In one of our previous posts we discussed how Facebook is becoming more like Google in the fact that it is starting to focus more heavily on user experience and encouraging page owners to use the paid advertising platform. Now it has been revealed that as of January 2015 Facebook will be showing less “promotional posts” in users’ news feeds – but what are “promotional posts” and how will this algorithm update affect digital marketers?
One of the main reasons that businesses set up Facebook pages in the first place is to promote their goods or services, so being told that this may no longer be allowed seems somewhat confusing. It is no surprise then that many digital marketers approached Facebook asking for clarification, with the reply (from no other than Mark Zuckerberg himself) being:
This sounds extremely similar to what Matt Cutts has been saying on how to rank in Google’s SERPs and gain natural links, which yet again shows the two are becoming more alike. Why is this though? Cynicism tells us it’s because both companies have shareholders that expect ROI, meaning that the companies have had to come up with new ways to make money such as placing more prominence on paid adverts and less on organic ones.
Discussing this recent Facebook algorithm change a colleague of mine pointed out something very interesting: “If a user has liked your Facebook page then surely they will want to see what you post? How is this going to be possible next year?” At the moment this is a question that no-one other than Facebook is able to answer, and besides from providing the above piece of advice the company are remaining extremely tight-lipped.
So how can digital marketers prepare for the algorithm change? The first thing I would suggest is having a testing plan in place – as no-one currently knows how the algorithm will affect their pages and posts it’s important that you don’t jump to conclusions but instead perform tests. An easy way to do this is to replicate a promotional post that previously proved popular with your users and measure whether interaction declines after the algorithm change.
It may also be a good idea to see what types of interaction on Facebook may still encourage promotional posts to be made visible in the News Feed. For example, if your friend shares a promotional post will it be more likely to show up in your News Feed as it technically is now on their wall, or will the algorithm go so far as to block promotional posts even if they are on personal pages?
Testing how the new algorithm will affect your posts is a great way to ensure that you are not caught out and users continue to see your content, however it is also important to listen to Facebook’s advice. Luckily, if you are already creating engaging content as part of your SEO campaigns you will automatically have useful content to share on Facebook and other social media accounts. However, going forward you may want to spend more time planning the design and execution of your engaging content for your Facebook page.
Finally, there is one more thing to do to guarantee that your promotional posts will appear on Facebook news feeds and that is to utilise Facebook Advertising. This may require revisiting your digital marketing strategy in order to ensure that you have enough time and budget to set up a successful campaign, however in the long term this could provide you with security and the knowledge that your page and posts are being seen.
For many, the fact that Facebook has changed its algorithm to encourage more involvement from page owners is not a surprise, as over the past few years the company has implemented a number of similar changes which all pointed towards a larger update such as this. At the beginning of next year we will be able to see more clearly the effects of the update, however there’s still a few weeks left of the year for Facebook to surprise us with even more news.