Well, it's happened again. Mark Zuckerberg has decided to reduce the number of Facebook posts from businesses that show up on their fans' news feeds. He makes this announcement, in various forms, about every four months or so. And predictably, bloggers have breathlessly predicted the End of Facebook Marketing as we know it.
Rather than relying on bloggers' best guesses, we decided to put the new News Feed to the test to see what real-world effect you can expect on your own brand page.
Through our agency work, we have access to dozens of our clients' social media channels. We've spent the time since the big announcement aggregating the analytics of our clients' pages to see whether this is a real change – and one we should worry about.
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It is real, and it's already happening. Thankfully, there are ways to combat it.
We measured the reach of our clients' pages over the past year and can say that we're seeing the lowest levels of reach in that period. Despite Facebook's claim that this will roll out "over time," it seems clear that changes were made within days of Mr. Zuckerberg's announcement.
That said, we've already been able to mitigate much of these losses by employing four tactics – tactics you should consider adopting immediately if you don't want to suffer a loss in reach.
1. Reduce organic posting frequency
We used to recommend an average of two to three organic posts on Facebook per day (knowing that only a certain percentage of fans would see them all). With the reach numbers where they were, the average fan would probably see one to two posts per week at that frequency – about right for continued brand awareness. But with organic reach dropping even lower, it's not clear that spending the time to craft these posts, find the images, get approval on the text and so on is worth the battle. Thus, if you're posting more than 21 times a week, consider dropping this to between 10 and 14. It's still important to have an organic presence, but heavy posting may not be the right call at this time.
2. Increase Promoted Posts but do it right
This News Feed change probably has little to do with Mr. Zuckerberg's stated purpose of making the world a better place; it's more about making his shareholders' wallets a better place. Reduced organic reach will force brands to pony up cash to get their message out. This increased activity in the ad market will push prices up. You may find good results with a smart Promoted Posts strategy. Take an annual budget (say, $2,000) and split it up into 52 weeks. That gives you about $38 per week. Then, twice a week, spend $19 on one of your posts. You could target your own fans or target by interests – using a "restrictor" such as "People who like movies BUT ONLY THOSE who are engaged shoppers" or "People who are interested in the environment BUT ONLY THOSE who are parents of kids aged 3-5."
3. Dramatically increase engagement
Facebook has made it clear that the only posts that will surface for free on the news feeds of your fans will be those with genuine conversation happening in the comments. So when someone makes a comment, engage them. Ask them another question. Ask when they'll be coming back. Ask if they had a good day. Try to engage your commenters in a brief but real back-and-forth conversation to ensure Facebook sees your post as worthy for the News Feed. We recommend Sprout Social as a useful platform for capturing and acting on this engagement.
4. Experiment with Facebook Lives
Facebook specifically called out Facebook Lives as one of its preferred organic posts. This isn't as difficult a thing to set up as it seems. Your smartphone can "go live" or you can use a tool like Ecamm Live, which lets you "broadcast" from your desktop. If you decide to go with this, try to set a regular time – like a television show – and schedule it on the platform in advance. Your fans will be notified and can get a notification reminder to watch when you actually do start broadcasting. And what do you show? Interview an executive. Take a walking tour of your office. Unbox one of your products. Show off your latest promotions. Host a Q&A. There are lots of options. Experiment. It'll be worth it.
In short, Facebook's new News Feed is already reducing your reach. But by responding to almost everyone who comments on your page, putting a bit more money into Promoted Posts and restricting the ads to a more targeted audience, as well as playing with the live broadcasting tools, you'll be well positioned in 2018 to weather the storm.