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How to leverage Facebook’s 2018 changes for your business growth

Facebook changes for 2018 have landed.

Behind the changes are Zuckerberg’s stated commitments to rebranding the social network as a platform that promotes “connections with family and friends” first, as well as creating a “community” space that guards against fake news and privileges local connections.

Which is all Zuckerberg-speak for “we’re changing what content is seen and the way content is seen”. People > ads.

For users, the primary place they’ll notice these changes is the newsfeed. For businesses, these newsfeed changes are going to shift the pay-for-play model that Facebook has been operating under so far.

Less “Public” Content

Facebook promises to reduce the amount of “public” content, which means that ads from small businesses, news that isn’t local and entertainment or “viral” content that promotes products and brands will soon be significantly reduced.

What will users see instead? Expect more posts from people — “Friends” — who either like, share or comment on other’s posts and content or share their own. In essence, “organic” content rules.

And that means that businesses and brands that rely on Facebook ads as a major strategy in their online marketing could still cough up the “big bucks” and yet not see results.

Facebook’s Ads Manager Is Getting a Facelift

Facebook’s rolled-out changes affect Ads Manager in three main spaces: the Power Editor creation process, drafts, and reports.

Ads Manager and Power Editor are now one in the same. Veterans of the ad platform will be comfortable with the backend of the Power Editor and can choose “Quick Creation” rather than “Guided Creation”, when setting up ad campaigns.

However, many users are finding that ads are going live without being completed, which means precious ad spend is going towards an ad that’s far from being “live”-worthy. This usually occurs when switching between the various levels of an ad campaign creation.

While drafts of campaigns will still be saved, moving between levels of ad campaigns (going from the campaign to ad set to the individual ad) will prompt a message dialogue that could prove quite confusing.

Facebook Ads Manager expert Claire Pelletreau says about these changes: “If you have the new Ads Manager, you probably should be a little worried. Take a couple of extra steps to make sure your ads aren’t going live without you meaning to.”

A Shift Away from Videos

Have you ever come across videos promoted by brands for their products? What about viral content that is “boosted” by pages and, through a series of shares and comments by your friends, has somehow made it to your newsfeed?

When brands create ads that go towards audience building on Facebook, they can target users based on any number of factors — including behaviours. Targeting can get quite granular and businesses have always been told that video marketing is the next big attention grabber.

But, with Facebook’s new changes, users will see less ad-based videos or video content that isn’t actually relevant to them.

This is happening because of our next point…

Measuring “Engagement” Differently

“Viral” and video content is being significantly toned down on Facebook in lieu of promoting “meaningful conversation with other members in a community”.

While video is entertaining and people certainly are viewing it, liking it and perhaps even sharing the content, comments on videos are very few in number when compared to static posts.

Facebook’s new algorithm will privilege content (like Google’s “spiders”) where posts have a  significant amount of tags, comments and conversation. It’s a new way to measure engagement —  people actually talking to one another.

What a novel concept.

Local News First

Many users curate their feeds as a major source of news. Remember good ol’ “RSS” feed subscriptions? Well, those are still around. And, yet, social networks give users the opportunity to customize their own “streams” of news.

Thanks to the change, if and when users do encounter trending topics and news posts, the content will be “local news first”.

Even though Facebook doesn’t seek to be overtly political, it cannot ignore that it is operating a social network of real-time interaction in a grossly politicized environment.

Fake news as well as content that is simply misleading or irrelevant not only disrupts a user’s positive experience of the “flow” of Facebook’s feed, it also leads to much broader (and, presumably, “darker”) social affects.

At its core, Zuckerberg’s manifesto is really just Facebook’s attempt to “regulate” the newsfeed in a way that protects against opportunists.

Unfortunately, it’s small businesses and online, digital publications, pages and blogs with an actual mission to serve their audience that get caught in the crossfire.

So are small businesses without hope? Not at all. In fact, they could see these changes as being a cornerstone in providing more qualified leads than before — if they’re willing to do the work. Here’s what you need to do to succeed on the “new” Facebook.

1. The Importance of Facebook Groups in List Building

Small business owner and digital entrepreneur, Regina Anaejionu of the popular blog and brand “ByRegina” got started with this early.

Whether by fluke or intention, her Facebook group “Humans of Online Business” is nearly 10,000 members strong. While the young, self-styled “solopreneur” had created the group nearly three years ago, she’s only been promoting it actively, setting challenges and doing more Facebook Live content since 2017.

For small businesses to leverage what Facebook changes have left them (instead of wasting time fretting about what it’s taken away from them), they should be pivoting to focusing on Groups as the next major part of their audience building (NOT “marketing”) strategy.

If Facebook’s main goal is to promote a “community” that is chosen by members and users, then using a group to establish your brand’s relevancy and trust is the only valuable and reliable way to build an audience on Facebook.

