Challenging Brands to Become Storytellers: What Facebook's New News Feed Means for You

Jan 12, 2018

On January 11, Facebook announced significant changes to their News Feed, making updates to the way content is ranked so their users have more opportunities to engage with their friends. Historically, Facebook has used signals like how many people react to, comment on or share posts to determine where and when they appear in the News Feed. For advertising on the platform, content is ranked using relevance scores, which determine how an ad’s content stacks up against the competition in terms of relevancy to a target audience. With this new update, Facebook will now also consider if a piece of content is sparking meaningful and genuine conversations when ranking it on the feeds. As a result, you may see your brand content’s reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. If the content doesn’t cause people to interact with reactions or comments, it will see a decrease in distribution and results. Read the full announcement from Facebook here.

Additionally, Facebook announced in recent weeks that they will limit the performance of content that uses “engagement bait” copy. Engagement bait prompts users to interact with a post in a very specific way. Statements such as “Like if you’re a dog lover; heart if you’re a cat lover,” “Tag a friend who loves dogs,” and “Comment YES if you think dogs are the best” would be considered engagement bait. Content that contains this type of language has historically been successful in increasing user engagement for brands, but Facebook aspires for its platform to prompt authentic discussion and engagement between users, rather than this type of forced interaction.

These two updates create a challenge for brands looking to drive meaningful conversation with their audiences, since they can no longer include strong calls to action for reactions, comments and shares in their advertising on the platform. However, the updates give brands an opportunity to tell more emotional stories that truly connect with their audiences.

Although we’re happy to see that brand page content will remain in the new News Feed (Facebook tested moving brand content to the “Explore” section a few months ago!), the changes Facebook is making are significant. So, what does this mean for your brand, and what steps should you take to prepare for next week’s updates? We recommend taking stock of the following areas of your strategy to ensure success on the new Facebook News Feed:

 

1. Transform Social Creative Into Consumer-First Brand Storytelling

It’s more critical than ever to create and share meaningful brand storytelling. To successfully do so, you have to know what your audience wants and how your brand’s products, services and values can meet those needs. If the content isn’t valuable to the audience, chances are it won’t be seen. Brand content will be stacked up, not only against competitive advertisers, but also against content from friends and family that our audience knows, loves and trusts.

Here at Curiosity, it’s a standard part of our content marketing approach to complete audience research and social media listening before defining a content strategy for our clients. This research is an important step that allows us to understand the behaviors, affinities and needs our audience has, and can help us determine which channels and messaging will resonate most with the consumers we’re looking to reach. If you haven’t completed this type of research for your brand, now is the time to do so, to give your brand an edge in the future.

Beyond audience listening, it’s important to take stock of how your past advertising and organic posts have resonated with your target audiences. Now is the time to audit your brand page’s past content and take note of ads and organic posts with both high and low performance. If you recognize patterns in messaging or creative with low performance, consider shifting efforts toward creating content that follows the patterns of other higher-performing posts. Analyze high-performing content and take time to consider new ways that this content can inspire genuine engagement with your audience.

Once you’ve aligned on the types of messages that will resonate, be thoughtful in your creative approach. Keep in mind that, while it’s important to encourage engagement and interaction with the content you create, including engagement bait in your copy will hurt your brand page’s long-term credibility. In order to be successful on the updated News Feed, strive to create content that evokes some sort of emotion with the target audience and stands on its own without strong, pointed CTAs.

2. Adjust Cadence and Flighting

If your brand is sharing new content on Facebook once a day or more, it’s time to scale back. Pages that have new organic content once or multiple times a day will take a hit in the re-prioritized News Feed. Instead of creating a lot of content, brands should focus on creating fewer pieces of high-quality storytelling and sharing them with their target audiences. Test different flighting to see where your brand’s sweet spot is, and then consistently deliver content to your audiences on that cadence.

3. Rethink Organic vs. Paid Approach

Facebook has been a pay-to-play environment for awhile, but it is more important now more than ever to allocate an advertising budget to Facebook to reach your brand’s target audience. In fact, many brands will need to consider increasing their budgets to compete in the updated News Feed. Advertising on Facebook is going to be even more competitive now that it will serve as the main way for a brand’s content to reach consumers.

To gain some organic reach, consider the following guidelines when creating content for the platform:

  • Don’t link to a blog, as blog URLs are less likely to succeed on the News Feed than posts that link to other site destinations.
  • Use Facebook Live, since this tool allows for more interactions and is prioritized on the News Feed. Live videos average six times more interactions than other video types.
  • Share messaging centered around popular topics relevant to your brand. Riding on the coattails of a trend related to your industry can spark a discussion between consumers.
  • Offer expert knowledge that your audience and their connections will find useful. Consider answering your brand’s frequently asked questions and testing how the content performs. This type of content is valuable to consumers and is more likely to be shared, and, ultimately, demonstrates a brand’s expertise and authority in their industry.

4. Watch Results Closely

In the first few weeks of the updated News Feed, it will be essential to watch the performance of ads and posts closely and make adjustments to the strategy as needed. Test different types of creative assets and copy in your ads to see which gain more reach and higher relevance scores. Then take those learnings and apply them to future content, constantly updating the strategy based on the insights gained from the prior campaign.

Facebook’s latest updates are focused on connecting people with people — not people with brands. As social media marketers, it’s important to keep Facebook’s core mission statement in mind: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Marketers that succeed on the new Facebook News Feed will be the ones that find a unique way to humanize their brands and offer true value to their audiences, in the same way that a friend would. We see these changes as an opportunity to tell emotional, humorous and real brand stories, inspire consumers, and move them to take action with our brand partners.

 

Want to learn more about how to adjust your content marketing strategy for future success? Contact us today.

 

– Lauren Lillis, Supervisor – Content Marketing; Emily Williams, Media Strategist – Content Marketing; Lauren Henninger, Senior Media Strategist – Content Marketing and Online Media