Prioritizing meaningful interactions: The Facebook News Feed update and how it affects pharma

Patients & Purpose
Jan 16, 2018 · 4 min read

On January 11th, Facebook announced that they will soon be rolling out a drastic algorithm change to the Facebook News Feed. Facebook will now begin prioritizing content that generates authentic and thoughtful conversation, particularly among friends. This will more than likely greatly reduce the visibility of organic content that results in passive behavior (eg, simply watching videos, reading articles, quick scrolling).

With this update, Facebook is making a shift from helping users find relevant content to helping them have a more meaningful experience with those that they are close to. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “As we roll this out, you will see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

While this is a big change, there weren’t many details in the announcement, so the exact impact is something that is still to be fully determined. Even without all the details, there is a lot we can infer and things that can be actioned on.

Why is Faceboook doing this?

Ever since Facebook’s dawn as a college student–only network in 2004, it has consistently emphasized meaningful sharing among friends and networks.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg based the decision to update the News Feed algorithm on community feedback and research that showed that passive social media activity may be detrimental to mental health. The research further concluded that strengthening interactions builds better online relationships, thus leading to improved well-being.

How will Facebook rank content going forward?

Moving forward, Facebook News Feed content will roughly follow this order:

  1. Conversation-based content among friends, such as:
  • Friends seeking advice
  • Articles that may inspire conversation (eg, debatable topics)

2. Conversations within groups a person may be a part of

  • For example, support groups for medical conditions

3. Public Page content with reactive conversation, such as:

  • Live videos
  • News pieces
  • Other content that inspires emotional sharing

There is no indication that paid advertising on Facebook will be affected by this change. Since Facebook is a business that is held to revenue standards, ads will more than likely continue to rank highly. But with increased demand, brands will have to compete harder for a place in people’s News Feeds.

How does this affect Public Pages?

Standard measuring metrics will drop for every page. Some pages will be affected more than others depending on the content being served.

Pages that rely on organic posts will feel the metrics drop further, particularly if the content does not garner engagements. Keep in mind that the organic post view rate was as low as 2%, even before the update.

Content and distribution strategy will need adjustment, both immediately and long-term.

What can pharma brands do now?

1. Ensure page commenting is enabled. Brands that opted to turn off comments on their posts are at a severe disadvantage, since comment engagement will be highly valued.

2. Adjust your content strategy objectives to prioritize commentary and shares. Create high quality content (in whatever format is best) that is more likely to generate dialogue with your community. This comes down to creating content that is helpful, educational, entertaining, and most of all relevant to your audience. Do not create engagement bate (ie, content that explicitly asks people to comment/like/react/share), as Facebook will demote this content.

3. Pay (more) to play. With both organic and boosted public posts losing reach in this update, it’ll be imperative to invest more funds into boosted posts and ads. We suggest you prioritize boosting posts and ads that encourage commentary vs simple viewing.

What should pharma brands consider longer term?

1. Integrate Facebook Live Q&As. Facebook Live content naturally encourages conversation between the broadcaster and your follower base. Brands can invite experts related to your brand for a Q&A (eg, a nutritionist to share diet tips for patients on chemotherapy).

2. Consider building out your page’s Facebook groups. Groups encourage conversation among members as well as page admins. Since each condition has a number of pain points and unanswered questions, brands can build groups based on those interests. Focus on sharing and interacting within your community groups as well as your main page.

3. Explore influencer partnerships. Influencers may have a ranking advantage with their direct connections to patients and caregivers. Having trustworthy influencers help spread your content can be a great way to make an impact.

4. Host and promote events. Events send non-post alerts to followers that the page is hosting an event of interest. Whether you’re hosting a Facebook Live Q&A or creating a meet-up among members, event reminders do not rely on the News Feed to keep your brand in front of your followers.

A constantly moving target

Facebook (and social in general) still remains one of the most important places to reach patients and caregivers due to its reach, usage, and targeting capabilities. While this is seemingly a significant update, this isn’t the first time that Facebook has proclaimed that pages will receive a lower priority in the News Feed. In both 2014 and 2016 Facebook said similar things, and page content didn’t go away.

This also surely won’t be Facebook’s last News Feed update. Similar to how brands constantly revisit their SEO strategies to match Google’s ever-changing algorithm, content strategy on social channels like Facebook will have to constantly evolve.

As the update rolls out and more time passes, other strategies and methods will surface to ensure your content is optimized.

Please be sure to reach out to your P&P brand team or our Emerging Digital Group (EDG) to discuss this and other social areas of interest.

Patients & Purpose POVs

We have a lot to say about patients, digital, healthcare marketing, and tech.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade