Do you feel like attracting new leads to your business is easy? Do you think it’s simple to continue showing up in search engine results and newsfeeds?
Don’t worry. No one actually says yes to those questions. That’s because marketing to the digital world is hard work. As soon as you think you have one strategy fine-tuned, Google and Facebook shake their snowglobe and everything that once felt settled gets stirred up, broken up, and goes floating around causing mass confusion.
That’s what it felt like for many businesses on January 11th when Facebook announced their biggest algorithm change in years. Perhaps it felt the same for you too? If you rely on Facebook’s platform for any of your online marketing – traffic, social signals, or for use in lieu of an actual website – you probably felt a little kick in your gut too.
What does this change mean for the future of my Facebook page?
How will I reach my audience?
Do I really have to embrace Facebook as a pay-to-play environment now?
And the biggest question…
Is it worth my time to use the platform to promote my business?
I have a lot to say on this matter, so grab a cup of coffee (I’ve got mine sitting next to me in a giant Starbucks mug) and let’s dig in.
Why Update the Algorithm?
Before you can understand what you should do as the new algorithm rolls out, it’s important to understand why Facebook is hitting refresh in the first place. Mark Zuckerberg said this during his announcement (you can read his entire post here; this is just a snippet):
We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.
But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
… research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative – may not be as good.”
It’s time to be honest. When is the last time you scrolled passively through your newsfeed?
I’m a mom to two boys under the age of two. My days are long and my nights are longer these days. I have to consciously stop engaging in passive Facebook newsfeed scrolling during moments in my day when I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Most commonly, that happens at 2 a.m. when my almost 3-month old wakes up for a middle of the night feeding. I’m fighting sleep, so popping open my Kindle and reading line after line is sometimes harder. Scrolling mindlessly through Facebook is easy. It’s also the type of passive experience that steals away the meaning behind the platform.
In those hours, I’m not getting social; I’m becoming a drone. If we’re honest with ourselves, that zombie like state does zero to leave us feeling fulfilled and excited about life.
Enter: the algorithm changes.
Facebook is smart. They’ve recognized that the way we use their platform has changed for the worse. They also recognize that soon we’ll recognize that change in ourselves and veer away from it overall. We’ll head over to Instagram for some uplifting pictures and fun videos. We’ll scoot over to Pinterest to find new recipes and decorating ideas. Ultimately, we’ll refocus our screen time on another platform, which means Facebook’s days could be numbered.
Now, that last statement is a bold one and not at all accurate. Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But, they could if the didn’t iterate and innovate the experience they deliver. And so, that’s just what they’re doing and I couldn’t be happier.
The Algorithm Gaming Days Are Over… Finally!
I’ve long been outspoken about the importance of not creating content for robots. I’ve talked about creating a human connection in marketing. I’ve discussed the importance of having a website over a Facebook page. And I’ve even chatted about how to balance keywords and copywriting so you’re not writing to a machine.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t keep algorithms in mind when producing work, but it should never be the end all be all focus of your digital marketing strategy. Ever. EVER. Yet it seems like every time Google or Facebook announces a major shift in their algorithm, businesses are sent running for the panic button terrified of what it’ll do to their business.
For the companies that have continued to game the algorithms, this panic is justified. But, if your strategy revolves around your end buyer, you’re in good shape. That’s because algorithm changes happen for one reason and one reason only – to give consumers (that includes your buyer) a fantastic experience. If your marketing strategy does the same, the algorithm changes won’t disrupt your current mode of operation.
What Happens Next for Your Business?
The Facebook changes are going to be big. Don’t get me wrong here. But the end changes could be a fantastic opportunity for your business.
If you rely on Facebook to send you traffic, here are two things you need to know.
You might have to start forking over some money.
This isn’t shocking. Facebook has been on the path toward becoming more of a pay-to-play environment for years now. If you haven’t started paying to sponsor posts, now is the time to do so. Take a look at your marketing budget and carve out some dollars to spend toward targeting your audience. It’ll be worth it.
You’ll have to get more engaging to drive results.
Remember how Mark Zuckerberg said his main goal was to stop the passive experience and mindless newsfeed scrolling? Own that. Engage your audience with new ideas and thought-provoking questions. Get them excited to respond. Solicit user-generated content. Spark thoughts that aren’t being talked about in your industry. Whatever you do – engage.
Likes, shares, and comments are only a part of this equation. Facebook will soon fine-tune what they consider engaging, so it’s time to go a little deeper with what you post. It’s not enough to have a group of friends liking your stuff in an effort to signal to Facebook that what you’re sharing is meaningful. You’ll have to actually create fantastic content.
As the Internet changes the way they do things, it’s important for you to remember that you don’t have to be everywhere to make an impact. If Facebook’s changes aren’t going to bring you more business, now might be a good time to step back and reevaluate whether you need a Facebook page at all.
Or, you might want to consider connecting only with a core group of people by creating a Facebook group to reach your target audience.
No matter what you do, remember this. Facebook isn’t a platform for promotion. It’s a platform that’s meant to drive connection. Focus on building your connections and the dollars will naturally follow. Try too hard to solicit new business and you’ll miss opportunity. Because marketing isn’t about sales messages…
… it’s about selling your concept in a way that feels so good, your buyers can’t resist talking about you to others. And that is the true value in social media marketing.