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Big Changes for Facebook in 2018 Present a New Challenge for Advertisers

On January 11, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced major changes coming to the Facebook platform designed to bring users “more relevant content” and help users have “more meaningful social interactions.”  In a Facebook post, the CEO detailed that the explosion of live video and other public content had caused the average user’s Facebook news feed to shift away from updates from friends and family.

As The Guardian points out, the Facebook changes are likely also addressing the criticism that Facebook has faced in the past year for their role in isolating users in filtered social bubbles, the spread of misinformation, and manipulation of public opinion from a variety of sources.

So how do these changes affect businesses and agencies advertising on Facebook, and what can marketers and brands do about it?

Expect ad cost to increase.

In his Jan 11 post, Mr. Zuckerberg “expects the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.”  If users spend less time on Facebook, there will be less possible opportunities for ad impressions to those users.

A smaller ad market with the same amount of advertisers means more competition for ad space, especially since the incoming changes mean less organic reach for brands.

Expect organic page reach to decrease.

Page posts from brands that reached fans organically (non-paid) in the past may now need ad dollars behind them to reach the same number of fans.

When budgeting for ad spend in 2018, think about setting some money aside for reaching fans with boosted and promoted posts, and think about writing your posts differently.

Comments and shares are more valuable than likes and reactions

With the decreased reach and the emphasis on “meaningful social interactions,” it’s now more important to craft your message.  True interactions on page posts (and ads!) mean comments in which people actually ask questions, discuss, and share. Likes and reactions are less important as these are “passive” engagements.   Think about how meaningful a quick “like” from a friend is versus a comment in your own timeline.  This is what Facebook is aiming for.  Comments with answers and discussion from the brand and user shares are weighted more heavily than reactions and likes.

Comments and shares can be measured in your page insights and ads manager.  Go back and see what posts and ads had the most meaningful engagement in 2017, and learn from those posts and ads.

Craft page posts and ads to be more relevant and meaningful.

Write content that encourages people to share on their timelines. In order to to that, you will have to write content that matters to your users – but you don’t have to address all of your users at once.  Are you a destination with fans on your page that are golfers and/or hikers?  You don’t have to write one post that covers everyone.   Address the golfers in one post.  Address the hikers next. It focuses the discussion and makes it relevant to a person that may only have one of the two interests.

Consider posting less often – ten posts a week with simple articles or comments aren’t as engaging as three really well written posts that encourage discussion, especially if they are more targeted like discussed above.

Avoid posts unrelated to your brand.  Funny videos and cat pictures are everywhere.  Users already get that sort of thing from their friends and family, they don’t need it from unrelated brands they follow.

If you ask a question in your post or ad, ask an open ended one.  For example, don’t ask “Has our product changed your life?”  That’s a yes or no answer to many people.  Ask “How did our product change your life?”  If someone does answer, they may have a story and present you with an opportunity to engage further!  Speaking of which…

Engage with your fans and users targeted by your ads.

Be responsive.  When users ask questions, answer them!  Be timely if you can. Be thorough if you can’t be timely.

Empower your “super fans” and “brand advocates.” Let them know that they are contributing to the conversation, and thank them for the time they spend engaging with others in a positive way on your behalf, especially if they answer another user’s question correctly before you do!

Look into Facebook groups as a tool to engage with your best fans

This is especially useful if you have fans with different interests. A group for golfing and a group for hiking, or a group with photos being shared may all benefit your fans and customers.

This is also a way you can increase your organic reach.  Users will see comments from your brand and from each other through Facebook notifications.

Start looking at live video

Facebook is emphasizing “active” video (or “live”) over “passive” video (or “pre-recorded”).  Live video streams have significantly more engagement and much longer average views.  As a side benefit, your live video becomes a pre-recorded post when you have finished the event!

We like to say that Facebook is a highly fluid ad platform. It is continuously changing all the time. Features are added and removed, algorithms are changed, the way we did things last year inevitably becomes different the next.  This isn’t the first time that brands have had to respond to vast changes, and it certainly won’t be the last!

Carefully crafting your posts to be useful to users is a timeless suggestion. It’s always in your best interest to strive for meaningful online engagement!