The Facebook News Feed algorithm governs one of the most important pieces of internet real estate: it determines which posts are shown to Facebook users. If your post is not shown in a user’s feed, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. For years many marketers, of big brands and small businesses alike, relied on Facebook’s News Feed to reach out to their audience, and for the most part, it was was free. Posts were consistently shown to an average of 10-15% of followers and those that garnered interaction and interest from users, were shown to more users.
Not anymore. Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm back in December and now, about two months into the algorithm change, we better understand the implications of the change. The short of it is that the world has become much more difficult for anyone engaged in marketing on Facebook. Current data suggests that posts are now organically being shown to between 1-5% of followers. To reach more Facebook users, you need to pay up. This recent Slate post sums it up nicely.
For big brands this is of course a problem, but one that they can deal with. By allocating more marketing dollars to Facebook, they can reach the same size audience they planned on in their marketing plans. More expensive, yes. Requires some internal bureaucracy and budget procedures, probably. Impossible, no.
For small brands, life isn’t that simple. Most small brands don’t have the luxury of increasing marketing budgets just because external circumstances have suddenly changed. Additionally, large brands have the resources to have kept up multiple channels and gathered many followers in all of them, while many smaller businesses have focused solely on Facebook.
So what can a small business do right now:
1. Don’t rely on your posts reaching many of your followers. Unfortunately, that golden age is over. Take the time to re-calibrate your plans accordingly, including potentially shifting marketing spend around.
2. Do continue to post on Facebook, but consider posting less content and spending more time thinking about and crafting each post. Posts will get more exposure when followers interact with them. Carefully craft each post so that even if it’s shown only to 2% of your audience initially, that small group is more likely to like and share that post and get it promoted organically in News Feed.
3. For important posts, consider boosting them with a little bit of money, increasing reach and the potential for followers to interact. That interaction may then lead to more organic reach for the post. Don’t forget that Facebook allows you to target your advertising so select a geographic area and demographic groups that are more likely to be interested in your business. Chances are many (but not all) of their friends are in a similar group further increasing the leverage you will get from every interaction.
4. Encourage followers to interact with you on social media. Posts users have interacted with get higher rankings by the News Feed algorithm and are more likely to shown to other users. Make use of that by encouraging followers to check into your business (with in store signage), running contests on your page and responding to customer comments.
5. Ask your fans to explicitly request Facebook to show them your posts. There are several adjustments to page settings customers could do to make sure they see all your posts.
When a customer ‘likes’ your Facebook page, they automatically become ‘followers’ of that page. However, customers can opt out of following your page. Ask them to opt back in by going to your page and clicking on ‘follow’.
After a customer likes your page, the ‘like’ button turns to a ‘liked’ button and a small downward-facing arrow appears. When clicked customers can choose ‘Get notifications’ from the drop down menu. From then on, they will get a notification every time you post on the page.
Add to interest list
This is a little used Facebook feature that allows user to creates lists of topics they are interested and get notified when something about that topic is posted. A business’ page can be added to that list from the drop down menu of the ‘liked’ button or the ‘following’ button. For example, you may suggest to customers that they create a ‘restaurants I like’ interest list and add your Facebook page to it so that they are more likely to be notified whenever you post something.
All of the above ideas require some effort by customers. Not many will take the time to do these things, but you can be sure that those customers who do really love your business. Thank them for their loyalty and give them extra love and care.
6. Start investing in other social media networks. There are alternatives out there although none as big as Facebook (yet). Now is a good time to investigate whether Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare, Google+ or other networks might be relevant for your audience. Create or claim your profile on these networks and start working on gathering followers. You might be surprised to discover many of your fans would rather engage with their friends and family on Facebook and with you on other platforms.
Twitter btw has already caught on to this opportunity and placed paid ads in the News Feed targeting small businesses.
Do you have any ideas about how to deal with this Facebook change? Share them in the comments!
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