Recently, via a post from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook made an announcement regarding one of its big focus areas for 2018.  This announcement affects personal account users.  However, the greatest impact will be noticed by businesses and other users of Facebook’s Pages functionality.  Now, if you’ve been paying attention to Facebook’s overall business direction and algorithm changes over the last few years, this announcement probably did not come as too much of a surprise.  Organic Facebook Page reach has been on the downhill for a while now.  However, if you aren’t aware of the changes Facebook has made in recent years, let’s catch you up.
A brief rundown of Organic Facebook Page reach:
It was with the launch of Pages in 2007, that businesses first jumped into the Facebook social media pool with both feet.  Facebook Pages provided businesses an opportunity to get their brand, message, products and services in front of the public in a very relevant and very free way. It only took a few years for people to realize that this free method of marketing was not reaching nearly the number of people that they thought it was.  Since the initial decline in 2012, Facebook has continued with this trend of reduced organic reach for content from Pages.
So exactly what changes will be happening with Facebook in 2018?
Mark Zuckerberg first posted this announcement in early January 2018.  His Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri followed up with an explanation post shortly after.  Together, the posts basically say organic Facebook Page reach is going to be all but non-existent in the very near future. Here are the major highlights of the announcement:
How will this Facebook “Big Focus Area” for 2018 affect business Pages?

With the already abysmal numbers for organic reach, it is fairly safe to say that organic reach for business on Facebook is all but DEAD.  This is not to say that you can’t continue trying for organic reach. However, to have any hope of reaching your target audience, you need to adhere to some strict guidelines.

First, DO NOT use “engagement bait.”  Facebook first announced in December that it would begin penalizing posts using the engagement bait tactic to “goad people” into reacting to a post with likes, shares, etc.   Furthermore, Facebook specifically mentioned in its recent announcement that it will continue to demote any posts utilizing this method.

Second, only post content that is designed specifically to generate conversation between people. Content that does not cause this effect will most likely never be seen beyond your Page wall.  Simply getting someone to watch a video does not count as engagement in Facebook’s new algorithm.  It needs to cause the viewer to engage in back and forth conversation within the comments.

One other option that you could attempt to keep your content in your followers’ News Feed.  Simply inform them of the upcoming changes and encourage them to prioritize your Page to appear at the top of their News Feed.  The average Facebook user might not be aware of the backend changes to Facebook’s algorithm. So don’t forget to give some kind of explanation as to why you are making this suggestion.  Let us follow this suggestion up with a warning that this is probably not an option that will work on any kind of large scale in the long term.  However, we would be remiss not to at least mention it.

What does it boil down to for business marketing on Facebook?

Advertising dollars.  This is not the first time we’ve mentioned this strategy.  However, it is now critical for success.  If you want your Page to rank in News Feed, you are going to need to shell out some money for paid promotions/advertising on Facebook.  In an interview John Hegeman, a Facebook vice president, stated that advertising on the social network would be unaffected.  However, there are many who disagree with this prediction.  It stands to reason that if more people are advertising on the social network, then the price will probably ultimately reflect demand.

Mark Zuckerberg specifically stated in his announcement post that, “[I] believe that [it] will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.” Yes, Facebook is a business, a multi-billion dollar business.  According to Bloomberg’s Index, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth is over $74 billion dollars which makes him the fifth richest person in the world.  You don’t get to this status by making decisions that are bad for business.  Facebook has been strategic in its planning and implementation of the changes leading up to this point over the years.

The social networking site now, seemingly, holds all the cards.  They have the audience and the power to control EXACTLY what is put in front of that audience.  And now…you will pretty much have to pay for the privilege of being seen.  This strategy has allowed them to appear both, as a user friendly networking site, while still raking in billions in advertising dollars.

Should you abandon your Facebook Page marketing efforts? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
These algorithm changes are certainly not a reason to bow out of the Facebook marketing arena.  Facebook’s ability to allow tactical targeting of your ads and promotions budget makes it a very tempting, and oftentimes successful, means by which to reach your audience.  However simply getting the content in front of your audience is only half the battle.  Once your post makes it to their News Feed, they must be inspired to engage with that post or you’ve lost the battle.
Quality Media.
It matters.  It matters big.  This is going to be key moving forward.  It applies whether you are paying for advertising and/or are going to try and make-a-go of organic Facebook Page reach.   We are all going to need to become master media planners.  The high quantity post strategy will no longer cut it on Facebook.  As businesses and marketers it is more important now, than ever, to pay great heed to the quality of the content you are publishing.

In order to engage and encourage meaningful social interaction (the stated ultimate goal of Facebook,) content is going to require strategic thought, planning, and a solid execution.  The days of having success by simply filling your Page with silly quips, encouraging quotes, and the like, are over.  You need to take the time to create helpful, meaningful and purposeful content with the intent to engage your audience.

Facebook has stated in the past that it puts high value video content.  They reiterated this sentiment in their latest announcement.  They even went as far as saying that live videos get on average six times as much engagement as regular videos.  So it stands to reason that high priority needs to be put on pursuing ways to create quality video content that stimulates interaction between people, with a heavy emphasis on live video.

And so the battle rages on.
Social media marketing is a constantly changing environment and a daily battle for those trying to keep up.  This is just one more change in an ever evolving set of rules to play by.  We simply must adjust strategies and thought processes to keep up with and compete in the game.

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