For the past couple of weeks, the Internet has been abuzz, reacting to news coming down from Facebook that things are about to change on users' feeds. As The New York Times summed it up, "Publishers and brands are the losers." Facebook is saying as much itself, writing on its blog that by prioritizing friends' and family's posts, "we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
FEAR SETS IN
Naturally, this has caused no small amount of anxiety among businesses that utilize Facebook as a powerful, affordable, and targeted advertising channel.
Speculation leads our minds straight to worst-case scenarios. Nobody outside of Facebook really knows the extent of what all of this will mean yet, but we're all dying to know. What is clear, though, is that companies will be navigating a new permutation of Facebook, and that's going to call for some savvy shifts in how they use the platform.
WHY THESE CHANGES?
If your personal Facebook feed has looked anything like mine recently, you're probably pretty over it. I've been hearing this from lots of other people: they rarely see posts from people they like and care about, but somehow they see every post from distant acquaintances, mixed in with advertisements, news content, think pieces, and event listings. In return, we're not engaging with the Facebook in the ways we once did. We're not seeing our friend's content, and they're not seeing ours, because neither of us are posting as much anymore.
In short, Facebook hasn't felt like its old self for quite some time. And that's a big problem for the site, because they're starting to lose us, and they've gotten wise to that.
So on a personal level, the promise of a Facebook feed that delivers the content I really care about, that puts the "social" back in social media, is a welcome development. I hope they accomplish that, and I look forward to observing how they do it.
SHOULD YOU WORRY?
For all my personal interest in seeing a revitalized Facebook feed, it's no surprise that this news is making businesses sweat. They worry that their organic reach is about to suddenly vaporize, and that even when they pay to advertise, they'll end up spending more money for less reach. That may happen to some extent, and of course that feels formidable.
I'm not panicking, though. In fact, there are some things about this development that are exciting me -- and not just when it comes to Facebook's new algorithm, but to our use of social media across the board. (Because it's only a matter of time until the same questions come up for Instagram, Twitter, and the other big-hitters that have mixed personal and commercial activity in their feeds.)
Let's Go Back to the Good Old Days
Remember when social media was a fun new world in which to express ourselves and learn more about the people we knew? I think we can all benefit from going back to that. Even businesses. I mean, we want to have a robust, happy, and engaged population on the platforms we put so much marketing effort into, right?
So instead of bemoaning get another algorithm change and throwing our hands up, here are some good lessons to focus on. In fact, it's time to roll up our sleeves and sink our hands into this work more now than ever. Here's how:
- HAVE FUN. I know, margins are narrow and everything feels So. Serious. But it's time to get back to having fun with these platforms. Let social media be a place where you can channel your creativity, stretch yourself, and enjoy the content creation process. That sense of fun and creativity is going to come across to your audience. Amuse them, move them, surprise them, and get them nodding their heads in agreement. Engagement will follow.
- EXPRESS YOURSELF. The word "authenticity" has been used and abused so badly in the last few years. I'm asking you to reclaim it. Get back to the true definition of authenticity, not the hashtagged version. Use your social media accounts to really show your audience who you are, what you stand for, what you value, and the experience they can expect when they buy your products or retain your services. Don't just say what you think they want to hear; your customers have been online as long as you have, and they can smell fake and salesy from a mile away. Start putting more of your heart and soul into your content.
- QUALITY COMES FIRST. If you're putting out high-quality content that speaks to your audience, you're already winning. If you have 200 rabidly loyal followers rather than 30,000 disengaged followers, you're winning. If you have meaningful conversations for the sake of talking about something that matters to you rather than posing an empty question in hopes that enough answers will make the engagement algorithm happy, you are totally winning. Because remember, you only need to develop your crowd. You don't need to worry about everyone else. Let that be a weight off your shoulders and permission to stop comparing yourself to all those other accounts.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR NUMBERS, DON'T BE RULED BY THEM. When you understand your insights, you can work with them and apply that knowledge in a way that benefits your accounts and your conversions. But don't fixate and drive yourself mad trying to deduce things that can't be known from the data available to you. And don't let your numbers make you afraid to experiment or go a little outside the box when you feel compelled to. You might be pleasantly surprised by what comes from those deviations.
- BE ADAPTABLE. To have any peace of mind when it comes to social media, we have to accept that we have no control over what those platforms will do next. At the end of the day they're businesses, and they'll make changes based on what they feel is best for them. So rather than becoming fearful, try becoming curious about what those new changes mean and how you can work with them. In many instances, they will give you lots of hints, and they usually come down to this: quality, consistency, engagement, trustworthiness, and preferred media (video's big now, something else will be next). Listen to their guidelines and then let your imagination take it from there.
By finding the silver linings in the things we cannot control, we'll set ourselves up to ride these waves. Change is a given, but it's not out to get us. There are always opportunities, if you look at them in the right light.
OK, so tell me, has Facebook's announcement had you freaking out a little? What's been your biggest concern? Let me know in the comments so we can talk it through.