For a long time, we figured that we knew how to game the Facebook algorithm. Be controversial. Be topical. Hop on trends. After all, the ones who grab the most eyeballs win, right? Well, that is all about to change.
The new way forward for ranking on Facebook is going to be more about being inspirational and attracting positive reactions. This is a big change to the volume or “engagement” metric in Facebook’s feed delivery algorithm which always seemed to be based upon two things:
1. What’s getting the most eyeballs and reactions through positive and negative reactions, sharing and commenting.
2. And whatever feature Facebook was pushing the use of at the time, like live video was a few years ago, for example.
This big change is being tested right now by Facebook in the form of mini-surveys being held on both mobile and desktop versions. The survey will simply ask you how you feel about particular posts that you’ve reacted to, and whether you want to see more or fewer posts like it. It’s just like the “hide this post” feature, but this time, it’s asking for your choice between a positive or negative piece of feedback.
This is all around the pivot from Facebook being that place where arguments are conducted and tribes are formed about differing political positions, to a place where we go to be connected with family, friends and those who share our interests, as well as being a place to be inspired and to feel good about our interactions and engagements.
So what does this mean to Australian businesses who want to get ahead of these changes?
1. Engagement-baiting will probably be discouraged
If you’re one of those marketers who like to bait people for engagement by posting opinion pieces that you know get people fired-up, like manufactured outrage over whether it’s called a chicken parmy or a chicken parma (and I’m look at you, every newspaper and radio station in the country) then it’s time to swing away from that stuff because it’s probably going to stop working soon.
This goes for those traditionally viral stories like the blue or gold dress meme, anything pitting one group of people against another — and pretty much anything involving a story from Sky News Australia who are the undisputed kings of outrage baiting in this country right now.
2. Inspirational and feel-good content will be encouraged
This is the secret behind the success of pages like The Dodo, who has built an entire business model around fundraising for animal rescue organisations worldwide through awareness videos showing the rescue of stray and abandoned dogs, cats and other domestic animals.
Inspirational content isn’t just about cute heart-warming videos, it can be about educational content that helps people to overcome problems or improve their lives. For example, Life Hacks, Tips and Tricks, Cooking demonstrations and How-To content generally aims to improve people’s lives and attracts positive reactions, which is what the next point is about.
3. Anything that attracts positive reactions and avoids negative reactions
This is where outrage and engagement baiting will fall flat. This new tweak to the feed algorithm that Facebook is testing is designed specifically to encourage positive reactions. Likes, Hearts, Cares and Wow will be rewarded, while the number of Angry reactions will be a determining factor towards the success of your posts’ reach in the feed. This is a big turnaround from the previous “all reactions are equal” approach.
This means that if you are in the habit of posting stories and information that is designed to inform people of things that you think they should be aware of that can also lead to them leaving an angry reaction, then you’re in danger of losing feed prominence.
You can prepare this by posting good news stories, your positive approach to a challenging event, and informative ways for people to take action on issues they care about. You can do this by leading with the most important thing first — the positive things that people can do in the face of a challenge, leading to the hope of a positive result. Rather than leading with outrage and then switching to a call to action. This is important. Outrage leads to angry reactions. Solutions can lead to positive reactions.
The lesson for everyone is that the time for outrage baiting, raising a rabble and causing controversy on Facebook is coming to an end. It’s time to work together as humans, rather than driving us apart into our echo chambers and tribes.
Dante St James is a Facebook Blueprint Lead Trainer and Digital Marketer in Australia. He is the founder of Clickstarter.