Social Media

What Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change Means for Social Media Marketers

Posted by James Trumbly on March 3rd, 2014 at 10:20 am

This article was originally published on HMG Creative by James Trumbly.

Social media marketers spend their time studying sites like Facebook to determine how the content they post can garner the most visibility. So when Facebook announces a major rollout to the news feed algorithm, the social media marketing world gets turned upside down, especially when those changes mean the current way of doing things has to be drastically altered.

In December of 2013, Facebook announced that high-quality articles would be receiving greater visibility than images (“the latest meme”). That was a game-changer for marketers, many of whom rely on images to command larger chunks of real estate in the newsfeed and to generate activity among fans. The blogosphere went nuts, with some bloggers accusing Facebook of trying to squeeze more money out of businesses in order for their content to be seen, and others fretting that publishers like Buzzfeed who specialize in creating viral content would get ousted completely.

At the end of the day, though, Facebook’s announcement shouldn’t come as a shock. They are, after all, providing free advertising by means of their brand pages (well, except for the money you pay to the social media platform to make sure that page is engaging fans). And they’ve made no secret of the fact that their vision for the Newsfeed is much more than just a place to share baby pictures and laugh at Grumpy Cat. They want it to be more like a newspaper—a go-to place for people to view an assortment of content including news stories, quality articles, and valuable content.

So what does all of this mean for your marketing efforts? It means that, just as marketers had to adjust with Google’s Panda updates, they’re going to have to adjust to Facebook’s new vision as well. Here are the primary takeaways you need to know:

Links will get more visibility than images.

Most social media marketers have already made this switch, but just in case you missed it, take note. Pictures with a link in the description will get less visibility. Instead, consider using a link post. You’ll still get a nice image, and Facebook will give your content higher priority than an image with a link tacked on.

Use article links:

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 10.28.52 AM

Not images with links in the description:

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 10.30.01 AM

Images will be downplayed.

Facebook wants to be a serious source of information and news. And let’s face it, when your newsfeed is filled with memes and selfies, you might be laughing but you won’t be checking in for your daily breaking news fix. One way Facebook is working toward higher quality content is by using recently acquired Face.com to recognize poor quality images. While Face.com is marketed as a facial recognition program, it can also recognize a wide variety of other images. So, for instance, if you upload an image consisting primarily of text and clipart, it could be ranked as lower quality than an article link or a high quality image. That means it will show up in fewer news feeds, drastically lowering your overall reach.

Engagement with fans is more important than ever.

Getting likes, clicks, and shares has always been important. Now it will be even more so. One way Facebook determines which articles are valuable enough to be seen is by how many people engage with that article. It’s not enough to simply share a link. You’ll need to provide some context for that link in order to entice users to click. Washington Post (like most other news pages), includes teaser content at the top of each article link:

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 10.31.28 AM

Consider your ROI and determine whether buying ad space is in the cards.

In some ways, Facebook is similar to Google in that if you play the game right, you can gain higher visibility. But also like Google, Facebook is always changing the rules by tweaking the algorithm. That means that what works today may not work tomorrow. (Panda, anyone?) The one way to ensure consistent exposure is to purchase ad space. If you’re having trouble getting the reach you want, it may be time to calculate whether the cost of a Facebook ad is worth the increased visibility.

It’s easy to spout off about the greedy Facebook executives when a change comes along that hurts brand page visibility. But, like Google, Facebook provides a service primarily intended to benefit users—not marketers. And so far, they have given businesses access to free marketing among a highly engaged user base. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

The next algorithm change may make it even harder to get your content to fans without paying big bucks. But for now, social marketers should cut their losses, regroup, and adapt. If Facebook’s goal is to get high-quality content to its readers, then businesses need to concentrate on producing that high-quality content rather than just putting together a meme designed to generate clicks and shares.

Have you made significant changes to your Facebook strategy in the wake of December’s algorithm change? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’ve found to be successful!

3 Responses to “What Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change Means for Social Media Marketers”

  1. I may not like it, but I am willing to spend a few dollars a day promoting my posts on Facebook to help get that engagement level up. At some point the costs will out weigh the benefits and then I'll stop.

  2. Andrew says:

    From my experience, the algorithm change hasn't fully come into effect as mentioned in this article.

    I find that posts with images and a link MAJORLY outperform posts with articles.

    This is after regular A/B tests to qualify my assumption too.

    It would be great if you could let us know more about this as the findings in your article seem not to apply to my page.

    Thanks!

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