Facebook Newsfeed Changes | How to Adapt Your Facebook Strategy in 2018

March 8, 2018

In this podcast, I’m covering a presentation I put together for Interactive Minds discussing the recent Facebook newsfeed changes and how to adapt your Facebook strategy.

So, let’s dive in!

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Here’s what we cover:

  • What the 2018 Facebook newsfeed change is;
  • Why meaningful interactions is now so important;
  • How to adapt your Facebook strategy in 2018 to continue to get reach on your business page;
  • Examples of businesses doing well in the wake of these updates;
  • Why paid advertising is now so important for certain posts;
  • The importance of diversifying your marketing efforts; and
  • Two other social media platforms to start considering.

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I thought that I’d start with a quick story because I think it perfectly illustrates what I’m about to talk about.

Every week, I write a detailed 3000 word blog post on my website about a different aspect of social media. And so, on the second of January while every else was still nursing holiday hangovers, I decided to sit down write my first business blog post of the year.

I called it ‘How to Adapt Your Facebook Strategy  in 2018’.

It took me 6 hours to write that damn thing.

And before I ever even got a chance to post, I logged onto Facebook one day about a week later to see Social Media Examiner doing a live video about how the entire Facebook landscape had changed.

I’ll talk about those changes in a tic, but it’s just the perfect example of how swiftly things in social media change. That blog post’s life span was a day, and in retrospect really I probably should have just spent that day lying on a sun lounge by the beach because a lot of what I wrote wasn’t up to date by the end of the day!

Facebook Newsfeed Update.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, would most likely have already heard about this update bubt I thought it might be useful to pick it apart in plain english.

It started with a Facebook announcement by Mark Zuckerberg that the Facebook newsfeed would changing to put family and friends first.

Which is totally fine, because to be honest I miss the posts from friends and family.

Ignore the marketing side for a moment.

Remember the days when we all used to use Facebook to actually interact, socialise and connect?

These days, no-one does this. We’re not posting status updates or photo albums on our personal pages anymore. Unless we go on holiday, we never upload pictures. Unless we get engaged, we never post status updates. The last status update that I made on my personal page was in August last year when I got engaged in Santorini!

That’s a problem for Facebook, because they want us to be happy and enjoying the platform in order to keep our attention there and make it an attractive option for advertiser.

So, the more friends and family thing is GOOD – for us, and for Facebook.

Less posts from business, brands and publishers.

It was LATER in the post though that came the bombshell that sent marketers scrambling.

Facebook explicitly announced that they’re “limiting” public content from brands, businesses, and publishers… looking to hold them to a higher standard.

In Zuckerberg’s own words, brand content should encourage “meaningful interactions between people.”

The ‘meaningful interactions’ part is key. And in plain english, what it means is that Facebook is prioritising conversation and interaction and community over everything else.

It’s a significant move away from its previous goal, which was to prioritise content people found relevant – which was measured by ENGAGEMENT. The problem with that was that brands, publishers and the like were finding ways of gaming the system by ‘engagement baiting’ and other spammy tactics.

A lot of commentators have speculated on what meaningful interactions actually refers to. Facebook have TOLD us on their blog:

“Some of the specific things would be like we’re going to be (weighing) long comments more than short comments, because we find regularly that if you take the time to actually write a more thoughtful perspective on something that correlates positively with a comment that someone actually would respond to or Like.

One thing in particular that has stood out to me with other peoples commentary around these changes is how negative they have been about them and I want to shift that perception because I have a very different view.

Yes, the bottom line is that brands will have a more difficult time showing up in the feeds of their fans and followers. And to be completely frank, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, because I think that there has been a lot of lazy marketing out there, and what this change will do is push a lot of the salesly, promotional content out and really make room for brands who are willing to adapt or that have already been doing a great job and providing value.

So, let’s chat about a few ways that you can take advantage of the changes in this space and really be one of the business that thrive.

And let me just say, this is NOT an exhaustive list.

There’s things like personalisation and chatbots and the like that I haven’t even touch on, because they are topics in themselves. But these are practical, actionable steps you can take now to improve your reach on Facebook.

