Beat Facebook's Algorithm Changes by Getting Back to the Basics

Apr 09, 2018

Article ImageFacebook has made a number of changes recently to its news feed, driven by issues ranging from Russian intervention in the 2016 elections, the proliferation of “fake news,” and consumers’ increasing frustration with spam and click bait. In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook users would be seeing more posts from friends and family and less from businesses and brands. The exception: business pages that generated discussion among users. 

Doom for Those Who Built on Rented Land?

The wind has been taken out of many marketers’ sales with this announcement, and chatter online is raging. As far back as 2014, Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute was cautioning marketers to “stop building your branded content on ‘rented land,’” pointing out that social media giants’ algorithm changes—including Facebook’s—had the potential to immediately undermine the hard work users had undertaken to grow audience and create compelling content.

Many didn’t listen. Many still aren’t. After all, despite its many recent problems, Facebook still delivers the largest audience of all social media sites, and audience is what publishers and brand managers are looking for. But, with all of these changes, how are they, or how should they be, responding?

Organic Search and AMP

Michael Bertini, search marketing consultant at iQuanti, a digital marketing agency, views the changes as “a chance for publishers to demonstrate some mastery of their subject area.” Publishers, he says, “will have to ensure they are creating compelling and relevant content that will stand out on search pages”—Google search pages. Publishers, he says, are seeing an increase in traffic from Google since Facebook’s news feed change. Placing more emphasis on search, he suggests, can be one way of maintaining visibility online. He adds, though, that in a very mobile environment, publishers need to emphasize AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to ensure that pages are loading properly on mobile devices. “The integration of AMP on publishers’ sites would allow pages to load almost instantaneously and provide that kind of accessibility even if a user doesn’t have the best internet connection, similar to what Facebook offered,” says Bertini.

But, publishers and brand managers shouldn’t necessarily give up on Facebook.

The Right Audience + Great Content = Success

“It’s always tricky to find great content to post on Facebook and with their algorithm change, it’s become even harder. But it doesn’t have to be,” says Penny Sansevieri, CEO of Author Marketing Experts and an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU). The changes, she points out, are based on follower engagement and non-promotional messaging. Sansevieri says she uses her personal Facebook profile along with her fan page to “communicate with fans, boost reader engagement, and keep the promotion wheels turning.” But, she adds: “I don’t do it in a way that pushes too much marketing content out there. Instead, I mix it up with trending topics, funny memes, and helpful advice.” Marketers will find, she says, that “as you start to build your reader engagement and grow your fan base, you’ll find that the more you can post content that engages readers, the better all of your posts will start to show up in their feeds.”

Having a highly engaged, niche audience doesn’t hurt either, says Warren K. Carlyle IV, community building strategist and founder of OctoNation, an octopus fan club with 87,000 Facebook followers and 155,000 Instagram followers. He’s been able to “beat the algorithm by having a network of followers that regularly share the content,” he says—and by having a brand and message that are both clear and designed to resonate with the target audience. In addition, he shares, “creating a group connected with a page has been super beneficial; on the off chance that they haven’t seen our post organically in Facebook, the group connected to the page gives another opportunity for engagement.”

Building audience. Creating quality content. Deceptively simple. Decidedly complex. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Far from becoming irrelevant or facing away, Facebook’s algorithm changes, when all is said and done, are likely to delight users who have grown weary of all the noise, hype and deceptive sales tactics.

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