3 Experts Weigh In on Facebook’s Biggest Feed Changes in Years

The following is a post from our CEO Jim Louderback:

The Facebook Feedpocalypse that exploded over the weekend shows no signs of abating, as Mark Zuckerberg’s blog post detailing some of the biggest algorithm changes to Facebook in years has media companies and creators in a panic.

In his post, Zuckerberg said Facebook will now prioritize posts from people you know that spark engagement and conversation over posts from brands and publications. What does it all mean? What should you do? To get a few expert opinions, I reached out to Mark Robertson (former head of growth marketing at Tubular Labs) and Gavin McGarry (CEO of Jumpwire Media), two of the smartest researchers of the Facebook algorithm (who will share their findings at VidCon Europe in March and VidCon US in June), along with Nikolas Schriefer (CEO of Stagelink) who is helping us with digital marketing in Europe.

The first advice I got channelled the attitude of author Douglas Adams: “Don’t Panic.” Facebook has always targeted shares, comments, and reactions when it comes to videos. Robertson pointed out that “videos that aren’t engaging or inspiring won’t get much exposure,” but that’s always been the case. A skeptical McGarry went even further, insisting that “none of this makes any sense.” According to McGarry, “this has been going on for a long time…I’ve heard it before.” He went on to poke holes in Facebook’s stated desire to focus on content that makes us happy, saying, “we don’t want to focus on friends and family, we want things that make us feel better. And that’s NOT our friends and family!”

Here’s what else the three had to say:

Q: How Will the Facebook News Feed Changes Affect Businesses?

Gavin McGarry: “We just don’t know yet. They have been running these algorithm changes for a while now — this is not something that just came out yesterday. We have seen very little change so far. If you have great authentic content that’s not clickbait or engagement bait…people will share it. It doesn’t matter if it is friends or family, the Facebook algorithm is built for sharing.”

Nikolas Schriefer: “[Businesses] will probably have to pay now to get their message across and into the feed in the first place. It will be interesting to see how ads differ from organic posts”

Mark Robertson: “According to Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed for Facebook, these changes will result in Facebook showing ‘less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses’ within the news feed. [But,] I believe that it’s a bit early to predict exactly how this will ultimately affect businesses.”
“These changes will affect some businesses more-so than others. However, the clear implication here is that media companies, publishers, and content marketers who have relied heavily on organic distribution and audience development, will need to reevaluate their approach to content programming as well as distribution. For organic distribution, quality will trump quantity (as it should). However, “quality” will be now be defined, evaluated, and rewarded when it encourages “meaningful social interactions,” an obvious talking point within Facebook’s communications around this change.”

Q: What Should Businesses Do Now to React?”

Gavin McGarry: “They need to focus on having strong original content that’s not engagement bait. Understand their audience, focus on the audience, and give them great stuff they want. Also, focus on “Unicorn Posting” by setting engagement parameters for a post, and if it gets, say, 25 likes and 5 comments in 5 hours then boost it with 10 dollars for one day. It’s really about making really good authentic content and then boosting it if it takes off.”

Nikolas Schriefer: “Engage, don’t just tell. And develop (plus test) an ad strategy.”

Mark Robertson: “Businesses which rely heavily on organic reach within Facebook will likely need to make some immediate and tough decisions to adjust their business model and strategy. Facebook (like most platforms) consistently makes adjustments to its algorithms. Smart businesses have learned that autopilot does not work and that they need to constantly embrace change and evolve through testing and performance measurement.”
”To retain some organic exposure, businesses may benefit through publishing and promoting more live video events, participating within Facebook groups, and even working more with influential figures that drive rabid engagement. Outside of newsfeed exposure, business can continue to engage with their fans and followers via additional tools like messenger, chatbots, and of course additional platforms within the Facebook family — WhatsApp and Instagram. To supplement audience growth development tactics (IE gaining new followers and fans), businesses will likely need to embrace additional paid promotion.”

Both Mark Robertson and Gavin McGarry will be sharing their insight at VidCon Europe in Amsterdam in March.

Q: What will you be doing between now and VidCon Europe to really get to the bottom of these changes?

Gavin McGarry: “We are researching like crazy, but mostly we are going to be doing some testing in the newsfeed. We are changing how we write content for Facebook, with best practices that exclude words and sentence structures that sound too “selly.” We are shooting and editing more video on the iPhone to take advantage of meta-tagging that gives Facebook authenticity signals. Really we’re doing anything that leads to an authentic experience. And we’re focusing more on live video.

Mark Robertson: “As a consultant and analyst, it’s always been my job to do all that I can to stay abreast of, and dive deep into, the implications of any and all platform changes. And thankfully, I geek out on this stuff. Between now and VidCon Europe, I will be diving deep into analytics (both platform native analytics and third-party analytics) to decipher how these changes affect the performance of various content types (particularly video of course) within the Facebook ecosystem. I will also be conversing and working directly with clients and video publishers within the industry to compare notes on what’s working and what’s not.

“Let’s just say that I’ll be very busy over the next few months to provide VidCon Europe attendees with some valuable direction. And, if Adam Mosseri would like to grab lunch – my treat.”

In short, all three experts agreed that a renewed focus on posting engaging content that sparks conversations between friends and family was the right strategy. Each also confirmed that you’ll need a mix of paid and organic to truly stand out — just relying on organic posting simply isn’t enough. And both Mark and Gavin said that they’ll be burning the midnight oil to investigate, test, and research ways for their clients to profit from these changes.

And they both will be sharing their insights at VidCon Europe in Amsterdam March 22-24 and VidCon US in Anaheim California on June 21-23. Buy your tickets today! If Facebook is part of your business plans, you can’t afford NOT to hear the secrets, strategies, and tactics they uncover!