Keeping up with Facebook – the changes you may have missed that affect your marketing

by on January 24, 2014

Keeping Up With FacebookFast and furious.

No, I’m not referring to that series of car racing movies.

I’m referring to the rate of Facebook changes rolling out of late. There are constantly new things going on and as a busy small business owner, it can be hard to keep up with all of them! I know it makes my head spin sometimes :)

So, I’ve put together a list of the most notable things that have been going on with Facebook over the last year or so and how it affects your marketing. I wanted to give you a brief overview and sum-up that will quickly have you up to date and ensure that you haven’t missed anything important and are doing all that you can with your Facebook presence.

ORGANIC REACH DOWN/PAY TO BE SEEN

It’s been much discussed that organic reach (ie. how many of your page likers see your Facebook posts WITHOUT you having to pay for it) is going down, quite dramatically at that. It’s obvious that Facebook is thus nudging pages toward paid forms of advertisement. Paying for Facebook advertising is a very touchy subject that has business owners and marketers buzzing since the official Facebook announcement in December 2013 (I’ve noticed drops in organic reach and Facebook doing everything they can to encourage you to advertise for ages now though).

If you do choose to do the paid Facebook route, there are basically two options: Promoted Posts and the classic ads. If you’re using Promoted Posts, you can now target who this is being shown to. (Note – Facebook has been talking since June about their efforts to simplify their advertising options – so things may very well be changing soon!)

How this affects your marketing: Less of your likers are seeing your posts. Period. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon Facebook but it’s a good reminder that we should never put all of our marketing eggs in one basket, especially baskets that we don’t own or control. Consider putting more effort into other social channels if you find that you are getting more return/activity (but they have advertising options too most of them, so again, please keep the prior point in mind at all time my friends). Revisit your Facebook marketing strategy and look at new ideas for boosting engagement. And the obvious one, pay for Facebook advertising.

Here are some additional resources that can help with understanding the change and how you can go about addressing it:

SEARCHING ON FACEBOOK

Graph Search is the search engine within Facebook that was announced in January of 2013 and rolled out to English audiences in July 2013.  It shows as a search bar along the top and allows you to input search queries (like you would in a Google search). The results are based on your network of friends and the pages that they have liked, checked-in to or otherwise interacted with.

I have found previously that Facebook’s native search tool was VERY cumbersome. I noticed that if you did not know exactly how a business named their page – and I mean exactly – you couldn’t find them on Facebook. Things have greatly improved in terms of delivering more relevant results and it should be easier for people looking for you on Facebook to find you. While of course it’s not perfect, no doubt the functionality will continue to be improved upon. Take a look at some successes and some not so great aspects of graph search here.

How this affects your marketing: It’s easier to find your business and you should in theory enjoy more visibility. You can take steps to optimize your page for search, as my friend Jayne from Webonize shares here.

RECOMMENDATIONS/STAR RATINGS

Facebook recommendations is a section found near the top of your Facebook business page where customers can leave a recommendation for your products or services. This rolled out earlier this year and it’s really easy to enable – you just need a physical address. More details here. The newest dimension to recommendations is that you can now rate the business you are reviewing with a 5 star rating system. You’ll see your star rating right under your business name on your page.

Facebook reviews

How this affects your marketing: A great way to have glowing testimonials for your business front and center for visitors to your Facebook page.  If the reviewer chooses to make their review public, then their network of friends will be exposed to it too – great word of mouth marketing for your biz. The downside is that you may get negative reviews showing publicly and you have no control over where the ratings are coming from or their legitimacy.

TEXT ONLY UPDATES

I had meant to get this post up earlier, but have had a bit of a hectic time with client work lately. And good thing because Facebook has just announced that the increased reach with text only updates that we’ve talked about here should no longer be the case. They will show less text only posts from pages, favouring the good old fashioned link posts. What I mean by a link post is when you paste a link to share on your page, you leave in what automatically pops up: the image, the title of the post and the description. See image below.Facebook link post

How this affects your marketing: Time to shift away from using the text only strategy. If you’re sharing a link, leave it as it is, preview and all.

Just a note that while this was announced, it may take some time to take effect. I haven’t noticed the shift yet. If you’re on my email list, I will keep you posted on how this develops. Want to be kept in the loop? Sign up here to join our community.

LARGER IMAGES APPEAR WHEN POSTING LINKS

When you are posting links to Facebook, the image of the link is now much larger than it was before, refer to the example above.  Photos are what gets the most engagement on Facebook, so this is a move to make those links you share even more attention grabbing.

How this affects your marketing: Using great photos can really draw attention to your Facebook posts. If you don’t include photos in your blog posts, might be time to start. Learn more about this here.

NEW CONTEST RULES

Previously, running a Facebook contest where part of entering the contest required a like or other type of Facebook action needed to be done via third party application (ie. paying to have your contest administered). They ditched that a few months ago, but there are still rules around what is acceptable. More details here.

How this affects your marketing: If you want to plan a simple little contest to boost Facebook engagement on your page, then you can do it yourself free of charge and without violating Facebook’s rules.

HASHTAGS

Hashtags, made famous by Twitter, were introduced to Facebook in June. Remember, watch the length of your hashtags (shorter is better) and don’t #jam #pack #your #updates with them – looks all kinds of silly and is really unnecessary. Stick with 1-2 per post. And you certainly don’t need to use them all the time! If you need a primer on hashtags, I just love this resource by Socialize Me.

How this affects your marketing: You can potentially reach a greater audience who is searching about a particular subject. Also a great way to join in conversations about a topic or a specific event/gathering that has a # associated with it. And they are awesome for organizing your content, making all the posts you have created with that hashtag accessible with just a click.

