Facebook Announces Changes to Their News Feed Algorithm

There was a resounding theme at this month’s Inside Social Marketing conference; community managers from all verticals were attributing a great deal of their brand’s success on Facebook to implementing a strategy of equal parts good content and paid amplification. And yes, this was before Facebook’s recent announcement.

What announcement you ask? Well, for those of you who don’t know, Facebook recently announced an update to its News Feed algorithm citing an increase in competition of News Feed stories, Facebook states that the average user’s feed sees 1,500 stories per day. The goal for this change is to have more “timely and relevant news.” Ultimately this means more news, and fewer memes. Facebook explains that because “content is always changing, pages will likely see changes in distribution — specifically resulting in a decline in organic reach.”

As a result of the changes, Facebook explains that small business may see the organic reach for individual posts begin to “gradually decline over time.” Facebook suggests that an easy solution to this change, designed to “make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site”, is to encourage brands to try Facebook advertising and boost posts to make up for the loss in organic reach.

This news put some people in a panic mode. “This will ruin Facebook,” some exclaimed. “First you (Facebook) had us pay to get fans now we have to pay to reach those fans,” was one comment on the popular Facebook website, Inside Facebook. And while some obviously see the change as a roadblock, others see opportunity.


Infusionsoft’s Heather Dopson Talks Facebook Paid Ad Campaigns

On the panel, ‘Social Media Metrics: What Does it All Mean?’, Heather Dopson, Manager of Social Strategy for Infusionsoft, talked at length about the importance of implementing paid ads into their content performance strategy for Facebook. By doing so, in the last year, Heather and her team increased the likes of the brand’s Facebook page by 390% in a single year!

After Heather’s session I was able to briefly introduce myself, and congratulate her on her success. Determined to know more, I followed one of my own conference learning tips and was eager to follow up with her. In the week following the conference, I re-connected with Heather through email and she shared some great insight into her paid ad campaign strategy for Facebook.


How to Start Integrating Facebook Ads Into Your Strategy

Introducing Facebook Ads into your social media strategy is no longer be a question of “Why” but rather a question of “How” and “When.” Convincing clients and brands, or your C-Suite of this decision may not be an easy one. Heather further explained how she was able to bring this idea to Infusionsoft.

EA: Talk a little bit about how you integrated paid Facebook ads with your social media strategy for Infusionsoft. Would you say you broke down silos between the Paid Advertising team and the Social Media team there?

HD: This is a tricky one. It took some time to build trust, create knowledge and show proof. Creating effective paid campaigns on social platforms require a comprehensive approach that goes beyond what is needed for a typical PPC campaign. While there is great skill and understanding required to master PPC and other lead generation tactics, even more finesse is needed to master paid social campaigns. While the standards of relevance, CTA and value apply in social ads, the main differentiator between them and PPC is the amount of ‘noise’ an ad has to cut through in order to be noticed in a News Feed filled with pictures of loved ones, kittens and bacon. So, you have to be better than bacon.

There is so much correlation and cross over between paid and organic content performance in the social sphere it requires cross team collaboration to be successful. I spent 7 months talking with various people on the Demand Generation team about the importance of leveraging social ads to grow our audience, share great content, capture leads and convert to sales. There was very limited tracking to show how content was performing from a conversion standpoint. There was no budget or buy-in initially. I found that it came down to 3 things:

    1. Education. The leadership (holders of the wallet) needed to be provided with a basic understanding of social strategy. When I say basic – I mean 101 stuff. I had to breakdown Fans vs PTAT (People Talking About This), what defines reach, and describe the insights provided by Facebook. I had to teach them that posting the same thing repeatedly was far less effective than putting some dollars behind it and targeting the post.
    2. Collaboration. This was a big one. After several months I found a member of the Demand Gen team who had a general understanding of the importance of social ads. While I had proven myself on the social side, he had built trust on the demand gen side. We put together a presentation for each of our bosses that created a foundation of knowledge, outlined a strategy for a pilot program and asked for a very small budget. I mean SMALL. We were so successful in our presentation that we got our budget doubled right at the start – double SMALL!
    3. Provide evidence of success. It was important from the onset we outlined what success would look like for a social ad program. Track, track, track and track some more. Within the first month we saw not only an increase in our reach and audience numbers but we could directly attribute leads, prospects and sales to paid ads on social. Eight months later, we can attribute sales to BOTH organic and paid social content. And the numbers keep going up.


The Anatomy of a Great Facebook Ad

There is no cookie-cutter way to create a perfect Facebook ad. When designing an ad there are many factors to consider. Keep in mind there are a handful of steps to take in order to make your made more clickable than skippable. Heather shares her thoughts.

EA: Discuss the art of a great social ad.

HD: Creating a great social ad is more of a science than it is an art. You need to test every aspect of the ad and create target specific copy & images.

One of the biggest mistakes I see brands make is creating one ad and using it for every audience. The shotgun approach is not effective and is costly. This is where people say, ‘I tried Facebook Ads. It cost me a lot of money and it didn’t work.” You need to have a laser like focus on who your audience is and create content to speak WITH them (not AT them).

The success of your ads will rely heavily on the targeting and testing components. Gone are the days of creating an ad, launching it and then sitting back to see what happens. Social ad creators have access to almost real time analytics that allows for immediate measurement and adjustments. If an ad is underperforming by the standards you’ve set, then stop throwing money after it and adjust. Target, test, adjust. Target, test, adjust. Don’t be afraid to stand out, to try something new; to be unique. You’ve got to be better than bacon. ;)


Facebook Ads: What Does this All Mean To You?

Whether it is an algorithm change, a platform update, or even an addition to a social network’s terms of service – there’s one thing that needs to remain consistent: successful community managers need to have marketing agility and this change presents an exciting challenge for community managers in 2014 – a chance to take a more active role with social ads for their clients.  Heather points out that a major key to the success at Infusionsoft was integrating the company’s PPC department more effectively with her social team, to maximize the reach and targeting of their paid Facebook ads.

This practice of “breaking down silos” is a familiar one around the DragonSearch office. A large part of the Social Marketology process relies on all departments to communicate with one another. This integrated marketing effort allows us to seamlessly approach clients from all verticals.

So rather than angrily peppering the comment section on your favorite blog with rants about how this is the beginning of the end for Facebook (we’ve said that already, haven’t we?) or crying into your coffee cup that now we’re practically paying for a free service, why not be more like Heather, and find a solution? There are plenty of stories all across the web on how Facebook’s changes are affecting brands. If you have a good story, or even better, your own solution – we want you to share it with us.