On January 11, 2018 Facebook released a news post that highlights how the social network is going to change its post ranking algorithm throughout 2018. When the world’s largest social network talks about changing how it chooses content to show to users people pay attention, as shown by the number of news stories over the past 24 hours.
What does this really mean for marketers though? For three years Facebook has been telling marketers that organic reach will decline, and it has, but paid reach has remained stable or increased. So, will these changes mean anything for brands who are using Facebook as a promotional platform?
According to our Facebook representatives, no:
“We are not making any changes to ads ranking at this time. However, if a Page post is getting less organic reach due to this ranking change, it may see a slight impact within the ads auction, if boosted.”
Full statement in our POV, download button below.
Facebook January 19th Update
On January 19th Facebook announced another update to the organic News Feed that highlights how trust will drive content quality using three factors:
- Trusted sources
- Informative content
- Local news
We have confirmation from Facebook that this does not affect the ad ranking algorithm so our position has not changed: these organic changes will not materially affect marketers sponsoring posts on the platform.
Overall, there are three outcomes that we think marketers should look for with these changes.
1. Promoted Content Unlikely to Change
First, we think it’s unlikely that Facebook will reduce the density of ads in the News Feed. Currently, they are front-loaded and tend to be on the order of one in ten (give or take, based on non-scientific counts). While the content of organic posts will change, the sponsored material likely won’t, or at least not as much (see below).
2. More Relevance Means More Engaged Users
If the value of Facebook increases for its user base because they see more relevant material from friends and fewer “click bait” posts, which they’ve been fighting since 2014, then we feel that will only help marketers. Sponsored posts in an environment of higher quality friend content will be able to leverage a more engaged audience. But… only if the brand produces quality material that resonates with its audience. Business as usual for pharma may not be the best tactic here and marketers may want to update their key engagement metrics and look at past performance to see which posts got the most engagement from the audience.
3. Engagement is the Gold Standard
One factor that may influence even sponsored placement in the News Feed is engagement quality. The video that accompanies the news post from Facebook clearly indicates that engagement quality, as well as quantity, is going to have more influence on the post rank algorithm through 2018.
In summary, Facebook is doubling down on its reduction of organic traffic for brand pages, but we expect little change for marketers. Why? Organic reach is already between 1-2% for brand pages with 500,000 followers or more so it’s already not an issue. Sponsored posts are currently the only way to get messaging in front of the audience and this will continue to be true. If marketers want to take any learning from this announcement it is that engagement will become more important.
The outstanding question for pharma marketers who run “locked down” pages is how much this reduction in user engagement is hurting their Facebook results. Is it coincidence that the top two branded pages (Gilenya and Nexium) have comments turned on?
Two common pharma tactics may need to be reviewed by the brand managers using them:
- Pharma whitelisted pages with comments and likes turned off
- So-called “shell” pages that have no organic posts and use only media “dark” posts
If Facebook is moving towards a model where deeper engagement through comments and discussions becomes more important, then brand pages with comments on may have an advantage.
Get your own copy of the full report, including the full statement from Facebook on the change: