Why Facebook’s Recent Announcement is Good News for Marketers (and everyone else)

When Mark Zuckerberg announced at the beginning of the new year that he would be making some changes to Facebook, I don’t think people expected those changes to be made so quickly.

Only the following week on January 11th, Facebook released an announcement that it would be making major changes to its News Feed and the algorithm which determines what content will get more exposure. And, naturally marketers did what they always do whenever Facebook makes an announcement. They freaked out.

Marketers went especially ballistic over this part of Zuckerberg’s statement:

“We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Predictably, many marketers are reacting as if this news is a catastrophe and the end of the world. The exposure of content from many publishers and brands will now be even further relegated to the margins, which means they will have to pay Facebook more money for the privilege of getting their content seen and engaged with.

Mark Zuckerberg Constipated

Most users, on the other hand, see this is a positive change, rejoicing that they will now see more content from friends and family and less ads, “fake news,” or other pieces of content that they don’t care about. A recent article in the Atlantic went as far as claiming this recent announcement is an admission of defeat from Facebook, which it seemingly blames for toxifying political discourse and tearing apart the very fabric of democracy. As users, there is no question we benefit from this overhaul of the Newsfeed.

Other marketers are not too worried about the change. In a recent blog post, Mark Schaefer of Business Grow cautioned marketers against blowing this whole thing out of proportion. “Organic reach [was] already dead,” he pointed out. “The organic reach for an average business is [already] less than 1 percent…In reality nothing has changed.” In Mark’s opinion, this entire hullabaloo over Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm change is much ado about nothing (I just really wanted to use the word, hullabaloo).

My initial reaction to the news was similar to that of Mark Schaefer. Organic reach is already dead and has been for a long time. No news here.

But, after reading the announcement several more times and letting it all sink in, I actually think this change may, in fact, be a good thing for marketers and the rest of us too.

Let’s all pause for a second and stop hyperventilating. Take a deep breath. Facebook has made gigantic changes in the past that threatened to hurt the reach of branded content. In a recent episode of The Science of Social Media, a podcast by Buffer, it was rightly pointed out that this new algorithm change will not virtually destroy the reach of branded content and is much less severe than an update Facebook made in the past. Whenever Facebook has made a change, good marketers have always found ways to adapt.

But, while this change might make it more difficult for brands to reach their target audiences on Facebook, let’s look at the positives here. While most marketers are getting their panties in a bunch about the part of the announcement, which predicts that users will see less from publishers and brands, they seem to have overlooked this part:

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

In other words, content that is relevant and helps stimulate engagement will get more priority. Facebook is simply trying to put the social back into social media.  

Facebook’s Vice President of News Feed, Adam Mosseri had even more encouraging words for content creators. He told Wired Magazine:

“…content that generally gets—that facilitates or inspires more meaningful conversation or meaningful interactions between people will get more distribution, and content that does so less will get less distribution.”

In a recent interview with Stratchery Mosseri said:

“So if you and I had a back and forth conversation on a post from a Page, that would actually count as a meaningful social interaction,” Mosseri said. “So it’s more about the interactions between people and less about just the consumption of content from friends.”

So publishers and brands need not fear. What they will need to do is create content that fosters meaningful engagement.

It’s fair to say that the collective bar has been raised. This new update will not hurt brands who are already posting relevant, quality content that the audience actually wants to consume and interact with. The winners will continue to win. Those who provide value may actually experience greater reach and engagement than they did previously, thanks to this change. The spammers and noisy self-promoters, however, will no longer be able to dominate the feed.

And, we all know that not all content from friends/family is quality content that leads to meaningful social interaction. Therefore, brands putting out good content need not worry.

Practical Takeaways from Facebook’s Latest Newsfeed Change:

Go all in on Groups.

In the recent announcement, Zuckerberg stated that the new change will encourage interaction between people who are in communities based on common interests. For example, says Zuckerberg: “there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams.”

If you’re in any Facebook groups (I’m in way too many), then you’ve already noticed that the posts in these groups are increasingly finding their way into your feed. This is a trend that will continue to grow. Facebook said it hopes that by favoring group content in the newsfeed, Facebook will become a platform that facilitates greater social interaction and conversation. Content that users only consume passively by watching, dropping a Like, and scrolling on with their lives will be voted down in the feed.

So, make sure you participate in groups. Do so authentically and not in a spammy way, of course. Start discussions. Answer questions. Better yet, start your own Facebook group!

Go live. Just do it!

Facebook has been telling us for a long time now that Facebook Live is heavily favored by the algorithm. Facebook has taken steps to prioritize video in general, but the platform especially favors live, because it often prompts greater engagement — comments etc. “We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones,” said Zuckerberg.

Interestingly, when Facebook Live emerged in the summer of 2016, many people, initially excited by this new feature, started testing it out. I noticed the organic reach, impressions, and engagement was much higher on my live videos than on the rest of my Facebook content. Eventually, the novelty wore off. Personally, witnessing so many people making boring and pointless live videos kind of ruined it for me. However, Facebook took pains to remind us in their recent announcement that live still works and that it will reward us for using it by giving it greater post reach. So, go live!

Relax.

aligeasynow

Don’t worry so much. If you’re doing right by users, then you’re going to be fine. I’m optimistic that this new change will push the bad content further down in the feed and allow the good content to rise to the top.

Your Excuses Aren’t Helping

I’m sure you have excuses for why you’re not yet where you want to be in life.

We all have excuses.

But, excuses don’t move you further toward your goals. Excuses don’t pay your bills. Excuses won’t help you win. While it may feel good in the short term, making excuses is distracting you from making progress.

In my line of work, I’m used to hearing people talk about wanting to grow their business or personal brand. They want more people to know about them. They want their phone to be ringing off the hook and the orders to be coming in. They want more customers or clients or more ideal customers or clients. They want to become more well-known or take their business to the next level. But, when they find out how much work is involved and how much time, money, and effort is needed to build a brand and grow an online presence, they’re not always up for it.

How do I get more customers? How do I get more awareness for my brand or company? How do I become the ‘go-to’ person for X, Y, or Z?

The answer is always the same. Put in the work.

It’s going to take a lot more work on top of whatever you’re already doing. The good news is that if you have a smartphone, it’s easier (and cheaper) than it was before to talk to the world, connect with others, and gain a following. The bad news is that there is more competing for our attention than ever before. The only way to be relevant and get on the radar screen of the people you’re trying to reach is by putting out content for social media and mobile devices that gets attention and provides value. Yes, it takes work to churn out blog posts, shoot vlogs, podcast, and connect with people on social media, especially if you can’t afford to hire a team that will do it for you. But, who said achieving success comes easily?

And because there is so much competing for our attention, it takes more effort to rise above the noise. It’s harder than ever to get people to pay attention to your ads and your content truly has to be quality as well as relevant and well-timed. Yes, it’s all hard, but it’s the only way. The only alternative is making excuses and wondering why nothing is happening.

If giving up is not an option, then stop making excuses and start taking action. Start doing. Start now.

Authenticity: What Does it Really Mean Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.

Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.

Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?

Be genuine and up front.

Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.

Give sincerely.

Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.

The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s not “fake it till you make it.” 

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.

So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.

Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.