One month on from Facebook’s News Feed changes – What impact have we seen and what should brands be concerned about?

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It’s been one month since Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement explaining upcoming changes to the Facebook News Feed.

Businesses and publishers the world over are losing their sh*t with concerns that their reach and awareness would be affected by this change.

There have been tons of stories and opinion pieces published with views on what this change means for businesses and their marketing departments. Ultimately, it has been only one month, so at this stage, few actually know what the impact will be for businesses.

Rather than jump on the bandwagon, we wanted to wait and let the dust settle. We’ve monitored the performance of both organic and paid campaigns across 20+ pages that we manage, to give a hands-on opinion.

In this article, we’ll fill you in on why this change is happening, what it’s meant to mean for businesses and for individuals and what changes we’re seeing directly.

Why and how is Facebook changing its news feed?

The move is designed to create “more meaningful social interactions” for people.

In a recent post, King Zuck wrote, “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

Zuck added, “posts from businesses, brands and media are crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

Accompanying Zuckerberg’s announcement was a blog by Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, making clear what the potential impact of the change to the News Feed algorithm will be and highlight how this aligns with Facebook’s News Feed Values.

“As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it.

“Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”

When initially reading the quotes from Adam Mosseri, we, like most raised an eyebrow with concerns about what this means for the state of social media marketing, particularly as a digital marketing agency that utilises Facebook across all client projects on a daily basis.

The change to the News Feed, however, is warranted. We all know what Facebook has become in recent times. What started as a ‘social network’ has evolved into a dumping ground of meme’s, gifs and low-value adding content, all designed to grab just a few seconds of our attention. We’ve become brainwashed by short-form and viral videos, so much so, that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish

Then there’s the saga of ‘fake news’. Facebook has come under increased criticism for being a platform that allows people and publishers to deliberately spread fake news. Not something that is good for Facebook, or its shareholders.

Finally, data regulation. With growing concerns about how tech companies, particularly the duopoly of Facebook and Google collect data on users and their behaviours and package and resell this data for advertising purposes, Facebook has come under attack by regulators. With GDPR approaching in Europe, Facebook wants to be a step ahead of regulators by amending the News Feed.

So a change is most welcome.

What does this mean for brands?

Facebook will place less priority on relevant content from publishers and prioritise more messages, photos and videos posted by a users’ friends and family. Doesn’t sound like a big deal. Less clickbait and square videos with annoying subtitles and more cats from our extended families.

The initial concern was that brands and businesses would lose out massively with this change. However, the changes could actually be a good thing. This is backed up by the data we’re seeing after one month of reviewing the insights and has also been expressed by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook herself.

It is absolutely worth reminding ourselves that Facebook is a listed company worth billions. They would have carefully thought through the business impact of such a change. Yes, Facebook wants to improve the experience for its 2bn+ user base and improve their reputation to governments and regulators, but they also recognise the commercial benefit that will come from this change also.

If Facebook changes the News Feed so that fewer low-quality videos are sucking up our attention, then this means more time that users are spent scrolling, engaging and viewing advertisements.

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Firstly, if Facebook changes the News Feed so that fewer low-quality videos are sucking up our attention, then this means more time that users are spent scrolling, engaging and viewing advertisements.

Secondly, regardless of the change; agencies and advertisers aren’t just going to pull back on their strategy. Facebook is a phenomenal platform for driving awareness, brand consideration, preference and direct commercial returns and agencies have committed to Facebook and Facebook knows it. Facebook wouldn’t want to lose out on these revenues, particularly when announcing record fourth quarter revenues of $13bn, up 50% Y-O-Y.

What are WePlay seeing directly?

Diving into the data on pages that we manage, we’re seeing little to no negative impact after one month. We’re managing 20+ pages and many of them have 5m+ fans. So one month in, there’s very little to be concerned about.

In many cases, we are actually seeing post reach (organic) to be affected in a positive way (see below graph).

