Facebook has long been a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives—but over the last few months, the powerful social network has faced a new level of public scrutiny. Following a volley of criticisms about its role in the 2016 election cycle, including open questions about the spread of so-called “fake news,” Facebook has announced some changes to its quality control mechanisms, including some changes that could have a major impact on your newsfeed.
There are a lot of unanswered questions here, including concerns about what this might mean for advertisers. In this post, we’ll fill you in on what we know so far.
Facebook’s Newsfeed Changes—A Timeline
While there have been political pressures on Facebook for months, it’s reasonable to say that the big sea change happened when major advertisers—including brands like Unilever—laid out an ultimatum, warning both Facebook and Google that it would take its $9.8 billion annual advertising budget elsewhere if the platforms continued to promote content it deemed to be “toxic”—that is, sexist, exploitative, racist, etc.
From there came a number of efforts to improve the quality control measures that govern the newsfeed, starting with basic initiatives to curb “engagement bait” and other forms of low-quality content.
Things ramped up from there, however, with Facebook alerting advertisers to some even bigger, more systematic changes. According to Facebook, these changes were all designed to help the social platform stick to its initial mission of human connection and community-building.
Will Facebook Advertising Become More Expensive?
But what can advertisers expect from these changes?
For one thing, it’s increasingly difficult to get much traction based on organic Facebook reach alone. This is a long time coming, but now, with Facebook applying stricter and stricter criteria to the content shared by businesses and brands, the odds of making a big newsfeed splash based on organic reach alone are getting lower and lower.
If you’ve been paying to play for a long time now, augmenting your organic Facebook strategy with robust advertising, then you may not notice this change. But if your brand has resisted paid Facebook ads, hoping to coast on likes and shares alone, you may soon find that your newsfeed presence is dwindling. Ignoring Facebook’s paid advertising options may no longer be viable.
Advertiser Requirements are Changing, Too
That’s not the only change advertisers can expect from the new-and-improved Facebook. Remember that all of these evolutions were initiated due to questions about the validity of Facebook’s advertisers—so in addition to making newsfeed criteria more stringent, Facebook is also cracking down on the requirements for advertisers.
Before last December, more or less anyone could set up an account to post ads to Facebook—just so long as they were willing to pay for it. That’s not so much the case anymore, with Facebook unveiling a number of new requirements for those who want to take out ads:
- Advertisers are now required to be connected with a page.
- In Canada, Facebook is experimenting with new transparency measures, allowing users to view all ads connected with a particular page—meaning you can’t run ads (including “toxic” ones) without everyone knowing about it.
- Facebook has committed to bringing this feature to the U.S., as well, sometime before the end of this year.
Additional Changes for Facebook Advertisers
What’s more, Facebook is making some changes to the content that advertisers can promote. Understand that, while most businesses only promote content that’s directly relevant to their core offerings, some businesses do run “engagement bait” posts, taking advantage of the user and trying to generate more likes. In essence, content like this is spam—ads that say “like our page if you like puppies,” even though the page in question has nothing whatsoever to do with puppies.
Posts like these will now be demoted within Facebook newsfeeds—but how? In essence, Facebook is depending on some machine learning algorithms to help it police its ad content more efficiently. This will undoubtedly be a work in progress, and some fraudulent content is sure to slip through the cracks—but it certainly promises to be a significant new component to Facebook’s quality control measures.
Moving Ahead with Your Facebook Ads
To summarize all this information, what should advertisers do moving forward?
What all of this boils down to is that, if you’re a legitimate business running ads that are directly relevant to your business, you’re probably going to be fine.
If you’ve always leaned heavily on organic reach, as opposed to paid ads, you may find that you have no choice but to pony up a few more ad dollars in the days to come.
And if you engage in “like bait” advertising or other dubious acts of content promotion, you may need to rethink your strategy altogether.
No matter what your Facebook advertising needs may be, the enCOMPASS team can guide you forward. We’d love to talk more about these changes, and to help you develop a Facebook advertising strategy that works well for you. Reach out to us any time to start that dialogue.
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