Most online media professionals have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. We love the reach it provides and the real interactions we can generate, but we hate the inherent lack of control.
For example, when Facebook tweaked their news feed algorithm in January of 2014, a lot of business owners were reasonably concerned about the impact on their fan reach. Some of us were even a little angry, as we couldn’t really tell what would change, even after reading the official documents from Facebook. What exactly is “best quality content”?
At the time, I read many, many blog entries about this issue and most had a touch of paranoia. Now, a few months have passed and we have hard data to look at. That data makes the paranoia seem reasonable as the numbers suggest the changes are hitting some companies hard (more on that in a minute). More disturbingly, however, it seems that some business owners are being given workaround advice that I think might lead to reputation disaster. I’d like to provide some safer solutions.
Measuring the Impact
An analysis from Ignite suggests brand reach on Facebook declined by an average of 44% in the month after the algorithm change - and some companies saw declines as high as 90%. That’s a pretty staggering hit, and companies relying on Facebook for the majority of their brand outreach are now scrambling to find a better way to reach their customers.
This change is all the more damning for large companies who were likely reeling from recent Google algorithm changes which boosted the reach for quality, long-form documents while pushing down content the developers deemed inferior. Even guest posting came under attack as a marketing tool, and that’s something companies have been using for years to reach new audiences.
Companies smacked by Google likely thought they were safe on Facebook. Now, these executives likely feel exposed, and might be a little desperate to find a workaround that could keep their companies viable on Facebook. Unfortunately, many are falling victim to some bad advice.
The Facebook algorithm shift was designed to put people in touch with posts that were written by “real people.” (I find this a tad confusing, as posts written by companies are also written by “real people,” but we tend to call ourselves “writers.” We’re still human, but we’re working.) Facebook executives determined that content posted on an individual’s page seemed to have a bigger bounce than content posted by a business, so they attempted to reward individual content over business content.
Cheaters would get around this rule by suggesting that companies should create individual pages and interact with their consumers as humans, not as businesses. The idea here is that I might ignore a post written on a Microsoft page, but I might read something by Bill Gates, and I might even want to share it.
This thought process isn’t new. For years, social media developers have been encouraging business leaders to come out from the corporate shadows and talk with their buyers one on one. While I understand the impulse, I also think it could lead to some really nasty reputation problems.
An individual writing on an individual page might have all sorts of poorly behaving friends who could do an immense amount of damage to a company. For example, the page owner might head to a dinner with friends, and pose for a snap with a glass of wine. Later that night, the post might be tagged with the person’s name, and shared on the person’s page. Now, wine is associated with the company. Depending on the business, this could be terrible.
In addition, leaving one person in charge of the page could be catastrophic if that person chooses to leave the company. After all, that person has all of the names and all of the contact information for key business contacts, and if that person is disgruntled, a few choice words could ruin the business. Similarly, that person might choose to start-up a solo venture with all of the company’s “friends”.
It sounds paranoid, but it pays to be a little bit cautious when the success of a company is on the line. For me, the risks involved with communicating as an individual far outweigh the slight benefits that might come from individual sharing on Facebook.
There’s no reason to get dramatic and risk reputation damage. In fact, there are a number of low-stress steps you could take right now to ensure your posts have the reach you want. Most of them take a little work, but they don’t come with reputation damage risk.
First, build up your Facebook profile page. The density of content on your page plays into the algorithm, so it makes sense to ensure your profile is as complete as it can be. Share details, add images, and do everything you can to keep your presence both interactive and up-to-date.
Next, check out the competition. The Facebook algorithm is actively comparing your fan base to the fan base of other companies in your industry, and the winner in this competition gets a more prominent place in a news feed. If your competition is doing something that’s just a little better, you could pay the price.
And finally, make sure you’re producing high-quality content people will be genuinely interested in. A simple, text-based request for a “Like” just won’t cut it anymore. In fact, a lazy approach to marketing is not effective in any format. Google demands quality, and now Facebook is doing the same. Its time to brush up on those creative skills and really conceptualize a message before its shared. That’s the only way to succeed in any marketing enterprise these days.
I’m curious to hear about any approaches you’ve used to work around the algorithm. Chat me up in the comments section!
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