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The graph above shows two markers. Before the announcement and after one month. The organic reach on this page has increased by 20% and this is consistent across 40% of the pages we monitored for the period. What have we done differently in this period? Not a lot actually. We’ve continued to produce high-quality content and distribute this content as per the insights that the data tells us about the formats performing well, the best times and the best days to publish. This was part of both Zuck’s and Mosseri’s statements, highlighting the importance of high-quality content that offers value. Content that the audience will want to engage with.

The quality of your content should be a priority. Content is most certainly King in this arena and Facebook will be both prioritising high-quality content, whilst deprioritising low-quality content.

As a performance-driven sports marketing business, producing high-quality content is an incredibly important part of our business.

With that said, as much as your content quality must be a priority to achieve the best results from your organic strategy, the distribution process of said content, is just as important.

In the earlier years of WePlay, ‘we played’ in a world where organic social marketing still had a significant impact. Organic reach was high and results could be delivered by producing value-adding content published at optimised times. Particularly on Facebook, those days are coming to an end and today, particularly if the objective is to grow your brand and impact on your sales funnel, then your social media strategy must be supported by a paid media strategy.

Facebook has worked hard in recent years to create an industry-leading advertising platform, one that would stand leaps above Twitter and Snapchat, and rival Google’s Display Network and Adwords. Fortunately, this means that modern businesses (those with a solid e-com platform), can create an effective content and distribution strategy and ensure that the content reaches the desired target audiences.

To bring this to life a little, the graph below gives an example of how Facebook’s Business Manager (their advertising platform) can aid a content strategy.  

The two plotted values here show the before, which was an organic approach and the after, which was using a small amount of paid media. The results? An increase in relevant reach of 443%. By relevant reach, we’re talking about modelling the data of direct consumers and customers, to reach new audiences that match the same criteria.

 

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We call this blend of organic and paid, the art and science of digital marketing, where high-quality content and effective distribution work hand in hand to achieve measurable, tangible results.

With continuous changes and updates to each platform, not just Facebook, today’s marketers must use all the tools available and invest in content production and amplification, to achieve their objectives.

What do you need to do now?

Monitor how the News Feed changes are impacting your pages and your performance. Analyse month-on-month, quarter-on-quarter. Assess the results that occur from the different content formats that you are producing, from short form to long form. Video vs static vs animated.

Invest in ensuring you have a consistent stream of high-quality content. That doesn’t mean you need to post content multiple times per day, or even every day. Simply that when you do publish, make sure it is of a high quality. We like to approach a content strategy with a layered approach:

  • Hero content – this will be the cornerstone of your brand. A showcase of your best work.
  • Educational and informative – a value-add to your audience. Tells the audience something about you that they should care about.
  • Conversational – keeps you relevant. Just make sure this level of content doesn’t become all you produce.

The risk of producing content that isn’t valuable to your audience and being demoted by Facebook isn’t one worth taking, ultimately because it will affect your organic reach (the number of people that see your content).

Finally, we can’t beat this drum loud enough. The D2C (direct to consumer) model is in our faces. If you haven’t started your paid media journey yet, then now is the time to start.

While Facebook does make changes to it’s News Feed that may impact on your organic reach, it does so knowing fully well that it offers us a platform to reach 2 billion people. We simply have to pay to play. Moreover, their platform is incredibly cost-effective against other ad platforms. 

Form a sports industry perspective, where we spend all of our time and we know that many of you reading this piece will be from the sports sector, remember; sports fans account for over one-third of the entire Facebook audience – that’s over 700m people.

Your audience is on Facebook and if you’re not producing great content to reach and engage them, someone else will be. This is a macro challenge that the sports industry is facing and one that we may discuss in another piece, but for now, don’t worry too much about the News Feed changes – change is good for us all.

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Also, if you’re looking for support in producing content and reaching audiences at scale, you can get in touch with us here.