Any change made to a social network’s platform or algorithm is both a blessing and a curse. For consumers, it’s the former—most algorithm updates are rooted in delivering a more focused, personalized experience that’s free from spam and irrelevant advertisements. For businesses, it’s the latter—because any update is likely to come with a subsequent impact to strategy.

Now, there’s no doubt that a platform’s loyalty should remain to its users first and foremost. What needs to be accounted for, however, is the growing presence of businesses in the social ecosystem—a presence that emerged once social media began to obliterate boundaries between personal and professional communication.

Social media is communication.

As a result, any change made to the configuration of a social network’s algorithm is equally impactful to businesses as it is end users. To help stay ahead of the changes, we’ve broken down the most impactful algorithm updates to hit 2018 thus far, providing recommendations for strategy adjustments along the way.

Why Algorithm Updates Matter

One of the earliest goals of social networking in its infancy was simple: to connect people who couldn’t communicate in person. Friends and family swarmed to Facebook, colleagues and professionals gravitated towards LinkedIn and anyone with an opinion embraced Twitter.

As the popularity of these social channels grew for both consumers and companies, platforms began to monetize their services. Notably, Facebook became a conduit for news distribution, changing algorithms to suit their customer’s desire for trending information. In 2015, Facebook even surpassed Google as the ultimate traffic source for news sites.

Then, something went wrong.

In a quest for profits, social platforms became inundated with fake news, clickbait and bots—people even started to feel anxious when they visited Facebook. That is, until everything came to a head and consumers began demanding change. Social networks heard their users loud and clear, and change in the form of various algorithm updates were underway shortly thereafter.

With re-established focus on customer experience, it’s likely that algorithm updates will continue to flow in. Brands should respond by regaining ownership of the relationships that matter—affinity, loyalty and authenticity have proven to be the strongest defenders against ever-changing algorithms.

Facebook Algorithm Updates in 2018

When it comes to social media updates, Facebook is usually one of the first platforms to implement new and significant changes. While they’ve tweaked the algorithm multiple times over the years, the company recently implemented one of the biggest Facebook changes we’ve ever seen, with a shift towards meaningful social interactions.

Many of the updates we’ve seen in 2018 have been geared towards facilitating positive experiences with personal connections, which is ultimately what people want from the platform.

The Newsfeed Algorithm Update – January, 2018

Facebook’s algorithm update was one that paved the way for many that followed shortly after. With this update, Facebook revealed that they were revamping the newsfeed algorithm to feature less news and branded content, and more information from personal connections and trusted sources.

Mark Zuckerberg claimed that the company found “protecting the community” to be more important than increasing profits. As such, the algorithm now prioritizes any posts that encourage back and forth conversations.

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Ultimately, this change has resulted in companies needing to rethink any strategy that relied on promotional posts as a source of viewership, and instead shift to one rooted in engagement and brand authenticity.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Activate your advocates: Now that Facebook will be prioritizing content from friends and family, instead of businesses, it’s time to ramp up your advocacy program and tap into the connections your employees already have.
  2. Start discussions: Facebook wants to increase real, authentic engagement on the platform. That means you can’t just throw content at your customers, you need to find a way to encourage them to engage with you. Asking questions, running contests and even launching polls can help spark discussion.
  3. Incorporate video content: In a world where engagement is key, video content drives higher interactions than any other content on the platform.

Now’s the time to press play on a new content strategy.

The “Breaking News” Feature – March, 2018

While Facebook might be cutting down on the amount of news and branded content shown on the channel, that doesn’t mean it’s giving up on news entirely. Back in March, the channel rolled out a beta test feature where publishers could add the “Breaking News” label to their stories.

If the Breaking News concept appears in the future, it could be a positive thing for brands. Companies testing the beta strategy saw an 11% lift in shares, 7% improvement in likes and 4% increase in click-through rate.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Make the most of trending topics: Today’s customers don’t just use social media to connect with friends and family, they also use it as a news outlet. Remember to curate trending and relevant topics and share them on your brand, and advocacy pages.
  2. Focus on quality content: Adding the “breaking news” title to anything will end up getting you penalised. Make sure that you find the right balance between quality everyday content, and trending news.

Data Privacy Changes – April, 2018

After Facebook lost a huge portion of its audience thanks to a data privacy issue, the channel is now giving customers greater control over their data. Facebook left its users in a state of disgust when it revealed that a quiz app had harvested more than 50 million profiles for data without user permission.

Now, the company is scrambling to regain the trust of its users, which means that brands can expect to see greater focus placed on privacy and authenticity throughout the platform.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Prioritize transparency: Now that customers value authenticity and honesty more than ever, it’s important to let your customers know exactly who you’re working with and what you’re doing. Be transparent on social media, and you’ll reap the benefits.
  2. Use data carefully: Make sure that any data you collect from social media campaigns fits with the rules and regulations of data privacy.

