What's in this article?

It’s not as bad as it sounds:
What can you do?
What you can learn from this:

Unless you completely ignore marketing or social media news, you’ve probably heard about Facebook’s changes to how brands can use their platform–the latest in a long string of switch-ups. It’s created a lot of discussion, some of it angry, but what’s going on exactly?

It’s not as bad as it sounds:

The algorithm changes are widely being reported as “brands will have their posts showed to less people.” That’s technically true, but the changes aren’t that drastic; the actual words used were that posts that are “overly promotional” will be shown to less people. From AdAge:

“The change will not apply to all of a brands’ posts, just the less creative ones that fit certain criteria, like pushing people to buy a product, install an app or enter a contest or sweepstakes. Also under fire: posts that are just repurposed ads. 

This could mean that even posts which are entertaining, but link to your products, won’t show up in reader’s feeds. Overall, if you have a well-rounded social media strategy, the changes shouldn’t actually affect you that much.

What can you do?

There’s a few different approaches you can take to help sidestep the latest algorithm changes and create Facebook posts that will still reach people:

Curate content

Instead of sharing content that you’ve made, or links to your products, find content that your audience will find useful or entertaining, and share that instead. It’s not a link back to your site or your store, so it won’t be targeted by the algorithm changes. But it’s still valuable to your readers and potential customers, so you’re establishing your brand as an industry authority and helpful presence in their lives.

Here’s a few tips on curating content effectively without spending tons of time on it: 

  • If you use a popular RSS reader (like Feedly or Reeder), you’re already halfway there. Both integrate with Buffer and Facebook, so you can share things or schedule them straight from the app.
  • And if you use tools like Instapaper or Pocket to save things to read later, you can set up IFTTT to take favorites from those accounts and put them in your Buffer queue automatically.
  • Then, set up your Buffer account to publish to your Facebook page according to your content schedule.
  • Another great tool is the new “Daily” iPhone app by Buffer, which is specifically designed to help you find and share great content.

If you want to take curation one step further, don’t just share the article; ask a question, or note your favorite takeaway. So instead of saying “We loved this article from Site A!,” say “We loved this article from Site A–the tip we’ve found most useful was tip #3. What’s your favorite?”

Create content

This one is a little trickier. We don’t know that much about what the new algorithm will consider “overly promotional”–promoting a blog post and linking back to your site could set it off and result in decreased reach. But sharing a blog post isn’t the same as sharing an advertisement, and hopefully the algorithm will be advanced enough to recognize the difference.

It’s also worth noting that the Facebook announcement said part of the algorithm would be based on whether users chose to hide specific updates from their newsfeed. This underscores the importance of creating and sharing truly useful content, not a glorified infomercial.

Obviously, creating content is many multiple blog posts of its own. Lucky for you, we have plenty of resources here.

Create community

Last but not least, you can share less link posts (or promotional images) and post more things that are solely designed to generate interaction with your followers. One way to do this is by creating long-form Facebook posts that are almost like mini blog posts. I tried that recently and the post’s organic reach was over twice that of my second most popular post from November, with more engagement than 95% of my posts.

Another way to do it is simply asking a good question to start discussion from your audience (here’s a great example from Ash Ambirge at the Middle Finger Project). You can use updates like these to train people to interact with you (and, of course, expect interaction from you/your team in return). Over time, you’ll build a community of loyal followers that actively look for your updates, instead of just sometimes noticing them.

All of these tactics are taking the long way around, so to speak. In the short run, they’ll drive less direct traffic and purchases than linking directly to products. But they’re much more likely to actually create interaction between your brand and your fans, followers, and potential customers, and create a community as a result. Every time someone interacts with your Facebook page, it increases the organic reach of posts and online word of mouth about your brand.

Creating a longer sales cycle might sound like a drawback, but the fact is that that’s how social media platforms are designed to work–since their focus is on communication, they’ve never been ideal for posting out what are basically ads on a daily basis. And of course, in addition to using these techniques, you can also do an actual promotion every once in a while and advertise it. To do so well, you’ll need to know at least the basics of social media advertising and it might be a good idea to bring in a professional, too.

What you can learn from this:

The most important thing to learn from this Facebook change is not to put all your eggs in one basket–especially when it’s a basket that you don’t actually have any control of. Changes like this highlight two things:

  1. How important it is to cultivate your own business property on the web that someone else can’t take away from you on a whim, whether that’s an email list, a website, a blog, or ideally, all three.
  2. A good marketing strategy is diversified–you don’t rely on any one channel for the majority of your sales. Instead of focusing just on one specific social media channel, you should be building an audience and community on at least two, as well as working on your SEO and content marketing, and thinking about how to generate word of mouth and referrals from previous customers and clients (both online and off).

If it sounds complex, it can be–but the cost of not creating your own territory on the web or diversifying your market strategic is being at the mercy of another CEO’s business decisions, and if you were interested in that, you wouldn’t be running your own business in the first place.

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