How the Recent Facebook Algorithm Changes Will Affect Your Startup

Entrepreneurs can’t ignore the influence of social media on finding business online. Having a presence on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook isn’t optional anymore—it’s a crucial part of establishing your startup’s identity.

In fact, over 50 million small businesses use Facebook pages to connect with customers online. Facebook has always been one of the most personal social media platforms for connecting with customers, and when used correctly, it can be a powerful tool.

However, you may have heard about Facebook’s recent announcement to make the platform even more personal. As Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in January:

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions….The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”

He continued, “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

This means a lot is at stake for online publishers who’ve come to depend on Facebook for generating traffic to their websites—but what does it mean for other entrepreneurs?

Related: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the Future of Privacy on Social Media

Fewer opportunities to reach potential customers

Yep, you guessed it—your business will have a more difficult time reaching potential customers, as priority spots in news feeds will be given to posts from friends and family, rather than a brand’s content.

Here’s an excerpt from Facebook’s Newsroom post, explaining the algorithm change further:

“As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”

These changes are meant to push time spent on Facebook into a more meaningful space for users of the platform. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on Facebook from a business standpoint entirely. In fact, now is a great opportunity to start creating even more valuable Facebook content.

Producing Facebook content that sparks conversations could even have your business seeing a uptick in engagement on the social platform.

How to continue making the most of Facebook organically

As a reminder, brands that use Facebook Pages with posts that “prompt conversations” will see less of an effect on their engagement from the algorithm change.

And what Facebook means by “conversations” is pretty straightforward—they mean comments. That’s right: The more comments you can get on your business’ Facebook posts, the more likely you’ll be to reach new customers.

Prompt followers with relevant questions

For instance, your business can start prompting followers with relevant questions that they’ll want to respond to. For example, a financial planning firm could post a question like this: “What’s one thing you wish you could tell your younger self when it comes to money?”

You could also use Facebook as an opportunity to gain customer feedback regarding your field. The same financial planning firm might ask, “What’s the most frustrating thing you’ve had to deal with when it comes to planning for retirement?” Not only will that spark an emotional response in followers, it will also provide the firm with some quality feedback to take into consideration when it comes to their client strategy.

On the other hand, you should steer clear engagement bait—Facebook has started flagging Pages with obnoxious post copy like “COMMENT on this post below!!”

All in all, the more engagement your copy can drum up from your followers, the more opportunities your Page has to be seen by friends of your followers. The key is making your Page a welcome, interactive presence in your followers’ News Feeds.

Broadcast live video

These News Feed changes also imply an effort toward a more active, rather than passive, experience for Facebook users. As Zuckerberg wrote in his announcement:

“There are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”

Video is increasingly effective in social media posts, and live video even more so. Live video gives you an even more meaningful opportunity to interact with your followers than written posts, and it takes top priority in News Feed placement.

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Increase your budget

Finally, you can still harness the power of Facebook Ads to reach your followers. In fact, thanks to the algorithm changes, these might be a more worthwhile investment than they were before this News Feed algorithm shift. Now that it’s less likely that your startup’s posts will show up on followers’ News Feeds, dedicating a bit of your business’s marketing budget to ensure that they will makes even more sense.

If you have yet to master using Facebook Ads to reach customers, the key is targeting. Your marketing budget will go much further when you put in the time to make sure you’re reaching the right people. You can narrow your reach to specific locations and demographics, such as gender and age group.

Thankfully, all of this can be done right in the Facebook platform, which is relatively user-friendly for business owners. And even after the News Feed algorithm shifts, Facebook Ads will remain a straightforward, targeted way to reach new customers.

These algorithm changes may sound like bad news for entrepreneurs. And it’s true— the game of Facebook for business is changing. The Facebook marketing strategies you’ve been depending on for months, years, or more may not be effective much longer.

But that doesn’t mean Facebook is no longer worth your time—it simply means you’ll have to strategize a bit differently. Focus on quality over quantity. The more valuable you can make your Facebook posts for followers, the more likely you’ll see engagement, and the more new customers you’ll be able to reach. In turn, this quality content will be even more effective in helping you to continue growing your startup.

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