What Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change Actually Means for You

Written by Laura Roeder

On February 9, 2016

It can be pretty confusing when you’re trying to play by the rules and suddenly somebody changes them – and that’s especially true when it comes to Facebook marketing.

(Probably why less than half of small businesses think their Facebook marketing is actually working.)

Facebook decides whether or not to show your posts to people using top-secret algorithms, and those algorithms change all the time. Which means that when they do – like they did earlier this month – you’re probably left asking yourself one big question:

“What do I have to start doing differently THIS time?”

Fortunately, Facebook has been pretty forthcoming about their recent algorithm changes, including what types of new factors will (and will not) help you reach a bigger audience with your posts. You can check out their formal announcement here, but here’s how it all breaks down.

What did they change?

Facebook’s algorithms used to make a lot of assumptions about what a person wanted to see in their feed based on engagement. (Likes, clicks, shares, and comments.)

Essentially, if a post was getting a lot of engagement, Facebook might assume that it was something people liked seeing – and it would show that post to more people. (Plus, a Page that frequently got high engagement numbers would see its overall reach improve.)

This is one of the reasons that click-bait used to be so popular on Facebook – a Page would post something designed specifically to get engagement by withholding crucial information from anyone who saw it. It didn’t matter if users actually cared about what they saw, so long as they clicked.

Facebook has cracked down on updates written like this in the past.

Facebook has cracked down on updates written like this in the past.

Of course, the operative phrase there is that click-bait used to be so popular – over time, Facebook has adjusted its algorithms to make such shrewd posting tactics less effective.

And they just took that same idea to the next level.

Now, Facebook’s algorithms are no longer based just on the assumption that content is valuable because it got engagement.

Why?

For one thing, the fact that a post got high engagement doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something a lot of people actually want to see. For another, there are plenty of posts out there that people might be interested in despite not engaging with them by liking or commenting.

(After all, do you leave a comment on every single Facebook post you find interesting?)

Instead of using engagement numbers to make assumptions about what they should show, Facebook is now predicting what people want to see based on hands-on research – and lots of it.

By directly soliciting feedback from thousands of users a day, Facebook has created an algorithm that they say can better predict what someone will want to see in their feed – even if it’s something that person wouldn’t necessarily engage with.

Basically, engagement still matters – but it’s not the only thing that matters.

Here’s what that means for you:

Quality is more influential than ever

For years, you’ve probably been hearing that you should focus first on quality – mostly because it’s one of those things you’re just s’posed to do because it’s right.

Or something.

Now, though, focusing on quality – instead of just stuff that’ll get you comments and likes – should actually pay off in more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Facebook’s new algorithms predict what users want in their feeds not just by monitoring engagement, but by going off what users actually tell them – so if you’re posting stuff that your followers actually like, you’re on the right track.

If posting quality content is your first priority, you should be pretty happy about this.

It’s the same reason that Google updates its algorithms on a regular basis – it makes it harder for people to game the system by manipulating its methods for determining quality, and it makes it easier for people doing their best to create content that actual humans want to read.

That means you can spend less time worrying about creating something that will elicit a specific action (like getting comments), and spend more time just creating stuff your followers will be interested in.

(And let’s be honest – isn’t that kind of the way it should work?)

So, should you be freaked out?

Should Facebook’s big, scary algorithm change be something that’s…well, big and scary?

Nope – in fact, you should be excited.

If you have your priorities in line, anyway.

While Facebook says that the majority of Pages shouldn’t expect a drastic change right away, they DO say that Pages focused too much on scoring engagement and not enough on delivering quality content might experience a dip in their numbers.

Think about the type of content your users might actually want to see – even if they wouldn’t necessarily leave a comment or a like in their news feed. Write the kind of stuff people want to read because they’re actually interested in it – not just the kind of stuff that encourages them to take action right then and there.

The best thing you can do for Facebook’s new algorithm is to forget that it’s even there. Click to Tweet

The best thing you can do for Facebook’s new algorithm is to forget that it’s even there. Think about your audience and what they want instead of thinking about what Facebook wants, and it’ll be easier to share the type of content that everyone wants more of – and for it to get seen.

 

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