To everything, there is a season … sing it with me now.

While a lot can be said about Facebook, you can’t say they are stagnant. The platform has grown and adapted just as fast as the use of the technology has changed.

Recent changes to the news feed could be seen as a knockout blow, but they won’t be the last to affect marketers.

In case you missed it, in an effort to create more meaningful interactions among users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently posted on his own Facebook feed that the social media platform will adjust the news feed algorithm to emphasize interactions between people and less with brands.

That means Facebook’s 2 billion users will see fewer business updates and viral videos, and more baby pictures and other personal updates.

From a business perspective, this isn’t good news. Publishers, large and small businesses and other brands rely on the behemoth’s news feed to reach their audience. BIA/Kelsey recently reported that budget-conscious SMBs top advertising channels are free social media accounts.

Side note: Remember, these are free accounts; paid advertising is still available on Facebook and isn’t impacted by the changes.

News publishers are going to have a particularly rough time with the changes. eMarketer notes that once fully in effect, posts from news publishers will make up only about 4 percent of posts seen in news feeds.

And there’s more. Given the Russian interference issues with the 2016 election, Zuckerberg has added that they will begin surveying users on which sources they trust most. Scores won’t be released, but news sources deemed more trustworthy will appear higher in search results. The surveys will reportedly go out to a wide range of people.

The platform will also begin prioritizing local news over national news sources. Zuckerberg said this is in an effort to turn down the volume on the divisive issues and focus on the local issues that can bring communities together.

“What’s the point of Facebook making these changes?”

From their perspective, they are getting back to their roots. Facebook’s mission was always to “make the world more open and connected.” But Zuckerberg wasn’t counting on that “open and connected” behavior being of the negative variety. Today their mission statement has been adjusted to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

All said, Facebook knows too many of us are now mindlessly scrolling, rarely stopping to interact with anyone. That’s the behavior they want to change. They want interaction and engagement on their site. And they know we interact more with our friends than we do with businesses.

“What does this all mean for marketers?”

As marketers, it’s time to refocus our efforts and ask ourselves, “How do we engage our audience?”

We’ve been through algorithm changes before, so it’s nothing new. And it’s very likely to happen again. Facebook has a way of pulling the rug out from under us. Don’t forget there is $22 billion spent on Facebook advertising. That’s 83 percent of all social network ad spending, according to eMarketer.

At this point, we don’t know how the changes will play out. But we know what we’ve always known: engagement is key. Posts about sales and specials will get less traction, but asking about your industry or local community – posts designed to generate ideas and comments – will be seen by more people.

Keep making your brand content useful, entertaining, educational and natural. Engage with your audience in a way similar to how you’d engage with a customer who walked into your store.

And by all means, do not sell from your personal profile. Your friends didn’t become your friends on Facebook to see you sell stuff.

People are never happy with change, but it’s part of life. We adjust and continue to grow. Ultimately the goal is to engage more with customers and build a personal relationship that makes them keep coming back.

We’re ready and watching for the changes. Bring on the data!

“A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn …”

 

Jamie Butow is a partner manager at Tru Measure, specializing in paid social and online reputation management.