What Does Facebook’s Major News Feed Change Mean for SMBs?

Facebook is making a major change to the News Feed. It’s going to de-prioritize commercial content (“public content”) from brands, businesses and media publishers in favor of content and posts from friends and family.

The move is partly a response to the events of 2016 and “fake news” controversies and to declining personal content sharing on the site. Facebook also said it has been receiving complaints that commercial postings have crowded out content from friends and relatives.

For some time “organic reach” for businesses on Facebook has been in decline. That will continue or possibly accelerate now. Facebook warned that in the wake of these changes, “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it.”

In a “News Feed FYI,” Facebook gave some advice to businesses:

Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook — in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.

Using engagement-bait to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.

So what will this mean specifically for SMBs?

To some degree we’ll have to wait and see. But it probably means organic posts will see even more limited exposure and engagement. In the quoted passage above Facebook tells local businesses to “connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events.”

That’s only mildly helpful. As a practical matter, it puts additional pressure on businesses to generate engaging, highly relevant or entertaining posts that get shared. If content isn’t shareable it probably won’t be seen. And while some local businesses are highly skilled at creating great social media content, most are typically at a loss about what to post and how often.

That means SMBs who want exposure for their content will need to boost posts more often and buy Facebook ads. It may also prompt some SMBs to focus on other platforms such as Instagram (also owned by Facebook), Twitter or Snapchat. There’s also Facebook Local, which is something of a wild card.

These are just some quick, top-of-mind thoughts. We’d love to hear your opinions on how the News Feed changes will play out for local businesses.

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