Four Key Things to Remember About the New Facebook Algorithm

Facebook recently announced that the social networking giant is going to be giving less exposure to business pages in news feeds, which has meant a corresponding drop in organic reach for business pages.  The reaction has been typified in the comments. There has been rage, there have been eulogies on the death on Facebook, and there have been accusations that Facebook is doing this to punish businesses. Here’s what may surprise you: You can put the pitchforks away, revolters. This isn’t the end of organic reach, let alone Facebook organic content. Facebook could have handled this much better, but these changes are going to promote new types of content delivery for pages.


Before this goes any further, I’ll say immediately Facebook’s messaging of this has been awful. I get why Facebook is doing this, but it’s hard for SMBs and marketers to appreciate the user experience when you push promoted advertising one sentence after your stated intent to improve the content experience for Facebook users. I’ll also say that the carpet bombing strategy Facebook is using in its ongoing efforts to separate meaningful content from obnoxious spam from brands is imperfect. As Facebook continues finding a balance between its users and its brands, let’s keep these important points in mind.


Facebook Is About People


Let’s get down to brass tacks: Facebook is, first and foremost, a way for people to connect with one another. It’s a social network first and a business marketing platform second.  This algorithm change is the result of a news feed increasingly cluttered with branded content, sponsored stories, and advertisements, and Facebook is clearly trying to return to the type of user experience that made Facebook so big in the first place. The more the user experience of Facebook stagnates (see below), the more likely people are to spend more time on Twitter or SnapChat. Facebook has already been steadily losing the teen demographic, and it risks a lot more by driving people to competitors despite its immense size. Besides, without people, who would you be able to market to using your business page?


Facebook Isn’t Trying To Hurt Businesses (Not Intentionally, Anyway)


Punishing businesses would be suicidal for Facebook at this point in time. Businesses have invested over $6 billion in Facebook and, despite looking at other avenues of monetization, business advertising is still its biggest cash cow. I will grant you that the messaging behind this algorithm change was handled poorly and you can definitely make a solid argument that Facebook is making a mistake by pushing promoted advertising this hard, but Facebook would have to be insane to make the network less appealing to business. Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat and Vine are all attracting more business activity by the day: Twitter just had its IPO, Pinterest has unveiled advertisements and analytics, and SnapChat is becoming a viable business platform after Facebook’s failed acquisition of it for a cool $3 billion. These rising competitors are also in a much better position to take advantage of the mobile market than Facebook is, despite Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.


Reach Is A Secondary Metric (At Best)


Let’s also keep in mind that reach isn’t as important as interaction. How many people your post actually reaches is secondary to the objective of every Facebook page post: To get people liking, commenting, sharing, claiming your Offer or following you link. Even with paid content sending the actual number of people you reach through the roof, it’s all for naught if they aren’t responding or clicking. Reach is today what ad impressions have been for a long time: A starting point to indicate that you’re on the right track, but not a valid measurement of success. The act of reaching people doesn’t translate to revenue; only how well you convert those you do reach.


Change Your Game Plan


Relax, you can still reach people organically. As Facebook changes, so must we. The old rules, old practices, and old how-to’s are no longer relevant. Jon Loomer has a great rundown of how to best approach the new Facebook newsfeed and I’m sure I’ll be doing my own experimentation and offering best practices, but forget the old way of posting to game Facebook’s algorithm. Post more frequently, target it on when your fans are online, and always, always keep your content fresh and interesting.


This may not be a best exercise of Facebook’s communication, but what’s important for brands is to keep adapting. That said, it’s going to be interesting to see how businesses react to these changes in Facebook given the competition it has now. Twitter recently had its IPO, Pinterest is still on fire, and SnapChat is becoming a burgeoning business platform after Facebook’s failed acquisition of it. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for social media, and SMBs and marketers would do well to keep up with where your audience is and how effectively you can reach them.