Twitter Algorithm Updates in 2018

Though Twitter engagement has gone up and down over the years, it’s safe to say that the platform is still huge, with an average of 330 million monthly active users.

Twitter knows that if it wants to stay relevant and appealing to users, the platform needs to consistently work on delivering a great experience. Recently, we’ve seen several Twitter changes, including an API update that follows in Facebook’s footsteps.

Sponsored Moments on Twitter – January, 2018

Of course, Twitter hasn’t eliminated its opportunities for brands entirely. 2018 also gave way to a new “Sponsored Moments” strategy for advertisers. Similar to promoted tweets, the Sponsored Moment update allows companies to insert their own business tweets into a Moment roundup, where customers see updates, videos, and pictures in a single area—even if they don’t follow a specific brand.

To make the most of this Twitter change, companies will need to make sure they’re properly targeting their clients.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Promote crucial content: While you might not be able to turn every update into a sponsored moment, you can focus on a few key pieces of content that help to drive more engagement to your website and brand pages.
  2. Invest in a range of media: Don’t just sponsored posts with links attached, drive more traffic to your social pages with infographics, images, videos and crucial news updates.
  3. Target the right customers: Make sure that you’re pushing your tweets to the right people at the right time. The one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in an age where social media is increasingly personal.

The Saliency Image Update – January, 2018

Another interesting Twitter update to emerge in 2018, was the “saliency” feature. While Twitter has long had the capacity to host images, the pictures shown in thumbnails and shares weren’t as focused as the snaps you might see on Instagram.

Until recently, the algorithm focused entirely on human faces as the main focal point of a picture. However, the saliency update uses machine learnings to identify the most interesting regions of an image. This means that companies have an even better chance to engage their audience with visuals.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Add more visual: People like engaging with pictures. Show off your human side with pictures of your team, or throw a few funny memes into the mix to demonstrate your personality.
  2. Share high quality images: Now that Twitter is becoming better at displaying images, make sure that your pictures are as high-definition as possible. The more professional they look, the better your brand appears.

Transforming the Twitter API – February, 2018

At the start of 2018, Twitter followed Facebook’s example by making changes to the Twitter API and Tweetdeck. The purpose of the Twitter updates was to limit users’ ability to perform actions on a coordinated basis across multiple accounts.

To cut down on bots and spam, Twitter decided to stop accounts from:

  • Using automated tools to post identical content on multiple accounts
  • Retweeting, liking and following on multiple accounts
  • Posting identical content on multiple accounts
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Essentially, this update may change the way customers use tools like Bambu. It means you’ll need to focus on engagement, authentic voices, and unique messages to connect with your customers.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Build an authentic voice: Use employee advocates to craft unique messages for a host of different profiles. Every message shared by an advocate should have its own unique tone and individuality.
  2. Embrace the retweet: Ask advocates to retweet coworker content and brand posts to improve their reach. Remember that they should be adding their own message to each retweet.

LinkedIn Algorithm Updates in 2018

For connecting with business professionals and industry peers, there’s no better platform than LinkedIn. More than one million people use this professional publishing platform, with hundreds of thousands of new posts published each week.

While LinkedIn appeals to a different type of audience than Facebook and Twitter, it still needs to invest in regular social media updates to keep users engaged.

Messenger Active Status  – January, 2018

When you’re trying to connect with a lead or a potential hire on LinkedIn, one of the best things you can do is send a private message. For a while now, LinkedIn has offered real-time messaging to help brands tap into a convenient professionally-designed experience, similar to that of Facebook Messenger.

The problem was, users had no idea when they should be sending messages to make a real impact. The new “Now Active” display with its little green button ensures you can reach out to people when they’re ready to see your message.

Refining the Sales Navigator Solution – February, 2018

This year, LinkedIn announced a selection of changes to its customer lead-generation service, Sales Navigator. The underlying foundation of the update was that LinkedIn will be integrating Sales Manager with Campaign Manager, making it easier for companies to target the leads and accounts that are right for their brand.

One of the most recent updates is the redesigned account pages, which give account leaders an easier overview of their marketing strategy.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Use search filters for prospecting: Refine your audience targeting strategy to make sure that you’re sending the right information to the perfect people.
  2. Setup email alerts: Receive email notifications whenever one of your saved leads comes to your LinkedIn profile.

Native Video Advertising  – March, 2018

Another of the latest LinkedIn changes involves the introduction of video. For years, LinkedIn has been about having conversations with business professionals. Recently, the platform began to take notice of the fact that video has become one of the most compelling methods of communication for many brands. Video advertising is now one of the channels “Sponsored Content” formats.

