In a post, Mark Zuckerberg on January 11th, Facebook announced some major changes in direction that have us social media professionals buzzing. If there is one thing that has been consistent with Facebook over the last ten years, it’s the constant changes. For the CEO to make such an announcement himself is quite rare though.

It is impossible to read all the pieces of content out there that are trying to dissect what is happening.

The reactions range from the “End of times” to “Nothing is going to change”

Some of the best reactions I have seen are from:

Mike Allton:

Mark Schaefer

Don’t panic. The Facebook announcement is no big deal

And Jon Loomer

Facebook News Feed Update: Now What?

I know there are many more, please share your favourites in the comments.

I usually stay away from picking up stories that everyone else is covering and where people I admire already layed out their thoughts quite eloquently. But I have been asked about my opinion so many times that I decided to dedicate a Podcast episode and this blog post to the topic.

I invite you to listen and tell me what you think.

There is no doubt that Facebook has become part of our lives. We build it into our daily routines; it helps connect us with our friends, our community and our causes much more than ever before.

Since Facebook was launched in 2004, we have seen many changes in what the platform does, and of course, its functionality.

Even before I started advising small business owners on the use of social media tools in 2010 “everyone” was up in arms every time the platform made a change to any functionality or design.

In fact, a big part of Facebook’s success is its ability to adapt to the changes in its user’s behaviour and also shape this behaviour.

Let me begin by highlighting a few passages from Mark Zuckerberg’s post:

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

Ever since Facebook grew so large that it felt the need to sort what we see in our newsfeed via an algorithm, users have been complaining that we were losing what we originally signed up for – connecting with our friends and family. Granted, the social media platform has become much more to us since then. The human connections are still the most valuable part of any social network for most.
But, ever since Facebook decided to become a publicly traded company, it became increasingly important to make money and show us as many ads as we would tolerate.

In her reaction to my call for contribution, my friend @Catester shared her reaction about too many ads in a sound bite:

Thanks Catester!

Facebook has said before that it has a real problem with the fact that the users create less and less original content.

Social Media marketers and news outlets have refined the best ways to manipulate what we see. Even very frequent algorithm changes don’t help for long.

But if you look at the past changes to Facebook’s algorithm you can see a pattern that leads to this latest announcement. Every update was limiting unnatural tactics that tried to trick us or the algorithm and was fostering real person interaction.

The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.

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.”

Social media and mobile technology is a greater interruption of our societies than the printing press or even Radio or TV ever were. While Social Media is more than Facebook, its size and importance, at least in North America, give the network a big responsibility.

What makes or breaks an online platform is the fact that people use it. All ways to inform and entertain us are in a fierce competition for our time and attention. Social Media, Blogs, Websites, TV, Radio, Email and many more.

If Facebook wants to keep growing and dominating the social media space in the future, it has to keep changing by listening, analyzing our behaviour and anticipating our next move.

What I read between the lines:

Facebook is facing more pressures that are a byproduct of dominating the social media landscape. The network has become the primary source for news for a large part of the population, at least in North America. The more we discover about how this phenomenon can be exploited the clearer it becomes that Facebook is, in fact, a “media company.” This distinction comes with responsibilities that the social network is not set up to meet. Facebook needs to get out of the “news game” if it wants to avoid government regulation.

Facebook can’t reasonably be blamed for having been used by foreign powers to influence the 2016 US election and others. However, it’s quite clear that it was too easy and profitable to do so. Without the editorial tools of a media company, Facebook can only make it harder for these attacks to occur and simply show us less news. Unfortunately, this will also limit our exposure to real journalism.

Facebook’s revenue model is based on advertising income. Just as Catester said in her soundbite advertising, in general, is becoming less and less desirable and is under immense pressure to change. The fact that Facebook is going to limit the amount of brand content we see also means that the total amount of Facebook ads is more limited, making a rise in price inevitable.

What does all of this mean for us?

Before we look into the future, I have to point out that we have seen gradual changes in the Facebook algorithm leading up to this for a while. The organic reach of Facebook posts overall has declined to 6% of people that liked the page for a while now. Pages that enjoy more engagement than average have enjoyed more organic reach, however. I will explain later in this article why I think this will continue.

Many social media experts have voiced their predictions on how the changes are going to affect business pages. At this point all of this is speculation. The only clear signal from Mr .Zuckerberg’s post is that “Community” is going to be the new focus.

If you, like me, manage a Facebook page for a small business or an organization you might be in a much better position to benefit (!) from this change. Treating your Facebook following like a community should be a lot easier for us than for larger brands. Your connection to your fans is likely much more personal than that of a brand that built their following with deep marketing pockets.

There are two directions you can go with your Facebook presence after this:

  1. You can continue to “post and run” boring, self-serving content on your page that only talks about your business and has no value to the user beyond telling us what we can buy. Pages like this are ineffective now and will become obsolete shortly. Your ad budget will need to increase significantly.
  2. You can post more engaging and entertaining content. Most of the pages I manage as well as those of my best students have seen higher organic reach than the average pages on Facebook before. This is because the content we post is rarely sales related and creates engagement.

Here are some important strategy changes you need to make if you haven’t already:

  1. It’s not about you! The primary purpose of your social media presence is NOT to sell your products and services. It’s to serve your (potential) customers.
  2. For social media to be effective, you will have to spend more time engaging with your audience.
  3. We need to change our mindset from “speaking to an audience” to “building a community.”

Here are some tactics that can help with this change:

  • Facebook Groups

    • Many marketers have already switched their main focus to groups. Depending on your business and your talents, this can be a very effective way of building a community.
    • Beware that running an effective community requires a significantly higher amount of time and attention than serving a public page.
    • Beware that Facebook groups are going to be the social media marketer’s weapon of choice and we will see significant growth in the number of groups vying for our attention.
  • Video – especially live video

    • Facebook has invested heavily in video for a few years now. Aside from taking market share away from YouTube, Facebook has also realized that video is becoming more popular, especially since mobile technology improved.
    • Live video enjoys more engagement right now but I have a feeling that we might see a decline in viewer numbers once live video becomes more common. Live video is great; it brings us closer to our community in a very efficient way. However, it also requires a lot more time for me as a user to get the same amount of entertainment and information than in an edited piece of content.
  • Messenger Bots

    • If we can harness the power of this new technology, it can have the potential to serve our customers in whole new ways.
    • The danger to misuse this power for spamming those that opt into these bots is large.
    • Those that manage to use them well will have a better chance to benefit in the long term.

Keep Calm and Facebook

This is the end of social media marketing as we know it!

And that’s a good thing! Especially because I focus on small business pages in my work I see a lot of pages that see Social Media as a pure marketing channel. These business owners measure their success by “direct new sales”, “clicks to a website or offer”, “likes”….

Many Facebook pages are a wasteland of self-absorbed posts that nobody sees. Some don’t even answer direct questions from users in any way.

Getting results from your Facebook page will require more work, a more active presence and a willingness to serve your community.

Considering that a huge percentage of your customers are regular users of Facebook the potential to serve them where they hang out is huge.

I encourage you to take up the challenge and actively build your community!

“In the business of the future, we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis

 

While this has become one of the longest blog posts I have ever written there is a lot more we could discuss. I invite you to leave a comment or send me a message. Let me know if you are interested in discussing the topic publicly – maybe on a Facebook live session? After all, I have a Facebook page to grow 😉

Published by Frithjof

Digital media strategist, coach, community manager and CEO of BlueBird Business Consulting. Blogger, podcaster, content creator and teacher with a passion. Favourite quote: “To succeed in the business of the future we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis

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