Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on December 16, 2013

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What the New Facebook Algorithm Really Means for Your Brand

facebook news feed algorithm

Has an angry social media marketer recently lost it in front of you? Do they look like they sat on something sharp? Allow me to explain. Recently Facebook changed their news feed algorithm and the digital “fit hit the shan” (hey, we want to keep this blog safe for work). While it merits discussion, it’s worth noting that the Earth is still spinning in the same direction that it was yesterday. Let’s take a look at what the new Facebook algorithm really means for your brand.

Hey, What Happened?

An abbreviated version of the story is that Facebook replaced their controversial EdgeRank algorithm with a yet-to-be-named but certain-to-be-just-as-controversial formula for configuring your Facebook news feed. In fact, most simply call this update the “news feed update.” While EdgeRank notoriously used affinity, weight, and time decay to show you only the most engaging content, it also resulted in most brands’ posts only being seen by about 16% of their total audience (everyone who likes the page).

The new algorithm update has many up in arms as it appears to have decreased page reach further still. The smart folks over at Ignite Social Media ran a quick study of the many brand pages they manage across various industries and found that, on average, most pages were seeing a 44% drop in reach.

As you can imagine, marketers — especially those that have invested millions in building significant followings on Facebook — are pissed. But what does all of this really mean?

Take a Deep Breath

Again, the earth is still spinning. This is a change on an essentially free platform that is growing and making adjustments along the way. As the publicly traded social giant works to more consistently meet revenue forecasts amidst constant media scrutiny, these tweaks are necessary to continue to keep users happy and to reverse-engineer an advertising-supported platform.

With this latest update, which is only a few weeks old, users too are frustrated as many report finding less relevant sponsored stories and news items in their feed, which could make some question the network’s success at the “keeping users happy” side of the mission. The decreased reach is also upsetting.

However, when you take a deep breath and a step back for some perspective, the situation isn’t always as dire as it first seems.

The Rolling Stone

It’s better to think of an update like this as a restat or dimmer switch as opposed to a switch that has been flipped in a finite manner. Facebook is likely still checking levels and working through pain points like those noted above. In fact, this past week I received a message from Facebook in my news feed asking me to take a survey to make the platform better. Intrigued, I clicked through roughly a dozen sample posts of varying type (photos, links, news, commenting updates) and rated them on how much I wanted them displayed in my feed.

It’s important to remember that Facebook has to enhance its platform for both users and advertisers. It doesn’t gain them anything to have both parties aggravated. Plummeting reach could lead frustrated marketers to back-off from their paid social ads on the network. (Or Facebook could discover that the market will bear these updates and continue paying for the ads or even increasing their spend.) The reality is that Facebook doesn’t want scorned advertisers anymore than they want disengaged users who might drift to another platform if they find the content less relevant.

But what does all of this mean for you and your brand?

There’s No Way Around the Work

All updates provide a brutal reminder that you really can’t set it and forget it when it comes to social media. Changes to the algorithm can impact what you share, how you engage, and how you’re paying to supplement your reach.

While there’s still significant impact your business can have organically, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where most marketers aren’t utilizing Facebook’s paid ads. They need more advertisers to keep revenue chuggining along and marketers not only want to supplement to their reach, but they can also benefit from the advanced targeting tools and analytics for more effective campaign management.

It can be hard to remember perspective with the constant stream of updates in digital marketing. Unfortunately, the trade-off for getting real-time tools are the accompanying real-time freak-outs and frenzy that are easy to get caught up in.

Take a deep breath, adapt to which way the rolling stone rolls, and remember that there’s no way around doing the work when it comes to social media.

What do you think of Facebook’s latest update? Have you noticed an impact on your page’s reach?

Photo via Flickr user acidpix
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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is Chief Brand Strategist and founder of Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. In addition to his agency work, he teaches social media marketing at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and is the co-host of The Work Talk Show podcast. More about Nick.