When companies purchase a video ad, their content will play automatically on the news feed, with the sound turned off, to begin with. This is similar to the videos you might see on Facebook.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Invest in video: Consider implementing a new video strategy into your social media campaign. Social videos can generate up to 1200% more shares than images and text combined.
  2. Include a variety of content: Don’t just post video advertisements – show off snippets from industry events, behind-the-scenes content, and even Q&A sessions with major players on your team.

Gifs in Messenger – April, 2018

Speaking of updates to the messenger experience, LinkedIn also introduced a collaboration with Giphy, for users who want to make their conversations on the platform less formal. While the use of gifs won’t appeal to every business, it could be a great way to build relationships with some clients and peers —particularly in younger generations.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Remember to connect: In today’s social media landscape, it’s all about building the right connections with your audience. Reaching out to prospects through instant messenger could be a great way to generate leads.
  2. Use gifs carefully: While gifs can be a great way to grab someone’s attention, using too many could decrease the level of professionalism perceived from the person on the other end.

Instagram Algorithm Updates in 2018

In the past, Instagram was an alternative approach to social media marketing, specifically designed for those in highly visual verticals. Today, this platform could be a great addition to any brand’s marketing strategy, with more than 800 million monthly active users. To encourage more interaction on the channel, Instagram updates have been pouring out in recent months.

Giphy and Instagram Stories – January, 2018

Instagram is another social platform jumping on the Gif bandwagon this year. The channel announced their partnership with Giphy—the internet’s most popular resource for animated gifs.

These gifs are now coming to Instagram stories to improve customer engagement. The idea is that brands and users can place gifs on their published stories, and even insert them into their photo updates too.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Engage your audience: With gifs you can constantly look for new ways to engage and excite your audience. Just make sure that you choose gifs that are relevant to your target market.
  2. Maintain your image: Remember not to go overboard. Add gifs where they’re relevant and leave them out elsewhere. You still need to maintain a consistent brand on Instagram.

Instagram Type – January, 2018

Finally, if you’ve always wished that you could share more written content on your Instagram stories, then you might be in luck. This year, the platform has been experimenting with a new Story feature known as “Type.”

This update is set to provide users with the option to create text-based stories alongside their photos and videos. If it’s successful, Type could give brands even more ways to diversify their social content.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Tap into text: Consider combining text stories with your regular image and video updates to treat followers to a range of content types.
  2. Keep text short and sweet: Make sure that you don’t put too much information in your text updates. Instagram is still an app for scrolling, and people won’t want huge paragraphs of information blocking up their feed.

The Algorithm Change – March, 2018

While Facebook and Twitter have shifted their algorithms to focus on authentic, relevant content, Instagram will now display videos and photos in a more chronological order. While customers will still see updates from their favorite people first, newer posts will be more likely to show up first in user feeds. According to Instagram, this is part of their strategy to give users a renewed experience on the platform.

Strategy Suggestion

  1. Keep your profile updated: Make sure that you have a consistent schedule to follow on Instagram. Post new and interesting content regularly to drive more attention to your pages.
  2. Embrace advocates: With advocates you can produce a more constant stream of exciting content. The more advocates you bring on board, the more likely you are to appear on the news feed.

5 Steps to Stay Ahead in a Rapidly Changing Social Landscape

Social media is a form of technology and communication—two things that are constantly changing. This means that the first step in dealing with the changes to any network is in the simple acknowledgement that nothing ever stays the same. Fighting transformation won’t help your brand be successful.

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The good news is that the social updates we’re seeing lately aren’t hard to understand. Across the board, platforms are focusing more heavily on authentic connections and engagement. If you can put relationship building and authenticity at the heart of your strategy, then you could future-proof your social strategy. Here are 5 steps to make sure your team is staying ahead of the changes.

Step 1: Build Powerful Communities

The recent Facebook changes and Twitter updates put customer experience at the heart of social media. If brands want to offer the right experience to their audience, then the first thing they need to do is understand who they’re talking to. Social listening tools like Sprout Social can help with this.

The more you pay attention to your audience, the more you can:

  • Write posts that appeal to the interests of your target customers
  • Encourage engagement with unique shares
  • Build relationships through authentic people (like employee advocates)

With employee advocacy, you can bring your employees on board to manage the communities you build. Advocates not only curate and share content, they’re also there to encourage the conversational experience today’s platforms are looking to create for users.

Replying to messages, commenting on posts or retweeting important news establishes a culture of engagement within your social community. The more you show your customers that you’re committed to a two-way conversation on your social channels, the more your brand will benefit.

