Well, it’s a new year, and it looks like 2014 may just be ushering in a new era in Facebook marketing, as well.
Businesses – and marketers – everywhere are panicking about the changes Facebook has made to its algorithm. It’s no longer going to be quite as easy to get your updates to show up in your Facebook fans’ news feeds – and in fact, they may not show up at all, unless marketers start shelling out the dough.
Doomsday predictions abound, but what’s really going on? Is this the end of all things? Should we start stockpiling the toilet paper, and practicing our zombie apocalypse drills?
Well, no. It’s a major change and one that will affect the way social media marketers do business, but it’s far from the end of the world. As we see it, there are three major components to Facebook’s changes – and just as many ways of dealing with them.
1. Content trumps images: The first major change involves those gorgeous, eye-catching image posts everyone has been obsessed with this past year. Adding a large image to your company’s updates was a sure-fire way to get likes and engagement, and social media marketing companies all over – including us – recommended it wholeheartedly. But now, Facebook has told us specifically that images will not be featured as prominently as they have been. Memes and other pictures posted in the body of the update just won’t get the same reach that they used to.
So what will take their place? Will Facebook become a barren wasteland of image-less text and links? No, silly! Large, attention-grabbing images will still be a big part of Facebook marketing. How? Through link posts.
Including a link to an article in your update now produces a preview image just about as big as those you add yourself – and it will bring with it the bonus of being featured more prominently in fans’ news feeds. So, big images will still be there, catching fans’ eyes as always. Just make sure that the preview image for the article you’re linking to is a good one.
But the real issue at hand here is the fact that content – or “high-quality articles,” as Facebook puts it – will now take center stage. If you thought that content was king before, just you wait. Now content isn’t just king, but the queen, prince, and princess – heck, it’s the whole royal court! This algorithm change will force marketers to create and promote content of the highest quality if they want to be successful. So the solution to Facebook marketing change number one is to produce amazing content and promote it with link posts that have great preview images. That’s not so bad, now, is it?
2. Engagement is vital. Here’s the next piece in this new Facebook marketing puzzle. Posts can be bumped to the tops of fans’ newsfeeds repeatedly if they receive new comments from their friends. This means that the content and preview images you post have to motivate people to engage. No more lazy links without context, or a simple, “Here’s my latest blog post!” Marketers will have to get serious about convincing people to interact with their brand on Facebook, and not just by liking or even clicking on the article, but specifically by commenting on the post. That way, their friends who are also fans will have a better chance of seeing that post in their news feed. The takeaway here? Learn the art of writing a persuasive call to action for your posts now! Test what works and what doesn’t to find out what makes your fans want to comment, and then use that knowledge to its fullest potential. Again, not the end of the world, right?
3. Let’s face it – we’re just gonna have to pay. It looks inevitable at this point. Free, organic reach for brands is fading fast and doesn’t have long to live. We can do our utmost, creating awesome content and encouraging fans to comment, but Facebook has come right out and said, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
So what does this mean? You’ll have to consider this in the context of your own business goals. Facebook marketing may not be the best way to promote your company’s content anymore – does it make sense for you to pay to distribute free content? Maybe it does, if that’s your primary means of attracting new customers. But maybe it doesn’t, and you should focus your efforts more on Twitter or LinkedIn or Google+ or Pinterest or Tumblr or Instagram… Get the picture? Facebook, although its reach is huge, is not the only social media platform on the block.
So here’s the million dollar question. What’s your Facebook ROI? If you get enough leads and business through Facebook to make it a vital part of your marketing strategy, then paying for reach probably won’t hurt your bottom line too much. In fact, you may already be paying for Facebook ads! And if Facebook isn’t a good source of ROI for you, then by all means, keep updating your page, aiming for that high-quality content and those comments, but begin to focus on other (read: free) social media platforms more.
So take a deep breath, and put that ax down. Yes, it’s annoying, and yes, it’ll change things, but we can handle this, you guys! We promise.