What Facebook Did
On January 11, Facebook announced that to keep the platform “good for people’s well-being” the company had overhauled its News Feed ranking system. The goal is to return to Facebook’s core mission of creating a social network that builds personal relationships through “meaningful social interactions.”
While video remains a key focus for the social network (as we have seen by the explosion of video on Facebook over the past two years), the announcement explicitly calls out video as a content type that will likely see less prioritization in the News Feed. The reason is that most video on Facebook is lean-back and passive in nature, which is by definition not social and interactive. In particular, videos on public Pages will see the biggest negative impact from these News Feed changes.
What It Means for You
The core change is simple: whatever Facebook considers a meaningful interaction with a post will increase the ranking of that post in the News Feed. The most meaningful interaction is Person to Person (it is a social network after all).
Person to person interaction will be ranked higher than person to Page (including brands, publishers, businesses, and influencers) interaction. To do this, Facebook is using the amount and “quality” of person:person interactions as a proxy for the quality of the content consumed. They figure that the likelihood of a person consuming, interacting, and sharing content is directly related to its quality. By definition, the inverse is true: content that does not lead to interaction will be ranked lower, fulfilling the new goal of deprioritizing lean-back, passive, and nonsocial experiences.
As Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook stated: “As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease…[and] we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.” With these changes, what’s a business or publisher to do?
How to Succeed with Facebook Video
Changes to Facebook, and specifically News Feed ranking methodology, shouldn’t be too surprising. The precedent for ranking some content lower based on its value and authenticity was already set in December 2017 with the “engagement bait” penalty. Ultimately, to be successful on Facebook you need to play by its rules and be ready to adapt quickly when those rules change. In the spirit of adapting, here are five ways to succeed with video on Facebook following these changes:
- High Quality and High-Value Video Content: Facebook ranks video that generates person:person interactions higher. To stand a chance, your video has to at least get enough interest with your audience to give them the opportunity to interact. This is going to raise the bar on the relevancy of your video, how interesting it is to your audience, how valuable it is to the individual viewer, and how subtly you can encourage your viewers to interact (without becoming engagement bait). Zuckerberg himself said that we should expect the time spent on Facebook to decrease, with the overall goal that the time spent on Facebook is more valuable. Take this to heart and make your videos as valuable as possible.
- Cultivate Meaningful Interaction: Facebook is explicitly prioritizing interaction, and meaningful interaction gets even more points. What is meaningful interaction? For starters, interactions from your connections will get the biggest boost in the new ranking system because “interacting with people you’re close to is more meaningful.” The more likes, comments and shares you get, the more your videos will be exposed to a broader audience. An interesting spin on this is that the quality of and effort in the interaction also affects its rank. According to Facebook, “typing out a long and thoughtful reply to a friend’s post” will increase the ranking of that post more than “just scrolling through the Facebook feed, passively reading or watching without interacting with others.” Ultimately, your Facebook video strategy will be successful if you can tap into your viewers’ interest and excitement for your video and get them to interact with it as deeply as possible.
- Livestream to Your Audience: Interestingly enough, live streaming video is explicitly called out in the Facebook update. According to the announcement, live videos on Facebook get six times more interaction, on average, than “regular” videos. Given the new ranking system, live video streaming on Facebook is an opportunity for brands and publishers to get front and center with their audience. Technical considerations aside, we recommend tying live streams to something time-sensitive, like a company event, product announcement or real-time news story. Creating urgency and a reason for seeing what you have to say first is the most important part of creating a captive live audience. Once you have that audience, build “calls-to-interaction” into your message to promote your live stream and increase its ranking in Facebook.
- Build Personal Connections: Social networks exist to connect people and Facebook’s new rules will prioritize videos with which people and Groups interact. One way to take advantage of this is to make your video more personal and authentic. Video that makes a personal connection will encourage others to interact with it, increasing its ranking. In other words, explicitly make those videos not feel like a super-polished, professional video commissioned by a large company. Another way to get better rankings will be to set up your employees to take part in your Facebook video strategy. By having your coworkers share your video with their connections and interact with the videos, you’ll be tapping into the exact types of datapoints Facebook wants to see. According to Facebook, Groups also look like fertile ground for fostering interaction around videos. Get to work building groups around specific areas of interest, share video out to it, and get your Group’s members interacting!
- Diversify and Take Ownership of Your Video Distribution: This last tip isn’t specifically about Facebook, but it’s critical to your company’s long-term video success. The reality of working with Facebook, or any other social network, is that you are not in control. It’s someone else’s business and at the end of the day, you can’t rely on them to always do what is best for you. With that in mind, we have two recommendations. First, there are other social networks out there (YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram), and each of them is making video a top priority. Yes, you’ll need to tailor your videos for the expectations and capabilities of each social network, but it will be worth it. Second, don’t forget about your own web properties. Whether it’s your website, blog, landing pages, or apps video is what people want. Make it easy for them to understand your message and make decisions that lead to the results you want.
Are these changes something to be concerned about? Possibly. Are there ways to adapt your Facebook video strategy so you can still be successful? Absolutely.