What goes on inside the group is set by the Admins of the group. You may or may not choose to actively promote your products and services.

However, it does mean that users will receive notifications about content and conversations occurring within the group as a priority.

And, if you’re concerned about losing video marketing, don’t be. The emphasis on groups and the precedence these groups’ postings take on the newsfeed and in notifications means that your business should be focusing on doing scheduled Facebook Live videos within the group.

2. Think Multi-Platform

When the going gets tough, the “tough”…well, yeah, they get strong but, also, they innovate.

If you’ve been focusing all your marketing efforts on one or two platforms — say, Facebook and Instagram, for example — that’s totally understandable. You’re not alone.

However, this is the moment in time to use your consistent brand collateral for building an editorial calendar, publishing strategy and engagement schedule around multiple platforms.

For example, a SaaS platform that focuses on invoice solutions could build a group on Facebook where they’re answering questions and trouble-shooting, maybe even doing “how-to” videos on their platform (which then get transferred to YouTube), use Instagram for visual branding and marketing, use their blog to publish content, make their header and photos “Pinnable” for a Pinterest presence, re-purpose the content for a LinkedIn post and then publish the original blog post on Medium.

3. Learn to Navigate the New Facebook Ads Manager

The efficacy of ads is still in question. But, as for navigation on the backend, you’re covered.

First off, use Claire’s “filtering tricks” that have, thankfully, remained intact since the older version of the Power Editor. This helps you to make sure you’re not messing with the wrong campaign or ad.

She also recommends eliminating the “Learn More” or “Sign Up” CTA buttons to help your “ads” look more like organic posts. While this neat little hack doesn’t necessarily affect Facebook’s publishing of your ad, it can directly affect consumer behavior and interaction with your brand.

If, for example, this small little elimination, coupled with great ad copy and an interesting post, helps to capture your reader and they click through, you can count success on two fronts.

Not only has your ad worked, their click-through allows the user to be retargeted and captured for the next round of the ad funnel and your ad content will be more willingly displayed, given that they’ve displayed an interest.

4. Combine Word-of-Mouth Marketing with a New Local Focus

If it’s “local first”, what does that mean for your small business?

Just because business moved online and marketing went digital, doesn’t mean the old classics like word-of-mouth and cold calling went to bed.

Businesses will have to — and should — refocus their efforts on enhancing their SEO for local visitors and those searching for local businesses.

They should also be reintegrating word-of-mouth marketing, opting for two approaches simultaneously. On the one hand, they can follow up with leads using tried-and-true methods like snail mail, a phone call and face-to-face conversations, asking to be recommended.

They can also, at the same time, build a “referral” technique in their “off-boarding” or “project close” points of interaction.

For example, a brick-and-mortar retail store with an online channel could use omnichannel marketing platforms like Lightspeed to pinpoint a user and offer them a discount for referring another customer.

An online business offering a copywriting service could follow up, via email, with clients whose projects have closed, letting them know they’d love to work with someone closely resembling that client, asking for a referral.

5. Use Your Own Tracking Scripts

Expect tools like heat maps and script dashboards to skyrocket in the face of Facebook’s changes.

Why? Because the evergreen Facebook Pixel, the tracking part of the Ads Manager and Power Editor backend, is still around. But, with possibly fewer people clicking on ads or even being shown ads at all, the state of tracking conversions and retargeting is still in question.

Just like it’s a good idea to now shift focus to multi-platform marketing, it’s also a good idea to have other “tracking scripts” alive and well on your landing and blog pages.

While the pixel will undoubtedly still capture data, the volume (and quality) of those leads is still a question. Make sure to back your efforts up by hooking up Google Analytics to Google Tag Manager.

The reality is very simple: Businesses must adapt to a new marketing ecosystem on Facebook. But marketers, at their core, are disrupters and innovators. They like to try new platforms creatively, usually learning to “break” them before others.

If you see Facebook’s new changes as a constraint, this will encourage you to get creative with your marketing strategies.

Small businesses fretting about these changes need to look no further than the strategies already being used by other marketers on different platforms.

Consider, for example, how the notion of Instagram influencers can be used on Facebook, especially since the two are so well-connected.

If Facebook privileges personal, rather than public content, then we could see brands and businesses on Facebook approach and build relationships with users on Facebook who will soon become “Facebook Influencers”, using this platform to connect with their audience and promote products they love.

It’s an intriguing idea, isn’t it?


Matt Williamson is the Company Director of Digital Marketing Adelaide. He keeps busy doing what he enjoys most – talking. He has a passion for social media and all things digital marketing.

Matt is an internet entrepreneur, social media expert, multiple business owner and digital marketer who specialises in assisting businesses to generate more revenue via the power of online advertising and digital marketing. Matt regularly speaks at events as a keynote speaker focusing on digital marketing & social media.

View Matt’s LinkedIn:

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