12 Things You Need to Know about Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change
By Jane Ainsworth on 25th January 2018
Last week, we caught up with Facebook to talk through their much-publicised algorithm change, and what it means for brands.
As it stands, we believe there are 12 key things we all need to know, and they look like this
1. Everything is about meaningful interactions
When Zuckerberg first hinted at major changes for Facebook, he stressed that he wanted to take the platform back to its roots, and make everything about meaningful interactions between family and friends. Meaningful interactions are defined by the platform as:
A word of warning though – brands mustn’t get hung-up on engagement, for reasons we’ll go on to explain.
2. Organic reach is dead
Organic reach has been on its last legs for a long time, but the algorithm change has hammered the final nail in its coffin. If you want your audience to see your content 1. you have to pay-to-play and 2. it has to be good (more on this below).
A note of caution to anyone who thinks it’s worth putting organic content out there just in case someone checks your brand page – research by Facebook shows that just 6% of users ever view brands’ pages, and if they do, they are probably there to complain anyway.
3. Ads won’t be affected (apparently)
Facebook claims that the algorithm change will make little to no difference to ads, as they believe its auction model already optimises for user value (i.e. meaningful interactions). In other words, higher relevancy score = lower auction costs = more opportunities to have your ad placed in front of your target users.
4. Relevancy score matters more than ever
We can see what Facebook is saying, and we interpret that to mean your relevancy score will be more important than ever. If you are already building your ads with a high relevancy score front of mind, in theory your ads won’t be affected; if you aren’t – our guess is they will be. After all, Facebook wants to ensure that people will see only the ads that are most relevant to them, leading to a better user experience on the platform overall.
So, how can you maximise your relevancy score? It mainly comes down to the objective you are buying the ad on (traffic, video views, conversions etc). Whatever objective you have, you need to make sure that people are actually ‘doing it’ (clicking through to site, watching or buying etc).
So, you’ve got to get your content right, and your objective right – but that’s not all. The ad has to be relevant to both the customer, and the brand. This means that if you sell toothpaste, you shouldn’t post a video of happy goats. Facebook will see right through it.
5. Get your targeting right
Facebook offers seriously sophisticated targeting options – hitting the boost button and delivering the ad to people who like the page isn’t enough. You need to take time to build your audience based on your customer profile(s) and segmentations. Even better, use a Facebook account-managed agency (we are one of these), who will have access to third party data from the likes of Experian and Axicom.
6. Don’t get hung up on engagement
With all the talk of ‘meaningful interactions’, there has been a lot of discussion about whether engagement is back at the top of the priority list for brands on Facebook.
We asked Facebook directly if we should go back to buying ads on an engagement basis (to drive meaningful interactions), and the answer was a resounding no. Facebook remains committed to driving real business outcomes, not just page post engagements. We get this. For a brand, a ‘meaningful interaction’ isn’t a post like; it’s a click to site, a purchase, a lead.
We quote; “Advertisers should continue to focus on achieving real business outcomes, not page posts engagements. Our systems will continue to take into account relevancy and feedback to deliver ads to the right people. Engagement is only a small part of how we rank.”
7. Engagement bait content is the enemy
To emphasise this point, try to beat the Facebook algorithm with engagement bait, and your content will be demoted (even if you pay for it). This means posts containing phrases such as ‘tag a mate’, ‘share if’, ‘like if’ or ‘comment below’ will penalised, and their reach curtailed.
8. Content is king
We’ve preached this for a very long time but, if there is one thing this whole algorithm update has reinforced, it’s that putting spend behind a post isn’t enough on its own. If you want your audience to click a link, make a purchase, or give you their data (GDPR in mind), there are no shortcuts to this – your content has to be good enough to generate a reaction from the user.
9. Video is everything
All that said, when looking at your social strategy overall, it’s worth noting that a video view is always considered a key meaningful interaction. According to Facebook, 95% of content on the platform will be video by 2020. Facebook wants people to consider the time they spend watching videos, ‘time well spent’ – so your video has to be just that.
The best way to tell if your video is hitting the mark is to look at completed view rate – not a three second view.
10. Live video is where it’s at
Live videos that generate lots of interactions between family and friends will be viewed particularly favourably. Facebook is focused on making the platform less ‘passive’, and more ‘interactive’ – and someone tuning into a live video, and then inviting family and friends to join them, is viewed as a key connection, something which Facebook really wants to encourage on the platform.
If Facebook Live isn’t part of your social strategy, it’s worth considering how you can factor this in (remembering that quality is still key).
Facebook has confirmed that this update won’t affect the Explore feed tests (announced in late 2017), where brand Page content (for some users, in some countries) was moved to an Explore tab. Brand content will still appear in News Feeds, with Facebook confirming they are listening to what people saying about the test, before deciding if it’s an idea worth pursuing further. There are no plans afoot to roll the Explore feed beyond the current test countries either.
12. Instagram is spared
The good news is that none of these algorithm changes apply to Instagram and, apparently, there are no plans to roll them out either.
The author: Jane Ainsworth is managing director of WPR. She has over 20 years’ experience in developing and delivering communications strategies for consumer brands including Dunelm, Tesco, Mothercare, Greene King, John Lewis, Bullring, Beaverbrooks and Westfield.