Since the 2016 election, Facebook has been a lightning rod for anxieties and outrage surrounding politics and privacy. With the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the sale of personal data from nearly 87 million unwitting users for the purpose of political hypertargeting, the flame under Facebook’s hot seat has reached an all time high. Some advertisers like Mozilla and SpaceX/Tesla have gone as far as to suspend their ads or even delete their facebook pages, joining thousands of users behind the #deletefacebook movement.
While it’s unclear how many users left the social media platform, the hashtag appeared over 10,000 times over a two hour span the day the story broke, with nearly 50,000 mentions in the following week. At the very least, Facebook saw over $60 billion drop from its market valuation, and a new poll shows that 84% of users are somewhat or very concerned about how Facebook uses their data. Still, Facebook remains an integral part of our lives — countless accounts require a Facebook to log in — and the platform has close to 2 billion users.
In the end, will leaving really make a difference? Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia put it this way:
“Yeah. I mean, we could delete our profiles. A few hundred thousand Americans delete their profiles, doesn’t matter because, you know, a few hundred thousand people in India just signed up for Facebook.”
Long story short: your audience isn’t going anywhere, and if it did, Facebook’s reliance on ad money won’t allow it to be gone for long.
In response to the damage, Facebook is moving forward with renewed transparency efforts, allowing users to view and modify which third party apps access their data. Moreover, Facebook is doubling down on its 2018 promise to make Facebook a place for cultivating conversations and community between friends and family.
For advertisers, brands and publishers, this means further changes to the already heavily modified News Feed algorithm, and drastically reduced News Feed real estate as a result. Moving forward, Facebook will prioritize content that generates reactions, shares, and multiple comments by users and downplay “public” content, or content published from brand and business pages.
To many publishers, this might seem like the beginning of the end, but there are plenty ways to adapt and come out ahead of the curve.
1. Focus on conversation-worthy content
Facebook’s new algorithm favors content that is shared by users rather than pages, as well as content with high active engagement (reactions, shares and comments) rather than passive engagement (views, hovering). Buffer shows the prioritized engagement below:
In order to create content that your community wants to share or discuss, think about what’s valuable to them. Ask them questions. Offer up video — whether live or produced — that is interesting, thought-provoking, and ultimately, worthy of conversation. One thing to keep in mind: don’t use engagement or tag bait — Facebook has a harsh policy of squashing anything that looks like its begging users to tag friends or comment.
2. Invest in paid ads
While organic content from brand pages is likely to take a nosedive under these changes, paid content will remain unaffected. If your brand hasn’t explored boosting content through paid campaigns, it’s never been a better time to start. On top of its unaffected status, Facebook advertising is measurable, relatively cheap and scalable.
3. Pivot to video — live video if possible
Video is one of the most engaging forms of content — in fact, it generates 1200% more shares than both images and text, perhaps because our brains are built for absorbing visual information over words. In an environment where active engagement and conversation-starting content is the priority, video is key. Live video is even better. On average live video garners six times the number of interactions as regular video, and tends to be watched for longer. Video content doesn’t have to be studio-quality, either. Anything you can do to get a conversation started in your user community is worth investigating, just make sure it’s square, short and designed to be viewed without sound for best results.
4. Create your own communities with Groups
Tapping into the idea of interest networks where groups of like-minded users share content with hyper-engaged users, Facebook Groups are a great way to reach folks organically since they provide authenticity and aren’t affected by new algorithm changes. Folks that are in existing groups relevant to your brand or that join a group started by your brand are there of their own accord and want to discuss and share content pertinent to their interests.
5. Tap into your employees’ networks
If your employees aren’t sharing your content now, they should be. Research shows that users are 16 times more likely to read a social post from a friend rather than a brand. Your employees are already using social media, so consider working with your marketing department to make it easy for employees to share company news and information from their personal accounts.
Although Facebook and other social platforms will continue to shift their content algorithms to respond to privacy, transparency and trust issues, they simply will not continue without advertising dollars. With advertising making up 96% of Facebook’s revenue, rest assured that brands and publishers will have a place in the ecosystem, as long as we are willing to build trust with our users and create content that actually provides value for our communities.