Adjust your organic strategy

Facebook has TOLD us what to do in order to maintain a level of organic reach in newsfeed. And let me just say that although organic reach is declining, I really don’t subscribe to the assertion that it is ALL pay to pay these days

If you’re creative, strategic and smart about your content strategy, there is absolutely still scope for some organic reach.

Yes, 1% organic reach is something that happens to businesses who post lazy promotional content. But it’s not a given fate.

Here’s a few ways you can maximise you organic reach in the face of these changes.

And they all come down to that one point, which is prioritising meaningful interactions.

  • Don’t rely on video as the magic bullet.

This is one misconception that I really want to clear up.

We all hear about video being ‘prioritised’ in the newsfeed, and certainly prior to the most recent updates video – any video – as a post type was given favourable treatment to video content as a medium on Facebook.

This is no longer the case. And it is a complete shift in the way that Facebook has previously spoken about video.

According to Facebook’s Head of Newsfeed, “there will be less video. Video is an important part of the ecosystem. It’s been consistently growing. But it’s more passive in nature. There’s less conversation on videos, particularly public videos”.

This is pretty clear, right?

So, no more video for video’s sake. Just like ANY OTHER POST TYPE, it needs to get meaningful interactions in order to be prioritised.

A good example of a company doing this well – and I only say that because I am the ex-Head of Marketing for them and put the social strategy together – is Place Estate Agents (facebook.com/placenf).

Place interview local businesses and community groups that are of interest to the residents of their local area, and they stand out because they are adding value and not doing the traditional real estate agent thing of just posting just listeds and just solds. Their videos naturally attract good engagement from people interacting with the content and each other.

A recent video on a local ice cream shop, for example, attracted 17,000 organic views and 36,000 in total.

This video did well, but not by virtue of the fact that it was video.

Number one, it was good content. It was seasonal, topical and local and people wanted to talk about it.

Number two. It was posted natively on Facebook. Facebook doesn’t want people to leave its platform, and so external linking isn’t good for organic reach.

Number three. It was made specifically for social media. It’s in a square format, which takes up more screen real estate than 16:9 and so attracts more attention. It used short, snappy cuts to grab peoples attention.

And so that’s the important thing to remember. Video done WELL, in context with great creative can still perform well. BUT taking the same lazy promotional tactics over to video isn’t going to cut it.

  • Ask questions

A case in point that video isn’t of itself being prioritised though is in this TEXT update from Woolies.

It’s not a video, but it’s got over 2,600 comments because it posed a question to their follower in a spam-free way to encourage meaningful interaction.

The fact that a text based update is doing better than video post these updates is really telling.

  • Experiment with live video.

Facebook ITSELF has told us that live video generates 6 times more interactions than regular video. Therefore, it’s a no brainer and something that your brand should be experimenting with. The live nature of this type of video encourages groups of people to watch together in real time and creates a shared experience, and because anything could happen it’s a more real and authentic type of content.

This can be a risky turn off for some brands and as a result not a lot are doing it, which leaves huge opportunity. I actually couldn’t find many brands doing it well.

Benefit Cosmetics were onto something by using influencers and putting together a regular live show where they did make up tutorials and talked about beauty products, which is just gold for creating engagement with their audience.

  • Facebook Groups.

Facebook was explicit in its statement that in addition to posts from friends and family, groups would be the other type of content that would be prominent in the newsfeed.

Group content tends to inspire conversation and communities on Facebook are becoming increasingly active and vibrant.  By it’s very nature, it encourages meaningful conversation.

Another recent change to Facebook in the past six months has been the introduction of Groups for Pages, in which businesses can either create or link a Facebook group to their business page. Previously this wasn’t possible and a group needed to be created by a personal profile, so it’s a big change.

For those reasons it’s certainly something to consider as a way of really building community around your brand, and getting that engagement that it’s really a lot more difficult to get now in the Facebook newsfeed.

Some examples might be to use a group to reward your customers with special updates and offers. Another great way to use them is to build a community around an interest relevant to your brand. For example, Pelaton bike company has over 64000 people as part of its Group, which is linked to its 334,000-strong Page. There, community managers lead conversations about favorite instructors, biking gear, and fitness goals.

