We’re just two weeks into 2018, but as one television show host would famously say, the year started with a bombshell. Mark Zuckerberg has announced some big changes coming to Facebook. They will probably make a lot of regular users very happy, but the feeling might not be shared by publishers — or anyone responsible for business pages.

Time well spent

Zuckerberg published a quite lengthy update, in which he shed light on the upcoming developments. Anyone active in social media should take the time to read the post and give some thought to the expected changes. Here’s an abridged version of Zucks’s post:

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent. We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. (…) But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. (…) 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.

For more details, see the full post. The announcement was followed up by a video that described the coming changes in more depth.

A better experience

What Facebook is trying to achieve with the update is an improvement in the experience it offers individuals by putting a stronger emphasis on the social aspect of social media. In other words, users will be more able and further encouraged to engage with friends more often. The average news feed will soon be showing more content from friends — but less from business, brands and media.

Of course this will have an impact on the reach of Pages. Facebook does not sugar coat the situation and states openly that reach will go down. But by how much? It is impossible to figure this out at the moment, but Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed gave some insight into the matter:

As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

The news has been published on Facebook’s official blog alongside some clues suggesting what can be done to keep posts visible to an as big an audience as possible. Mitigating some of the potential drops in reach will be possible by putting a stronger focus on certain types of content and promoting user engagement. Mosseri continued his post with some tips:

Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.

Start conversations

It has not been officially announced when exactly these changes will be implemented, but it should happen during the next few months, and the effects will be increasingly visible over that time. Any type of business or social media professional can and should use this time to prepare a plan for moving forward. The most important thing to figure out is — of course — how to prepare content that will generate meaningful engagement among your audience. Some hints on the types of posts preferred by Facebook users have been provided. Facebook Insights may also offer some clues to driving real engagement.

But this might not be enough. As some say, soon the preferred (or only) way to effectively reach audiences could be paying for ads and boosting post visibility.

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