In the dark art of Facebook it is still content that counts

Since Facebook announced changes to its Edgerank Algorithm last month, cries of plummeting Facebook Reach have sprung up across the industry, with some claiming their Reach figures have fallen by as much as 50%.

The dark art of Facebook’s Algorithm determines what type of content is shown in a user’s news feed. The recent change means this now puts more emphasis than ever on the volume of engagement each post receives – if fans aren’t engaging with your content, eventually they may stop seeing it altogether.

The change coincides with the launch of Promoted Posts, which allow brands to over-ride the Algorithm by paying for a post to appear in the news feed for longer, allowing more people to see it and increasing Reach as a result.

So whilst Facebook argues the changes are to stream content more effectively for users, it does throw up questions as to who is really reaping the rewards.

That aside, with the Algorithm in place, Promoted Posts should not necessarily be viewed as cheating the system. Edgerank assumes that members who do not comment or “like” are always less interested than those who do. However, this does not take into account differing digital behaviours – whilst some like to participate, submit, debate and contribute, others simply want to observe. A lack of engagement does not always equate to a lack of interest.

So what’s the way forward? Invest in content generation to drive engagement, or in Promoted Posts to drive reach?

The primary focus must still be that of content. There is no point paying to promote content that turns people off. Brands must listen to their audience and learn from them: timing, frequency, what they like and what they don’t. Then listen again. What works one month might not work the next.

Promoted Posts can then be used to drive reach and uplift for activities such as Competitions and Product Launches, ensuring that key promotions reach the maximum audience base. However, quality content should remain at the heart. There are a multitude of tips on how to improve your Edgerank score – using images, including direct CTAs, avoiding links (they drive elsewhere so reduce engagement) – but as Angus Wood points out, good content and engaging content are not always the same thing. To ensure content is adding value to a brand’s overall marketing strategy, it should aim to reinforce the brand’s values as much as entertain and aid the consumer.

So do the Edgerank changes mean that brands should be spending on content, or on promoting it? Well probably a bit of both. Seeking engagement via strong content is still the key, but utilising a wider variety of Facebook media options to support it can greatly extend reach. The one thing to avoid is chasing a quick win solution. The days of a fleeting number boost from a silo campaign are over. Seeking long term value engagement must now be the focus.

Sophie Crossley is an account director at Spinnaker