For instance, the “Sonic the Hedgehog” Twitter page from Sega has a highly devoted community of 5.69 million followers. Not only do they create lots of unique content, but they also retweet their fans too, to develop that two-way conversation.

Step 2: Embrace Employee Advocates as Influencers

Employee advocates are people who already live in the same world as your customers. This means that they can bypass the social media algorithms that place the messages of personal connections above branded content. Through advocacy, companies can create a team of micro-influencers to connect with audiences on a deeper, more meaningful level.

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This directly appeals to the Facebook updates, which is on the search for content users want to engage with. Additionally, when you’ve got plenty of employee advocates on board, you won’t have to worry about the Twitter algorithm penalizing repetitive content because you’ll be linking back to your brand with multiple voices on a range of profiles.

As the ultimate micro-influencer, employee advocates could be the best way for any brand to get ahead of the latest social media updates and protect themselves from future changes too. As more platforms continue to place their focus on meaningful customer experiences, employee advocates allow companies to overcome their corporate image and start building deep, intimate relationships with their audience.

For instance, Sky uses their #LifeatSky hashtag to encourage employees to share their experiences with the brand and generate interest from customers.

With an employee advocacy platform, companies can customize their advocacy strategy to suit the needs of their target audience, empowering employees with all the support they need to establish a powerful community experience through:

  • Personalized, authentic content with a real, human touch
  • Outreach strategies to connect with specific social groups
  • Curated content from other channels to demonstrate value

Step 3: Increase Focus on Valuable & Authentic Content

One thing that all the latest social media updates have in common, is their focus on targeting the right customers with the most relevant, valuable content. Irrelevant content won’t just lose you points with social algorithms, it could also damage your reputation with your customers. After all, 3 out of 4 people get frustrated when they see content that isn’t connected to their interests.

The social networks all highlight engagement as key to success. If you want your audience to engage with your posts, you need to give them something worth interacting with. Just as targeted personalization has emerged as a major trend for email and content marketing, this also extends to social media too.

Since creating valuable, high-engagement content takes more time and focus, some brands might need to scale back their production for a while or recruit more employee advocates for help. Ultimately, every post you publish should:

  • Evoke an emotional response
  • Be relevant to your target audience
  • Tell a compelling story
  • Demonstrate your unique values
  • Spark conversation

Step 4: Invest in High-Quality Video

Speaking of engagement, there are few content types with the same potential on social media as video. In fact:

As social media updates shine the spotlight on interesting, unique, and engaging content, video marketing could be the way to go for many brands. If nothing else, adding a few video pieces to your content curation list for employee advocates gives them a way to expand their sharing strategy beyond images and text.

Videos are compelling on social media because they combine both image and sound to convince your customer to take notice. At the same time, in a world where relationships are key, they can also add a human element to your branding. Behind-the-scenes videos that show what goes on within your business or video introductions to staff members help people get to know your company.

The more people watch your videos and feel connected to your brand, the more likely they are to actively seek out and engage with your content on social media. This ensures that you continue to rank high on the news feeds, regardless of algorithm updates. Just some of the video strategies you can try include:

  • Behind the scenes content
  • Product demonstrations
  • Q&A sessions
  • Influencer interviews
  • Employee spotlights

Sprout Social regularly posts high-quality videos to its Facebook page to educate followers about marketing strategies and online engagement. Not only are these videos packed full of useful information, but they also show that the brand cares about their customers.

Step 5: Experiment with Purpose-Driven Marketing

Finally, social media marketing has never been more about connecting with audience emotions than it is today. Brands need to focus on purpose-driven marketing to reach out to their audience on a deeper level and demonstrate shared values.

This might mean sharing content that demonstrates the socially-responsible side of your brand to connect with millennial users. For instance, 91% of Millennials say that they would switch brands to buy from a company associated with a cause. Partnering with non-profits and other brands online is a great way to expand reach, improve engagement, and demonstrate that you’re a company your customers should care about.

At the same time, companies need to constantly experiment with how they publish and promote their content. As algorithms continue to change, and social media users interact with platforms differently, you may find that something as simple as an adjustment to your posting schedule makes a world of difference.

Each new update launches a path of experimentation and discovery for brands. After all, social media has never been a set-and-forget marketing strategy. It’s something that your company needs to grow and evolve with over the years.

Surviving the Social Media Algorithm Updates

Handling the latest social media updates can seem like a significant challenge. However, if you can get to the bottom of the latest news and figure out what each channel is trying to accomplish, you should be able to plan for success. In 2018, social media marketing is all about connections, engagement, and authenticity. This is a trend that’s likely to continue in the years ahead, as channels become more user-focused.

Brands who can adjust their social efforts to develop stronger relationships with their market through advocacy, engaging content and community will have the best results in the years to come.