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What the Facebook News Feed update means for brands

THE FACEBOOK POST LAST THURSDAY FROM MARK ZUCKERBERG ABOUT THE UPCOMING NEWS FEED UPDATE HAS CAUSED QUITE THE RUCKUS IN THE MARKETING COMMUNITY FROM NEWS FEED ARMAGEDDON TO ZUCK’S $3B NET WORTH LOSS AFTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT.

This prompted Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook to explain the changes in more detail. “With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to”.

Although Facebook make News Feed algorithm changes almost constantly, this update is very interesting when you consider two dramatic appearances from former Facebook execs in the last 3 months:

Nov 9: Sean Parker, former Facebook President spoke at an Axios Event saying Facebook “exploits human psychological vulnerabilities through a validation feedback loop” and “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”.

Dec 11: Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook Growth VP was interviewed at a Stanford Graduate School of Business lecture and said he felt “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped create and additionally that “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”.

Add to this, the continual assertions of News Feeds littered with fake news as a result of politically weaponised Facebook ads in the 2016 US Presidential Election; and you have an enormous image problem unfolding for the world’s largest social network.

This News Feed update is Facebook’s first public reaction to the issue. But with user growth continuing to surge in the developing world (they quietly crossed over 2B active users late last year) – its questionable whether this recent negativity against Facebook will cause any kind of downturn in usage, at least on a global scale.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MARKETERS?

Facebook’s solution to the validation feedback loop is to use discussion as a signal for content that inspires “meaningful interactions”. This ultimately means brands need to get people talking and sharing.

In reality, this has always been the brief for marketers looking to improve performance since engagement extends viral reach. For most brands, this will pose a unique challenge because igniting conversation around products or services is no easy task on Facebook, or indeed on social media in general. Brands will need to therefore expand their editorial point of view.

Does a brand have the right to publish or discuss perspectives on pop culture, news & events or perhaps even politics? The only way to answer that question is to find editorial themes that intersect brand authenticity with zeitgeist relevance. It’s at this junction that brands can drive interest and engagement on Facebook in 2018.

On the one hand, this News Feed update changes the game but on the other hand, it simply reinforces the game we’ve been playing for several years now – brands need to focus on creating quality content that people will want to share. If paid media is leveraged, it’s definitely a case of quality over quantity or as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said “more wood behind fewer arrows”.

Facebook have additionally flagged potential for lower reach, video views and traffic. This is certainly in line with steady decreases in organic reach as a result of more and more content being created, not only by brands but people too. Now, more than ever, paid social will be vital for reaching the right audiences. Facebook have made it easy to set up an ad campaign but its important to be optimising your campaigns live. Switching targeting to different ad sets and serving different ad variations to those ad sets. This will ensure your spend remains efficient and your audiences don’t fatigue.

It’s also worth noting that despite News Feed being king on Facebook and the other social channels, messaging apps have changed the way we consume content not only from friends but from brands. In Australia, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram DM, WhatsApp and WeChat are the main players. Facebook advertisers can now create ad campaigns that deliver into Messenger and WhatsApp. These messaging apps are providing brands with even more ways to reach people beyond News Feed. For brands with customer service or any kind of online fulfilment aspect, a Messenger and/or Messenger bot strategy should be priority.

This is what we do day in and day out at Magnum & Co. We love chatting with clients about driving social performance across any social channel. If you do too, feel free to say hello.

TL;DR

– Focus editorial attention on brand authenticity + zeitgeist relevance

– Create quality content that people will want to share (more wood behind fewer arrows)

– Always optimise your paid social spend to drive down cost

– Leverage opportunities beyond News Feed with Instagram Stories and messaging apps

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