Last week (Jan 12th, 2018) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a change to the Facebook algorithm. What does this mean for travel marketers? In short: Facebook newsfeed posts from friends are being emphasized, posts from Brands and Publishers de-emphasized. Expect your newsfeed to show more content from friends and family and less from brands and publishers. The new algorithm also will favor content that draws a lot of comments over posts that are popular, but don’t elicit comments, as the algorithm is shifting to focus on comments (conversations), not only likes and shares. Finally, ads are more important than ever.
Brand Pages De-emphasized
Brand page managers will need to engage with commenters and encourage conversations in order to be seen in the newsfeed. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice-president in charge of newsfeed was quoted as saying:
“So what we’re talking about is a ranking change where we’re trying to focus or trying to look at how we might help — or use ranking to help people become closer together, connect people more… we want newsfeed to be a place where people have conversations, where they connect with people. So we’re going to focus more on that, and less on how much time people spend on Facebook and on newsfeed, and less on even how much they share directly… this will mean that a number of different things will happen, but content that generally gets — that facilitates or inspires more meaningful conversation or meaningful interactions between people will get more distribution, and content that does so less will get less distribution… there will be less content directly from (professional) Pages. Page content will still be an important part of the ecosystem, but it will shift a little bit. Content that is shared and talked about between friends will grow, and content that’s directly consumed from Pages directly will shrink slightly.”
That last line is the most important part for travel marketers. Mosseri is saying that anyone managing a Brand page will need to engage more with their users via comments on their posts in order to have a chance at being seen organically in the newsfeed. Just having posts liked won’t be enough, a conversation needs to spring up around each post. He explained that other posts that your Facebook connections find engaging will also rise to the top. Conversations stemming from live videos, celebrities’ posts, private groups and other highly interactive post types will be among those highlighted on the new News Feed. Independent testing has shown that the timing of these conversations is important: content that gets comments immediately after being posted takes precedence in the newsfeed, so marketers need to be prepared to post content and then immediately engage in conversation with their users.
Why Are These Changes Being Made?
In a word: quality. Over the past year, Facebook has been aware of growing user dissatisfaction with the platform as awareness of “fake news” has taken off, and brands have increased their marketing efforts. User growth has become stagnant as the newsfeed has become commercialized and politicized. This is resulting in a lot of negativity around the platform (much of the Facebook press release centers on users’ mental health and happiness) and increased fragmentation. Rather than bringing people together as it was intended, Facebook has become a platform of dissension, and the human component of updates from friends and family have been lost in the flood of messages from brands and politicians.
For travel marketers, this is ultimately good news. By making regular adjustments like this to ensure quality Facebook is investing in its future value as an advertising platform. As marketers we want our destination’s message to be shown to high quality, engaged audiences. Although it will mean an initial drop in traffic to many Brand pages, by focusing on creating high-quality content that sparks conversation with users in the long term travel brands will benefit from this change. A shift in tactics is required, however, no longer can we simply post visually attractive content that inspires users to click the Like button, we now have to post informative content that inspires users to comment, ask questions, give their feedback. This is also synonymous with a shift from content that focuses on the Dreaming stage of travel to more of the Planning stage, where travelers begin thinking seriously about visiting a destination and start asking questions. Travel brands need to be telling compelling stories that draw users in, utilizing video (especially live video), UGC (user-generated content), and monitoring user comments in near-real time.
The Free Ride is Over
Facebook Pages have been a wonderful boost for travel marketers, as Brand Pages have been an essentially free marketing tool, the only cost being the time required to create quality content and engage with users. However this had already begun to change as during the past two years competition on the platform has increased and the newsfeed has become flooded with commercial and political content. The free ride is definitively over now. From now on Brand Pages’s organic reach will continue to drop and Promoted Posts will be required in order to be seen in the newsfeed (Promoted Posts are one form of Facebook ad).
This means that it’s time for travel marketers to focus their tactics on Facebook ads and shift their budgets accordingly. Even better than Promoted Posts which increase visibility in the newsfeed, Facebook ads sit alongside the newsfeed so retain maximum visibility. With Facebook’s advanced audience targeting these ads are one of the most effective forms of advertising available to travel marketers today. To fully utilize this tactic it’s absolutely essential to invest in creating clearly defined audience segments and tracking them using Facebook Insights and Analytics. A data-driven approach that focuses on high-quality content and engaging storytelling is the key to success.
Ultimately, this change to the algorithm will mean a drop in traffic for most Brand pages. It will also mean a drop in user time on the site, which in the short term will hurt Facebook’s own ad revenues. It’s important to understand that this is a necessary change and part of Facebook’s ongoing evolution. Although it will be painful for many in the short term, in the long term it will ensure the platform retains quality and relevance, and that’s a good thing for all travel marketers.