What Facebook’s 2018 Changes Mean for Small Businesses

By 16th January 2018Articles, Digital, Social Media

Major changes to Facebook in 2018Does this major change to Facebook in 2018 really impact your business?

Digital Marketing professionals have been rocked by Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that his new personal challenge will be to radically refocus Facebook in 2018, creating a friendlier platform with more meaningful interactions. This means changes to what content is shown to users and these changes are beginning on the News Feed.

Mark Zuckerberg said of the changes “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media”. Businesses, brands and media were understandably upset.

Facebook’s goal has shifted from helping users find relevant content to helping users have more meaningful social interactions. This is a follow-on from Facebook’s own internal research that showed that people who had the most positive experience of Facebook were those who used the platform for interacting more. Zuckerberg’s change of heart has cost him $3.3Bn so far.

This radical departure certainly seems to be a follow on from the fake news crisis, the Russian bot crisis, research that showed social media was bad for mental health and former executives distancing themselves from the company. Mark Zuckerberg says he was convinced to make the changes as he needs his daughters to know, once they grow up, that Facebook was good for the world.

The changes will begin in the News Feed. Businesses, who often see as little as 3% reach, are understandably worried that a further reduction in organic reach will force them to spend more on Facebook advertising. I think it’s time to make this clear: organic reach has been dead for quite some time and most businesses are now accustomed to using Facebook advertising in some capacity.

Media companies and publishers had been warned by Facebook in advance that they should no longer be reliant on the platform for their traffic or revenue.

Yatter has always been about developing meaningful relationships with close collaborators on social media. Mark’s comments on time spent on social media being more meaningful sit well with us. But we’re also a LEAN startup, which means we like doing things on the cheap.

Here are our tips for businesses, charities and communities looking to continue using Facebook in light of these changes.

The “See First Approach”

How to set Facebook Pages to See First

How to set Facebook Pages to See First

 

A “hack” you’ll have seen doing the rounds is to ask your audience to go to your page, go to the “Audience” button and to request that they hit “See First”. This does what it says on the tin and will make your content appear first in the user’s News Feed.

Algorithm induced panic averted! Or maybe not…

As you can imagine, this would require a lot of goodwill from someone towards your brand to prioritise your content like this. This move is therefore suited to charities and their audiences. If your business is for profit and your content isn’t exactly exhilarating then you’re probably best off asking friends, family and employees to do this as it’ll make your content easier for them to share. This feature has been about a while and is not designed as a cure to Facebook’s 2018 changes.

Utilise Groups and Personal Brands

Before the Business Page was rolled out, many Facebook users used personal profiles for their businesses. Facebook spent years (successfully) getting businesses to convert to using Pages before pulling the rug on organic reach from out under them. Performers and other individuals who relied on a “personal brand”, particularly drag queens, got caught up in a storm around personal profiles requiring “real names”. In the end, Facebook conceded ground and didn’t end up looking too good either.

Organic reach is still strong on personal accounts and will, after this change, presumably get even stronger. If you use Facebook in 2018 as a user on a regular basis you’ll have probably noticed that some friends content is prioritised over others. A whole bunch of engagement metrics – the number of interactions, time spent on someone’s profile, time spent chatting with them on Messenger, number of photos you’re in together etc. are used to calculate which friends matter most to you. This engagement based prioritisation of friends can safely be assumed to be what Mark Zuckerberg means when he talks about the “meaningful” use of Facebook.

the facebook groups logo

The Facebook Groups Logo

 

If you have a small business with little to no advertising budget then you’re going to have to get much better at using your personal profile to post for business purposes. Get used to friending people again. It’s awkward and can certainly come off as tacky but many of your friends might genuinely be interested in your business. It’s certainly worth a shot.

Groups have been used by businesses on Facebook for a long time to build communities, offer a space for customers to come together and communicate about current trends. By developing strong groups, brands on Facebook in 2018 can cultivate small communities of what are essentially brand ambassadors.

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do use your personal profile to promote your business. Don’t post content that’s irrelevant to your audience. Do remember that engagement metrics will impact your organic reach so being considered “spammy” by your friends will damage your impact. Do use groups to cultivate collaboration and to provide value for customers Do use your real name and not your company name on your personal profile. Don’t annoy people. Don’t send friend requests to people you don’t know.

Use Stories

Stories on Facebook in 2018 have been described as a ghost town (of my entire friend group, I have one friend who uses them regularly). Who wants to be the sheriff of a ghost town? After unsuccessfully attempting to buy Snapchat, Facebook decided to clone the much-lauded Stories functionality to its various platforms. Whatsapp Stories, Messenger Stories and Facebook Stories were all considered flops whereas Instagram Stories went on to have a greater daily active audience than the whole of Snapchat! (this success story really highlights the power Facebook in 2018 has in terms of development resources).

Facebook Stories and Messenger Stories went on to merge and still exist at the top of the app today. It’s still a feature that could pick up steam and, depending on how much goodwill you have with your audience, it could work out for your brand to have your logo in front of your audience every single day. Keep in mind that the feature is still reasonably unpopular and that the “Stories” format is much better suited to approachable content than glossy, contrived placements.

How to do it: To create a story for a Page, you need to go to the Page on the Facebook mobile app and click Create Story.
Do’s and Dont’s: do post authentic images and video of people, places and products, don’t post premade graphics and adverts. People would rather see you having fun at the office than the advert you’ve been working on.

Spend More on Advertising

This is what Facebook in 2018 wants you to do. Their social graph tools, remarketing tools and lookalike audiences have created an incredibly effective way of getting your adverts in front of your target audience. Facebook ads are relatively cost-effective and allow for more meaningful analytics tracking such as Cost-Per-Conversion. If your product is consumer-centric then Facebook ads are absolutely essential…

Alternative platforms to Facebook in 2018

Use other platforms

…And if your business isn’t consumer-centric then this might be the time to experiment with other platforms. LinkedIn has a large business audience, still offers strong organic reach to its users and hasn’t had to deal with fake news and trolling epidemics. Google My Business is an essential platform for local businesses while Google+ has a strong audience of photographers and developers. Pinterest and Instagram are the homes of visually appealing products and aspirational design. Meetup and Eventbrite allow people to meet in person to talk about their businesses. Snapchat has a famously teen audience. And Twitter? Twitter is the wild west.

Conclusions

Facebook was famous for its ruthless and aggressive approach towards both user growth and ad revenue growth. Many business users of Facebook in 2018 will be riled to see that the company who once slashed the organic reach on Pages for the purposes of increasing revenue are now further slashing organic reach for the benefit of its user’s psychology. But the lessons from the first cull of reach can be applied to the second cull too. Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that content should be meaningful has always been true. If you want people to interact with your business then create content that they’ll enjoy.

Yatter is a platform created to encourage the development of small networks of close collaborators across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We’re not quite ready to say that these new changes to Facebook vindicate our strategy. Nonetheless, we’re going to find out which brands have traffic and which brands have an audience. The difference is telling.

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Colin Adam

Colin Adam

Colin is a co-founder and the Director of Marketing at Yatter.