The world’s largest social network is changing the rules of the game. Facebook recently announced changes to the algorithm that determines what users see in their News Feed. As part of their stated effort to continue “connecting people with their friends and family,” the platform will more strongly prioritize posts shared and published by their Facebook friends, rather than those posted by Pages.
Given Facebook’s enormous user base, many destination marketers rely on the platform’s wide reach to boost word-of-mouth promotion. What should destinations be aware of and how they can best respond to the changes? We asked members of the Destination Think! team to weigh in.
Creating content that encourages sharing will be even more important
Since posts from friends and family will earn prominent placement, the upcoming changes underscore the need to induce word-of-mouth promotion. Marketers should optimize every post to encourage sharing, which means for starters that messages need to be valuable, entertaining and relevant to the specific people you’d like to interact with.
“It all starts with providing amazing experiences that are worth talking about,” says Content Strategist Mikala Folb. “From there, DMOs should also undertake research that can reveal how these passionate groups talk about and share information about your destination. If your destination is the story, and niches are the chapters, then each word – your individual content pieces – needs to serve a purpose. Do they connect? This is how to boost organic reach on social; and it will become more even important as the News Feed prioritizes friends over publishers.”
Unique experiences within a destination can also provoke shareable content from the audience itself. “Destinations also need to continue to create exceptional experiences that are worth talking about.”
Use emotions to resonate with your audience
One way to boost engagement at the most basic level to tap into emotions, as Amsterdam Marketing has done successfully. “If spreading word of mouth via friends and family is going to take priority on Facebook, then Pages need to give them something to talk about,” says Folb. “Destinations should create content that makes an emotional connection. Think posts that speak to surprise, pride, encouragement, inspiration, even mystery or the unusual. Ease up on the pretty landscape or town square photos, and tell a small story instead. Don’t be scared of using humour, either. It’s okay to elicit a response. That’s the point.”
Instant Articles will remain a useful tool
Speaking of emotions, how are publishers likely to react? “While the new algorithm change may be seen as a ‘betrayal’ by content producers, they are not in a position to pull back from Instant Articles,” says Digital Marketing Consultant Trevor Jurgens. Since April 2016, Instant Articles have been available to all publishers as a distribution tool that offers a user-friendly, and according to Facebook, more shareable experience for readers.
“Even if the potential audience pie is shrinking for all brand posts, Facebook will likely still give Instant Articles a preferentially larger slice. They are still anticipated to reach a larger audience than regular Page posts, even with Facebook’s renewed emphasis on friends and family. Since Instant Articles will still be the widest-reaching type of post available to brands, DMOs may want to consider this new format if they have not already.”
Will the algorithm change cause publishers to use the platform less overall?
“The only thing that will drive publishers away from the platform is a decrease in Facebook’s reach. Knowing this, Facebook changes their algorithm to standardize strategies that have been tested and proven to increase engagement and time spent on the network. Because Facebook controls access to over 1.6 billion people, publishers have digital Stockholm Syndrome that isn’t going away anytime soon.“
Facebook ad costs may increase
Though content publishers will stay on board using efforts to make content more shareable, relying solely on organic reach may not be enough. “Once again, brands will have to pay to play,” says Marketing Manager Karen Brackett. “Similar to how Facebook limited reach in 2014, we will again see some costs increase as publishers fight for space in the News Feed.
“Content publishers will need to do extra work to properly identify their target audience ahead of time to avoid costly ads: if you’re suddenly paying three times as much for an engagement, you’re going to want to make sure your audience is solid.
“However, this change may not make too much of a difference for smaller publishers. The real hit is going to come to native ads by content publishers like Buzzfeed, etc. This could actually make it easier for smaller destinations to get a share of the pie.”
The key will be to research the right audience. “Ad costs will go up slightly, but by crafting shareable content that its well-curated audience resonates with, destinations should be in a good spot.”