Facebook Zero: What Facebook’s New Algorithm Actually Means

In case you somehow missed it, Facebook published an announcement on January 11th and the whole world went crazy. That’s what it seemed like, anyways, for those of us who watch social media marketing developments closely. Phrases like “Facebook End of Days” and words like “apocalyptic” made headlines referring to the new algorithm, and some marketers started to panic a bit.

Now, as more information about the algorithm has started to make it’s way around, we know a lot more about exactly how it’s going to affect brands and Pages on the platform. In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about what Facebook Zero means for Pages and how you can prepare for it.

What Is Facebook Zero?

Facebook Zero is name given to the new approach Facebook is taking with their newsfeed. They want to prioritize person-to-person connections, showing people content from their friends. The idea is that this is the content they’re most interested in seeing, and Facebook isn’t entirely wrong about this. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but marketers immediately recognized that if there’s more room for personal content, there would be less room for branded content as a result.

This change comes alongside an announcement from Mark Zuckerberg himself that they’ve received feedback that there was too much “public” content clogging up people’s feeds, and that users weren’t particularly interested in that. You can read his full post here:

Ultimately, while Facebook wants to make businesses happy because that means money, there won’t be any money to be made if users leave the platform in favor of others. As a result, Pages were informed they’d be seeing a big drop off in reach… even more than before.

Why Are People Panicking?

When it comes to social media marketing, a lot of businesses can put all their eggs in one basket. They prioritize Facebook and treat all other social channels as an afterthought, or an extra bonus. And now, they’ve been told that their primary form of effective, free marketing is about to go flying out the door.

We were told that Facebook is going to start showing users more content from their friends. Even if there hadn’t been in a section in that announcement letting us know that content from Pages wouldn’t be prioritized, the writing is pretty much on the wall.

I don’t blame people for panicking. For half a second, I thought “I’m about to lose half of my social media management clients.” But then I took a deep breath, knew we’d all be just fine (even though I spend a heck of a lot of time running and writing about Facebook advertising), and started seeking out what the new algorithm would actually mean for us. Which brings us to our next point of discussion…

What Does Facebook’s New Algorithm Actually Mean?

There will definitely be a dip in reach for Facebook Pages, there’s no getting around it. It’ll be a pretty big dip; possibly closer to a nose-dive for some Pages. And yeah, Facebook marketing as we know it may change. But despite the fact that the original announcement caused a tsunami-level panic, Facebook marketing isn’t over. It’s just different.

We’re just seeing the algorithm taking effect, so we’ll still need to keep running experiments, but if you’re prioritizing the right kinds of content on platform, you should still be ok. I manage one Page where the owner insists on posting predominantly outbound links on Facebook, and their reach and engagement has dropped to almost nothing. My Pages that utilize mostly on-platform content with lots of native sharing and native videos, however, have seen a slight drop in reach, but almost no drop in engagement. While these Pages have seen a decrease in reach, they’re doing a lot better than their competitors.

Now, Pages are going to have to use Facebook marketing as Facebook intended. You can’t just use it to send people to your blog or offsite. Instead, the goal should be to provide value on-platform and generate discussion on your Page. Facebook was never designed to be an outbound marketing platform (unless you’re paying for the ads), and now you’ll be punished if you aren’t using the platform the way Facebook intended. Even if reach drops overall, after all, the algorithm still prioritizes the same content it did before.

What About Non-Organic Facebook Marketing?

It will be likely that more small businesses will likely need to invest in Facebook Ads, even if it’s just in the form of Boosted Posts to help increase reach and engagement. The more engagement your content gets, after all, the more likely users are to see your content later on. This could theoretically increase the demand of the ad system, increasing the CPC, but we’ll see how much it’s affected.

This will also mean that marketers and businesses are going to be forced to diversify their social media marketing. It’s not enough to focus just on Facebook and treat all the other platforms as an after-thought. We’ll talk about that more in the next section.

How to Maintain Momentum on Social Media

Alright, so here’s what we really need to know. How are we going to maintain momentum, reach, and engagement on social media despite the big Facebook Zero overhaul? Here’s a few things you should start doing immediately:

Don’t try to beat the system.

There’s a reason I’m listing this one first. As we see how the algorithm works, there will inevitably be people who find some quick cheats to “beat it.” Maybe they’ll use their personal profile to leave lots of comments on their Pages’ content. Who knows what people will come up with. Either way, these tricks might work for a bit, but not for long. As Jon Loomer argues, Facebook will find out about these tricks, and they’ll punish them severely. Instead, shift your strategy now and see the long term benefits.

Use more video.

Native video, to be specific. Facebook still prioritizes native videos on the platform, and using more video content will help you get a much larger reach. This, in turn, can help you get more engagement, pushing you towards an upwards spiral that will give you the best benefits on platform as possible. Hosting video series- including live videos or themed video content- like StitchFix’s example below is a great way to get people to tune in regularly.

Facebook Zero

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Diversify your marketing efforts.

Anyone who has been paying attention has seen the writing on the wall, so to speak, for some time in terms of Pages. Facebook even tested an algorithm in small doses in the past year that all but eliminated Pages from newsfeeds (discussed in the Live from Michael Stelzner below), and it’s not like organic reach has been a sure-fire tool marketers had on hand. Facebook Zero felt a little shocking at first, but in hindsight isn’t all that much of a surprise.

Now is the time to get on Instagram if you haven’t already, where the engagement rates are still exceptionally high and reach is good. Twitter is also a good option for a lot of businesses, and Pinterest for others. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket here; you can’t afford to.

Share content designed to generate discussion.

Link clicks should no longer be the objective of your on-platform posts; discussion should be. The more engagement your posts get, the more reach you’ll get. This is Facebook’s ideal use case for its platform, so keep that in mind, because Facebook Zero will definitely be enforcing it.

Facebook Zero new algorithm

Final Thoughts

Facebook Zero is a big deal. There’s no doubt about that. But I wouldn’t say that it’s quite at the apocalyptic level that some people are preaching. I do think that it’s the end of organic Facebook marketing as it exists now, and it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get anywhere close to the kind of engagement that some brands saw before.

That being said, if you’re sticking to best practices and extending your marketing efforts to other platforms, this doesn’t mean the end of your social media marketing momentum. Keep an eye out for continued news and best practices while avoiding temporary hacks that are designed to trick the algorithm instead of working with it. I’m running experiments on the Pages I manage, so check back here; as we find new strategies, we’ll share them on Shakr.

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Ana Gotter is a business writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at anagotter.com.

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