Facebook’s news feed has been the subject of scrutiny for marketers questioning how Facebook’s algorithm handles brand content, determining what to display and what not to. Mark Cuban weighed in to criticize Facebook for burying brand content unless amplified with paid support, and the New York Times’ Nick Bilton took issue when his posts appeared to garner less engagement than they did before.
The news feed has been a black box for marketers. Naturally, they’ve worked to increase engagement with their content to increase the likelihood that it makes the news feed cut. Even marketers that start to figure it out are frustrated by ongoing changes implemented by Facebook, which it says decrease spam and optimize user news feeds to show content users like. The intention is not to force advertisers to pay.
Facebook essentially addressed marketers’ issues with updates to its news feed earlier this month. The algorithm controlling which content to display and not display has taken a back seat to allow users to filter their news feed by content type (e.g., content from just friends, just photos, etc.), and one of the filters called ‘following’ allows users to get all brand page content. That’s right, no algorithm. If a user likes a brand page that brand’s content will display in the ‘following’ section of the news feed, but it can’t be that simple, can it?
The challenge is whether or not users will check the ‘following’ section. Users are the filter, which means they can completely avoid the ‘following’ section if they choose to. There are certainly a few tactics brands can execute to improve the likelihood their content will get more exposure, but it’s not ideal by any means. Marketers can criticize the change, but at the end of the day Facebook’s in control of its own platform.
Facebook Has Something Most Brands Don’t
Brands are on Facebook because it has something brands want—a platform people go to and care about. People visit Facebook time and time again because it allows them to communicate, discover and share with people they care about in some way.
As marketers, it’s our responsibility to earn attention time and time again by making users care. People avoid marketing messages, which is why Facebook had its algorithm in the first place. Brands need to establish a mutual value exchange between users. If that value is clear, users will pay attention, but that’s a big “if.” Content must be easy to consume, and worth sharing. When a brand’s content resonates with one user, that user will likely share it with friends. That’s where reach is achieved as content breaks outside the ‘following’ sections and into other news feed sections.
Facebook’s a Short-Term Solution
Marketers are not in a position of control when it comes to Facebook, but there are one billion [users] reasons to be there. Still, a brand should strive to make their Facebook presence obsolete by establishing their own platform and funneling fans there. That may be as simple as an email list or as complicated as a brand community, but until a brand moves its Facebook fans to another platform the brand owns, its fans will always be rented from Facebook. Brands will always need to react and adapt based on Facebook’s agenda.
Facebook aims to make money. Brands are renting their fans. Facebook is in control, and while it will likely be part of brands’ social media efforts for long time, marketers should work to make it part of a larger ecosystem of owned and rented social media platforms (e.g., Twitter), not the ecosystem.