In a series of recent updates to its News Feed content, Facebook announced last Friday that from the beginning of January 2015 it will be rolling out yet another change to its algorithm that will affect the type of content audiences see.
According to a recent Facebook survey, they concluded that audiences want to see less ‘promotional’ content, while pages that post promotional content should ‘expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time’. Therefore, Facebook referral traffic for most brands is due to decline dramatically.
Why is Facebook filtering promotional Content?
Facebook’s reasoning for the change is that it will make the content in news feeds more engaging for people. They are effectively saying that organic content should not be promotional (which is understandable). And, if you want audiences to see promotional content, then you’ll need to pay for it.
According to Jill Sherman, DigitasLBi’s Group Director for Social and Digital Strategy “Facebook users will ultimately teach the algorithm how to arbitrate on their behalf based on actions and preferences. Some promotional content might break through because it garners a lot of high-value social engagements, such as Super Bowl ads.” And, based on some of the top 10 Super Bowl commercials of all time, he’s probably got a good point.
Interestingly, in light of this, Mark Zuckerberg recently said that “In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video,” Therefore, this could highlight where ‘promotional’ or more engaging content in the future is heading on the network.
Good news for Media Owners?
Well it would seem so – newsworthy content is typically engaging and isn’t generally promotional. Additionally, back in October 2013 Facebook changed its news feed algorithm, which ultimately proved great news (excuse the pun) for online publishers. So, maybe they will get another boost early next year.
- Facebook average referral traffic to media sites increased by 170% in 2013, while 51% of this came from mobile devices.
- Hearst Magazines Facebook referral traffic increased by 4% to 42% from November 2013 to November 2014.
How does it impact other brands and marketers?
For marketers, it’s clear that any “buy now”, “install” and “download” messages will be filtered out. Yet it remains uncertain what other content and terminology may be deemed promotional until the News Feed change actually happens in January 2015.
Dwindling Facebook organic reach is nothing new for brands and marketers. During 2012, Facebook restricted organic reach from above 26% to below 12%. Then in December 2013, another round of changes reduced it further to below 9%, and by February 2014 it had plummeted to around 6%. The latest change is destined to give Facebook organic reach a lethal blow.
There have been a few indications recently that Facebook was leading towards a more commercial model via paid media with the introduction of their ‘buy button’. Marketers may consider using Facebook paid media, or even find innovative ways to bypass the change to purposely engage their audience with ‘promotional’ and even non-promotional content – whatever content they ultimately want their audiences to see.
What’s worth noting is that Facebook has said that it’s increasing its investment in Pages and ‘exploring’ ways to offer more customizable pages to businesses, similar in the way that it rolled out menu sections for restaurant pages. Therefore, there’s still a lot to be accounted for.
We’ve said this for some time now, but with this recent announcement it’s now becoming clearer that consumer brands should not be focusing all of their media spend and content strategies on Facebook. Yes, Facebook is still and will remain to be a very important part of the marketer’s toolkit, however, they should spread their bets and look to engage their audiences across multiple social networks, such as running hashtag contests across Instagram and Twitter. In addition, they need to deploy apps that typically reside on Facebook to other digital channels as well, such as their websites, microsites, YouTube pages and mobile apps.
In addition, research from the Jun Group suggests that it’s now the brand website that is the final destination for campaigns, rather than Facebook or YouTube.
This means websites, which have been neglected for many years, are now becoming the primary showcase for branded content and curated social content that has been filtered from a range of social networks. It’s this compelling and authentic user-generated content that has been proven to drive brand preference and purchase consideration. So, it makes sense for brands to harness this user-generated content to encourage further interactions and engagement with their brand.
Written by Jack Oldham, Content Marketing Manager for Engage Sciences