Adapting to the Algorithm

Just when you thought you knew what content performed well on Facebook, the social media giant is shaking things up. In early January, Facebook announced a reform to their algorithm that will make organic reach more difficult for businesses while improving the Facebook experience for consumers.

The adjusted algorithm prioritizes “high-quality posts” or posts that they believe people want to see. That means content from friends, family, and groups that encourages interaction between people will perform better, and posts from businesses, brands and media will be held to the same standard. Just getting likes on a post will no longer be enough to grow its reach; now brands have to get followers commenting and re-posting in order to build a greater brand awareness.

Now that they’ve changed the rules, marketers have to change how we play the game. But, you may be wondering, how exactly do you do that?

The “quick fix” answer: pay to play. Now that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for marketing content to be seen, we will likely see a rise in the use of promoted posts. The problem here, however, is that you have to convince your higher-ups that social media is essential for brand awareness and, even more so, that these posts will give you a return on your investment. It also means rethinking what little budget you do have for social media marketing and getting even more strategic with your targeting and placement. Continuously evaluating and adjusting your campaign performance and spend will help you respond to this algorithm, but it’s something you should be doing anyway, and it’s not going to be enough on its own.

The more strategic answer: get better at posting content that inspires people to interact with you, and don’t be shy about asking fans to follow you on Facebook. That means consistent creative engagement with the small audiences you can reach. To Facebook, “meaningful interaction” means having a conversation; the more comments you can get, the better off you’ll be.

So what can you do to start conversations? Sports teams have some of the most loyal fan bases around, so there is hardly a limit to the conversation. Create a poll on Twitter so your followers can vote on their favorite player moment from last week’s game. You can also encourage them to post gameday photos or videos of their own using your team or university hashtags. Think about what you, as a fan, would want to talk about on social media and create content that facilitates that discussion.

Do you have new players or coaches? Introduce them to your followers. Use Facebook and Instagram to host live events when key individuals can sit down and answer questions from fans. Make sure that you’re creating a situation where your fans feel welcomed to talk to you as well each other.

Another smart approach is to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on locally and piggyback on current events, activities, and topics. As a sports team, this is one of your easiest methods for drawing engagement. You can use your social media platforms to host contests and giveaways for team merchandise and tickets to upcoming games. Even if there’s an event coming up that has nothing to do with your team, you can put a unique spin on it to make it relevant to your followers. Something as simple as asking your fans to come out and participate with the team in a charity event at the university is a great way to gain some good publicity.

Just be careful to keep your content and comments natural. Sharing something and inviting others to share back is appropriate social behavior; including things like “COMMENT on this post!!” makes you seem insincere and reeks of self-interest. Nobody likes making forced conversation in real life, so don’t expect them to enjoy it on social media either.

One thing that’s constant in the realm of social media is change, so don’t let things like Facebook’s latest algorithm adjustment stress you out. Look at it as an opportunity to become a smarter, more strategic marketer. Then look at the other social media channels you’re using and think about how you can improve your approach on those channels before another algorithm change comes along. By acting now, you can build a better knowledge base of what it takes to succeed on all of the social platforms you’re using and come up with your own creative ways to engage your fans.

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