What do the Facebook newsfeed changes actually mean?

Facebook have announced this week some fairly significant changes to the way posts from Facebook Pages will be seen in the newsfeed.

The bottom line is, that Facebook will now deliver more "meaningful" content into the newsfeed, to do this they are going to giving greater prominence to posts from friends and family and diminish exposure for businesses, brands and media.

These changes are described as a way to connect and stay in touch with the people that matter, improving connectedness for social good as opposed to "passively reading articles or watching videos" as described by Mark Zuckerberg this week, which a recent study found actually makes us unhappy.

Many of our clients, as arts, culture and not-for-profit organisations rely on Facebook to reach audiences and drive attendance or engagement because of the relatively low cost. These changes, whilst not insurmountable, are significant and will require a rethink of your Facebook strategy, or even creating one if you've yet to tackle that task.

What changes are being made?

- less prominence in newsfeeds for posts made by business or brand Pages

- posts and Pages will be looked upon favourably if they drive interaction, discussion, shares and comments between friends

- posts that spark conversations and inspire back-and-forth discussions will be prioritised in newsfeeds

- "engagement bait" or "click bait" posts will continue to be demoted

A Facebook thumbs-up is not a meaningful interaction

A Facebook thumbs-up is not a meaningful interaction

What are the implications of these changes for arts and culture Pages?

- if, for example, you are a multi-purpose arts venue, with a range of events, activities, shows and performances happening weekly and you mostly post straight-up ticket sales links multiple times a day, you will likely notice a significant reduction in your reach and engagement 

- if you use Facebook only to drive blog traffic or traffic to your website, you will see this becoming less effective

- if you regularly see little or no reaction to your posts, you are likely to see the biggest reduction in distribution 

Create meaningful connections that spark conversation

Create meaningful connections that spark conversation

What should you do now, to try and mitigate any negative effects?

- this is all about authenticity and meaningful interactions, for us, as people this is no bad thing, for Pages it doesn't have to be a bad thing, you simply need to think differently

- Live videos are specifically referenced by Facebook as being a good way to drive meaningful conversations and discussion

- look right now, at your frequency of posting and the engagement (specifically, the comments) you are receiving, and consider posting less. For example, if you are a multi-purpose arts venue, instead of multiple links to sales pages on your website you could; use Facebook Live to announce up-and-coming shows, ask the talent involved to go live with you, use Facebook Notes to write a blog or interview with the talent involved, create a Facebook event which you can then link to a sales page on your website

- analyse your audience, immediately familiarise yourself with Facebook Insights, if you know your audience you can create content that they find meaningful 

- think carefully about running competitions or anything that is designed to deliver "quick likes" relationships require work, from now on, you're going to have to put in the work (read our view on the importance of relationships here)

What should you consider in the long-term to continue to engage and develop your audience?

- don't be afraid to have a personality; your authenticity, your values and what you stand for are what keep people (in this case, Facebook audiences) connected, interested and engaged. Humans connect with humans. Meaningful conversations simply do not happen if you are just "whacking out a Facebook post" because it's what everyone does. This applies to everything in marketing and comms, btw

- talk to your audience, not at them; ask questions, respond to comments and have opinions, or as we always say "be interested and interesting." The best brands stand for something and aren't afraid to take a stance, publically. You can't be all things to all people, so why try?

- stop thinking about numbers; 100,000 Page likes with no engagement is meaningless, cultivate your tribe and start forming communities 

Create a community that people want to be a part of

Create a community that people want to be a part of

In summary?

- create content that your audience loves by understanding them and by treating them like humans and not a homogenous group of users

- ask your Facebook Page fans to prioritise your content by selecting See First on your posts, a lot of people won't do this, the challenge is on you to create a community they want to be a part of

- Facebook Groups are a great way to cultivate a vibrant and engaged community around a specific topic or interest, think about how this could work for your organisation

- right now, this will not affect advertising, so if you're regularly paying for advertising or boosts, the efficacy of these will not be compromised 

- be authentic, be creative, be thoughtful, respect the people who like and support your organisation, create an environment they want to be part of. It's not easy and it's not quick, but it is certainly possible.