Coming Soon: Facebook News Feed Clean Up

Facebook

By Tim Bosch

What happened?

As you probably heard last week, Facebook announced a future News Feed update that sent marketers into a frenzy.

The update: organic posts deemed "too promotional" will receive less organic reach starting in January 2015.

Facebook explains that this can include posts that encourage people to buy a product or install an app, posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context, and posts that just reuse the exact same content from ads.

Why?

The News Feed is becoming more competitive. The average user has around 1,500 posts available every day. Facebook narrows that down to about 300. With fresh survey data, you can expect Facebook to weed out posts users will likely find annoying. It’s Facebook’s primary job to keep one billion+ hyper-engaged users happy.

What does this mean for you?

Facebook advertising represents the most powerful way to reach your target audience, who are likely among the freakishly active one billion+ users on the site. If you are not using Facebook ads for important promotional messaging, then you have been missing out on Facebook’s core strength as a marketing tool, its targeting ability.

Although I believe that markets should allocate some ad dollars toward engagement, posts that are driving actual business results (e.g. leads, online sales, mobile app usage) require an ad spend and targeting plan to have a chance at a successful return. If you have been relying on organic content distribution to drive these kinds of business results, then you’re part of the problem Facebook is trying to fix.

Your organic content should entertain, educate, or at least be genuinely interesting. If you don’t see engagement on your organic content, don’t blame Facebook; blame your content team. Or better yet, don’t blame anyone and work hard to figure out what content works for your audience. This type of content should simply be a positive touch point that will further them down the conversion funnel.

Several colleagues have asked me, “How will Facebook police this update?” I can only speculate, but I believe overly promotion content will be identified by using a combination of user behavior and character usage. Possible flagged examples:

  •  A link post that has a high CTR but an abnormally low time spent on the website could signal “link bait.”
  • A post that receives a high number of link clicks yet indexes higher negative feedback than average.
  •  Or, for a character usage example, multiple capitalized words in a headline with more than one exclamation point could flag a post as “overly promotional."

Learning these new parameters should be an exciting time for marketers since this is free insight (from a massive Facebook user survey) about what people don’t like to see.

Final thoughts.

Marketers who chase algorithms always get what’s coming to them. As the evolution of search marketing has taught us, user experience will always trump business opportunity because without the users, there is no business opportunity.

Facebook has been telling us the same thing over and over: Keep getting better at creating content your fans care about and become an expert in advertising. The people who have taken that advice seriously have nothing to worry about. 

Tim