We all have fears. Hugh Jackman is afraid of dolls. Our designer is petrified of low-res images. Similarly, social media marketers around the planet are petrified of constant Facebook algorithm changes. Dealing with these changes has become a somewhat full time job for most marketers, as they battle to try and get a couple of extra percentage points of reach for their posts.
Before we dive into how we can deal with constant Facebook algorithm changes, it's important to understand the history behind the Facebook newsfeed, and how we got to where we are today. Eight years ago, two years after Facebook's launch, the concept of a newsfeed surfaced. The newsfeed was introduced to keep Facebook users up to date with what their friends were doing.
Facebook's VP of Product, Chris Cox, said that back then tinkering with the Facebook algorithm was akin to "turning knobs" - tune up the amount of photographs, tune down the amount of articles, keep the number of status updates the same, so on and so forth. In 2007, when Facebook crossed 20 million users and the amount of content on the social network was exploding, the concept of EdgeRank was introduced. EdgeRank finally put some "scientific" context behind how content would be shown on Facebook's newsfeed.
Later in the same year, Facebook pages were introduced. Over the next year, Facebook underwent a number of changes. The concept of "chat", the "People You May Know Tool" , the official iPhone app all surfaced, and Facebook crossed 150 million users soon after. Since then, Facebook has constantly tweaked the EdgeRank formula. It had to.
After crossing a billion users and after realizing that there were as many as 1,500 pieces of content fighting for space on a Facebook newsfeed for a particular user, the EdgeRank formula had a number of "sub-categories" within those of Affinity, Weight and Decay - which eventually led to EdgeRank not being called EdgeRank any more. Then, came the drop in organic reach. From being able to reach 30-40% of your fanbase, pages started realizing they were reaching as little as 6%, which would later fall to 3%. Panic ensued.
Facebook said they were going to be boosting content around news, which is what Facebook fans like the most. Facebook also showcased that they were getting a little strict about the kind of content that's going to be promoted, when they announced that they were becoming anti-meme. Earlier this year Facebook talked about how they're going to actively penalize like-baiting content, further strengthening their position on delivering only high quality content to users.
And barely a week or so ago, Facebook talked about cutting down the amount of "click-bait" content that they'd showcase to users as well. Something that is probably going to put websites like Viralnova, Upworthy and Distractify into a fairly precarious position. There's such a great deal of conversation around news feed content that Facebook's Newsroom has a specific category called "News Feed FYI" to address these issues.
So that's how we got to where we are today. Eight years and millions of pieces of content later, here's where we are. As part of our Dialogue Management offering, we take on Facebook pages of clients who'd like us to create, promote and manage their content and engagement for them. Out mantra is simple - we tie back your business objectives to your digital presence and help you achieve your business goals through your Facebook page. The one question we're always asked however, is how we're going to deal with the decline in organic reach.
Marketers from the industry and many others think that battling for an extra 1 - 3% of reach doesn't make sense. If you're going to invest your time in creating great content for Facebook, you may as well go ahead and promote it and put some money behind it. We're of that school of thought too, but battling for that extra 1 - 3% of reach does indeed make sense. Here's why. With a community size of 25,000 on Facebook - a 4% organic reach would get you to about 1,000 people. An extra 2% would push it to 1,500. On a grand scale 2% might not seem like a lot, but compared to your previous reach, it's an increment of 50%.
Over the course of a year after 250+ posts, that's a lot of people you'd be reaching out to (considering of course, that your community continues to grow). Dealing with the constant Facebook algorithm changes, at its elementary level is of course extremely simple and straightforward. It's in the execution that it can get frustrating. Forget about gaming the system. Don't think about how you can "game" Facebook's current algorithm to maximize your reach. Going back and forth on your content strategy is confusing for your fans.
You build fans based on the type of content you share with them. If you completely switch the kind of content you've been sharing - you can expect a drop in the amount of engagement because you've trained your fans to expect a certain type of content from you - which is why they're following you in the first place. Facebook is quick to plug holes, and very quick when it comes to doling out penalties to pages and docking them of reach. The like-baiting and click-baiting saga has taken out a number of pages, pages that are now finding it hard to survive without spending a significant chunk of their marketing budget on post promotion.
The message from Facebook all along has been incredibly simple, and the trend is fairly straightforward. Time and time again, they make changes to their algorithm which ensures that Facebook users see only high quality Facebook content. That's their biggest concern. And the funny thing is - it should be yours too. You should be concerned with creating high quality content on your Facebook page that's delivered to your fans so that they hold your brand in high esteem and forge a relationship with you.
That's the entire point of marketing isn't it? Instead of a gimmicky post that'll get you a like, wouldn't you rather have someone be interested in a post you create and pick up the phone and call you? Facebook's problem is with low quality, gimmicky content that adds no value to their users. That should be your problem as well.
You won't have to deal with the Facebook algorithm changes if you're producing a consistent and steady stream of high quality, useful content for your fans - because no matter what the change in the algorithm - you'll largely be unaffected.