In a Facebook post last night Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to the newsfeed to make every social media marketer internally combust.
The news that Facebook would be spending 2018 making changes to the newsfeed that would take the channel back to its roots and ‘bring people closer together and build relationships’, generated heart reactions amongst the general public but sent a strong message to pages and businesses that they were being firmly unfriended by the social giant.

So what are these changes?

  • Facebook will prioritise posts that ‘spark conversations’ and ‘meaningful interactions’
  • ‘Public content’ including that of publishers and businesses will be shown less meaning Pages might see reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease
  • However the impact will vary from page to page dependent on Facebook’s criteria of how content is generally interacted with i.e. “Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect”.
  • Prioritisation of content and formats that Facebook deems to drive conversation e.g. Live Video will show higher in the newsfeed
  • Engagement-Bait content will be demoted

Has this come out of the blue?

Absolutely not.

A decline in organic reach for businesses and pages has been a discussion point for years. In came a dependency on social media advertising and a flurry of tactical methods from brands and publishers to engage communities through creative and relevant content in attempts to outsmart the algorithm and relive the good old days of free advertising to existing and potential customers/fans.
But the journey hasn’t been smooth; we saw consistent efforts by Facebook to create a division between users and publishers, in fact a very similar update (and the year before that) to its algorithm saw the newsfeed prioritise stories from friends and family over businesses.
These algorithm updates and initiatives to separate users and publishers, be it ‘Friends’ day, or keeping inflated and ‘engagement-bait’ content at bay has looked to reshape the news feed as we know it.

What is the impact?

Taking off our digital marketing hats the changes have been a long time coming with Facebook fighting off persistent demands for monitoring and controlling fake news, bullying and racism. The change to the algorithm is therefore an attempt to remove any external bodies from clogging up the newsfeed and creating a much more ‘organic’ feed where content is shared by users rather than inserted.
For businesses, Facebook has advised that Page posts by publishers won’t be eliminated from the newsfeed but made strong suggestions of the types of content that would and wouldn’t fall foul to the algorithm.

What are our predictions?

So whilst pages that receive an existing high level of engagement, conversation-inducing content and meaningful interactions are thought to see less impact we shall still be keeping a close eye on organic reach and subsequent engagements.

What will be interesting to see is how organic engagement rate changes – logic tells us that less reach (but a dedicated following) should see organic engagement rate increase.

Advertising is a whole other ball game – it’s a seemingly losing battle for pages with little existing engagement or local presence so a dependency on social advertising can only be the next phase for social media publishers. Again logic would suggest an increase in advertisers would lead to an increasingly expensive marketplace as brands and publishers fight for space.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on how things progress and will update with our findings as we wade through the ways businesses can react to the latest algorithm shift.

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