Marketing Your Practice: Fixing Facebook Algorithm Changes
By Stephanie Beck
What is a Facebook algorithm and why should I care? Facebook decides which posts/updates to display on your fan's newsfeed through a complicated formula called EdgeRank that includes roughly 100,000 different indicators.
No one really knows for sure (outside of Facebook of course) what all the indicators are, but they do tell us that some of them include:
This is why, in past articles, I have shared the importance of using a variety of types of posts, to post one to three or more times a day depending on how many fans you currently have and to respond and like your fan's comments and shares in a timely fashion. These, along with many other strategies I have shared, have been essential to achieving success with your social media campaigns. However, Facebook has made some significant changes to the shared posts/updates. These changes have reduced the number of organically shared status updates in the last 24 months from 17% to around 6.5%. Some marketing experts believe that Facebook will reduce the organic shares to 1%, or even less. That has left many of us wondering why? Facebook claimed the reason for the tighter restrictions was to increase the "quality of posts," but many of us believe the real reason is to push advertising as an alternative.
So what exactly has happened with the Facebook algorithm? Many of you have invested time and resources into developing and nurturing your ideal Facebook audience organically. In fact, there have been many articles and blog posts on how to attract your ideal audience organically. Since August 2013, Facebook has released a series of changes to its newsfeed algorithm which determines which content is displayed to users. I have shared many updates of ways to keep your engagement high like sharing relevant and valuable content, using hashtags and how to change settings for page notifications. These are just some of the ways you can and should implement to organically keep in contact with your fans. Then, on December 2, 2013, Facebook announced changes that were supposed to be tailored to feature more high quality articles, enhance discoverability of related content and to increase the prominence of posts with high comment volume from friends. Facebook went to great lengths to share the difference in friend-posted and page posted content interaction and its intent to deprioritize text status updates from branded pages.
The impact on businesses made a significant change; according to analyses from many social marketing sources, since December that reach has fallen in some cases to as low as 2% reach for businesses with a large fan base. Facebook claims the reason for this change is supply and demand, in other words, the amount of content being produced exceeds what users can consume and as they attempt to optimize the Facebook user's experience, many page posts do not make the cut when it comes to showing up in the newsfeed. To offset these changes, Facebook offered a couple of suggestions. One of the suggestions was to focus efforts on "link share" posts and the other was to invest in ads.
More recent announcements from Facebook have included that posts with calls to action (CTAs) such as "like this page" or "share this post" rarely received engagement and, in turn, will be shown less within the new feeds. They even went as far to say that in some cases, brands posting this type of content were penalized after users were given the ability to report spam within news feeds. The good news is that photos and videos still tend to perform well, as they are more likely to earn a "like" or "share" without being asked.
Know Your Options
If your practice is still putting all its eggs in Facebook's basket, you might want to consider altering your strategy. Since going public, you need to understand that Facebook cares first and foremost about its business, not about your brand. In fact, many marketing and financial experts are saying that Facebook's growth is based on how well they monetize their existing user base, since it has reached 60% global penetration and doesn't have a whole lot of room left to grow organically. Think about it, it's a commonly known marketing cycle, as you reach market saturation; you have to either find a new market, add another product or both if you want to continue growth. In this case, Facebook has chosen to incentivize businesses to "pay to play."
So, what are your options? First, engagement rules the house so be sure you are sharing informational and educational content that is relevant and valuable to your fans. You have to share things that are worthy of attention. That means you need to improve the quality of your posts.
Second, I know I'm going to hear some grumbling about this, but you need to "pay to play." Consider Facebook advertising as part of your overall advertising budget. I know for many of you the thought of having to pay for advertising on a free social platform is disconcerting. I understand, but the fact is, social media advertising is the most affordable type of paid advertising available and you are able to track all results. It's a bargain compared to traditional advertising costs and you have a huge opportunity to really target your audience. These social networks are huge databases of every kind of interest and personal buying habits of all your ideal clients. The better you understand your ideal client, the less paid advertising will cost you. When you can dial in your offer to those ideal clients that want and need your services the most, your return on investment surpasses any costs. Online advertising, unlike offline advertising is 100% trackable, measurable and flexible. You are able to adjust your message and costs daily, even hourly, to increase your results. Facebook has been sending out a lot of $50 to $100 advertising coupons lately encouraging businesses to try it. I encourage you to consider this option, but have a strategic plan for what you want to achieve and incorporate a way to capture their email addresses so you can continue to connect with them off of Facebook.
Third, start building community on other social networks like Google+, Twitter or Pinterest. If you've not started your Google+ page, now is a great time. They have more than 1.15 billion registered users and 201 million active mobile users on a monthly basis. If you are concerned about creating extra content, know that you can repurpose your content from Facebook on other social platforms so it doesn't have to mean you are creating a lot of extra work for yourself. There are programs out there like HootSuite and SocialOomph that will post your updates on multiple networks for a minimal fee or hire someone to manage your content for you. However you choose to implement it is up to you, but I do encourage you to get away from having all your eggs in one basket. Diversification is a good word to remember when it comes to social media campaigns.
Fourth, work on building those online relationships by being open, remember the 80/20 rule: 80% business and 20% personal and don't be afraid to show the real you. Also, make sure you are accessible, when people comment, respond or ask more questions in a reasonable time frame. Be positive and offer good customer service so you make the experience enjoyable and your fans will want to interact with your page. Assure your fans that they are important to you by showing them their concerns are important. Make them feel that you care about them and show an interest in them.
Fifth, engage in your local community with questions either on your page, or better yet, the local community pages. Share original, behind-the-scenes photos of you and your staff or hobbies or pets.
And finally, don't measure your marketing success on uncontrollable factors. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube do not owe brands exposure. They make the rules, so instead, spend more of your resources to get the social users to the items you do control like your website and blog. Use the social sites to build your email and blog subscriber list so you can engage with them in an environment that you own. You still will need to offer them educational and informational content so they will stay with you.
In my opinion, Facebook is still fun and profitable. As long as you are sharing good content that your fans are engaged with, continue to use it but just know that the organic "free" ride has drastically changed for a lot of businesses. Facebook can still be very helpful for building your practice, you just have to be aware of the changes and adapt your strategies so you can maximize your results.
Stephanie Beck is the owner of SRB Solutions, an online and social media marketing business. Contact her with questions, comments, and for more information at