With more than 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook holds some of the world’s most powerful insights into human behavior. Consequently, trends used to guide the future of social media are often influenced by the way Facebook translates their user analytics into infrastructure optimizations. The latest Facebook algorithm change will be no exception to this future influence.
In 2016, people spent an average of 50 minutes on Facebook every day. To brands, this meant a lucrative marketing outlet, but as the outlet grew, it resulted in a disconnect between the platform’s internal configuration and original purpose: to connect people in a way that fosters meaningful interaction and conversation.
Facebook built a community on the basis of personal connections, yet ended up creating an environment inundated with brand advertisements—the genesis of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to refocus the social experience and get closer to the platform’s roots.
Inside the Facebook Algorithm Change
Recent algorithm changes announced by the social media pioneer caused some pandemonium among organizations—especially for those funneling the majority of their spend into paid advertising. As you can suspect, the effectiveness of these paid efforts will decrease over time as Facebook continues to optimize the network to center around friends and family.
Zuckerberg further explains in his Facebook post detailing the change:
The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being.
Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
Essentially, the Facebook algorithm change will give less focus to promotional posts while generating more attention towards posts that are personal, engaging and interactive—all part of the over-arching initiative to make sure that the time people spend on Facebook is well spent.
How This Shift Affects Brands
Facebook’s updated Newsfeed algorithm works by examining every post you might see, sorting through the data collected on your browsing habits and scoring each story based on how likely it is that you’ll interact with the content.
Posts that are less company-focused, leaning more towards promoting organic engagement will rank better. The problem is, businesses can’t attain these engagement levels by asking—they need to create content that inspires real conversation and discussion. In fact, anything outside of this authenticity will be tagged as “engagement bait” and alerted to Facebook.
In order to win with the new algorithm, brands need to shift even further towards facilitating engagement that’s more personal than ever before. This starts by rethinking who leads your marketing efforts.
Pivoting to Employee Advocacy
First and foremost, leaders need to provide team members with resources that facilitate efficient growth of these meaningful, affinity-based relationships. While there are no shortcuts in the new Facebook algorithm, scalability is inevitable, and you’ll need to consider how employees will manage these relationships over time. The sooner organizations account (and hopefully solve) for these factors, the faster and easier it will be for employees to scale their efforts.
The most powerful way to reach and influence an audience (even before the Facebook algorithm change) is through an army of micro-influencers—the people connected to your brand who establish relationships by sharing valuable content and thought-provoking insights. For businesses, these people are your employees.
Forbes reiterates this notion, explaining:
The social landscape is a world in which businesses and brands are made ‘cool’ in a much shorter time period than we’re used to with traditional media. With the right strategy, Influencer partnerships, and tactics, you can move the needle for your business on far more than just sales and engagement.
By growing brand awareness through micro-influencers, you’ll organically reach the audiences you strive to connect with, while simultaneously encouraging the behavior Facebook’s new algorithm is programmed to reward.
Steps to Transform Employees into Micro-Influencers
While the social transformation might seem overwhelming, Facebook’s new focus is an opportunity for brands to refocus themselves, pivoting towards employee advocacy as the main vehicle for establishing these high-quality relationships.
Employee advocacy is essentially the low-cost, high-reward solution to influencer marketing. It taps into this idea that conversations with the “little guy” are more influential than messages shared by a business page or celebrity influencer.
Put simply, employees are a company’s most valuable micro-influencers. They’re the only group of people with the unique knowledge and in-depth understanding of their brand’s identity and company mission—and, they connect with it on a personal level. These factors together create a much more natural conversion path for turning conversations into connections, and ultimately turning connections into mutually profitable business relationships.
Here are a few steps to get started.
1. Arm Employees with Engaging Content
Content has always been an important element of any social strategy, but today’s brands need to work even harder to turn their Facebook posts into conversations. Zuckerberg mentioned in his announcement that pages promoting posts that don’t often garner reactions or engagement will see the biggest drops in interaction.
This means it’s worth spending more time curating content for your employee advocates that people want to comment on, and share. Help your employees track down information and tailor their posts to authentically speak to their audience while boosting the reputation of your brand.
2. Use Advocates to Establish a Community
The chances are that your employees are already part of several communities in their social sphere. With that in mind, think about how you can adjust your content and messages to speak to those specific groups and encourage more active conversations.
If your employees aren’t connected to groups that are relevant to your industry, you can start encouraging that professional growth through an employee advocacy tool that helps them build that community from scratch with your guidance.
3. Monitor & Improve Social Performance
Any social media strategy, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, relies on a strategy of constant improvement and optimization.
Track your social media KPIs regularly, paying extra attention to the engagement rate of each post (you can calculate this by dividing Total Engagement by Total Reach). The more you learn about the advocacy posts your customers engage with most, the more you can adjust your strategy to give your customers what they’re looking for.
4. Ask Audiences to Prioritize Your Posts
Finally, once you’re sure that the responses your employee advocates are having to their social media posts are positive, you can begin to think about asking people to prioritize your posts in their News Feed Preferences. The Facebook algorithm change allows users to enable a “See First” feature on their profile, which dictates which messages will appear first on their feed.
It’s also worth requesting that followers turn notifications on for your posts, that way they’re the first to know when your advocates are posting a live video or sharing a thought-leadership blog post about the industry. Prioritized posts get an instant boost and show Facebook that people are gaining value from your content, giving you more ranking potential in the long-term.
Social Media is Changing: It’s Time to Make a Connection
While Facebook isn’t the only channel out there for social media marketing purposes, there’s a good chance that other platforms will follow its lead if the “quality over quantity” algorithm leads to more satisfied users.
Rather than running away from updates that require you to re-think your paid advertising efforts, it might be time to consider new, more valuable ways of interacting with your audience. The Facebook algorithm updates prioritizes real, authentic conversations, in an era where customers are constantly searching for stronger relationships with their favorite brands.