Yet Another Algorithm Change?

Marketers with a significant investment in Facebook advertising, and publishers who seek to monetize traffic from Facebook, are reeling from the latest jolt: on January 11, Facebook announced some significant  changes to Newsfeed, the wizard behind the curtain of what posts are displayed to Facebook users.

For the consumer, the change is intended to increase the visibility of posts from friends, and de-emphasize posts from public sources like pages and news sites. Users likely will see more of what their friends share, but this is not the first time Facebook modified the newsfeed and it will not be the last.  A few memorable changes in the past were boosting news stories, then video, then live video, then news again, and now we’re back to a tilt towards content shared by friends.

The fundamental amount of North American  inventory is not changing as rapidly as it once did – inventory rises when time spent or number of users changes.  Globally, the story is different, boosted by Facbook’s optimization for cheap Android phones.

Brands and consumers run to Groups and messaging apps 

In the last several months, some brands and publishers have been seeing the value of private Facebook groups – algorithm-free opportunities that still enjoy the bonus of Facebook’s notifications sent for new content.

Many consumers have figured this out – and can use private channels such as Groups, Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram – to drive  1:1  and small group sharing sans algorithm.  While they may be algorithm-light, Facebook can still insert ads, games, chat bots, and brand presence.   Look for that inventory to become both more abundant and more risky for aggressive brands.

Advice for Marketers:

In my research (Gartner subscription required) , Control Your Marketing Data — or Google, Facebook and Amazon Will – I lay out several principles that you should remember.  Primarily: Facebook’s control over high-quality audience data is the biggest driver of demand by marketers and publishers.  To monetize your relationship with Facebook, use measurement and campaign discipline to capture customer data.  If Facebook CPM rises, hold the platform accountable  – measure the cost of acquiring new prospects, for both paid and organic media – and be prepared to shift resources to other programmatic platforms if the business case isn’t there.

Organic Facebook distribution is not a guarantee. The platform may elevate certain content as it seeks to create a new TV platform or sell more ads in messaging services- currently live video, private groups, and stories on both Instagram and Facebook recently had the edge.

Review your investment in organic content, which will see less free distribution, and may need tighter alignment to paid campaigns.  Changes in the Newsfeed algorithm don’t impact the costs of creating excellent customer experiences – that consumers wish to share – but may increase visibility when consumers do spread the word.

Gartner clients should also review work by my colleagues:
Augie Ray – Build Strong Brands by Delivering Customer Experiences That Earn Exceptional Levels of Satisfaction
Jay Wilson –  Mobilize Your Workforce to Enhance Social Marketing Through Employee Advocacy
Ewan McIntyre  Use Advertising to Retain and Grow Your Existing Customers.

 

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