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Facebook's News Feed Update Has Surprisingly Minimal Impact for Brand Advertisers

Last week, Facebook announced another update to their News Feed algorithm, prioritizing content based on the level of meaningful social interaction surrounding that content, with “less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media.” Updates like this typically cause quite a stir, and while there are significant implications for publishers, we’re excited to report that there’s minimal impact to brand advertisers leveraging Facebook.

Facebook is taking a step back and focusing on the community foundation that originally facilitated its rapid global growth. Last June, they unveiled a new mission statement, “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. Soon after, they began implementing changes to combat fraudulent content and restore integrity to the news shared on the platform The social network has been moving in this direction for quite some time, pivoting away from selfies and updates, toward becoming a global hub of community-building and digital dissertation. This new move is a shift back to actively prioritizing content posted by family and friends, versus that shared by publishers and businesses. This gradual update to the News Feed will increase the weight Facebook puts on friends’ interactions and on posts that inspire conversations and reactions (i.e comments, likes, shares). 

The worst hit by the move will be publishers who rely on Facebook to drive traffic to their sites through organic posting and who have been able to survive previously with minimal Media investment. At iProspect we recognized early on that the value of organic versus paid activity on Facebook was evolving, and as a result, we have implemented a paid media-first approach to drive meaningful results at scale.

The organic reach of brand content on Facebook is anticipated to decline as a result of this update, but on average, brands are only reaching 2-3% of their fans today. We’ve already shifted the focus of our organic Facebook efforts for our clients to Social SEO activity to boost Search Engine Results Page ranking and social customer service. The value of user-generated content, which is already widely depended to drive both awareness and purchase intent, will likely continued to prioritized by brands.

There’s potential for this update to increase the value placed on influencer and user-generated content as it will be prioritized over brand content in the Feed. However, we are cautioning brands to think through this strategy before jumping in head first. The influencer space is getting crowded and convoluted; influencers are becoming demanding and expensive. There’s a lot of value in influencer marketing, but we’ll be working closely with our clients to ensure it’s done in in a strategic and effective way – rather than just for the sake of it.

For brands, the value of Facebook lies primarily in paid advertising capabilities, which has been the case since the last major News Feed update with the introduction of EdgeRank. This new change reinforces the emphasis on paid media, but it doesn’t take away from Facebook’s value. Their paid advertising capabilities don’t just add reach; they allow for incredibly qualified and advanced ad units that drive specific desired user behaviors, on platforms with tremendous scale leading to incredibly strong performance against true business objectives. None of these features were ever available organically before. Ad ranking won’t be affected, so the power of Facebook for brand advertisers remain intact.

Brittany Richter, VP, Head of Social Media also contributed to this post