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Time Warp: What Effect Will Facebook’s Algorithm Update Have on Businesses in 2018?

Facebook has altered its core focus once again, this time switching from a media- and business-friendly model to something more along the lines of where it began in 2004 — a grassroots social platform for people to share their lives with their friends.

The sudden change is largely due to the backlash of the “fake news” movement, which has persisted since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Rumours swirled for months about the possibility of Russian propaganda (which turned out to be true) and misleading news articles that had no business being in users’ news feeds.

Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged everyone’s concerns and, at the start of 2018, decided to tighten Facebook’s regulations on organic media and business posts. Although their new algorithm will once again focus more on personal content, it now puts more pressure on businesses that have been reaping the rewards of Facebook’s organic advertising tools.

A Brief Overview of Facebook’s Relationship with Businesses

Since 2007, Facebook has been widely regarded as business-friendly. Up until this year, businesses have viewed it as one of, if not the best, place to boost their brands’ respective engagement and reach.

Zuckerberg and co. opened their platform up for companies and celebrities to create their own brand pages, making it easier for consumers to interact with their favourite brands. By 2009, brands that had already been leveraging Facebook for consumer interaction were now able to promote their products and introduce online contests.

Fast-forward three years and the business timeline was introduced. The new addition allowed businesses to follow the progression of industry competitors and keep an eye on trends.

More recently, Facebook introduced the “paid boost” tool. Even though it stepped away from their free, organic business reach, paid boosts were extremely cost effective, ranging from $20 to $1,500. For many companies, the boost simply made them review their body of work and decide which pieces of content were most essential to them. In many ways, it helped brands refine their strategic approach to target specific consumers.

Since then, businesses have been able to leverage Facebook’s many tools, including the recent additions of Lead Ads and Audience Insights. More importantly, though, they were gifted mountains of consumer data, from age to relationship status to religious affiliation. Just imagine: all of this info at the fingertips of your company’s hands without putting too much stress on your wallet — and its effectiveness has been undeniable.

How Will The Recent Changes Affect Businesses?

Unfortunately, the aftermath of Facebook’s new algorithm doesn’t bode well for business owners. Yes, all of the data insights that were afforded to them in the last few years will still be there, albeit under tighter restrictions, but a business’s reach and engagement metrics will lose their effectiveness.

Prior to January’s platform overhaul, businesses appreciated Facebook’s passive advertising system. Even if your consumers weren’t necessarily engaging in any type of purchasing activity, your company’s advertisement could still appear in their news feeds, passively entering into the minds of Facebook users. This luxury will no longer exist, however, because Zuckerberg wants people to have more meaningful interaction, rather than become flooded with insignificant content, such as fake news.

Businesses may have become accustomed to a certain high-level advertising engagement on Facebook, but they’ll now have to rethink their social media strategies. Similar to when Facebook created the paid boost, businesses must continue to find ways to focus on who represents their actual target audience. This will force many brands to discover more niche markets.

That being said, while this will surely have a direct impact on businesses’ social ROI, there is one avenue opening up: influencer marketing.

The Ball Is in the Influencers’ Court Now

All of this is still fresh, but influencers will undoubtedly become more important for any business adjusting their social media strategy. Although the new algorithm will limit a business’ immediate reach and impact, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Influencers took a major step forward last year. According to an eMarketer survey conducted in 2017, 84% of marketers had at least one influencer marketing campaign planned in their pipeline. Brands have varying grasps when it comes to understanding the value of influencers,  but thanks to Facebook’s new algorithm, influencer marketing will likely take another leap forward.

What can influencers do for your business?

  1. Reach: Depending on your social media strategy and budget, you might want to engage with A-listers or micro-influencers. Both are effective, but the former will expand your reach to a wider, more generic audience, while the latter will be someone on Instagram or Facebook with anywhere from 500 to 10,000 followers.
  2. Focus: Although it might be frustrating at first, this new algorithm could be a blessing in disguise, as it forces brands to think of creative ways to interact with their audience. In many cases, it will probably force you to have a deeper understanding of your brand message and target audience.
  3. Engagement: A-list celebrities have naturally garnered millions of followers, but the money lies in the micro-influencers. These influencers have created their own brand, but are regular people first and foremost. Brands that properly understand their data insights could leverage these micro-influencers for their loyal followers, while also targeting more niche audiences.

This new aspect of marketing did come out of the blue, and will force businesses to spend more money. But rather than look at it as a hindrance, brands should focus on acclimating to the new ecosystem. Adapt your social media strategy as soon as possible and take a hard look at your consumer insights. Influencers have been thrust into the spotlight — brands that take advantage of the situation will see faster results and an increase in social ROI.

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