In late June, Facebook announced changes to its News Feed algorithm that are likely to lower the visibility of many businesses’ posts and pages on Facebook. Specifically, companies that employ a Facebook strategy focused on organic reach—that is, generating views and click-throughs with non-paid posts—are likely to see a decline in their ability to reach their audience on the Facebook platform. Companies that primarily use Facebook as an advertising venue are unlikely to see substantial performance effects, as promoted posts and ads appear to be unaffected by the new News Feed algorithm.
Facebook’s new algorithm reflects the company’s “News Feed Values.” According to Facebook, friends and family come first; meaningful information—often in the form of news stories, but also useful and educational business stories—comes second; and entertainment, including live videos and funny photos, comes third.
These recent News Feed algorithm updates reinforce our view that Facebook is more useful to individual advisors than financial services firms or businesses, unless those firms and businesses are willing to promote and advertise.
Effects on financial services companies’ organic reach may include the following:
- Company Facebook page metrics are likely to decline – Organic page visits, post views, and click-through rates are often the result of company posts appearing in individuals’ News Feeds. The specific impact on financial firms’ Facebook page distribution and other metrics will vary depending on the composition of their audiences and the richness of their content. For example, if a firm receives much of its referral traffic from audience members sharing tailored content that is liked and commented on, the firm will experience less of an impact than one that relies on posts for most of its page traffic. On the other hand, a firm that receives much of its page traffic from promoted or advertised posts is likely to see little change.
- Company websites may experience less web traffic – To the extent company web page views are generated from Facebook click-throughs, firms should expect a decrease in web traffic.
- Use of third-party media publishers to promote financial firms’ content is likely to generate poorer results – Media publishers, in particular, are getting hard hit by these algorithm changes—which come after nearly a decade of Facebook courting publishers to use the social media site to share content and expand their audiences. Facebook has been applying news feed algorithm updates since March 2016. Since then, the Financial Times reported on a SocialFlow study that found media companies were reaching 42% fewer people with each post in May compared with January. This may affect the amount of attention firms receive from media mentions.
The updates to Facebook’s News Feed prioritizations don’t mean financial services firms should abandon the platform entirely. Here are three suggestions to get the most from a continuing presence on Facebook:
- Incorporate employees in company social media strategies – Employees can be an important advertising vehicle; encourage them to share company articles via their social platforms and list their current place of employment on their social media profiles. Individual accounts rank highly in Facebook’s new algorithm, making employees a valuable extension of their employers’ marketing efforts. (Note: Confer with compliance before engaging employees online.)
- Publish targeted and informative content – Facebook encourages business pages to post items that their audience is likely to share with their friends. To accomplish sharing, content creators must develop and share relevant, timely, and easy to understand articles. For example, post market commentary, personal finance insights, and company strategy pieces. The more targeted this information is towards the company’s social media audience, the more likely it is to receive attention.
- Actively share content with others – Facebook offers a variety of opportunities to share posted content with others. Tagging relevant individuals and media outlets, adding tickers and hashtags to posts, and sharing content in relevant Facebook groups increases a posts search results and potential visibility.
Beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter remain valuable platforms.
Facebook prioritizes peer-to-peer connections. LinkedIn and Twitter are also built for peer-to-peer, but are better suited for business interactions with consumers, media, and other businesses. Individual advisors may benefit greatly from promoting themselves on Facebook, but most financial firms would do better to communicate with high-net-worth investors on LinkedIn and with media on Twitter.
All three platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – also offer a variety of affordable, highly-targeted advertising options for large and small companies. Depending on the needs of your company, and its measurements for success, you may consider a social advertising campaign to draw attention to your social media page, direct traffic to your website, or promote an event.
While Facebook’s new algorithm may change the equation a bit, there remains tremendous opportunity to get your word out in this rapidly changing environment. Companies should focus on creating valuable content and sharing that in multiple ways – via email, websites and social media as well as traditional and online advertising. Those who leverage their employees to get the word out are a step ahead.