How to Adapt Your Facebook Strategy in 2018 to Survive

 

“Facebook is so f*$&king crap now,” – my brother Scott, two weeks ago.

We were sitting in the car talking about my business, and how I help + teach businesses about Facebook strategy and advertising.

“It’s ALL ads and stupid videos of dogs”, he said.

“No-one cares about it anymore”.

It got me thinking, and I realised that he kinda had a point.

Facebook Changes Scott

I remember joining Facebook for the very first time 11 years ago. I was sitting in a youth hostel in Guatemala and was chatting to some English friends I’d met there.

They told me about this new social media platform that was big in the UK. It was kind of like MySpace, they said, but even better

I freakin’ loved MySpace (RIP) so I signed up on the spot, and started posted photos of my travels through South America.

My friends back in Australia signed up too, because I’d sent them the link so that they could see my photos.

I’d use Facebook to keep in touch with them, and to stay connected to new friends I met on my travels.

We’d write on each other’s Facebook walls.

Facebook in the old days

 

We’d post albums of photos and status updates about what was happening in our day.

Facebook in the old days two

It was social, everyone was interacting, and it was fun.

—-

Those were the good old days, when people used Facebook to interact, and socialise, and CONNECT.

And it’s that connection and one-to-one interaction that originally enticed over 2 billion people worldwide to jump on board.

But you know what?

Scott was right. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that those days were gone.

I mean, we still log on multiple times a days.

For better or for worse, it’s a daily habit that’s ingrained in us.

But for the most part it seems like we’re all SICK the stuff we’re seeing – or more to the point, the stuff we’re NOT seeing anymore.

These days, 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 socialising that we all jumped on board Facebook for in the first place doesn’t reaaaally exist anymore.

And so, we’re not seeing personal content from our family and friends in our newsfeeds anymore – because no-one’s really posting it!

On the flip side, businesses in recent years have really embraced Facebook as a means to cost effectively (aka freely!) promote their businesses. And they’ve jumped on board in droves.

Publishers have started using Facebook to promote their content. It’s worked, and they’ve all fervently jumped on board the Facebook express too.

Facebook has introduced its ads platform, which has given businesses and brands the opportunity to target their messages to their audiences within newsfeeds at prices that are still, for the most part, extremely cost effective.

And now?

Facebook has hit critical mass, with 2 billion users, and countless business pages, and publishers, all on the platform and jostling for attention – but with businesses and brands dominating.

Something, at some stage, had to give.

12 January 2018 is the day that it did.

Here’s what has happened, in a nutshell.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement on his Facebook page (funnily enough).

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

 

He said THIS (I’m summarising):

“…we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions”.

“…you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

“…there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones.”

“…too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”

The Internet went c-razy.

I first heard about the announcement on Social Media Examiners live feed, where host Michael Stelzer read and interpreted the update in real time.

He’s normally a pretty cool cat, but he kinda lost his cool and was blowing out about it all, which to be honest was kinda entertaining to watch.

Social Media Examiner Facebook Changes

 

Everyone started commenting and wondering and making assumptions and freaking out, and to be honest in social media land it was like the equivalent to being told that the sky was falling down.

I geeked out on it all, and posted my own thoughts on it too.

 

Huge Facebook News

 

It was the second most popular post on my Facebook page of all time.

 

Facebook Analytics Screenshot

 

Since then, I’ve read more from Facebook about their plans, and I’ve also had to think about it all.

And, so, I thought it might be useful to share some of my more considered thoughts.

I also want to dispel some of the information going around at the moment that is just flat out wrong, because I’m reading and seeing it and I’m shaking my head.

So, here goes – what we know, what we can assume, and what I think we should do about it.

 

WHAT DO WE KNOW FOR SURE?

1. THERE’S GOING TO BE LESS PUBLIC CONTENT FROM BRANDS, BUSINESSES AND PUBLISHERS.

Facebook has said exactly that, in black and white.

But how will it choose WHICH content continues to be seen, and which gets canned?

Well, they tell us that too…

 

2. MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS ARE GOING TO BE GIVEN PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT OVER RELEVANT CONTENT.

Facebook is changing it’s number one goal from finding relevant content to creating meaningful interactions.

One of the biggest problems with measuring it’s previous goal – ie content people found relevant – was that the metrics used were always able to be gamed.

Or in other words, businesses, publishers and marketers ruined things for everyone.

For example, when Facebook started using engagement as a way of determining whether a piece of content was popular or not, brands started ‘baiting’ people into leaving comments just to lift the popularity of their content.

So, what does this new goal – aka creating meaningful interactions – mean?

Basically, it’s that new algorithm will favour content that draws a lot of comments even over posts that are popular, but don’t elicit comments.

Facebook’s Head of Newsfeed Adam Mosseri gave us more some insight into this, mentioning that longer comments in particular are going to be given more weight.

“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”.

