So much has happened on Facebook over the last 12 months. Political controversies, privacy breaches and confronting, unregulated content getting airtime. This has done a lot of damage to the Facebook name. People are not happy with the social network, they do not trust it and while user numbers have not dropped (still steady at 15 million Australian users) the way in which users interact with the platform has.
Facebook is panicking. To combat this, they have been working hard to win back your love and trust. Some of which may impact the way brands and businesses are using the platform. The major algorithm change in 2018, which saw Facebook prioritise groups and family/friend content over brands, was enough of a shakeup for brands to reach and engage with audiences, however there are a few more projected hits to come which will change our entire approach. Brace yourself, wave four* is coming.
Below are the key changes we see impacting brands using the platform.
*Contact Hardhat to learn about the three social waves we’ve been riding.
1.TRANSPARENCY AROUND ADVERTISING
No more are we being left in the dark. All ads are now visible to users, even if they’re not specifically targeted to them. Simply hop onto Facebook Ad Library, search a page and voilà, you can see all the ads that page is currently running. Not such a terrible thing for us advertisers, other than our competition being able to see our dark activity.
Clearing your Facebook search history. Not yet put into action but there is talk of Facebook enabling users to wipe their search history clean. This will enable users to feel like they have a bit more control over their accounts, making them feel more private and protected, but will impact brands as we're going to have to work a bit harder to target our audiences without this information.
2. FACEBOOK FACELIFT MAY MEAN THE DEATH OF THE NEWS FEED
Now this one has us a little more concerned. In April, Facebook announced it would be getting a new look across both mobile and desktop later in the year. This is predicted to be the biggest change to Facebook’s design in five years. You probably already noticed the iconic Facebook blue icon changing on the app.
A new look, how can that be bad I hear you ask – well think again.
Following on from the big algorithm shift in early 2018, Facebook is continually looking for ways to realign itself back to its old values of friends, families and local communities. Zuckerberg himself has described the thinking behind this change as turning a “social media town square” to a “social living room” that focuses on intimacy and privacy.
What you’re likely going to see is a bigger focus on Groups, Events and Messenger and less so on Pages (aka brands). This shift to become a private-focused platform will likely see the News Feed play a less important role and may even see it abandoned altogether.
So, what does this mean for advertisers? Some question if Stories will become the new place for brands to live. Other speculate Messenger will be the primary place for us to engage with audiences. Only time will tell but in the meantime, we can be prepared by starting to consider the following:
- How we can play a bigger role in the Messenger space
- Focus on creating more authentic experiences with our audience
- Seek opportunities within Facebook Groups
- Continue to shift our thinking and goals from likes and engagement to reach and awareness
3. ORIGINAL CONTENT
Facebook is competitive. Any other platform that has come along to rival them has either been bought by Facebook or they have adopted all their unique features to keep us on Facebook-owned platforms. However, there is one platform that has survived the Facebook tornado and continues to thrive, and that’s YouTube.
With 15 million unique Australian visitors per month, YouTube continues to be a place both audiences and advertisers are happy to spend their time.
So what did Facebook do to compete with this? Well, the first and most obvious was they changed their algorithm to favour videos so more people would create and share video content. Then in 2017, Facebook introduced a ‘Watch’ tab which is essentially a video discovery tab. Now they’re going further.
It was recently announced that Facebook is tweaking their video-ranking system over the coming months, this time to prioritise original video content. These videos also must deliver on viewer intent, repeat viewership and longer watch times. Much longer in fact, with Facebook saying videos should hold viewer attention for at least 60 seconds with their optimal length being three minutes and longer. This is a big change to current user behaviour with the average watch time being only 6 seconds.
For users to really adopt this, it’s going to require a behavioural change from passive discovery to active discovery. For us brands, it’s going to mean we look at new strategies to capture attention, and for longer, whilst also investing in higher production values.
While it’s likely short, thumb-stopping content will still reign supreme in the News Feed, we might see more users seeking out Pages or Facebook Watch to engage with longer-form content. Well, at least that is what Facebook is hoping for…
THIS IS NOT THE END OF AN ERA
In fact, it’s going to be a challenging but an exciting time for us to re-discover and test new ways to reach audiences, both in the way they are interacting with the platform and how Facebook wants us to use it. None of this will be an overnight switch, but now is the perfect time for us to start strategising and exploring new ways Facebook, and other social networks, can work in a wider ecosystem to deliver on our broader communication objectives.