Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

Facebook’s News Feed Changes Mean It’s Time to Revisit Plans

Facebook’s recent announcement that it will be prioritizing content from friends and family members and reducing the amount of content from brands and publishers has many businesses worried. The most concerned are small business and nonprofit organizations, which have Facebook outreach as a core part of their PR and marketing strategies because of its cost effectiveness.

Change can be scary, particularly when, as in this situation, the only one with any control is Facebook—everyone else will be responding to the changes they are initiating.

For now, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

First: don’t panic. In all of their official comments on this change, Facebook has spoken only in broad terms about what they are aspiring to do, and furthermore Mark Zuckerberg has said it will “take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products.” You have time to adjust your strategies taking this change in direction into account.

Pay attention to your measurement metrics. Facebook will be rolling changes out gradually, so keep your metrics from late last year close at hand. Watch and see what happens, and plan to adjust based on real data, not what you think—or fear—might happen. Zuckerberg’s Facebook post on this announcement also said that the company “started making changes in this direction last year,” so if you have a year’s worth of data, now would be an excellent time to review it and see how year-over-year data plays out in the coming months.

How much of your focus is on social channels? It might be time to rebalance your communications portfolio—just like a financial advisor would recommend adjusting a retirement portfolio if market conditions change. Social networks are under tremendous pressure the world over to respond to a growing litany of charges—not just Facebook. Twitter has long struggled with tamping down abusive and harassing behavior by some of its users, and YouTube is hearing complaints from brands that their advertisements are appearing alongside highly questionable content. The changes that Facebook is proposing are a good reminder that platforms you do not own you cannot control. So, take some time to review how much of your strategy is dependent on social networks, and think about how you would respond if other platforms change.

Take a fresh look at PESO. A communications strategy that has elements of Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned covers a wide range of ways to reach your target audience. A strategy that relies too much on Shared channels will have to adjust more than one that is distributed more evenly. If a lot of your outreach success is on Facebook, take a close look at your Paid budget and see if there’s room to add more paid advertising on Facebook. Organic reach is going to be very hard to come by—your better bet is to look at advertising.

About that advertising… There are several factors at play that could mean prices for Facebook advertising will go up. If these changes are successful in fostering engagement and making people feel better about being on Facebook (and, keep in mind that Facebook constantly tests changes to the News Feed, so it’s highly likely they have data to back up their decision to make these changes), Facebook will be able to increase their advertising prices because that’s where the audiences are. Additionally, as I just noted in the point above, brands that have been successful in reaching customers through Facebook won’t want to give up on the platform. They will turn to Facebook advertising instead, increasing demand.

Having your strategy upended by something outside of your control can be upsetting, but consider this an opportunity to revisit your plans and see how they might be diversified to rely a bit less on channels owned by others.

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