He also expressly said that sharing would be demoted as an action.

This point is the BIG one, guys. Everything that you do on Facebook from here on in? It MUST be designed to evoke a meaningful interaction – ideally in the form of a considered comment – from your audience.

Which brings me to my next point.

 

3. VIDEO WON’T BE GIVEN PRIORITY.

Yep, you read that right.

It’s against what some other commentators have said, but I have looked into this one CLOSELY.

Here’s Facebook’s Adam Mosseri on the topic:

“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”.

Well, that sounds pretty clear to me.

Facebook is also moving away from TIME spent on site as an important metric of success, another factor which de-emphasises the importance of video.

In a nutshell, what they’re now saying is that passively watching video without interacting is bad. And so video as a post type won’t IN AND OF ITSELF get preferential treatment anymore.

What it seems will INSTEAD happen is that Facebook will look at what stories actually inspire more meaningful interactions between people (whether it’s video, or friend content, or whatever) and value that more – regardless of the post type.

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.

 

4. FACEBOOK LOVES LIVE VIDEO

Facebook ITSELF has told us that live video generates 6 times more interactions than regular video.

It’s not – by it’s very nature – passive, and therefore Facebook likes it.

Facebook has ALSO made live video very easy to create. The barrier to entry is lower, anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require video production people to get it done.

It’s going to be a BIG player in 2018, because it helps with Facebook’s new number one goal over creating meaningful interactions.

If you’re currently producing a lot of video, I would be looking at how you can start incorporating more live into your efforts.

 

5. THE DAYS OF FREE TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE ARE GONE.

Yep.

No longer can you publish a blog post on Facebook, and automatically drive traffic to your website.

It goes back to the meaningful interactions thing again.

People clicking to your website aren’t commenting and interacting with each other, and what THAT means is that they’re not doing the things that Facebook want them to do.

And so, the days of reach for posts like these are numbered.

Even Social Media Examiner has said that it is going to stop publishing its blog posts on Facebook.

If you want traffic to your website post the roll out of this update, you’ll now need to either pay for it or get it from another platform.

 

6. FACEBOOK GROUPS WILL BE PRIORITISED.

This is pretty clear in Zuck’s message:

“The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups”.

And this from Adam Mosseri:

“There will also be more group content. Group content tends to inspire a lot of conversation. Communities on Facebook are becoming increasingly active and vibrant”.

This goes back to Facebook wanting more person to person interaction.

 

7. PAGE CONTENT WON’T BE ELIMINATED FROM THE NEWSFEED ALTOGETHER

It’s worth mentioning that this new change is NOT the same as the recent tests where all page content was moved to the Explore tab.

Page posts will still appear in news feed, there’s just going to be fewer of them.

So people need to stop saying otherwise – coz they’re wrong.

 

WHAT CAN WE ASSUME IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

So, now we know what’s definitely coming with the new changes, there are also a few things that – though not definite – we can assume.

Here’s a few.

 

1. FACEBOOK AD COSTS ARE GOING TO RISE.

I’m not a math genius, but this is just straight supply and demand.

Here’s what I see happening.

Businesses not able to generate the meaningful engagement needed for their organic content to get reach in the Facebook news feed are increasingly going to turn to Facebook ads in order to be seen.

Given that the available ad inventory isn’t going to increase, this is going to mean that the demand for ad space will increase.

This, in turn, will push ad prices up.

This is the exact same thing that happened a few years ago with Google Ads. When it first started, it was cheap as chips. As people started to jump on board, the price went up.

I have always said that the days of super cheap Facebook advertising are numbered.

It’s starting.

2. IF YOU’RE ALREADY STRUGGLING WITH REACH, YOUR GONNA SUFFER WITH THE NEW CHANGES.

The number one frustration that I hear from businesses centres around their frustrations with reach on their posts.

Here’s the thing.

If you’re already struggling to get more than 2% reach on your posts, it’s because you’re not producing the type of content that people want to see.

In other words, you’re probably selling rather than adding value.

Do you produce content that helps? That educates, inspires or entertains your audience? That solves their problems?

If you’re not, you’re in trouble.

Because posting ‘buy my stuff’ type posts never worked on Facebook but when these new Facebook changes come around?

Your reach will disappear completely.

 

SO, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

When I first started to think about what big changes we might need to make in the face of these new updates, one thing stood out to me.

And it’s that all of the changes I’m about to suggest are either things that I ALREADY TELL PEOPLE TO DO, and/or they’re things that I already had down on my list to implement MYSELF over the coming year.

In other words, this stuff ain’t nothin’ new.

Good social media will, all in all, still continue to be good social media.

And as long as you were already on the right track – ie bringing value, socialising, and doing all the stuff I ALWAYS tell you to do – with a few tweaks and changes you’ll most likely be just fine.

So with that said, here are a few of my initial recommendations.

