Small business and the Facebook News Feed changes – ten tips to stay on top

facebook and social media marketing

Facebook made a significant announcement last week, about which posts people get to see in their news feeds. More friends and family, less business and bluster.

In a statement on the platform, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was ‘changing the goal…to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.’  This means ‘you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. ‘ and ‘less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.’

Since the initial announcement last Thursday, the interweb has been full of prophets of doom crying ‘Facebook apocalypse!’, but hold on people, let’s not panic.

Why change it?

As I see it, there are three good reasons for making the changes –

  1. Facebook is a victim of its own success.  Public content from businesses, brands and media outlets is crowding out personal posts, news feeds are running out of space.  Unless they do something to make it more interesting and less annoying to users, people will abandon Facebook in favour of another platform that does meet their needs.
  2. They’ve faced a lot of criticism about fake news, click bait and trolls, so they’re trying to increase the quality of what we see in our feed.
  3. There’s increased awareness of the impact of social media on mental health.  Passively consuming content (ie reading it and moving on) is apparently bad for our health (strange as that’s what people did for generations with newspapers).  Whereas content which gets commented on and shared among friends is considered ‘meaningful’ and more beneficial to readers.

(There’s a fourth reason too, of course. Let’s be honest Facebook, there’s a significant revenue opportunity here to drive businesses to Facebook Ads, isn’t there?!)

What does it mean for users?

As users, this can only be A Good Thing.  If I’m an average user with limited time to spend on Facebook, I want to connect with my friends and other like-minded contacts, see what they’re doing or what they find interesting.

But what does it mean for your small business?

Organic reach (i.e. who you hit without paying) has been dwindling for some time now.  Check your page insights, but it’s estimated that your posts will be placed in front of just 2% of your followers, so if you’re smart, you’re already using strategies to counteract this.

As for this announcement, I’ve been looking into it over the weekend, and actually, there was very little detail about what exactly will change and when.  The speculation is that pages will get banished to the Explore > Pages Feed (left-hand column) but that’s not strictly what’s being said, so let’s calm down a bit and consider what we do know and what we can focus on doing for the foreseeable.

1. Big brother is watching

Treat this as a reminder that your Facebook page belongs to a big corporation and we are all at the whim of Mr Zuckerberg.  The Facebook algorithm is constantly changing and your business page is a speck of plastic floating in an ocean of data.  You have no choice but to go with the flow, don’t fight it, work with it.

2. Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket

Facebook should be only one part of your digital marketing strategy.  The only real estate on the internet that is truly yours is your website, so don’t neglect it.  If someone searches for a service or product, Google can find a website more easily than a Facebook page, so it pays to keep your site up to date, adding fresh content regularly.  Which other social media platforms are you on? (Please don’t answer ‘all of them’!) And don’t forget email marketing which allows you to reach anyone whose email you have permission to use.

3. Focus on quality, not quantity

The statement says quite clearly that ‘public content…should encourage meaningful interactions between people.’  Which means that your posts will be valued by the comments and shares, particularly back and forth discussion (so make sure you reply when people do comment), rather than simply likes.

In a follow-up interview with Wired magazine, Facebook VP, Adam Mosseri, expanded on this point, saying ‘Some of the specific things would be like we’re going to be (weighting) long comments more than short comments, because we find regularly that if you take the time to actually write a more thoughtful perspective on something, that correlates positively with a comment that someone actually would respond to or Like. It also correlates negatively with problematic content types like spam or uncivil content, et cetera.’  (They’re hoping this will cut back on all but the most determined and verbose trolls!)

4. Group hug

Groups are a powerful way to reach people.  People trust groups, and therefore group members.  In a group you have to show up as a real person via your profile, rather than as your business page. This gives us solopreneurs a real advantage over the big names.  When it’s just you, you are your brand.  Think of it as networking. Show up, be nice and add value. Use business networking groups, or, if you have a sizeable following and the will to admin it, start your own group.

5. Get personal

Work with your personal profile to promote your page. This can feel uncomfortable (it’s certainly something I struggle with – hello mum!), but again, as a solopreneur or micro-business, we have the advantage, our friends and family, our ‘tribe’, are on our side and want us to succeed, so use that to your advantage. (Within reason!)

6. Train your community

If organic page reach is still important to you, then you need to educate your followers that you need the comments and shares for them to keep seeing your stuff.  You can also suggest they click on ‘See first’ to make sure they see your new posts at the top of their newsfeeds.

7. Be generous

A community is all about sharing and caring.  Do unto others and all that. Help out other pages by taking time to comment on their stuff and it will come back to you.

8. But video is still the killer content?

Err… no.  Contrary to what he said in March 2017, video is not necessarily going to bring us together.  Yes, people watch plenty of video, but public videos don’t attract as much interaction (i.e. comments, sharing).  So no, videos are not going to help you, unless you can get people comment on them, as above.  (However, as an advertiser, you can target Facebook Ads towards anyone who has watched at least part of your videos, and that in itself, is a good reason to continue to post them.)

9. Long live Facebook Live

In the statement he briefly mentions that live video (i.e. Facebook Live) gets ‘way more’ interaction than regular videos (around five times as much), so Facebook Live would certainly be worth investing in.  Great top tip here – if you’re going to do a Facebook Live, make sure people know in advance when to tune in. Announce it in advance… with a short Facebook Live! Clever!

10. Pay to play

Yep, you knew this was coming! Invest in Facebook Ads.  Note this is NOT the same as boosting a post, which is generally considered a waste of money.  Facebook Ads are cheap and simple, but also incredibly powerful.  Done well they are the most efficient way to advertise online (and possibly offline, too) and will increase your conversions, your traffic, your reach or however you measure your success.  But don’t just wing it.  Get a strategy, allocate resources and get informed.

Conclusion

Let’s just say, we’re all going to have to be a bit smarter about how we use Facebook if we want any kind of organic reach. My simple advice, as ever, is be authentic, be consistent, add value, respect your readers.

Keep an eye on your page insights and even if you feel your posts aren’t getting anywhere, don’t give up. Your Facebook page will always be visible, a timeline of your helpful tips, your witty remarks, your astute observations and your fantastic promotions. If your readers come looking for you and see dead space, they’ll give up on you.

Wait and see. Don’t panic. Keep on keeping on. Learn about Facebook Ads and spend wisely. Give your website some love, and brush up your SEO.

Figure out your digital marketing strategy, taking into account your time, budget and resources, and make your marketing work for you.

And if you need help with any of the above, give me a shout!

What do you think?  Do you have other strategies that you use to increase your visibility on Facebook? Comment below.

Alison Read is a freelance copywriter, photographer and digital marketer, helping small businesses promote themselves more effectively online. Contact Alison via Facebook or email.

 

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