One of the great things about marketing your business through social media is the instant interaction you can achieve with both existing and potential customers. One of the irritating things about marketing your business through social media is the way even slight changes to a platform can have a devastating impact on your marketing strategy. And big changes? They’re even worse.

Today we’re going to talk about that second part, namely the sweeping changes recently announced to Facebook’s newsfeed.

The big blue F has been doing a lot of navel gazing lately, spurred on by their alleged role in spreading quote-unquote fake news over the last few years, as well as by recent psychological research into social media’s negative impact on our mental health.  In December of last year, David Ginsberg, Director of Research, and Moira Burke, Research Scientist at Facebook even co-authored a post asking the hard question, “Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?”

Cleary, all of this presaged a sizable shift in the way Facebook delivers content, and the specifics have finally been made clear. Already marketers are call this revamped newsfeed, which prioritizes content from friends and family over brands and businesses, “Facebook Zero.”

Not to be confused with the slimmed-down, text-only version of the site available for mobile, the term actually refers to a prediction made by Ogilvy back in 2014 that organic unpaid reach for brands would one day drop to zero. That day, it seems, has finally come.

To put it mildly, if your business is marketing itself through Facebook you’re going to need to get ready to make a few changes.

Expect Less Reach (At First)

The short description of these changes is that the revamped newsfeed will soon present users with a more meaningful mix of posts and content. Priority will be given to those things shared by friends and family members, with things like branded content and posts from businesses being almost completely boxed out. Even video, which seemed like it was receiving a big push from the company, will soon see less organic reach.

As Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post outlining the feed changes, “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Essentially, what this means is you can expect anything you post to Facebook is going to take a nosedive in terms of likes, shares and comments – not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because people won’t see it. It’s obviously too early to tell how bad you can expect your reach to drop, but be prepared. And be prepared to start paying for it.

Fortunately, Facebook realizes that even business content, paid or otherwise, still makes up a huge part of the user experience. And they haven’t entirely shut the door on businesses. It just means you’re going to need to be smart.

Get People Talking

Wired recently sat down with Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice-president in charge of newsfeed, to get some specifics on the recent changes. The interview spans all aspects of the change, but there’s one section that could hold hints to how businesses can still have a seat at the newsfeed.

Mosseri paints a picture of a newsfeed designed to create a better experience for the user, one that encourages more meaningful interactions. Part of how they look to accomplish this, he states, is through prioritizing content that drives comments. “… this was true before (the change). But it’s more true after,” he said. “Comments are more valuable than Likes. If you bother to actually take the time to respond to something that I posted, a picture of maybe my two kids. It’s a pain actually to type on a mobile phone. Liking is pretty easy; that’s the whole point of Liking.

Therein lies a glimmer of hope – your business can still find its way onto newsfeeds by creating content that starts a conversation. It might represent a slight shift in thinking, but it’s not at all insurmountable.

Social Media Examiner recently posted an in-depth look at the way Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes content, and how you can mold your content to fit.

In essence, you have to shift away from likes. Your content should be crafted with an eye on creating commentary or shares. That could be as simple as running a contest encouraging people to share your post to win or inserting a call to action encouraging users to share their thoughts and stories.

Another vital way to continue showing up in newsfeeds is to encourage followers to check “see first” on your business page. You can find a simple video tutorial here. This is actually a great tool for businesses, since you’re not only going to increase your unpaid reach, you’ll increase it among users who are actively engaged with your business online.

So Is It Strictly Pay-To-Play?

Despite the dire predictions made by Ogilvy, it doesn’t seem like the end of the world for free exposure on Facebook has come quite yet. In that same Wired interview, Mosseri points out that advertising is a completely separate system from those affected by these ranking changes.

So if you’re already paying to advertise on Facebook, it seems you won’t be affected much. And you can rest assured that no one’s really sure yet whether this will affect the price of advertising on Facebook (although Social Media Examiner has done some superb math trying to figure it out).

Well, OK, “no one knows” isn’t that reassuring, but it’s more reassuring than saying outright ad rates will go up. In fact, there’s a good chance some types could become cheaper.

But until we do know more, those looking to build their brand for free on Facebook simply need to readjust their footing. Facebook wants its users meaningfully engaged, commenting and sharing.  If you want your business in their newsfeed, you need to create content that helps them do that.

Need help adjusting to the brave new world of Facebook? We’re here to help! Either Give us a call at 904.359.4318, or fill out our contact form.

Also, don’t forget to download our Guide to Digital Marketing for the latest insights.

Like what you read? Looking for additional tips and tricks to help your small or medium-sized business succeed? Check out more of our blog posts here.

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