A lot of attention has been paid to the effects of Google’s latest updates to its search algorithm.

And rightly so, as the latest changes give long overdue improved ranking to sites that have been optimised for mobile.

However there has been another algorithm change that less attention has been paid to, but could perhaps be just as important. Facebook's new attempt to balance content from friends and pages.

In a company blog post published on April 21, Facebook outlined how it now prioritises content from friends over brand page:

The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline. Overall, pages should continue to post things that your audience finds meaningful and continue using our Page post best practices.

So what does this mean for marketers? The free reach to users that Facebook offered has steadily dwindled over the past few years and this latest change seems to indicate that Facebook is pushing heavily for paid social reach.

In this respect, Facebook is imitating Google by trying to get brands to pay more to reach users and at the same time improving the user experience.

Much like Google encourages best practice in search, Facebook will encourage brands to produce content on their pages that people will actually want to see, creating a better user experience for Facebook in general.  

Another aspect of the algorithm change is how content will be distributed.

Previously, Facebook had rules in place to prevent you from seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row. With this update, they are relaxing this rule. If a user is enjoying certain content, then it will be more likely they will continue to see it.

This change may be in anticipation of the rumoured deals Facebook is pursuing with publishers. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

This is an important development for publishers, as social has overtaken search as the main source of referral traffic. According to Shareaholic, social referrals passed search referrals last summer and is now up to 31% of site traffic as of December, and Facebook is responsible for 79% of those social referrals.

With these changes in mind, it is essential for marketers to ensure that their content is as relevant and engaging as possible, in order to keep hold of all important user attention.

James Ellis

Published 28 April, 2015 by James Ellis

James Ellis is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy. You can connect with him on LinkedIn

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Comments (2)

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Gavin Hudson, Digital Marketing Manager at NCH

I don't have evidence for this, but from running a few 'hobby' pages as well as some business pages, I believe that once you start buying even a few paid posts (ie boosting posts) that your natural reach declines, in order to keep you buying posts.

We have a business page that gets plenty of likes and engagement, but the natural reach of posts stays very low, compared to a personal page that gets more reach even when it attracts few likes and comments.

over 2 years ago

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Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

A very insightful piece. Google has long worked the line that what it does is primarily in the interests of the customer experience and that it penalizes ads with less clicks via the Quality Score as searchers vote that these are not relevant by not clicking. Of course, the main reason is not to maximize profits at Mountain View :). But basically Google found a clever way to sell impressions on a CPC basis, as no clicks means less impressions and/or higher prices.

In the same way Facebook's changes have a dual effect of improving the users' experience but also increasing Facebook's profits. To give them their due, user satisfaction would decline if your newsfeed was full of commercial messages and pictures of kittens from brands. But on the other hand they don't have the same objection to paid for posts appearing in your newsfeed.

I have read a few articles suggesting that Facebook will aim to limit the number of paid for posts by using a premium strategy, i.e. 'pricey ads'. So brands will likely be faced not only with paying to speak to fans but pay ever more to do so.

The alternative is to use social for what social was designed for. Get your fans to share your content and offers so you don't have to pay for every click. That means baking in social from the outset and making it easy and natural to share via any channel your customer wants (whatsapp, viber, boring old email even).

Making offers that people want to share means ensuring that there is something in it for the sharer and the recipient, rewarding people according to what they bring to the table but also rewarding and celebrating super referrers. At Buyapowa we learned that by mixing these correctly you can get your fans and customers to supercharge Social Customer get Customer

over 2 years ago

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