Facebook’s algorithm update: Should marketers be worried?

What does Facebook’s latest algorithm change mean for social marketers? Is it time to change the way we view the Social Media giant?

What does Facebook’s latest algorithm change mean for social marketers? Is it time to change the way we view the Social Media giant?

As you’ve already heard by now, Facebook is changing the algorithm behind their newsfeed. Focusing on content which you’re more likely to engage with; not only from a “like” or “share” perspective but continuous engagement. My sense is that they are looking at posts which might spark back and forth conversations.

What does this mean for social media marketing?

Facebook organic reach has been declining for over a year, meaning paid social media budget is a key part of any social strategy. This won’t change. However, paid social is going to become, over time, more and more expensive.

We might not notice it now, but perhaps in a year’s time, CPCs and CPMs on Facebook will go up.

Why? Because more entities on Facebook will have to begin bidding for attention. In the past, news organizations, publishers and perhaps even entertainment brands could still reach their audiences organically as they had more relevant content. With this newsfeed change, they might now need to wade into the pay-to-play mix to sustain their traffic, a major KPI.

These organizations may be amongst the more aggressive advertisers on Facebook, further saturating what is already a crowded space. This is good for Facebook as it boosts their income; but bad for advertisers who are going to be pushed to either spend more, or leave as the model becomes unsustainable.

I certainly hope this will not be the case; I personally think that branded content on Facebook does enrich our overall experience. But as marketers, we should be forward-looking and not just hedge our bets on Facebook alone.

A marketing strategy is very similar to an investment strategy: Diversification is key. That’s certainly what we can and should be doing.

Owning vs subletting

Firstly, it’s usually better to be an owner and rent out your property than to rent a place and sublet it.

The second model is what brands are doing on Facebook; renting a space from this mega-landlord and then trying to get individuals to come and reside (engage) on their page. The problem with the subletting model is that you’re at the whims of the owner. In this case, if Facebook decides to change their algorithm, you have no choice but to comply, or leave.

The simple reason why people stay is because the alternative, setting up your own community, is expensive and time-consuming.

That said, if you look at the home rental market, it always makes more sense to own rather than to sublet. Not only do you have full control, but at the same time you can find other ways to monetize your property.

Similarly, if you have an owned community, there’s always the opportunity to monetize by allowing brands to pay for a presence on the site. Sony’s Playstation Network is a great example of this.

Whilst it’s expensive and hard to push through, such endeavours make sense in the long run. If your brand believes there’s long-term value in community engagement, then this is something to seriously consider.

Fish where the fish are

Second, if your brand has hedged all its bets on Facebook, it’s time to find other places where your audiences are engaged.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be online; your audiences could meet in real life as interest groups, meetups, and the like. Of course, this exercise is easier for a brand like Nike than a niche brand that sells packaging products.

Tools like Google Correlate come in handy here, as you can find topics that overlap with your brand (and so, new ways to reach your audience).

Rethink your budget

Even if you have already diversified your social strategy, it might be time to rethink your budget allocation. Based on your objectives, should you scale down your investment and allocate more budget to other initiatives?

When considering this question, use the data you have as rationale for making any changes. Over a year, watch your return on investment when it comes to Facebook spend. After a few months, a picture should start to form around whether the algorithm change is impacting your engagement, and you can then rejig your strategy from there.

Balance

Finally, expect more changes like these to come. Ultimately, Facebook serves two sets of customers; users and advertisers. Keeping both (who seemingly have opposite goals) happy is a tricky balancing act at best. The social giant will need to continue to manage the balance if they want to survive in an economy with easily-distracted customers.

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