Social media is a fast-moving space, but Facebook has seen more than its share of changes in the past five years. For marketers whose plans depend on some degree of predictability from platforms, such changes are challenging, to say the least.
Of course, one person’s challenge is another person’s opportunity. An optimist would say that Facebook’s iterative half-decade has been the gift that keeps on giving for creative marketers who don’t mind trying (and discarding) new things.
For those who haven’t had their fingers on the pulse all these years, some level-setting is in order. Experimentation is one thing, but flailing around for solutions that just aren’t there is quite another. These 10 significant Facebook changes are particularly important for marketers (and their clients) to understand, whatever their perspective.
1. Engagement Growth Is Slowing (But That Might Not Be a Bad Thing)
According to Facebook’s own data, the platform has seen slowing engagement growth in recent quarters. This is due in part to changes that we’ll discuss in greater detail below, but marketers need to understand upfront how it’s likely to impact their strategies. Moving forward, marketers should plan on deeper, narrower targeting — devoting more resources and more creative bandwidth to converting a smaller pool of high-probability prospects. Engagement remains indispensable, of course, but you’ll need to do more of it with fewer targets.
2. Images Matter More Than Ever
Facebook is more visual than ever, and it’s only likely to grow more so as the total share of mobile access increases. As this top-rated insurance provider’s Facebook profile makes clear, you don’t have to be an art major to create compelling visuals on Facebook. Thanks to powerful photo editing and meme creation software, pretty much anyone can create a memorable multimedia post on their lunch break.
3. Messenger Is the Indispensable Facebook App
Facebook Messenger (available for Android and iOS download) is without question the indispensable Facebook app. If you’re using Facebook to communicate with individual customers and prospects — as most small business users do — then you must understand the basics of Facebook Messenger. There’s simply no substitute.
4. Facebook Ads Are Far More Sophisticated
Facebook ads have come a long way since the early 2010s, when targeting was crude at best. Enunciating every single change to this particular vertical since 2015 would require an article unto itself, but you can and should get a high-level primer at Facebook’s own Ads page. As with any marketing campaign, remember to keep your buys in line with your budget; nothing’s worse than scaling back a successful campaign because you’re spending faster than you can convert.
5. A Strategic Shift Toward “Privacy” and “Intimacy” Is Upon Us
Facebook’s engagement figures are down for a number of reasons, not all of which correlate neatly. Indeed, some are more or less incidental. As the world’s biggest social media platform, Facebook is approaching saturation with easy-to-reach audiences.
At least one reason for Facebook’s slower engagement growth does arise out of an intentional strategic shift, however. Following a scandal-wracked 2018 that featured news of unreported data breaches and unauthorized data sharing, Facebook publicly announced its intention to shift the user experience toward “privacy” and “intimacy” — to strengthen its appeal to non-commercial users, in effect.
This doesn’t mean Facebook no longer holds promise for marketers, just that marketers will need to invest more in credibility and authenticity than previously.
6. Some Facebook Content Now Comes With an Expiration Date
Further to its push for privacy and intimacy, Facebook now makes it easy to add an expiration date to content you don’t want to last forever. This primer (from the platform itself) describes how to add an expiration date to a posted video, for instance.
7. Groups Are Getting a Big Boost
Facebook Groups are more popular than ever. That’s also by design, part and parcel of Facebook’s renewed focus on privacy and intimacy. For marketers, gaining access to invite-only will take on outsize importance in the months to come. Get a head start with this deep dive on Facebook Groups.
8. The New Interface Is (Slightly) Less Cluttered
Facebook rolled out a relatively low key series of aesthetic updates in 2018 and 2019. The net effect: a less cluttered interface that looks even better on mobile and facilitates the sort of organic, authentic interaction that Facebook appears to prioritize these days. Design your Facebook content accordingly; moving forward, text-heavy updates may not be your best friend.
9. Reviews Are Now “Recommendations”
Perhaps it’s little more than a semantic change, but it’s one worth noting, if only to keep your team on the same page. The product formerly known as Facebook Reviews is now Facebook Recommendations, a less commercial (daresay more intimate?) take on user-generated feedback. The surest way to control your reputational destiny on Facebook is to curate a uniform (or nearly so) Recommendations portfolio.
10. High-Quality Video Is Way Easier to Create
Don’t think you have what it takes to create first-rate marketing video in whatever dingy room passes for your media studio? Think again. Thanks to Facebook’s user-friendly video creation kit, the rankest amateurs can create killer content that keeps audiences on their toes — no matter how intimate the environment.
Facebook Is Still the Elephant in the Room
For better or worse, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform in the world, as measured by total user count. By many other metrics, Facebook is the most vital social media platform around.
In the parlance of our times, then, Facebook is the social media elephant in the room. However you feel about the platform’s recent reputational struggles, you can’t dismiss Facebook’s connective power. You’ll reach more members of your target audience with less effort on Facebook than anywhere else.
At minimum, that means you need to be aware of the Facebook changes that could affect your marketing strategy and stand ready to change your strategy as needs dictate. If your long-term marketing strategy includes a plan to reduce your company’s reliance on Facebook marketing, by all means work toward implementing it today. But don’t take your finger off the platform’s pulse in the meantime.