The Smarts

Practical advice for brands in the wake of Facebook update

In its most dramatic update for years, Facebook has laid down the gauntlet to brands, advertisers and publishers.  Make sure your content is interaction-worthy or expect to have your posts demoted in the news feed.

The heavily-publicised move is expected to have dramatic consequences as digital marketing agencies review their social media strategies for their clients.

Announced at the start of January, the algorithm update will see posts from friends and family favoured with particular focus on person-to-person comments rather than organic posts from brands and publishers.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the move is about helping people find more relevant content through meaningful interactions. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media.”

Facebook’s head of News Feed Adam Mosseri said as the roll out occurs “pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease”.

“The impact will vary from page to page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. 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,” said Mosseri.

The change should not come as a surprise to the marketing and advertising industry. Algorithm changes from Google, Facebook and many other social networks occur regularly and have been making and breaking brands for more than ten years now.

Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times annually and Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter regularly optimise their platforms to engage and retain their audiences.

In comparison with other networks, Facebook is widely seen as more economical for brands’ advertising budgets but this move is expected to result in higher advertising costs over time.

As part of the drive to create ‘meaningful interactions’, Facebook will reward longer comments although critics question whether this will result in more polarising content to get people talking. 

Facebook has announced an additional update asking people to rate the trustworthiness of publishers. This is thought to be in response to Facebook’s handling of ‘fake news’ last year and could counter the issue of publishers creating inflammatory content to bolster longer comments. 

“Last week I announced a major change to encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption. As a result, you’ll see less public content, including news, video, and posts from brands. After this change, we expect news to make up roughly 4% of news feed – down from roughly 5% today,” said Zuckerberg.

For publications deemed trustworthy such as SmartCompany, this could be a godsend. Facebook added that: “Publications that don’t score highly as trusted by the community may see a decrease.”

So what can you do to combat this colossal change?  

As marketers we are all well versed in having multi-channel distribution strategies. We know how fraught it can be to rely on one channel and that best practice for any content marketing strategy and distribution approach is to not put all your eggs in one basket.

Depending on your brand’s business objective, content that creates awareness could be a key consideration although if your marketing budget is to be optimised you’ll need to create content that inspires conversation and interaction if you want to maintain organic reach. Here’s some simple tips to deal with the update.


  • Update your followers so they see your content – Let them know how to change their Facebook news feed settings so they can still see your updates. Once the Facebook app is opened on your phone, click on the bottom right hand corner and scroll to the bottom to see ‘settings’, then click on news feed preferences. Click on ‘prioritise who to see first’ and you can choose up to 30 pages.
  • Assess your posting frequency – Brands need to focus on quality not quantity and if this means reducing posting frequency to ensure higher engagement rates then it’s vital to pull back.
  • Create interaction-based content – The focus will be on users communicating with each other not you as a business communicating with them. You need to create content that will get your fans interacting with each other. Strategies will need to evolve to encourage more two-way interaction between followers rather than a broadcast approach from brands.
  • Rethink your video strategy – Facebook says recorded videos will get less engagement while live video is expected to be promoted because live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook. “In fact, live videos on average get six times as many interaction as regular videos,” Facebook notes.
  • Consider a Facebook ads strategy – Critical to many brands’ content marketing strategies are posts with website links. Ever since Facebook and its peers were available, brands have been creating content to compel potential customers back to their brand websites. As a result of this update, posts with website links are also expected to receive less engagement. This means paid amplification will gain greater importance but as always, the Facebook ad objective and strategic targeting will be deal breakers because setting the wrong objective will squander your budget.  
  • You cannot use engagement bait – The aim is shareable, engaging content but encouraging your audience to share by instructing them in a caption will not suffice. The content itself, whether it’s a video or image or article, needs to be inherently compelling so your audience will want to share rather than be told to do so. Facebook will penalise posts that overtly ask people to share or comment in the caption, text or video but you can encourage this within a live video. 
  • Personal pages won’t cut it – While many in the marketing industry may think this update can be countered by brands leveraging influencer marketing campaigns or using personal Facebook profiles instead of Business Pages to distribute content, it will not work because the algorithm change will occur at the content level.  


In summary, this algorithm update appears to show no signs of abating so using paid amplification will be increasingly important as part of your content marketing strategy.

Now more than ever, best practice for content creation and audience targeting will be crucial for a brand’s return on their marketing investment.  

Brands need to be creative with their stories, ask questions and be genuinely interested in their customers’ and fans’ opinions if they are to succeed in this new world.


How to update your news feed preferences to get your favourite Facebook posts