Analysis of Facebook’s News Feed Update: Good News for Meaningful, Positive Content
By Alicia Lewandowski and Tyler Mason
“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams, from focusing on helping you find relevant content, to helping you have more meaningful social interactions [with people].” —Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
Facebook’s recent announcement that it will change its News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts from known “people” and deprioritize posts from “pages” aims to create a more enjoyable experience for its users by embracing their sense of community, sparking meaningful conversations, and making their time spent on the platform more valuable. Over the next few months, users can expect to see fewer senseless video clips, fake news, and clickbait content and more posts that have evoked positive conversations.
In his January 12, 2018 post, Zuckerberg wrote, “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
The new Facebook policy sets the stage for marketers to change or become irrelevant in the Facebook space. But the News Feed changes don’t have to be dire for businesses and brands, especially for brands whose strategies focus on creating meaningful content. In the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and healthcare industries, that equates to patient-centered content—ideally co-created with input from patients and caregivers.
A Push for Positive Experiences
There is a psychological component at play in Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. While people are spending more time on Facebook, they are not engaging as much as they have in the past and, as research indicates, they walk away feeling bad about themselves. Isolated News Feed scrolling can be detrimental to a person’s mental health, while private conversations with friends and back-and-forth group discussions on meaningful or thought-provoking topics can prompt positive feelings.
“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent. We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness. But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” —Zuckerberg
Facebook’s Ability to Reach People Remains Strong
From a business perspective, this move should help preserve Facebook’s user base and with it, the platform’s ability to drive referral traffic for publishers and advertisers. Even if it’s at a reduced rate, content publishers, marketers, and advertisers will retain the ability to engage their target audiences. Followers will be able to prioritize the pages (and friends) whose posts they are most interested in and want to continue to see.
Impact on Brands
So, what does this mean for brands that use Facebook pages to engage with communities in the rare disease space? There will certainly be some changes, but based on the nature of these communities and their tendency to foster awareness, support, and conversation, we believe that this type of engagement can continue to flourish on the social media network.
Despite rare disease communities being small, they crave meaningful, practical, and multimedia content designed to help them live life to the best of their ability. Families also seek peer-to-peer support from others who understand their challenges and accomplishments when it comes to living with a rare disease.
As one caregiver noted, “Nearly everything I know, I’ve learned on Facebook. I’ve learned a lot from others’ experiences, and because of them, I continue to feel supported along our journey.”
Therefore, we encourage our clients to continue engaging with patients and caregivers on Facebook. This shift in strategy comes as an opportunity to create content that is deemed valuable (for both Facebook and our page followers). We believe that through community engagement and content co-creation, brands will be well positioned to deliver content that provides immense value and meaning in the rare disease space.
7 Tips for Brand Facebook Strategies in 2018
The Patient Experience Project (PEP) offers the following recommendations:
- Focus on creating content that will drive engagement or meaningful conversations. Posts that do not elicit engagement will cause pages to be deprioritized in the Facebook algorithm
- Ensure page moderators dedicate more time responding to comments and prompting conversations among page followers (comments will be viewed more favorably than likes), resulting in posts being higher in the News Feed
- Maintain a tone that engages like a friend who understands and not a business
- Encourage followers to engage with posts by including actionable questions or action-oriented content (while being cautious of engagement baiting)
- Leverage live video (when applicable), which on average gets 6 times as many interactions as regular videos and can help people feel a part of something greater
- Optimize content and cadence based on engagement metrics:
- What topics perform well?
- Is there a common day or time that gets more engagement?
- Do certain demographics engage more than others?
- Anticipate the cost of Facebook advertising to increase, and budget accordingly
A Patient-Focused Strategy Has Enduring Qualities
As a marketing and communications agency, PEP will adjust its strategies to align with Facebook’s new algorithm, but one thing remains the same: our patient-centric approach. We will continue to remain focused on putting patients (and their families) at the center of all we do, co-creating content, and empowering rare disease families to find their voice and engage in meaningful and authentic conversations across our brand platforms. This approach has and will continue to provide our clients with a unique and fresh opportunity to flourish across social networks by delivering real value to the communities they serve.
Learn more about PEP, its approach, and its offerings, which include social media and digital strategy.