In a climate of mounting criticism against fake news, cyber bullying and the impact of low quality content on a society addicted to their iPhones, Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement regarding Facebook’s algorithm changes may not come as a surprise to digital marketers. But what does the change mean for brands looking to grow their reach and influence online?

A new era for Facebook

On 11th January, Zuckerberg set a new vision for Facebook into motion, citing a responsibility to ensure the platform improves rather than hinders our social experiences. Facebook is putting its foot down on “spammy and sensational content” by implementing “stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach.”

The balancing act between protecting the user experience and accommodating the growth of Facebook’s business model has slipped and the pendulum is falling, quite rightly, in favour of individual wellbeing.

The purpose of Facebook, he stressed, is to help “people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience.”

Content which leads to passive experiences will be demoted in favour of posts which prompt conversations and create meaningful moments:

“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Can brands beat the algorithm?

While content creators and marketers may be frantically looking for ways to ‘beat the system’, the message is clear. The more engagement a brand page gets on their organic post, the more likely it is to appear on a person’s newsfeed.

Video content is still favoured under the new algorithm, but live videos will take the stage. What’s more, it must help to start conversations on important issues; the young minds of our generation are sparked by conversations of mental health, politics and the environment on an overwhelming scale and the content of brands should reflect the hopes, motivations and interests of its audience.

Brands that fish for passive likes with uninteresting and idle content will have to fight harder to be seen. “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!” Zuckerberg explains, is no longer going to cut it.

Are the days of organic reach over?

On average, organic reach on Facebook has fallen as low as 1-3% as the platform has worked to establish itself against traditional forms of paid media. And while sponsored posts are likely to be unaffected by the algorithm at this stage, to shift to a paid only strategy is to ignore the integral messages laid out by Zuckerberg. If low quality content is the problem, merely pushing more money behind it is not the answer.

As competition for targeting increases, we may well see this reflected in media costs across the channel, but it’s a mistake to categorise social as just another paid media – it’s about conversations with customers. Organic, customer service led strategies will continue to form an important role on Facebook as users take to the platform to voice concerns. Brand partnerships with micro-influencers are already paving the way for new forms of organic content which spark the curiosity of niche audiences.

The aim is not to penalise brands, but to guide them towards a vision which places the user experience at the heart of its content strategy; encouraging people to take part in a bigger story which exists beyond one standalone post is key to this shift.

For one FMCG brand, we use Mapper360™ insight to develop informative and creative content that really connects with identified audiences. Through quirky subject matter which stimulates nostalgic conversations around a Fairtrade product, we work to craft a story laced with the brand’s rich heritage to develop an informative customer journey, in which individuals can contribute their own experiences and memories. Through this inclusive approach, we increased the Facebook fans of one global FMCG brand by +162% and continue to increase organic reach month on month.

Content led by curiosity and passion which speaks to the right audiences will organically appear on a person’s newsfeed if their friends and family are commenting on it, and our Engage 360™ strategy focusses on exactly that. A well targeted, paid promotion should complement a thoughtful creative strategy, not define it.

Though measures of engagement such as reach and referral traffic are predicted to decrease, authentic storytelling which rouses emotion and drives conversation relevant to specific communities will be rewarded in the long run.

For more information on how Four Engage can refresh your Facebook strategy, email