How Facebook’s Changes Affect Marketing Strategy

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ADOTAS – Facebook marketers were recently thrown another curveball when the social network dramatically changed its look-and-feel — again.

This time Facebook introduced a new hybrid News Feed and Ticker — as well as friend groupings and other changes — that modified where and when updates and comments appeared. These changes weren’t just aesthetic; they fundamentally altered how news and stories are displayed and changed the way users interact with brands and friends.

Many users have reported posts from top friends seem to have disappeared, while posts from long-lost friends reappeared all of a sudden. While this happened at the onset, things seemed to have normalized.

These changes don’t just alter social connections between Facebook users, but also impact the way brands interact with users for marketing and advertising purposes. Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine which posts are receiving the most attention, whether these are posts from friends or brands, and then positions the most popular stories more prominently. This means big changes for Facebook marketers, who of course want their posts to appear prominently in their fans’ newsfeeds.

Facebook’s most recent interface changes will be a boon for brands with a highly engaged fanbase – because the new system seems to increase engagement (Likes and Comments) on certain posts. But it also presents challenges for brands, because overall impressions across brand Page posts have fallen as Facebook users attempt to navigate the new look-and-feel.

According to a report done by EdgeRankChecker.com, there has been a 25% decrease in the number of impressions for brand Page posts since the rollout of the new hybrid News Feed.

The report also notes increased engagement rates for brand posts in the News Feed; Likes increased by 9% and Comments increased by 21%. When the new News Feed and Ticker first came out, EdgeRankChecker.com found a 33% decrease in impressions for Brand pages, so people seem to be getting used to the new layout, albeit slowly.

If you’re a brand marketer, here’s what you need to know about the most recent Facebook changes.

Interaction Alteration

While Facebook has been tweaking their EdgeRank algorithm almost constantly to improve the relevance of content on users’ feeds, the latest changes have greatly impacted the way users interact with the main page where users spend most of their time – the News Feed. The new News Feed is a combination of three parts:

  • Top Stories – These prominently-displayed posts have received a high number of Likes or Comments, or were posted by a friend or brand Page the user interacts with frequently.
  • Recent Stories – These timely updates (from the past minutes or hours) are shown if the user has checked their News Feed recently.
  • From Earlier Today – These are additional updates that may be deemed important, but not necessarily as important as the other two categories. These posts are shown after the other two categories.

Lastly, posts happening in real-time, such as friends’ likes and comments, are shown in the Ticker on the right-hand side as they occur.

As a brand marketer, you need to proactively change your Facebook strategy to take advantage of the new News Feed. While the current trends in impressions, Likes and Comments continue to shift as Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm learns behaviors and preferences, it’s likely that overall impressions will continue to remain repressed for some time.

Here’s what you need to do to capture as many impressions as possible and boost fan engagement for every update.

Focus on Engagement

As mentioned by Facebook at F8, they will put extra emphasis on interactions between Pages and users. The company will provide marketers with deeper analysis and per-post metrics about their updates that receive the highest engagement (Likes/Comments) – so brands can do more of what’s working to engage fans.

With these new data insights, smart brands will be able to post less often, but make each post more impactful. In the new Facebook, it will be more valuable to a brand to create a few highly-engaging posts than it will be to create a large volume of generic posts. Since most interactions with Pages happen in the News Feed, posts that are posted too soon before or after a high-engagement post, or posts that lack compelling content to get fans engaged in the first place – will not be seen by a majority of Page fans.

Make sure every post you create is as compelling as possible. Facebook favors quality, not quantity.

Consider Launching Multiple Pages

Large brands may benefit from creating multiple Pages to cater to different audiences. Certain segments will respond different to types of content and to different brand messages, so it may make sense to segment your brand Pages by audience or message focus. This type of segmentation will boost engagement on posts, and push more of your posts to Top Stories.

Facebook’s new reporting metrics will give brands enhanced visibility into how specific content creates engagement among segments, so you can use this information to create multiple pages. For example, you might create separate Pages for “Brand X Students” and “Brand X Mothers.” More targeted and relevant posts will ensure that your brand posts remain at the top of your fans’ News Feeds – and one way to do that is create different posts for different audiences.

Say Bye-Bye to Fair-Weather Fans

Under the new Facebook, fewer fans may click through to your brand Page. What’s more, since users now see fewer posts from their overall friend base, and instead see posts from the friends they engage with most and with whom they share similar interests, your posts won’t be shared as widely as before. Instead, users will share information with increasingly-specialized groups of friends, so your brand mentions may not reach the same number of users as they did previously, and thus fewer people will discover your brand Page and/or Like it.

The upside is that brands have more chances to select the specific audience types they want to focus on, thanks to increased analytics and engagement data on specific posts. You can more carefully craft messages for the focused groups that will see your posts. This may mean that fair-weather fans see far less of your content, but truly engaged fans will see and share more of it – helping brands build much more engaged, valuable fan bases.

Facebook is always changing, and will continue to tinker with the way it content is presented within the network. Brands must constantly keep up with these changes, modifying their Facebook strategies to take advantage of the newest algorithms and user interface changes. But the changes are going in one main direction: a focus on engagement over impressions. The same trend is happening in all digital advertising, so it’s no surprise.

Whereas impressions were once a good way to measure the effectiveness of digital ad campaigns – from display, to video, to Facebook – engagement is now the main metric to determine effectiveness. Whatever changes Facebook throws your way, keep working on making your content more engaging, relevant, and sharable; that alone will put you ahead of the pack when it comes to nailing Facebook marketing.

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