It’s important to remember though that Facebook can and does changes the rules often. At the moment, Facebook Groups are still organic and not yet monetised. Given the limited inventory in places like the newsfeed, mark my words that it’s only a matter of time until this changes and it’s something to keep in mind.  

One other thing to keep in mind is that they can be very time consuming to keep active, and will require a community manager to oversee them usually. They will for obvious reasons require policing.  

For both of those reasons, there really aren’t at the moment too many brands that are really going all in on groups just yet – which you might either take as an opportunity to stand out or a red flag. Personally, I’m still on the fence.

  1. Invest in Facebook ads

The biggest uproar in relation to these newsfeed changes came from those lamenting that their reach would decline.

It’s a good time to remember that the organic news feed is a FREE platform, and that we were NEVER promised free advertising forever.

So, rather than wasting energy on Facebook over the alleged plot to force us to spend more on paid promotion, it’s time to view the targeting and reach of Facebook as the TREMENDOUS opportunity that it is.

If you’re not investing significantly in Facebook ads, now is the time. I hate the term pay to play, but the bottom line is that if you want to do things that benefit you – most notably drive traffic away from Facebook and onto your website – you’re going to have to pay in order to do so.

One likely consequence of the changes to the newsfeed and reduced organic reach for some brands is that they will also be turning to Facebook ads.

Given that the available inventory is limited, the likely consequences is that demand will further outstrip supply and ad costs on Facebook will rise.

In many ways this was an inevitability, and it’s a very similar scenario to what happened a few years back with Google Adwords which started off outrageously cheap with costs obviously rising over time.

My advice is this.

Facebook ads is still cost effective, and with the targeting capabilities and data that Facebook has access to, it’s the smart form of advertising available to most businesses

It is MUCH more important in the face of these recent changes to consider supplementing your organic Facebook efforts, which if you do it well are great for brand awareness, with paid advertising which is great for traffic and conversion.

  1. Diversify

This latest update is just, at the end of the day, a very salient reminder that we do not have control of platforms like Facebook, and it highlights the potential and the fact that it is prudent to be diversifying our digital marketing efforts.

I’d like to highlight two other social media platforms where, depending on the business type, I personally feel that there is really tremendous opportunity at the moment.  

The first of those being Pinterest.

In the wake of the Facebook newsfeed changes, one of the categories of business that will be most heavily affected by the changes will be those that are using content marketing to drive traffic to their website. If this is your business or your business objective, you WILL need to pay for advertising on Facebook in order to continue to see the traffic you have traditionally seen.

If you target audience is there and traffic is what you’re after, though, I would strongly recommend considering Pinterest as a traffic driver to your website. It’s easily able to be automated with a third party app like Tailwind, and because it is ultimately a search engine that doesn’t rely on a single newsfeed it has the capacity to deliver more and more traffic over time.

Pinterest is a fantastic way generate traffic to your website.

So going back to the 3000 word blog posts that I write on my website every week, Because I write blogs each week and use Tailwind to schedule it, Pinterest is actually the biggest driver of traffic to my website aside from SEO, and hands down beats any of the other social media network in terms of organic traffic

The second is LinkedIn.

There’s so little competition in terms of content at present on LinkedIn, and so much traffic, and such a favourable  algorithm that businesses are really able to generate a lot of high quality views and engagement on the platform for no cost if you use it as a content marketing channel and a way of consistently provide value through content.

It’s currently transitioning from a job search site a true professional community with a heavy emphasis on content marketing and education, which leave tremendous opportunity for those who are in early (and yes, it’s still early) to leverage it.

So there you have it. There really is no doubt the Facebook newsfeed changes are a big deal. But if you don’t take anything else away from this, take this – it’s far from Facebook Armageddon for business.

The biggest thing to remember that is that Facebook has really changed its focus. It’s changed its focus from being essentially a publisher or media company to over and above anything else prioritising meaningful interactions.

If you want organic reach you need to adjust your organic strategy to do what Facebook wants you to do, which is to get meaningful interactions.

If you want traffic and conversions, you need to be investing in Facebook ads now before the costs inevitably rise.

And finally, like I just said you need to be diversifying. We don’t own Facebook and the rules constantly change!

Keep Listening!

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