After recent scrutiny of “public” content (posts from businesses, brands and media) overpowering personal content from friends and family, Facebook recently announced a tweak to its algorithm. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his personal account to communicate that the change in the platform will focus on its founding roots – helping people stay connected. In his post, Zuckerberg said “it’s important to remember that Facebook is about bringing people closer together and enabling meaningful social interactions.”

Public content, paid advertising and brand accounts have exploded in recent years, shifting the balance of personal to branded content on the Facebook News Feed. To create meaningful time spent on Facebook, the company is decreasing the organic reach of business pages and increasing content seen from friends and family.

This change will impact both large and small businesses. Organic reach has been decreasing in recent years – and that trend is expected to continue. In 2012, about 14-16% of branded content reached a brand’s followers. With the new algorithm tweak, brand pages will organically reach only 1-5% of total followers for a single post according to the Wall Street Journal.

The new algorithm will determine branded content’s reach through four key elements.

1. Inventory. This factors in the amount of content, both organic and paid, available per user. For example, the cost for an impression (total number of times a post is displayed on the Facebook Timeline) of a user who follows 25 friends will be significantly less than the cost of an impression of a user with 1,000 friends. Additionally, users with lots of friends who follow many brands will see almost no content from profiles Facebook deems irrelevant to them.

Facebook also understands users are not logged on 24-hours a day. The social platform condenses the Timeline to show only content the algorithm deems important based on a user’s previous engagement history since their last login. Statistically, content from friends and family receives more engagement than branded content, so personal content will more frequently populate users’ Timelines.

2. Overall Score. The algorithm also factors in the overall engagement level of a brand’s page. Content will reach more users based on levels of engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) per post. The number of likes a brand has will also determine if the content is relevant to users. A page with 100K likes will rank higher in relevancy versus a brand with 400 likes.

3. Predictions. Facebook can predict a user’s social media habits based on content they have previously engaged with. A brand’s content will have a higher chance of reaching a user if the algorithm predicts the content is relevant to them. This is factored by pages they like, the type of content the user shares/comments on, job title and demographics.

4. Signals. The algorithm will take into consideration the amount of active and passive interactions the user has had with previous content from the brand and similar content. “Active” interactions are ranked more important to the algorithm than “passive” interactions.

Active interactions (listed from highest to lowest importance)

1. Commenting – Page posts that generate conversation between people will show up higher in a user’s News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussions among viewers on Facebook.

2. Sharing – People sharing links or content within the Facebook Messenger app is heavily favored in the algorithm. Also, engagement received (comments, likes and reactions) after a user shares content on their personal page will reach more people.

3. Reacting – Reactions (likes/loves) will remain a form of active engagement that will help branded posts reach more people within the News Feed.

Passive interactions (listed from highest to lowest importance)

1. Clicking a photo or link

2. Watching video

3. Viewing or hovering

The tweak in the algorithm means that businesses will need to pay for posts to be seen. This new pay-to-play practice is referred to as “boosting” and brands will have to create meaningful content to excel on reach and lower CPI (Cost Per Impression). Facebook has also been advocating high-quality videos to reach more followers. The algorithm deems videos the number one content type for interaction between communities. Many companies are now creating “feel good” videos highlighting philanthropic efforts and unity to create social conversation.

Businesses should be intent on monitoring how changes to the Facebook consumer experience impacts their bottom line. Digital marketing and social media experts say the algorithm will not hinder company marketing plans, but it does mean an increased budget should be allocated to social media advertising.

To be successful, businesses must embrace the new algorithm and adjust content accordingly. Instead of generating brand-centric content, content now needs to connect at a more personal level. Heineken’s #OpenYourWorld campaign utilized a combination of elements that work with the new algorithm. Their “Worlds Apart” video shows strangers, with opposite beliefs, meeting for the first time and eventually finding common ground (and empathy) over a Heineken. It combined video, purpose-driven marketing and created conversation via a chatbot on Facebook that connected users from different backgrounds.

Below are tips for successfully navigating through the new algorithm:

  • Increase high-quality video content (ex: Facebook Live)
  • Shift marketing resources to allow increased social media advertising
  • Create content that sparks emotion to generate active interaction and comments
  • Always respond to users who comment on branded content
  • Monitor and analyze which content is working – and adjust

Gabriela Cavazos is ArchPoint’s Social Media Coordinator, and our social media expert on the Digital Marketing team. If you would like information on how to achieve success with social media, click here to contact her.