 

1. CONSIDER MORE LIVE VIDEO – WITH A VERY BIG CAVEAT.

An hour before the Facebook announcement came out, I posted my very first live video on the Stevie Says Social Facebook page and expressed a commitment to do many more.

Good timing, right?

The thing is though, Facebook was pushing live video heavily was ALREADY clear way before these new changes were announced.

So, yeah.

Definitely consider incorporating it into your Facebook strategy, with ONE important caveat.

Only use it if it makes sense, and don’t overuse it.

There’s nothing worse than marketers who start using more of a particular post type JUST because it is the most preferred by a particular platform.

Think about how to incorporate it into your strategy in ways that make sense, and in a way that ENCOURAGES MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS.

For example, instead of posting these very blog posts on my Facebook page I’ll be running weekly Facebook lives where I talk about them and encourage conversations and questions in real time.

 

2. CONSIDER A FACEBOOK GROUP – WITH A VERY BIG CAVEAT.

Facebook is pushing communities, and person to person interaction.

Posts from Facebook Groups will be given preferential treatment.

And so, it makes sense to consider having one.

But here’s the thing.

Vibrant, sociable Facebook groups ARE FRICKEN HARD TO BUILD AND HARD TO MAINTAIN.

Don’t bang one up and then starting using it like your Facebook page, posting content in there and doing nothing to build it into a successful community.

Understand the work, time and effort that goes into a group.

Make sure you’re okay with that.

Think about where it sits in your sales funnel, who you’re going to serve and how you’re going to manage it (hint: Community Managers are about to become one of the most in-demand jobs going around).

Only then should you even think about.

 

3. FOCUS ON GROWING YOUR OWNED ASSETS.

As with any Facebook algorithm change, this latest update is another very good reminder that the following that you build on Facebook is on borrowed land.

You don’t own the platform. They can (and do) change the rules.

THAT’S why it’s so important to use platforms like Facebook as a way of growing your own assets. Your email list. Your website. Things you control, and people that you are able to contact directly. For free. Forever.

 

4. DON’T PUT ALL OF YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET.

Facebook isn’t going away. There are 2 billion people on the platform, and if anything I feel that these latest changes will positively impact the experience that most users have with the platform.

You should still be there.

But you shouldn’t be ONLY there.

Or only on Instagram, for that matter.

Or only on ANY OTHER PLATFORM YOU DON’T OWN.

Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.

My recommendation? Build a following on multiple platforms.

I would strongly recommend giving thought to an increased presence on Pinterest and/or LinkedIn if they are platforms that make sense for your business.

I will be.

 

5. GENERATE MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS

At the end of the day, your success on Facebook following these new changes – which will roll out in the coming months – will all come down to this.

What can you do to encourage meaningful, person to person interactions on the platform?

Here are a few things to think about:

 

Treat your social media followers like your best friends.

You need to make damn sure that the stuff you are posting on your social media channels is stuff that your ideal clients actually WANT to see. There’s no use banging on about yourself or how great your product or service is.

That’s old school advertising, and people are over it.

You need to be communicating on social media in the same way that you would communicate with your best friend.

HELP your followers with their problems.

How?

In a nutshell, it’s all about providing value in the most natural way for you business and brand – whether that be by entertaining, educating or informing. Be honest and open. Communicate professionally, but in a conversational manner. Storytell – which really just means giving people an insight into what you do and why.

 

Remember that social media is a two way street.

Don’t lazily push out messages and be careful of ‘scheduling out’ social media messages in a robot like fashion. Socialise, respond to comments, ask questions, encourage responses, generate conversation.

How?

Well, that’s up to you.

I have my own ideas and I’ll be rolling them out very soon – all I can say is to watch some of the things I do (if you’re not following me on Facebook, I’d recommend that you do so you can see what I’ve got planned).

 

Stop with the fluff.

It’s ALL about quality from here on in. Less content, better quality. Full stop.

 

6. DON’T STRESS.

Finally, it’s worth noting that these new changes aren’t immediate.

It’s ALSO worth nothing that Facebook hasn’t exactly been prescriptive in its messaging, and that a lot of things are still unclear.

Until it all happens, we won’t know EXACTLY what’s gonna, well, happen.

For now, evaluate what you’re doing. Start thinking about some of the above.

And, above all, don’t freak out.

Changes are ALWAYS coming, but the best thing about this one in my opinion?

In the end, it’s actually for the best.

It’s going to result in a better Facebook experience for the end user. It’s going try to take us back to better times when Facebook was a fun platform for socialising and BEST of all? It’s gonna weed out the crappy, low quality, spammy and lazy content all over Facebook (‘these 18 names will get pregnant in 2018’ type posts – GONE).

The only negative, in my opinion (and from a purely selfish standpoint)? Rising ad costs.

And so there you have it! My thoughts, so far.

Jump into the comments on my Facebook post, and let me know what you think.

No really, do it – you know, meaningful interactions and all 😉