Facebook announces Major News Feed change – A Guide for Small Irish Businesses.

Facebook are planning on cutting businesses out of the news feed even more, and many small businesses are worried.  So, what should you do now, in light of the most recent algorithm changes?

This week Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, announced some major changes aimed at creating more “meaningful social interactions among your friends and family.”

This change will almost certainly affect any business or brand that uses Facebook as part of their marketing strategy.  Let’s face it, that’s most us small businesses; latest figures suggest over 70% of Irish businesses are using Facebook.

So, what exactly are the changes to the Facebook News Feed?

As an everyday Facebook user, the changes announced should be positive – stories from friends and families will be prioritised.  Zuck says,

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

As a small Irish business, unfortunately that means that posts from your business page will be sacrificed in the every increasing fight for space on the news feed.  And if you’ve been using Facebook for business for a while you will no doubt have noticed that the organic reach has been reducing gradually over time.  Recently, it’s been at about 5%, which means that of your fans, 5% of them will be shown your content.  This percentage increases if you use video, especially live video, and if you have an engaged audience who like, comment and share a lot.

As a result of the new changes, some high-profile commentators such as Larry Kim are advocating a dooms day scenario, suggesting Facebook is literally cutting out businesses from the news feed.

However, let’s stay positive! There are solutions!

What can a small business do to still make an impact on Facebook?

You’ve started at a fan base of zero, worked hard to build it up with competitions, free content, time consuming interactions, messaging and monitoring.  It’s really frustrating now to think that no one will see your posts anymore and that your product or brand will lose prominence on the most popular social media platform in Ireland.

Here are some recommendations to maxamise your impact of Facebook:

  1. Post the right type of content:

For the best chance of having your content shown, your number one goal each time you post should be ENGAGEMENT.  That means focusing your efforts on content that will get people involved in a discussion on your page.  It also includes YOU being involved in the discussion.  If fans leave comments be sure to respond to them – that’s engagement!

From the horses’ mouth, Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook, said in a statement last week;

 “As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect”.

For Small Irish Business it’s important not to fall back on Engagement Bait posts, which was highlighted prior to Christmas as a huge no-no.  Mosseri also says,

“Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.  Using “engagement-bait” to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”
  1. Consider setting up Facebook Groups.

As you may know group notifications appear in the feed, unless you opt out or restrict them.  You may have a business that lends itself to having a group or number of groups; perhaps you are a gym offering several types of activity, so you could create a Members Group or a Spin Group or whatever sub-categories are appropriate.

Other small businesses such as mine, are not so well suited unfortunately.

  1. Ask your fans to choose the “See First” option.

If your fans are worried that they won’t see your content going forward, do explain to them they can choose the “See First” feature for your page.  Explain how they can do this, because many people are not aware of this feature.  Now, most people will probably not go to the bother of picking the see first option, but its worth boosting this post targeting people who like your page so that you can be sure the max number of your followers are at latest given the opportunity to do this if they wish.

  1. Facebook Ads.

Facebook advertising is really a must if you are serious about getting the message out about your business, through this channel.  Facebook is not a free channel and you should expect to pay something every month to enforce your message.

And relatively speaking Facebook Ads are a very cheap form of advertising.  It remains to be seen if these most recent changes to the algorithm will drive prices up though.  Of course, Facebook will continue to show Sponsored Ads in the News Feed, so realistically now is the time to face up to the reality that your messages will not be shown for free any longer.

  1. Alternative Channels… (Email all the way).

Now might be a good time to consider adjusting your Marketing Strategy if it is very Facebook-heavy, however I wouldn’t recommend jumping ship completely just yet – wait a couple of weeks and see what changes you notice in your reach.

In any case, I ALWAYS recommend you have a back-up plan, because as you know, you don’t own your Facebook page and you remain at the mercy of all these algorithm changes.  The best way to ensure that you have a seamless means of contact with your customer or fan base is to have an email list.

Although not as sexy or exciting on the face of it as social media, Email Marketing is actually a much more effective use of your time.  You might be surprised to know that lots of recent studies show it to be a far more effective sales tool than social media, though there’s no denying that social media is fantastic for awareness and sharing information.

Here is the most recent research (US figures):

To learn more about setting up email marketing for your small business click here.

In conclusion, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your Facebook page insights over the coming weeks, see if there is any major change in reach figures and then make an informed decision as to the changes you might need to make.

As always please feel free to contact me if you need help with any aspect of your digital marketing – allison@econsult.ie.

 

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