EDITING POSTS

How many times have you posted to Facebook and then, when re-reading it, noticed a typo or a change you want to make in what you wrote? You apparenlty can now edit your post text AFTER you’ve posted it live to your page (status updates, photos, links, video), although I’m not currently seeing this on any of the pages I’m a manager of. We all know Facebook can be glitchy and inconsistent, with features appearing and disappearing. If you have it, it’s accessible via the little downward arrow in the top right corner of the post.

If you’re also not seeing the ability to edit your posts, there is one work around if you’ve posted an image. Click on the image and then note the “edit” button which allows you to alter the text.

Edit Facebook post

Edit Facebook scheduled postAnd this one I’m really excited about! You can also edit your text for posts that your have scheduled. When you are reviewing your posts in your Activity Log, just click on the little down arrow.

How this affects your marketing: Clean up your communications! Eliminates the “Doh!” factor you can have after posting or scheduling something you didn’t mean to. With scheduled posts, saves you the time of having to recreate the post if you’ve made an error in the text.

EMBED FACEBOOK POSTS ON YOUR WEBSITE

If you have a special Facebook post that you would like your website visitors to see, you can now “embed” the Facebook post right onto your website. This means  your Facebook post will show on your website and it’s fully interactive if someone is logged into Facebook – he or she can like and comment right from your site.  Get instructions for how to embed a Facebook post here.

How this affects your marketing: You can use embedded posts to drive more engagement and activity on your Facebook page. If you’ve got a post with tons of engagement, it’s also a great way to add credibility. I haven’t played around with this myself yet, but I see that it would work well in blog posts where you want to get more people talking about the topic at hand. If any of you have used this strategy with success, please share with us in the comments!

PAGES TO WATCH

Facebook pages to watchYou can now “watch” up to 5 pages.  This means you can chose 5 pages to monitor their likes. The page you are watching will NOT know it’s you checking them out. They will only get a notification that they are being watched. If you’re on my list, when I let you know about this feature, Facebook was disclosing to the page you chose to watch that you were watching them. That is now no longer the case, FYI. It’s all totally private. 

How this affects your marketing: I personally think this is a bit silly and doesn’t really offer that much value. It keeps you focused on how many likes your competitors or other pages in your industry are getting and of course the Facebook solution if you find that you’re not keeping up is to to run ads. Better focus on delivering value than comparing yourself to others I say. But thought I should bring this up since that big green button awaits you every time you login to your page :)

COVER PHOTO SHIFTS

In March 2013 Facebook removed its previous restrictions on having contact details or calls to action in cover photos. They also removed the 20% text rule, which was confusing.

How this affects your marketing: You can now include much more in your cover photo and better leverage it as a communications tool. Beware of being too text heavy and ruining the visual appeal of your cover photo, though!

ANALYTICS CHANGES

Facebook made some changes to its Analytics. My fav development? Being able to see when you fans are online so that you can now very easily and quickly figure out the best times to post. Be sure to also check out what type of posts your audience responds to best, be it photo or link, etc. A great resource on this here.

How this affects your marketing: Helps you organize what is the best thing for your Facebook audience and when you should post it, in an intuitive way that doesn’t require mad analytic skills, amen! I certainly don’t miss the old days of manually testing and experimenting to try to figure out the ideal times to reach the Facebook audience of my clients. Not fun!

WHERE’S THAT BUZZED ABOUT NEWSFEED??

And for those of you who might have heard rumors circulating in the last year that the Facebook newsfeed was going to be re-created, or perhaps been one of the few users granted beta access, that has stalled. Back in March 2013, Facebook announced that it would be soon releasing a new newsfeed that would be more visually pleasing (less clutter) and giving the user the choice to choose what types of newsfeed they wanted to see (ex. photos only, business pages they follow only, etc.). But that’s delayed, indefinitely. No official news has been released as to why this was postponed or what the next re-vamp may entail.

Wow!  That ended up being quite a monster list, but I hope it provided a concise sum-up of the latest changes for you. Look forward to hearing any experiences you’ve had with any of the shifts in the comments. And if you think that I missed anything that should be added, comment away!

Image courtesy of: basketman/Free Digital Photos

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah January 24, 2014 at 10:13 am

awesome post, Martina ! Sharing it right now. And thanks for the mention :-)
Sarah recently posted..5 Ways to Add More Subscribers to Your E-Mail List

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Martina January 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm

You got it Sarah! I always appreciate your frank perspective on things :)

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Churchill Madyavanhu January 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

That’s a real in-depth post. Everything is covered. I am experimenting with Facebook ads, so I appreciate the share and hope to make good use of it. The organic reach of my page posts has been decimated so much that I beginning to think I will soon be the only one seeing them, unless I pay for boosting posts.
Churchill Madyavanhu recently posted..The difficult business of getting the first 50 pre-launch registered users for a startup

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Martina January 26, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thanks for the feedback Churchill – glad that you found the post useful! Things are definitely more and more challenging with Facebook, but it’s an opportunity to revisit our tactics and consider some changes. Keep me posted on how things progress with your efforts! Cheers.

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Samuel January 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Yup, it’s definitely harder now to be seen on Facebook but I’m still going no matter what.

I haven’t looked into the star rating yet. Hmmm

Thanks for your post.

- Sam
Samuel recently posted..13 Important Elements for a Successful Online Marketing Plan

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Martina January 31, 2014 at 9:55 am

Yes, it’s not about abandoning Facebook, just shifting things around a little perhaps. Thanks for stopping by Sam!

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Jayne February 5, 2014 at 4:17 am

Fabulous, in depth post Martina. Thanks for the mention.
Jayne recently posted..Understanding What Works With The Recent Facebook Algorithm Changes

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Martina February 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

You got it Jayne! Thanks.

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