Facebook Business: What You Should Be Doing in 2019
And a look back at changes in 2018
Significant changes to Facebook’s algorithm—those automated hidden rules that dictate the priority of posts—began in 2017, and the platform is still evolving today. To understand why many of these changes are being made, and the effect for businesses, it is helpful to identify the motivation.
Facebook wields a lot of power. As of Sept. 30, 2018, there are 2.3 billion monthly Facebook users and 1.5 billion daily users.
With such vast global interaction, powerful entities also try to exploit the resource.
Facebook admitted roughly 126 million Americans were exposed to content generated by a Kremlin-connected troll farm via the social media platform. In the same time period, Cambridge Analytica obtained data from 87 million U.S. Facebook users. According to Facebook, these incidents influenced the 2016 presidential election. This caused a major upheaval, prompting requests for Mark Zukerberg to answer for these actions to Congress and foreign governing bodies.
Facebook responds by emphasizing meaningful interactions
Zukerberg may have taken a backward glance at some of Facebook’s founding principles when planning how the platform would evolve in 2018. Responding to criticisms, many of the changes that launched in January 2018 were designed to foster more meaningful interactions between friends and family, like it was in the beginning.
“As we roll this out,” Zuckerberg wrote, “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.”
Announcing that promoter and advertiser video would be de-emphasized in the news feed seemed odd at the time—a company intentionally curtailing a portion of business, giving up millions of dollars in revenue. It’s important to note, though, that Facebook would launch a new video platform for advertisers—Facebook Stories Ads—later in the year. Coincidence?
Also in January, the algorithm was programmed to reward posts that received more social interactions. Active interactions such as commenting and sharing are now prioritized over likes and click-throughs (passive interactions)—rewarding actions that require more effort on the part of the user.
Posting information on local news and events increased in merit, now appearing higher in news feeds.
Facebook began a filtering process so that only “trusted sources” are delivering news stories in a person’s timeline.
Businesses react to the changes
Many brands and publishers reacted to the announcements with worry and apprehension. As the largest social media platform in the world, businesses do not want to lose a toehold in this channel to reach the public.
Facebook followed up by offering several ideas on how brands can continue to reach customers through the reconfigured platform, including in their official press release.
Specific methods mentioned by Facebook that brands should pay attention to include:
+ Facebook’s Live Video feature and posting recorded videos
+ Posts from celebrities
+ Posting in Groups, prompting discussion
+ Local businesses creating Events, and connecting with their communities by posting relevant updates.
What a business should not do:
+ Facebook cautioned against “engagement bait.” Spammy posts that goad people into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions, such as “LIKE this if you’re a parent!” These posts are now demoted, appearing less frequently in news feeds.
More algorithm changes
In the fall of 2018, Facebook announced several more changes.
News feed demotes sites with stolen or scraped content
In a further attempt to clean up what is actually presented as “news,” Facebook began demoting links to trashy news sites that steal content from other sites with little or no modification of their own. These types of sites are scraping content off of others and surrounding it with a bunch of ads, and Facebook is now designed to limit traffic to them.
Low quality ads curtailed
Facebook expanded its restrictions on ads in the fall. Ads of low quality or with disruptive content (including in pictures and video) are seeing reduced distribution.
“Borderline” content to receive less distribution
Zuckerberg himself announced in November 2018 that Facebook will be demoting content that comes close, or “borderline,” to the policy line of prohibited content. For example, a post containing offensive speech, but does not fall under hate speech, will be demoted in distribution. Another example is sexually suggestive images or ones that may tease nudity without fully showing it. This change also affects posts that are spreading or promoting misinformation, especially across the political spectrum. These changes will take a while to see widespread effects.
More security issues
It should also be mentioned that Facebook continues to have security issues, including another data breach discovered Sept. 28, 2018 affecting 50 million accounts. Ironically, Facebook went ahead and launched its Alexa compatible video monitor, microphone and video calling devices, Portal and Portal+ in the same time period. Increased concern over privacy issues overshadowed the launch of the video chatting devices.
Then there’s the matter of the parties with whom Facebook willingly shares your data. In June 2018, Facebook admitted to giving private access of user data to Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications equipment company that is a national security threat according to U.S. intelligence officials, as well as to Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.
Business hiring helped by Facebook
Facebook Jobs received a big push in the fall of 2018 when a survey revealed that 25 percent of Americans used Facebook to search for a job. In response, Facebook improved and promoted its Facebook Jobs tool to help businesses manage job applications and hire more efficiently.
How to make posts more effective in 2019:
1. Always include a visual element in posts.
Visual content grabs audience attention and increases engagement. Always include photos or video in your posts, or experiment with Facebook Live. Be creative, such as using unusual camera angles. Just remember to keep it simple, like a close-up of a product or photo of a smiling, happy customer. For video, capture attention then get into your message immediately. Facebook recommends a length of 15 seconds.
In the past, online images were all horizontal to fit a laptop or desktop screen. Since browsing social media is more popular on a phone, shoot videos in a portrait orientation. Try an app like Boomerang to create short looping videos or Videoshop to experiment with stop-motion videos.
2. Use Facebook stories.
Facebook is pushing Stories hard—Zuckerberg mentioned it 71 times in his fall speech. It would be wise to follow Facebook’s lead and get on board. Stories help businesses create video snippets where your customers can engage daily. People are sharing more than 1 billion stories across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp Status every day, according to Facebook internal data from October 2018. The idea is to connect with your customers in an authentic, casual way instead of a hard sell way.
3. Include a call to action
If you use Facebook’s Ads Manager, you are already familiar with setting business goals. If you want to increase sales, you can create a button so customers can message you. If you want people to visit your physical location, the button could lead to driving directions. Creating posts with action buttons encourages people to take the next step to help you reach your business goal.
4. Apply the 70/30 rule.
The majority of your posts should not be selling your product or service at all, but posts can still support your business. For example, for a Realtor client, I schedule one community related post, one seasonal greeting or message from the Realtor post and five industry related posts for every three sales posts. Among the non-sales posts, those with a personal connection inspire the most comments and reactions, such as a two-question survey on the client’s bold printed swim trunks—hot or not? It’s a fun way to get to know the business owners, find out what’s going on in the community, provide valuable industry information and of course sell houses.
5. Use Page Insights
Look back on posts, ads and other interactions using Page Insights. This data can help you understand what content worked and what fell flat. By learning which posts got a reaction from your audience, such as comments and shares, you can better plan your posting strategy and ad spend to further engagement.
More learning. Facebook has a wealth of tips for using and benefiting from its platform, including the targeted Facebook for business blog.
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: Quality content is still king, and posts must include visual elements. How you make that content relevant is key.