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Will Facebook’s News Feed overhaul create obstacles for PR?

by | Jan 17, 2018 | Public Relations

Not all change is bad. But for PR pros, it’d be hard to classify this change in particular as good.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s News Feed would be undergoing a pretty substantial change: users are going to start seeing much less public content—like posts from businesses, brands, and media—with the aim being to replace it with content from your friends and family.

On January 11, Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that “Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do—help us connect with each other.”

So what does this mean for you, the consummate PR professional who relies on Facebook to get your message out?

According to Inc. Magazine, here are a few notable things:

  • Ad prices are going to soar
  • Engagement is going to shrink
  • Time spent on Facebook is going to dip

The article, which suggests Zuckerberg is making the changes in an effort to “save Facebook,” says that business and brand publishers, which account for most of the content users see in their Feeds, can expect to see “an 80 percent reduction in page reach, clicks, and engagement.”

“We view this as a devastating new reduction in publisher engagement, despite falling engagement rates over the past few years,” says article writer Larry Kim, founder and CEO of MobileMonkey.

In addition to the impact on advertising pricing, post publishers who attempt to ”bait” users with promotional content will be punished: “Many advertisers bait users into engaging with their content with offers that promise a coupon code or other incentive for liking a publisher post, as a way to manufacture artificial engagement,” the article reports. “Going forward, Facebook says, these tactics will result in demotion of post rank.”

The Wall Street Journal takes it a step further, asserting in a Jan. 12 article that the News Feed update will be a “nail in the coffin” for organic posts. “It’s just an amplification of pay-to-play from Facebook,” said James Douglas, head of media at Reprise, in the piece.

Clearly, this diminishing visibility will impact how brands benefit from Facebook. Although users will still be able to opt in and see posts from the brand pages they follow, it will be a lot harder to get your messages out to the greater FB population. So it will be a top-priority strategy for brands to produce more engaging (i.e., not so promotional) content to encourage FB users to follow them directly, and ideally participate more in Facebook Groups, which Inc. calls “the unicorn of Facebook engagement loopholes.”

So it all comes back to what we’ve been saying all along about FB success—more engaging content. Brands who are able to tap into the social zeitgeist of engagement with timely, meaningful and thought-provoking content that goes above and beyond run-of-the-mill promotions, discount coupons and special offers will fare better on the open seas of the new News Feed.

Will it work? Only time will tell. But Zuckerberg and company appear committed to making these changes for users, so there’s likely no looking back.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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