How You Can Make the Most of the New News Feed

Facebook hasn’t had a great couple of years. The social network has been blamed for a lot: filter bubbles, social media addiction, Russian election interference, the spread of fake news, and adverse effects on our mental well-being. Trying to change its narrative, Facebook announced a significant change to the way your News Feed works. The short: the company is hoping to realign with its original value proposition of bringing people together and creating an online community where we can share special moments with friends and family.

I say this is significant because it will have a major impact on the type of content you see on the platform and will change the way we get information about the world. Yes, posts from family and friends have always been important; but people relied on the platform for more diverse reasons. In fact, 66 percent of Americans said they were on Facebook to get news in 2016. Now, there won’t be as much news in the News Feed.

In the effort to connect people, Facebook is trying to reduce the amount of content you’ll see directly from brands and created by digital publishers like BuzzFeed and Mic. The new algorithm rewards posts that it thinks will spark meaningful back and forth, not just posts that are going viral or that have significant spend supporting them.

Many brands are worried — and for good reason. This change will, no doubt, affect the number of eyeballs on posts as people spend less time scrolling. I’m not really worried. I’m actually a bit inspired by this new challenge. At OBERLAND, we believe in the importance of purposeful communications, in brands that spark a back and forth with their audience and want to make change in the world and share it with everyone.

Our opportunity? It’s an algorithm adjustment, not a ban on content. Therefore, we adjust. We’ll work harder to create content with which consumers actually want to engage. So, let’s commit to enhancing the way we work, to ensure that our audience feels something when they see a piece of content, that they are compelled to take an action or that we open their eyes to an unknown or misunderstood viewpoint.

We can do that in a few key ways:

  1. Know our audience inside and out — and know how they behave on Facebook. No surprise, we’re already doing this, but we can do more. As a planner, this is what I’m most excited by. It’s not enough to just know who your customers are. We need to know what they’re about, what they believe in, what motivates them, what keeps them up at night. This helps us make creative that strikes the right tone that they’ll want to share. We also have to know about them outside of the category or industry: hobbies, types of activities they like. This helps us target more effectively on the platform and ensure, if we’re spending money to promote a post, we’re doing it in the most strategic way.
  2. Foster real conversations. Through our content, we need to be asking followers to get involved. If Facebook is rewarding posts that inspire a “meaningful back and forth,” we need to be doing exactly that. We can use body copy to ask questions and prompt conversations. And, if someone makes a comment, we’ve got to respond. The same goes for Messenger. If someone sends your brand a private message, make sure you respond. The algorithm will reward this.
  3. Ensure that all creative is optimized for Facebook and that it looks great. No surprise, we’re always going to deliver beautiful, on-brief creative. But we’re going to make sure that we are meeting all of Facebook’s specs to make the most of every single post. We think high-quality images and video (and animation, too) are still the best on Facebook. The kind of content that gets you to stop and read — not just scroll endlessly — will do well. Within these posts, we’ll caption appropriately and use metadata to drive audiences to other websites, we’ll make sure that videos have subtitles so that even if viewers are just passively scrolling, they’ll understand what is happening. We’ll lean in to new formats like vertical video that works great for Instagram and Facebook stories and Facebook fundraising capabilities. We’re going to make the most of these tools.
  4. Differentiate our social strategy across platforms. We’ve been doing this, too. But, we always have room to do more. What’s going to work on Facebook won’t necessarily work on Twitter or on Instagram. We’ll make sure that anything created for Facebook has an appropriate tone and voice for the platform and is complementary (not identical) to content we will be posting on other channels. For years, agencies have been talking about a “steady drumbeat of content” on Facebook, but, maybe it’s time to change that. While it might still work for some, we’re in favor of content that will actually reach the most eyeballs.
  5. Use our content to drive audiences away from Facebook. The News Feed shift has already lowered the amount of time people are spending on Facebook. To that end, we need to get your audiences comfortable with your other properties online. Whether that’s other social media sites, your Medium page, a microsite for members, or getting people to sign up for your email list, we’re going to drive people there. We’re not abandoning Facebook, but we’re also not sure how significant the usage decline will be. We don’t want to chance it. You’re all doing important work and we have to make sure the right people know about it.

Sure, some of these tactics may seem obvious — and with good reason. We don’t foresee any severe changes to our ways of working, any need to abandon Facebook, or any reason to panic. The News Feed change is a big deal for many, but it allows us to work smarter. And that’s exactly what we plan to do with you as we try to find new audiences, convert new customers, and tell your story in a bigger way.

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