Why You Need Some New Facebook Content In January

By Posted in - Content & Content Strategy & Facebook & HE Comms & Higher Education & News & Social Media & Student Marketing on December 10th, 2014 0 Comments

Ever installed a new piece of software and ticked the box agreeing to the terms and conditions without reading them from start to finish? Of course you have. We’re all guilty of not reading the small print. It’s long, it’s boring, we just want to get started – of course we skip it.

This habit is so prevalent in the digital world that companies are being told to make their terms and conditions clearer for the general public. Facebook has already announced their planned changes, which are due to come into force in January. If you want to read about the changes to the Facebook user policy, they’ve created a quick roundup for you.

The terms and conditions aren’t the only thing Facebook is changing in January, though… What I’m more interested in are the changes being made to the News Feed algorithm – the system that determines what users see and how often they see it.

 

BACKGROUND: ORGANIC REACH IS DEAD

OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But it is true that Facebook has been throttling the organic reach of posts by company pages over the past couple of years.

The percentage of users who see a brand’s typical Facebook post is half what it was a year ago, according to the latest Adobe Digital Index, which is based on data gathered from thousands of Adobe Systems Inc.’s retail clients.

These gradual changes have made it harder to get content seen by Facebook users – and it’s about to become more of a challenge. The latest tweaks to Facebook’s algorithm will start on 1st January, and there are intended to reduce the number of overly promotional posts by brands.

 

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

You probably already know that the typical Facebook user could see around 1,000 to 1,500 stories on their News Feed in a single day. Facebook, for good or ill, narrows that down by a bout 80%, using its algorithm to select the stories they believe the user will most likely want to see.

But sometimes people don’t like what they see. In Facebook’s own words

As part of an ongoing survey we asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their News Feeds. People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and pages they care about, and less promotional content.

What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from pages they like, rather than ads.

The distinction Facebook is making here is between what it calls “promotional” posts and advertising. Promotional posts are those that are not paid for in any way, just posted by a brand or organisation’s page. Advertising is – of course – paid for, and Facebook is not suggesting brands stop doing that…

They’ve given us an idea of the type of posts that are going to see lower engagement from now on:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

 

 SHOW ME AN EXAMPLE!

Here’s an example of a post that Facebook itself says would be penalised by the new rules:

Facebook promotional post example

You can see why. Its only purpose is to encourage you to download an app – something that Facebook’s research says people don’t want to see.

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

I hate to say it, but if this change affects your page it’s probably because your content isn’t very inspired…

So this will go one of two ways, depending on your current page content:

  • Pages that already use interesting content that connects with their audience in an engaging way should see their reach rise – but they’ll need to keep it up.
  • Pages that rely on competitions and marketing messages will be hard hit – and they’ll need to rethink their content in order to see any organic reach.

It’s as simple as that.

I like this change. It’s going to encourage Facebook page owners to create content that actually means something to their audience. If your post is competing for space with posts by users’ friends, families and colleagues, then it’s going to have to be something they want to interact with – that’s what social media is all about.

It might take some brands a while to get used to this new regime. Some might react by jumping completely to advertising, where these restrictions won’t apply. But what I’m hoping to see is some really interesting and engaging content from brands – something that tells a story, or brings the people behind the brand to the fore.

 

TELLING TALES

For those in the education sector these changes provide a great opportunity to look at the content you’re using in your posts. Because Facebook wants you to provide your fans with relatable content, you’ve got a reason (as if you needed one) to start weaving a narrative on Facebook. If you can find students and staff with engaging stories and make them the focus of your posts, you’ll be able to build an organic following while also getting your message out – without the need for sales messages.

This recent post from the University of Manchester is a great example:

University of Manchester at University Challenge

It doesn’t involve a sales message and it doesn’t need the user to click anything, but it subtly encourages engagement with a very human story. Seeing a post like this elicits likes and comments from fans who want to congratulate the Manchester team – and wouldn’t fall foul of Facebook’s upcoming changes.

 

WHAT NEXT?

We won’t know the true impact of these changes until we’re able to compare engagement rates from January 2014 with January 2015, but Facebook seem to be taking this update seriously – so we should expect brands to do the same.

If this has made you think again about your Facebook content, that’s great – there’s never a bad time to reassess your content strategy. Don’t let your page get punished by the algorithm – find interesting stories and share them!

If you want to have a chat about content creation, then just get in touch. We might be able to help…

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