Written on January 15, 2018
Facebook recently announced that they will be making changes to their News Feed algorithm so that “people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about”, according to Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed. Specifically, they will be prioritizing posts that create meaningful interactions between people and prioritizing posts from family and friends over public content from Facebook Pages.
With the Facebook Page organic reach already plummeting for a few years, many marketers are worrying that the latest changes would reduce their organic reach even further, forcing them to use Facebook ads to reach their audience.
Does this mean that the changes are necessarily bad for businesses and marketers? I don’t think so. I believe that these changes will be beneficial to businesses and marketers in the long run.
Bringing people back to Facebook
The title of Facebook’s recent announcement is Bringing People Closer Together. I think it’s also about bringing people back to Facebook.
Facebook has been experiencing several worrying trends in the past few years. One, users are sharing less about themselves on Facebook. Two, user engagement has been falling, according to research by MAVRCK and Buzzsumo. Three, teenagers are using Facebook less; some are even skipping Facebook entirely and going to Instagram and Snapchat instead. This could mean that many years (or just a few years) down the road, there might be much fewer people using Facebook regularly than there are today. If that happens, Facebook would become a less effective channel for businesses to reach and engage their audience.
But thankfully, Facebook seems to know how to prevent that from happening. Below is a timeline created by MAVRCK to show how the changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm affected average engagement per Facebook post.
The last two times Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize posts from family and friends over Facebook Pages, engagement went up. To me, that’s a good sign that people enjoy seeing posts from their family and friends on Facebook. Hopefully, that would keep them using Facebook (in a meaningful way).
And to this end, I like to think that the upcoming changes should be welcomed.
Giving businesses a presence online
When we marketers think about Facebook, we often only think about the reach we have — us reaching our audience. But I think Facebook is a great invention also because it gave small businesses an online presence, which they might not have without Facebook. This gave people the ability to reach those businesses.
My parents have been running a small retail shop for almost 30 years. They never had a website and don’t really know how to use email. But when I created a Facebook Page for them several years back, I realized that they didn’t need a website or to learn how to use email anymore. The Facebook Page, which is free and easy to set up, gave them an online presence. Messenger, which is much easier to learn than email, gave them a channel for customer enquiry. Whenever they meet potential customers, my parents would point them to the Facebook Page, which they can easily find. When I searched the shop name on Google (in incognito mode), the Facebook Page appears as the first result. If they had a website, it might not even rank that well.
All these might not mean much to big companies with an IT team or the budget to outsource their web development. But to small and medium businesses, which accounts for more than 90 percent of businesses, these can mean a lot.
Leveling the playing field
Finally, I think the upcoming changes could help level the social media playing field for small businesses.
Big companies with many followers tend to naturally get more engagement on their posts and thereby more reach. With the algorithm changes, small businesses, which are often supported by family members, friends, and many customers-turned-friends, might get a better chance at reaching and engaging their fans on Facebook than before.
I’m excited about this possibility.
An interdependent ecosystem
Businesses depend on Facebook to reach their audience. Facebook depends on users to keep businesses around. Users depend on Facebook to connect with one another and follow their favorite brands. It’s an interdependent ecosystem. A right balance between user content and business content is required to keep the system sustainable — for Facebook, for users, and for businesses. While Facebook seems to be still finding the right balance, I’m optimistic about the upcoming changes.
What about you?
If you are interested in reading more on this topic, you might like this piece by Buffer’s digital marketing strategist, Brian Peters: Why Facebook’s News Feed Change To Show Less “Public Content” Is Actually a Good Thing.