m/SIX's Chanter Considers How Brands Respond To Facebook's News Feed Changes

Pushing publishers and brands aside, Facebook recently decided to prioritize fare from friends and family in users’ News Feeds. To suss out how brands are responding to this wrench in their media strategies, Social Media Insider spoke with James Chanter, media director at GroupM media agency m/SIX.

Social Media Insider: What should brands and agencies make of these changes?

James Chanter: First off, don’t panic. For large advertisers that primarily rely on paid Facebook ads rather than organic reach, there’s unlikely to be a significant impact. Where the changes will be most notable are with smaller brands and publishers that depend heavily on organic reach to drive engagement and traffic.

Mark Zuckerberg has been clear that these changes are in response to user feedback -- they were seeing too much content that wasn’t relevant. The revised algorithm should serve to dial this trend back somewhat.

From an advertiser perspective, this underlines the fact that users are the new masters of their digital experience. Facebook is making the change (at least in part) because of user feedback. And users have less patience for content that isn’t immediately relevant.

SMI: Will this finally kill organic reach on Facebook?

Chanter: No. While the changes will decrease organic reach for many brands and publishers, in some cases, organic reach will improve. Great content -- and that means great content as judged by users, not the brands producing it! -- keeps people coming back for more should continue to do well.

You have influencers, for example, that get a ton of organic reach. They’re producing killer content, and they’re producing a lot of it.  In some cases, a piece of content a day.  And they’re getting instant feedback. They can continually refine what they’re creating to optimize to what their fans most want to see. 

A brand is never going to be able to move this fast, but there are valuable insights for brands to take away. First, you’re going to get better engagement if you have fans looking forward to the next piece of content. Second, the more content you produce, the more engagement data you get back, allowing you to get a better read on what most moves your audience. You can then refine your content to reflect these desires.

SMI: Does this necessarily mean that brands will have to spend more on paid ads?

Chanter: Yes and no. Brands that have relied heavily on organic reach will likely have to spend more on ads to get the same reach. However, for brands that rely mostly on paid reach already -- which again, is most large brands -- there shouldn’t be a major impact. 

We should also distinguish between different types of paid ads. There are paid posts and then there is advertising to boost organic posts. Facebook has made it clear the changes won’t affect the majority of paid posts. Ads for boosting organic posts will likely be more impacted. 

SMI: Should brands develop content series and utilize sequential storytelling as part of their content strategy?

Chanter: Regardless of the recent News Feed changes, brands need to be doing content. It’s not a Facebook issue, it’s simply the state of the current ad environment. When consumers can essentially opt-out of ads, meaningful content is a vital method to connect.

People consume nearly six hours of digital content every day, according to eMarketer, so the opportunity to reach them is there. The benefit with content series and sequential content is having an ongoing dialogue and building up a greater fan base over time. 

The best influencers are successful because their fans are always looking forward to the next piece of content. Another takeaway is volume. The more content you produce, the more feedback you get. And you quickly adjust the narrative based on the data you’re getting on engagement. 

SMI: How should brands do that?

Chanter: Brands need to become better listeners. Consumers are the ones curating their digital experiences, and we need to be cognizant of what they’re looking for to have any sort of relevance. Or even to be seen at all. Brands should be moving away from demographic targeting and descriptive segmentation to targeting around attitudes and behaviors. By creating content that matches consumers’ demonstrated needs and interests, brands have a better opportunity to break through.

SMI: How else might brands and agencies effectively respond to this ranking change?

Chanter: The biggest change is that brands that were relying on an organic strategy will likely have to invest more in paid.

SMI: While trying to rise to Facebook’s new standard of creating “meaningful” content, can brands really compete with fare from users’ users and family?

Chanter: This is really the crux of the entire issue. In the old world, brands were competing with their competitors for consumers’ attention. In the digital world where everyone is a publisher, brands are competing against each other, against media companies and against your next-door neighbor’s vacation pictures.

We don’t see this as Facebook specific. It’s simply the modern media environment.  If brands want to stay relevant, they need to find a way -- both on and off Facebook -- to create something compelling that allows for an ongoing dialogue. Simply advertising at people isn’t going to work.


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