Facebook recently announced a fairly significant change to its algorithm that will change how it treats organic content published on Brand Pages starting in 2015. Another step in the direction of limiting purely sales- and marketing-focused content in Facebook’s News Feed, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of Facebook for Business as a credible marketing channel.

Facebook Under the Magnifying glass

As Facebook continues to change how it treats brand and business pages, some local marketers are second guessing the value of the social network in the digital marketing mix.

The big question many are asking:

Is Facebook for Business still worth it for local marketing?

We think it is and will tell you why (part 2 here), but first we wanted to share the details of the change so you know what’s going on. Keeping up with changes in the social space can be hard, and we coach our clients to make decisions based on all the information. Here are the top questions we’re addressing with our social media clients:

What’s changing?
When a brand posts content to Facebook that is “overly promotional,” it will reach fewer consumers via the Newsfeed. Specifically, they’ve defined that content as:

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

This doesn’t mean all content from brands will be punished. As AdAge puts it:

“The change will not apply to all of a brands’ posts, just the less creative ones that fit certain criteria…”

Why is it changing?
It depends on who you ask. Facebook has always contended that changes to its algorithms are based on user feedback and are meant to create a better experience for consumers – the recent change is no different and cites a user survey where consumers said they don’t like seeing promotional content from brands. Many critics in the marketing discipline think the change is less about responding to consumer complaints, however, and see the change as a deliberate attempt to get brands to pay for more Facebook ads to ensure their content is still seen by its fans on the platform.

Big picture, it’s worth noting that Facebook is making changes to compensate for growth in the number of posts it receives, i.e. competition for what is displayed in the News Feed has increased dramatically as the number of Facebook users increase and mobile devices allow for more frequent posting.

Hasn’t Facebook done this before?
In varying degrees, Facebook has made adjustments to its algorithm since the site launched News Feed in 2006, most notably in 2011 when it switched to showing top stories first as opposed to a predominantly chronological display like Twitter uses. Ultimately, Facebook is trying to make sure people spend more time and find information on Facebook versus other media, including direct competitors like LinkedIn and Twitter as well as indirect “competitors” for people’s time and attention like TV or, say, a face-to-face conversation.

Notable changes in recent months and years include:

 

Are other sites/social networks doing this?
Yes, but not to this degree. Facebook has compared its approach to social content and advertising with Google’s approach to search algorithms; though, comparing the social network and search giant is really apples-to-oranges. Still, the growth in content and users gives some credence to Facebook’s claim and no one disputes that there is increasingly fierce competition from brands and consumers alike to show up in News Feed .

From a social network standpoint, other platforms change the way their content is found via feeds and search (including Twitter and LinkedIn), but not to the same degree as Facebook. As the social network giant continues to grow into its public company status, though, marketers should expect more changes if they want to reach consumers on this important media platform.

We’ll touch on how local marketers can accommodate for these changes in our next post. Let us know if you have any questions using the comment section below, and we’ll do our best to address them in that post.