Facebook’s New Algorithm Creates Obstacles and Opportunities for Municipalities
Facebook is changing the way it prioritizes content in followers’ News Feeds. If your organization relies on Facebook to distribute information to City residents and other stakeholders, your strategy likely needs to change now.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced massive changes to Facebook’s algorithm for how the social media platform prioritizes news from organizations and brands. While these changes were targeted at businesses, they will also take a toll on public communications from cities, counties and other government agencies. The new algorithm, which will be rolled out in phases over the next few months, will prioritize posts from your family, friends and community.
This means that your Page followers will now see more News Feed updates from their sister, dad, and that one friend from college. It also means that they will see less news from Pages they follow. If you’re in charge of digital communications for a government agency, here are three things to keep in mind to ensure your posts don’t get lost in the wake of the new algorithm.
1. Aim for Engagement – Facebook’s algorithm changes are due to lower engagement from users who are being bombarded by content they are not interested in. The priority for friends and family is due to the fact that users engage much more with posts from the people they care about. To help ensure the new algorithm doesn’t hurt your Page (as much), focus on creating content that prompts engagement: Likes, Reactions, Comments and Shares. Engagement on your posts will become a strong signal of your posts’ relevance. Higher Engagement should lead to higher Reach.
Pro Tip: But do not explicitly ask for Likes, Reactions, Comments and Shares. Facebook now penalizes posts that make these requests, calling the practice “engagement baiting.”
2. More Effort on Quality & Relevance – In the past, it was easy for agencies to get away with three-sentence updates, a simple picture, and a link/URL. Now, the bar for content quality is higher: content has to be original to your community and create a two-way conversation. While Facebook has always given News Feed preference to posts with Likes, Reactions, Comments and Shares, the new algorithm places greater preference on two-way engagements where you and your followers talk with one another over the post.
3. Pay to Play – Unfortunately, creating highly engaging, original content is not always enough. Your agency will have to be more willing to pay for post “Boosting” and engage in other forms of Facebook advertising to effectively reach your target audiences. In the past, Boosting posts wasn’t considered a necessity; with the new algorithm, it probably will be. The downside to this is that more organizations and brands will be competing for the same News Feed space you’re after. While this won’t necessarily drive up costs, it could decrease Reach – a $20 post Boost may only reach half as many people as before.
While it may seem that government agencies are on the losing end of the new algorithm, the reality is they are faring much better than their non-profit and for-profit counterparts. The information that governments publish is typically community-focused, which Facebook has said they are prioritizing. We’ll see how the social media behemoth’s changes impact the way users engage with one another, but one thing is for sure: government agencies should expect to invest more budget and resources to sustain their reach on the platform.