How will the new Facebook algorithm really affect digital marketing?

January is finally nearly over, and it’s been a pretty long and exhausting one for the marketing world. According to the Mark Zuckerberg, the new year marked the time for a new algorithm, which has caused a bit of upheaval in the social networking world.

Wait, what?

Mark Zuckerberg announced on January 12th that Facebook’s algorithm was changing to favour content from people you know, such as friends and family, rather than brands or news publications. Zuckerberg stated that he wants people to remember what Facebook has always been about – personal connection. “When we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,”, he said of the change. But whilst it is a noble cause, it didn’t stop shares dropping by 4% after the announcement.

In a follow-up post on the 19th January, Mark clarified that this change would be from 5% to 4% of branded content on our news feed – a change, but not as drastic as some were expecting. Zuckerberg stated he wanted to crack down on ‘misinformation’ so the second update will be focused around deciphering what counts as a ‘trusted’ news site or content creator. Overall, it seems he wants to make Facebook where time is well spent rather than wasted.

What does this mean for sharing content?

Facebook has publicly declared that they are not a media nor publishing company, which is technically true, even though they are widely regarded as one of the biggest content sharing platforms. From small brands to big news agencies and publications, Facebook is considered the primary platform for sharing news. Arguably, this is how they got into this mess in the first place; Facebook’s accidental involvement in the sharing of fake news as well as the hacking scandal means they’re not a largely trusted distributor of information. It’s, for this reason, it’s more likely to affect news publications and editorial content more than it will affect brands and marketing strategy.

We could also see a resurgence in other social media platforms. Whilst a lot of brands have already been flocking to Instagram to promote content, Twitter is heralded by journalists and publishers to share written content – only seemingly to each other. Perhaps now that Facebook has decided to go back to its roots, Twitter may finally rise up again as the sole distributor of content and instigator of discussion. Though Twitter is not without fault when it comes to content regulation – it may have to step its game up lest it makes the same mistakes as Facebook.

In the following update, Zuckerberg did clarify that content with high levels of engagement will be able to get through the gap – essentially letting the online community decide what is relevant instead of external sources. If the content is good and engaging, then it is much more likely to be shown – but only if Facebook deems the source trustworthy.

But is this going to affect brands?

The short answer is yes, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. Sharing content on Facebook is relatively simple and therefore relying on it solely for sharing content is lazy, and to be honest, bad practice. The change will force marketers to up their standard when it comes to creating content for Facebook to ensure that their audience engages with it.

The same sentiment is echoed by a collection of leaders in marketing interviewed by Campaign Magazine. The general consensus is that more engagement is a good thing, ultimately a happy social user can only transform into a happy customer. It’s time we left the idea of digital spam behind and maybe this change will nudge some companies to be a bit more savvy in how they promote themselves online.

This being said, as far as we’re aware this is not going to affect the advertising system. Zuckerberg made it clear that the timeline is going to favour content from family and friends, but Facebook Business and ad manager is separate from that anyway. Paid campaigns should still work as normal, so there’s nothing to worry about too much there.

What can we do about it?

As cliche as it sounds, only time will tell. Though nothing yet has dramatically changed, Facebook has been slyly notifying us that we’ll be seeing a trickle down of a few more posts by family and friends. As we said, currently the shift is from 5 to 4%, it’s not a complete ban, at least not yet.

How this will alter our usage of the platform will become clearer the more we use it. What we do know, however, is that whether we like it or not, it is coming, and while some businesses are panicking – many others are getting creative with the way we share.

If you didn’t see Influencers as one of the biggest trends of 2018 last year, then the explosion of this algorithm is sure to change your mind. Bloggers and influencers’ platform is dependent on their followers – mostly organically obtained. As they are arguably just other users rather than brands the algorithm will most certainly swing in their favour. They fill the gap between users and brands – people who can create high-quality content but still are technically on the same level as their audience.

Publications are also creating internal topic-specific Facebook groups to navigate this new algorithm. By users becoming part of a group on a certain topic, for example – British politics – users can find content from brands in those groups as and when they opted in to view it.

Although Zuckerberg may have made everyone feel as if the digital world was a-blaze, in reality, the changes are currently just signs of smoke. Paid advertising is, for now, the same, and Facebook is not ignoring brands organic content completely, just regulating it a little bit more. The general consensus is that we need to be a little bit more imaginative with the way and what we share. We survived Google’s SEO updates and we will certainly survive this – in fact, we’ll probably thrive.

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