If you’re like most communicators, you did your 2018 strategy planning—only to have Facebook announce it was changing the game for organizations again.
If you’re going back to the drawing board, you’re not alone. Facebook continues to tinker with its platform, and that means everyone must adapt.
Not that organic reach for organizations on Facebook hadn’t already fallen by half over the past three or four years. Smart and strategic communicators were able to drive engagement and ensure that, despite falling reach and lower visibility, their content was attracting engagement and staying on the good side of Facebook’s algorithm.
Now, however, Facebook has put brand managers on notice that the paltry 2 to 6 percent reach they were averaging is too high and degrades the “Newsfeed” experience for average users. Going forward, branded content will be further suppressed in newsfeeds while posts from friends and family will be given more visibility.
What are marketers to do after Facebook’s changes drastically limit their organic reach? Here are seven tips for keeping your Facebook presence alive:
1. Commit to quality over quantity, if you haven’t already.
Unless it’s exceptionally engaging (think animals, kids, heroes and other phenoms, kickboxing octogenarians, etc.), your content may not be seen by sufficient numbers to justify the effort it took to create that content. Worse, if your content isn’t regularly engaging people, you’ll be digging yourself a deeper hole. Facebook’s algorithm will dock your brand for content that doesn’t engage and will further suppress it.
Facebook Live videos are expected to remain a powerful engagement tool. Currently, when you launch a Facebook Live video stream, Facebook alerts your followers, which can raise your page’s visibility and get your content in front of more followers.
In looking back at 2017 content, we noted that paid promotion generated quadruple the number of organic video views. If you’re going to put the time into creating videos for Facebook in 2018, plan to support them with paid promotion too.
If you’re an accounting firm, manufacturer or an IT company, it’s going to require constant creativity to keep your content engaging. However, nonprofits have a better shot because causes typically are more engaging than products and services.
Nonprofits can benefit from the reach, budgets and skills of their for-profit partners on Facebook, while for-profits can benefit from the engagement and interest generated by their cause partners.
The first rule of good communication has always been to know your audience. That has not changed with the advent of social media, nor does it change now.
Look at what has resonated with your audience in the past on Facebook. Do some digging to find out what your audience is struggling with or what excites them. Your Facebook data and customer research are a treasure trove of content ideas that can connect with your followers.
5. Recognize that Facebook is a paid platform and leverage its promotional tools.
All organizations have promotional messages that they must distribute to show ROI on their social media investment, but just as with traditional media outlets, you’ll need to pay Facebook to deliver those messages to your followers. That is the clearest impact of Facebook’s changes—despite its protestations to the contrary.
6. Prioritize influencer engagement and think more widely when it comes to influence.
Looking back on the content we shared over 2017, the post with the greatest reach featured a testimonial video message from a celebrity. Other top posts by reach in 2017 were those that we tagged with other brands or real people.
Connect your content to real people whether they’re employees, customers, donors, celebrities or community leaders . Likewise, equip and mobilize your organization’s stakeholders so that they can share and amplify your messages on social media. For your content to be meaningful, it must feature real people and brand relationships, and not simply be a brand billboard.
7. Look at every post as a conversation starter—but don’t ask for shares.
Brand managers should post Facebook content that starts conversations and is worthy of sharing. Invest some time in generating ideas for thought starters you could share. Facebook’s algorithm will also be looking at how quickly people respond to your posts and elevating posts based on the quality of comments and not the number of likes.
We noted in 2017 that posts generating a high volume of comments on our pages tended to appeal to followers’ nostalgia and encouraged them to share memories. They also gave followers an opportunity to share personal achievements and stories of interest to other page followers.
How can your Facebook page give its followers opportunities to share their experiences or knowledge, be recognized by others or connect with like-minded people?
A few missteps to avoid : Don’t start a conversation at 5 p.m. and let comments go without a response until the next morning. The Facebook algorithm pays attention to how quickly you respond and rewards fast responses and exchanges in the comments.
Also, be careful not to ask for shares or comments: Facebook’s algorithm will punish posts that overtly ask, “share this.”
What about you, PR Daily readers? How are you preparing for Facebook’s changes in 2018?
Julie Wright is president and founder of (W)right On Communications, Inc., a strategic communications firm celebrating 20 years with offices in Los Angeles, San Diego and Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @juliewright. A version of this story originally appeared on the author's blog, (W)right On Target.