Editorial: Facebook Has Changed Its Algorithm. Here’s What Your Station Should Do.

Seth Resler
Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Recently, Facebook announced that it is changing its algorithm to prioritize content posted to a person’s newsfeed by family and friends over content from brands, media outlets and other pages. Your station has probably seen a steady decrease in engagement with its posts over the last few months, and now it seems its going to get worse.

We have seen year after year in our Techsurvey that Facebook is far and away the most important social network for stations trying to reach their listeners. So what should your station do?

Facebook’s Goals
First, it’s important to understand why Facebook is making these changes. Facebook has a vested interest in providing its users with content that they like. If the network fills people’s newsfeed with promotional content that they don’t want to see, people may start using Facebook less. This algorithm is an attempt to provide a better user experience. This is a laudable goal, and stations should also want to ensure that they are not filling the feeds of their users with unwanted content.

Facebook also wants to keep people on Facebook, rather than sending them to third party sites. When people are on Facebook, Facebook can show them ads that generate revenue. Once Facebook sends them elsewhere, they can no longer show them ads. Facebook has introduced features like Instant Articles in an attempt to keep people in their walled garden of content. On this point, stations (and other media outlets) may be at odds with Facebook: A key goal of many station’s digital strategies ought to be to get people back to their own websites.

Finally, Facebook wants to sell ads. It’s a business, and that’s how this business generates revenue. Facebook doesn’t exist so that your station can advertise itself for free. Again, your station may be at odds with Facebook on this point: you probably don’t want to pay to reach your listeners if you don’t have to. But then, you don’t allow Facebook to advertise on your station for free, so it cuts both ways here.

With Facebook’s goals in mind, let’s look at what your station can do.

1. Know the goals of your digital strategy.
Whenever I discuss digital strategy with a station, my first question is “What are your goals?” If you don’t have a firm grasp on the station’s digital goals, you won’t be able to make an informed decision about what to do. Are you trying to:

  • Encourage online streaming?
  • Increase email registrations?
  • Drive contest entries?
  • Generate sales leads?

You’ll need to know your goals and then determine how Facebook helps you achieve those goals. Your station’s digital strategy may have multiple goals and those goals may not be equally valuable. For example, a sales lead may be worth a lot more to your station than an email registration.

A word of warning here: Beware of the word “branding.” While there is value in branding, it is nebulous. People sometimes invoke “branding” when they don’t know what their goals are or how to achieve them. Don’t make that mistake.

2. Set yourself up to measure Facebook’s impact on your digital strategy.
Once you know your goals, you need to determine how Facebook helps you achieve those goals. For example, if your goal is to drive email registrations, how does Facebook help you do that?

Keep in mind, just because you can measure something, that doesn’t mean that it affects your station’s goals. You can measure Facebook likes, comments, and shares. Presumably, more of these are better. But that doesn’t mean that more likes leads to more email registrations. Some of these things that you can measure are more important than others. Make sure that you are paying attention to the important metrics and not giving undue weight to unimportant metrics.

The most important number to track is not found in your Facebook analytics, but in your Google Analytics: How many people came to your website by way of Facebook. The more people that come to your website, the more that will sign up for your email database. You want to pay close attention to the website traffic from Facebook, and try to figure out what causes that traffic to increase or decrease.

3. Create more compelling content.
Facebook wants to show people stuff that they like; Facebook doesn’t want to show people junk. This is true of every company that uses an algorithm to surface content, including Google. So the best way to protect your station from algorithm changes is not to try and game the system, but to produce high quality content. If you’re producing good stuff that people want to see, Facebook is more likely to show it to people.

For most stations, this means that it’s time to step up their game when it comes to online content, especially If you’ve been phoning in your blog and paying significantly less attention to it than your on-air product. We now live in a world where every media company is a multi-media company. You need people on your staff who can write and create compelling content that goes beyond just audio.

In addition to increasing the amount of high-quality content that your station produces, you should decrease the amount of low-quality content that you share on social media. Blatantly promotional posts that pitch advertisers’ products or encourage people to enter contests should fall by the wayside.

4. Don’t try to game the system.
Don’t buy into simple tricks that will allow you to circumvent Facebook’s algorithm. You’ll lose.

5. Experiment and review metrics regularly.
Gather the appropriate staff for a weekly web meeting in which you review the station’s digital metrics. Keep track of what’s happening with Facebook. Set up experiments to see what impacts those metrics. If you see certain types of content reacting on the social network, produce more of that content.

6. Allocate a budget for Facebook ads.
They say a good drug dealer always gives away the first batch for free, then charges customers when they come back for more. I hate to tell you this, but Facebook may have gotten your station addicted. You may need to pay if you want to continue to see the same amount of traffic from the social network. Figure out how Facebook ads can help your station achieve its digital goals and start experimenting with paid advertising now.

7. Strengthen other incoming traffic channels.
While Facebook is far and away the most important social network for stations, it’s not the only one. Develop and strengthen your strategy with other social networks, including Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Also, pay attention to sources of traffic besides social networks, especially search engines like Google and YouTube. (YouTube is the second-largest social network.) Implement and fine tune your station’s email campaigns to drive website traffic. Lastly, don’t forget to use your airwaves to drive people to the station’s website. This is a powerful tool that most stations don’t fully take advantage of to drive website traffic.

In the end, Facebook’s changes may negatively impact your station’s ability to reach your audience. You will probably need to alter your station’s strategy as a result. But, if you are tracking everything appropriately, you’ll be able to determine the best course of action.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the above article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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