We're All Just Looking for Connection ~7 min
How to be ‘meaningful’ on Facebook
On the 11th of January 2018, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that his powerful social network would be making a major change.
Zuckerberg wasn’t bluffing. Facebook is determined to make changes to improve the user experience and the quality of content on its platform.
“Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”
The News Feed space is limited and it can’t encompass everything. Since Facebook’s CEO decided to prioritise posts and updates from family and friends over public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media, you are now more likely to see the news about your best friend’s tortoise instead of a recipe from a food channel. The new policy has no mercy - it will affect praised-by-Facebook videos too.
It hurts to change. Zuckerberg lost about $3 billion the day after the announcement. A month later businesses have already suffered a weighty decline of organic reach, even though the changes haven’t yet completely rolled out (they will do so in the next couple of months).
But how can publishers evolve to lessen the sting of Facebook’s changes, and even to take advantage now that the rules of the game have changed? We’re here to help.
What will be ‘news’ for the News Feed?
Facebook has declared three key priorities for distributing news across its platform:
- Trusted Sources: priority is given to news from publications that a community rates as trustworthy. This evaluation is based on the behaviour of a representative group of users. It means, “publications that do not score highly as trusted by the community may see a decrease” in reach.
Informative Content: priority is given to news that people find informative. “Your feed should inform”, reads one of The Facebook’s News Feed C̶o̶m̶m̶a̶n̶d̶m̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ Values. Information is power and people crave having it served on a Facebook plate.
Local News: finally, Facebook believes people want more local news. It will display more relevant news to local communities and continue to work on showing more news connected to where people live.
The new policy and strategy is to be first implemented in the USA, but it will gradually be rolled out globally throughout the coming year. The sooner you fine-tune your publications, the more certain you may be about your ongoing organic reach.
Search for meaning
Ultimately, it’s all about the same old company’s mission to bring people closer together. Facebook wants to downgrade consumption-only subjects and advance more interactive content in order to encourage more meaningful connections.
“As we roll this out,” says Zuckerberg, “the public content you see more will be held to the same standard - it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Therefore, pages that have many posts with no inter/re-action are at risk for the biggest decreases in distribution. They will see declines in reach, video watch time, and referral traffic.
However, having said that it is important to note that Zuckerberg adds, “Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect”.
We get by, with a little help from our friends
Meaningful interactions are your insurance for ongoing organic reach. But what does “meaningfulness” mean for Facebookers?
Luckily, Facebook developers collect clear signals to define it.
All interactions are divided into two groups: person-page interactions vs. two-people interactions (person-person). The second group, obviously, has more weight in term of bringing people closer together, so publishers should focus on producing posts prompting actions such as multiple replies to comments on a video, sharing (including sharing through Messenger), and engagement with posts shared by a friend. Traditional tracking of time spent on posts, commenting, or reactions should be deprioritised. Note that tagging in a post is not a meaningful interaction whatsoever - it’s worth zero points.
The changes affect only organic content, so rest assured your Facebook ads are safe and sound.
Be meaningful, or you’ll end up meaningless
To stay on top of your game, you need to prompt audience interactions with your posts:
Users are more likely to see your post if their friends or family reacted to it or commented on it.
Start authentic communication and motivate people to react to your post and leave comments. Focus on generating quality content that triggers conversations between page followers and other users.
Ask users open-ended questions. Invite them to a discussion wondering if they agree with your point of view. If you list something, ask them what is the most important/relevant to them in the list or invite to elaborate on the topic. But be careful -- engagement baits are a big taboo. Facebook doesn’t believe it’s meaningful and fights it. Phrases like “tag your friend”, “like this page”, “comment yes, if…” or “share this with 10 people” only irritate users.
Replying personally in comments may also spark a discussion.
Include live videos, because they “often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos”. For instance, you may include pieces of live videos in your investigation covered by a series of articles.
Add a photo, as a photo post is still the most popular form of engagement.
Focus on your audience: find a niche audience and its particular interest, start building a community around it and deliver what resonates with it. Create feature/video series that unite interest of close communities.
Note that meaningful interaction implies exclusiveness, so watch out if your content was overshared.
Promote personal stories or success stories in groups and use trendy influencer marketing for that.
Encourage users set the “See First” option: Facebook’s new algorithm will not affect people’s personal preferences of liked pages.
And of course, Facebook ads are still an option to boost your posts.
Measuring how much you’ve changed
So you followed our tips, did a great job, now it’s time to find out what you can do to justify it.
Monitor your performance. Facebook Insights, Facebook Analytics and CrowdTangle will help you the most. They will gather the statistics, in accordance with which you will be able to pump up the interactions.
Pay attention to posting frequency, compare yours to your competitors. More generally, compare posting tactics with your competitors - check what level of interaction they have through their content. How popular are their videos? What about the quality of these interactions? If their interactions are good enough and you understand they resonate with your audience, experiment and try to implement some of the same strategies.
Try new or unusual formats, like live videos or 360 videos.
Analyse topics: how relevant are they to your niche audience? In order to assess relevance try analysing their behaviour in general, not only in response to your posts.
Check Weights and Viral Alerts. They will help you to grasp overperforming and underperforming content. Weights enables you to identify what type of posts users prefer and to see the success of overperforming posts such as shares and comments. Viral Alerts gives you a chance to track their best content along with the competitors.
Phew! That doesn’t seem effortless.
“By focusing on bringing people closer together - whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world - we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent,” says Zuckerberg.
So don’t spend your time and effort on Facebook in vain, and help others spend it well.
Additional source of information: News Feed Publisher Guidelines.