution, social media does not have reliable reach, which is what makes it so challenging for publishers who have become accustomed to massive numbers of clicks, impressions or views.

Identify opportunities for direct audience building to achieve reliable reach including email newsletters, mobile apps with push notifications and on-site comments and discussion threads.

2. Lean in on community

Community managers, or social editors, or whatever the role is internally, must create spaces where community members are continually encouraged and empowered to participate.

No matter if on your own website, or on Facebook, give community members a sense of purpose and a strong motivation to connect, share your unique vision and “reasons for being” with your community, thereby giving them a sense of belonging.

With an increased focus on conversation and storytelling , turn meaningful interactions between engagers as “long form” comments and threaded conversations under popular articles or videos. 

3. Create content that inspires meaningful engagement and discussion between friends

As Buzzfeed wrote: Comments, or more specifically comment threads, are in position to become the new shares.

One of the best ways to create inspiring discussion among friends is with live content.

Facebook Live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos, and the quality interaction time that happens around live videos is massive.

Live will continue to see optimization across the Facebook ecosystem for relevant and quality streamers. Consider ways your organization can produce meaningful Facebook Live broadcasts throughout the year.

If you can’t go live, but produce a lot of non-live videos, consider producing longer videos that drive click-to-play viewership instead of short, newsfeed bait.

Since the introduction of Facebook Watch, Delmondo found the average overall watch time for more than 250 episodes of Facebook Watch shows beat the newsfeed average of watch time (17 seconds) by more than 50%. Longer videos give people a more opportunity to comment, react and share the video, and increase the overall interaction time with your content.

4. Focus on measuring social content around content themes and audiences

The new Newsfeed changes will reduce the content load in the feed, but it doesn’t limit your ability to publish and have content discovered. When users can’t find the videos they enjoy, expect Facebook Search to increase. Remember that YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine, without ever really having the Newsfeed mechanism.

When people start discovering and consuming shared content from friends more on Facebook, trends will emerge around what content themes drive longer watch time, engagement and more. 

Use a social media and video analytics platform with robust tagging capabilities like Delmondo to identify what content themes, series, or other trends emerge, identifying the content that drives the most engagement, watch time and more to optimize your production and distribution strategy.

5. Consider using Facebook groups

Consider setting up a group around a shared theme or interest to grow a community around your content. Use your Facebook Page’s video library to upload the videos so videos or posts within the group can be shared out to a group member’s friend feed, while providing credit to your Facebook page.

6. Encourage users to get updates from your page

Users can still opt into seeing posts from the pages they follow at the top of News Feed. Users who want to see more posts from pages they follow or help ensure they see posts from certain pages can choose “See First” in News Feed Preferences.

So in a nutshell, in the newsfeed only…

• Friend Content > Brands, Publishers or other Public Content. Expect soon that page posts from brands and publishers will be scored differently from posts from friends.

• Link, photo and article traffic will decrease

• Quality video viewership will increase, in the past 8 months there has been an increase of click to play viewership

• Videos from creators, Live and Watch will continue to surface, and be discoverable in many other ways throughout the Facebook ecosystem

Yes, many publishers are now faced with a hard choice of investing the same amount of time in Facebook, and it might not be the right move for everyone to continue to invest in the platform at the same level as they have, but personally I believe that Facebook has the potential to be a great partner for valuable audience insights and video distribution for many reputable, video publishers and creators.

Contact us today