Unpacking the Facebook Newsfeed for Brands

May 9, 2018

It’s not possible to have a conversation about Facebook at the moment without acknowledging the ongoing data privacy and fake news issues. While under fierce scrutiny from the media and governments around the world, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an update to Facebook in January to address the issue of fake news. Whatever your view, with more than two billion people on the platform worldwide, it remains a powerful form of media for organizations seeking to engage with the public.

More than 1,000 signals make up how the Facebook newsfeed algorithm serves 300 stories each day. It’s important for public relations practitioners to have a rudimentary understanding of how the Facebook newsfeed algorithm works.

Groups versus brand pages:
The changes promoted content from friends and family and groups over brand pages. Video content is promoted over all other forms of content. Zuckerberg has recognized that Facebook users want to engage around communities as they do in real life. There are two ways of building or engaging a community on Facebook. An individual can create a group around an interest or topic, or a brand can create its own space.

Brand paradox – pay to play:
It’s an issue that plays into the Facebook brand paradox that we’ve seen play out over the last five years. Facebook has built its business model by encouraging organizations to build communities on the platform. Over time, Facebook has throttled organic reach to the point where content posted within a community typically reaches less than three percent. Its business model is predicated on brands paying to promote content to reach a wider audience within their own communities.

Stories promoted on Facebook:
Facebook recently shared the types of content that would be promoted in the newsfeed in a webinar for publishers.

  • Affinity: friends, family and close friends
  • Engagement: post bounce driven by reaction, comment and shares
  • User generated content: events, recommendations, reviews and check-in
  • User choice: stories so compelling people opt in
  • Video: Facebook wants to be an entertainment platform

My tip is to use these insights as the basis of strategies for engagement on the platform.

Recommendations for brands:
Here are my three recommendations for using Facebook as a means of public relations engagement.

  • Pay to play: budget against goals: You need to pay to guarantee reach as a brand on Facebook. Using Ad Planner to explore the cost and return on investment for an activity.
  • Groups: listening and conversations: Explore relevant groups by location and topic. Listen to the conversation and determine whether you can add value. Engage with the admin and explore the opportunity to engage with the community.
  • Test and learn from your data: Explore your own page data. Could you engage active members as influencers through their own networks? What content works and what doesn’t?

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds