Breaking Down Facebook's News Feed Changes

Carnegie Higher Ed Jan 12, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

If you were online on January 11 around 7:30 pm EST, you might have witnessed the collective panic from social media managers around the world as Facebook announced significant changes to their News Feed. As outlined in the announcement, “With these changes, [Facebook] Pages may see a decline in their organic reach, referral traffic [to your website], and total video watch time…”

Mark Zuckerberg—Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Facebook—went on to explain, “We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other….As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

The panic felt from those who manage Facebook Pages or create content that gets distributed across social media platforms like Facebook should exist; the expectation of how information gets shared organically from colleges and universities is going to change. And that change is going to have to be immediate, whether we’re ready or not.

So, what does all this mean?

First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind the biggest impact is going to be to organic posts—paid advertising efforts shouldn’t see any drastic changes. If you’ve been hesitant to start running paid social media advertising, then it’s time to at least start investing some of your budget into this platform. We’re in a pay-to-play world, and Facebook just made that even clearer. But that doesn’t mean you need to switch to a paid-only approach either. Facebook ads are used for a number of different reasons: brand awareness, event registrations, inquiries, and more. And no one wants the engagement with a prospective student to stop once they take an action through a paid ad, right? Your organic content will keep your brand top of mind as the prospective student moves through the marketing funnel and makes their final decision of where they will enroll. Paid and organic efforts will always go hand-in-hand.

Dr. Liz Gross, founding director of Campus Sonar, sees this News Feed announcement as a positive for an industry that has been slower than others to adapt to platform best practices, noting, “This will force the old-school marketers that wanted to use Facebook as a bulletin board to listen to their engagement minded social media strategists and post content that actually spurs discussion and social interaction if they want to be seen in the newsfeed.”

But you just said my organic content isn’t going to show up anymore!

While this statement is still true, you don’t want to completely abandon having any organic content since your paid ads are going to continue to drive new followers to your Page. As long as you’re being more strategic about the type of content you’re sharing on your Page, your followers are likely to see some content in their News Feed.

Take a step back and re-read the Facebook blog post announcement. They outline suggestions on the types of content that are more likely to break through this new algorithm:

  • Live videos
  • Using Facebook groups
  • Creating events on the platform

These three tactics aren’t specific to organic content, but by having activity that is associated with your Page see strong engagement, the organic content you share will become more relevant (according to Facebook, anyway) and will beat the odds of showing up in your followers’ News Feeds.

I’m already running paid ads—so am I good to go?

Not exactly. And here’s why: Facebook ads are ranked on a number of different things such as budget, target audience, images, copy, overall relevance, etc. One other factor Facebook looks at when determining which ad gets shown is also overall organic reach of other posts from the Page. This has been true for a while, and that’s why we always encourage using an active and currently engaged Facebook Page for advertising. It might be nice to drive your target audience to an admission- or program-specific Page, but the lifecycle for that Page has a high turnover rate. On the flip side, driving the target audience to a Page for the overall school or university means a prospective student could become a follower of that page for years as prospective students, current students, and finally as alumni. There’s more value to a user to follow a Page and stay engaged with that Page’s content when they know they’re going to need to return over and over to that Page throughout their journey with your institution.

My recommendation is to take this moment and review your Facebook strategy, because it’s time to change. And if you decide paid social media needs to be in your mix this year, your Carnegie Dartlet team is here to help!

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