Conversations ensue, opinions are shared about the implications, and we all go back to work. The most recent changes by Facebook will make for a very interesting 2014. With the New Year on the horizon, here’s a recap of what Zuckerberg has changed and what brands will need to start planning for.
Let’s go back to 2012 for a moment. Near the end of the year, reports were swirling that Facebook pages reach were declining. Some scoffed at that notion, but data confirmed this to be true. Changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm was the culprit and it was clear that all pages were affected.
When Robin Grant of We Are Social managed to speak to Facebook about this, their response was, “…findings show that engagement with newsfeed posts has actually increased. At the same time, the number of posts being dismissed as uninteresting or spam has fallen. That’s a great result for page owners and an improved experience for all of us who use Facebook.”
Sound familiar? Well it should because fast-forward to today, and we’re basically being told the same thing. At the beginning of December, Facebook announced they’re changing their news feed algorithm to give shared news articles and commented-on stories higher placement and more visibility. A quote from Facebook in Adage about this: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
Facebook’s reasoning for implementing such a change makes total sense. A recent report by Shareaholic, which collected 13 months of data from 200,000+ publishers, has shown that the Facebook referrals have increased 170% compared to last year, and even 47% over last month.
It’s clear Facebook Open Graph has been doing it’s job. Look at any website and you’ll find share icons associated with each article or image. Facebook is obviously not the only one doing this, but improved Open Graph integration makes articles display in your news feed in a much more appealing manner, so of course Facebook referrals have seen an increase.
The message behind this change, however, is becoming clearer to brands and advertisers everywhere. If your content isn’t up to the new standards, ad spend will need to increase if you want to get the reach and engagement that you’re accustomed to. Facebook has always been trying to up it’s advertising stake. The most recent impending roll-out of auto-play video advertisements (let’s just call them for what they are, commercials) is just the cherry on top. A report by eMarketer states that Facebook will take in 7.4% of net US digital ad dollars, taking over the #2 position, surpassing both Microsoft and Yahoo!. Facebook’s U.S. mobile ad revenue share? It was already the #2, but has widened its lead by increasing 77% over 2012.
Adapt and survive. If Facebook says organic reach will decline and relevant content will be even more valuable, it’s time to take a long hard look at your content strategy. Optimizing your content to fit the wants and needs of your visitors will be more crucial than ever. No one wants to share or comment on crap content. Make it interesting and make it useful.
The posting protocol of attaching a pretty image to a post and directing viewers to a link, isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now more than ever, you’ll need to integrate your site and blog with detailed Open Graph data so that when someone takes shares your content, it not only looks better, but it ranks higher. Initiate and engage in conversations. You’re seeing it now in your news feed, old posts are re-appearing because conversations and comments are taking place.
Your advertising budget will need to increase, substantially. Promoted posts, column ads and sponsored stories will need to be utilized more often to get your message out, all of course with proper targeting to ensure your dollars are thrown at the right people. The upcoming auto-play video ads will come at a steep price, with initial projections set at $2M daily to reach all of Facebook’s 140M users.
No one expects Facebook to keep the status quo for how they operate. Since going public, anything they change is geared towards improving their IPO. From a marketer’s standpoint, the only thing you can do follow suit. Consider this a wakeup call for content creators, community managers and advertisers. If you weren’t talking to each other before, I suggest you get acquainted.