Facebook has introduced changes to how its News Feed works. But is the decrease of visibility for media and advertisers necessarily a bad thing? As platform algorithms are constantly changing and platforms themselves continue to evolve, the answer will depend on a brand’s ability to better reflect the reasons that push an individual to follow and then interact on Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg caused panic among advertisers and media brands earlier this year by announcing his desire to foster interactions between individuals at the expense of brand and media pages. This will leave brands no choice but to publicise their communication to be visible. But there is more to Facebook’s latest move than just the wish of those at the company’s Menlo Park main campus to drive increased media coverage of brand content to increase Facebook ad revenues.
In reality, Zuckerberg acknowledged what many have known for some time: that for years, page reach has been steadily declining. Numerous studies have demonstrated that not only has the organic reach of brands been below two percent since 2014, it has been falling steadily ever since. So, as he told investors, he is now ready to sacrifice his income in the short term to ‘fix’ Facebook and go back to the very source that created the social networking phenomenon: interactions with our friends and family.
Giving new meaning to Facebook
2017 was a complex year for Facebook. At its start, the social network was criticised for having influenced the result of the polls that led to the surprise election of Donald Trump to the White House by favouring, via its algorithms, the spread of fake news - some financed by entities related to Russia. But the year also ended with a wave of disavowal from several former leaders of the platform, including former Facebook President Sean Parker.
"We need to give you a dose of dopamine once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a publication or something else. And that will push you to put more content, and it will cause ... more ‘Likes’ and comments. It's an endless loop of social acceptance ... exactly the kind of things a hacker like me would imagine, because it exploits a vulnerability of human psychology,” he said.
And God only knows what impact Facebook can have on the brains of our children.”
Warnings were also made by Chamath Palihapitiya - Facebook’s former Vice President of User Growth, who has expressed strong guilt about the role he played in the development of Facebook and social networks and said: "I think we created tools that tear apart the social fabric of society.”
Then Zuckerberg confirmed a goal for 2018 to "ensure that the time spent on Facebook is well-used". "When we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” he said in a January 12 post, quoting the company’s own studies. “We can feel more connected and less alone, and this is a long-term measure of happiness and health.”
Best practices of agencies and better-valued brands
Since then, to encourage interactions between individuals and return to the foundations of the social network (and make people happy), Facebook has relegated publication of brand and media content to a specific filter, Explorer, accessible from a secondary tab. This leaves friends’ content in the main thread.
But this is not the blow to brands some might suggest.
With the average organic reach of Facebook already almost zero, the change will mainly concern those few publications who until January were still managing to win their game in organic visibility because they managed to generate interactions. These publications will now probably have to go through a minimum of media investment.
For others, meanwhile, while the rules of the game are changing this is but the latest in a series of changes and in itself should not be a cause of panic.
Instead, the response should be to take a step back.
Platforms’ algorithms and platforms themselves are constantly evolving and as new ones appear, old ones disappear. So let's not forget that before we get interested in the way we communicate with people, it is important to think first about why an individual would follow and interact with any brand.
When We Are Social launched in 2008, brands were not yet on Facebook. To generate conversations between brands and their audiences, we produced editorial for the blogs of our advertisers, we encouraged exchanges via Twitter in particular, and we collaborated with influencers to preview or co-create our campaigns with us.
The DNA of We Are Social is to be a "socially-led creative agency", with what we create fed by social insights. Our preference has always been to say that people are believed before platforms. And our job is to create ideas that are inspired by the uses of users. Our Research & Insight department aims to identify interpersonal insights from social behaviors, to understand how communities of people interact with each other with a brand, how they engage, share and even change their behavior in real life.
Our mission is to bring people together, to generate conversations and actions, be that on Facebook - an important audience crossroads and at the heart of the ecosystem of many advertisers - or elsewhere. We are convinced that an idea that is intrinsically social in its ability to engage and mobilise people can also live in traditional. And that's what we've proven in recent years - with the We Are Tennis Fan Academy by BNP Paribas, for example, or more recently the April 1st campaign for RATP.
Facebook’s return to its origins – human interactions - plays to our strengths as an agency. It supports our philosophy and our recommendation to our customers: to create engaging content for individuals.
What will work is content that is designed specifically for Facebook, and which is designed with the idea of generating interactions between individual Facebook users.
Once this unique content is created, analyse how users interact with it in real time, and use this intelligence to improve it. Think smart about how you collaborate with influencers, ambassadors and employees – are there other supporters who could support your campaign? And also consider promoting short videos, as we know these will be less visible because of their passive nature.
What won't work is clickbait – it should be totally swerved. We all know by now that a comment on a brand post does not equal a significant interaction.
And also what you should avoid is feeling disheartened by Facebook's changes. They do not necessarily have to be a bad thing! If you can understand and respond to the reasons why your brand's followers are there, then this latest Facebook development could actually be good news indeed.