Facebook Changes Are Good News for Mission-Driven Businesses

By Happy Scribe

Jan 18

Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook would be making significant changes to its Newfeed algorithm to prioritize meaningful social interactions over content from publishers and businesses is already creating the far too common end-of-all-things hysteria among the company’s two billion users.  Brands and publishers, who ostensibly stand to lose the most from the shift, are making the most noise – but how much of the panic is merited, and how much is just the standard reaction to disruption?

I’ll be honest with you. As a business owner, digital marketer and even as a consumer (an introverted one, at that!), my initial reaction was not positive.

I’m trying to grow a business – how will I compete with big-bucks advertisers if Facebook keeps hacking away at organic reach?

How will my clients get the same reach from their social media strategies?

I don’t use Facebook to look at baby pictures, brag about vacations or engage in political debates  – I strategically follow the brands I like and the publishers that give me valuable information. Why are they messing with that?!

But after I took a breath, abandoned the firestorm of Facebook comments (no irony there) and took some time to read what Facebook itself had to say about the change, I began to see the move and its motives as a welcome disruption to consumerism. If executed well, it could clear a path for other mission-driven and value-first businesses to move to the head of the line.

I’ll start with the details about what the announcement entails, but if you already know, feel free to jump ahead to why I think the Facebook changes could be good news for your business.

Facebook Changes to Newsfeed Algorithm Announcement

On January 11, Mark Zuckerburg announced on his Facebook page that one of the company’s focus areas for 2018 would be “making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.”

Sounds nice – but what does that mean? We don’t have all the answers at this stage, but Mark’s announcement gives a few details, and a Facebook newsroom post the same day by the company’s news feed head, Adam Mosserri, tries to fill in the gaps and address user concerns. Be sure to click the appropriate links to read the full announcements.

Here are 10 takeaways from both Facebook announcements:

  1. The primary goal of Facebook’s product teams will no longer be to help you find relevant content, but to help you have more meaningful social interactions.
  2. You will begin to see more content from your friends, family and groups, as per Facebook’s News Feed values.
  3. You will see less public content from business brands, and media, and the content you do see from those entities should also encourage meaningful interactions between people.
  4. The posts you see highest in your news feed will no longer be those posts which merely have the most reactions, comments or shares, but those posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”
    Facebook Changes Announcement
  5. Facebook’s ranking algorithm hopes to achieve “meaningful interaction” by predicting which posts you might want to interact with your friends about – “whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.”
  6. You should see less “engagement-bait” as Facebook will continue to identify and demote posts that attempt to bait you into meaningless interaction in an effort to gain rank. If your business uses this as a marketing strategy – stop.
  7. Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease, but their posts will still appear in the News Feed (not the Explore Tab). Users can still choose to see more content from a specific page by manually choosing “See First” in the News Feed preferences.
  8. Pages who publish passive content that does not encourage user interaction will see the greatest decrease in distribution.
  9. If pages want to maintain their current level of distribution, they’ll need to publish content that encourages users to interact with each other. Live video will rank much higher due to its ability to facilitate greater interaction.
  10. Facebook expects you will spend less time on the social platform, but hopes the time you do spend will be more valuable.

Why That’s Good News for the Good Guys

Since Facebook’s changes are primarily impacting organic reach, I’m seeing a great deal of fear that smaller businesses and nonprofits who don’t have a large budget for ad spend will suffer the most – so why do I think the opposite might be true?

No one can predict at this point exactly how the changes will impact one business versus another, but if the statements Facebook has made are sincere and their algorithm does what it’s intended to do, I believe that mission-driven businesses, social enterprises, nonprofits and businesses who put the value they provide to their customers first will have the advantage.

Mission-Driven Businesses and Nonprofits Understand “Meaningful”

Think about it. The goal is “meaningful interaction.”

Who does meaningful better than nonprofits and businesses with a conscience?

Instead of forcing you to compete over the number of likes and reactions, Facebook is essentially leveling the playing field by making organic visibility about quality over quantity. You may be able to spend your way to more likes, but you can’t buy meaningful interaction. Meaning and value are traits innate to socially conscious organizations – and much harder won by traditional product or service driven businesses.

When was the last time you had a deep, meaningful conversation about Coca-Cola that added real value to your life? Granted, that particular company does a good job of marketing their product as something more than a soda, but I still don’t spend time discussing its finer nuances at length with my friends.

Meanwhile, businesses like yours are tackling some of the most meaningful issues of our time. They warrant our attention and need the kind of active community dialogue and engagement that Facebook is purporting to champion.

Mark Zuckerburg FamilyShared Goals, Shared Success

Let’s put cynicism aside for a moment and go with the idea that Mark Zuckerburg genuinely wants his company to fulfill its mission to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Let’s then assume that they move closer to that goal with these Facebook changes and succeed in causing people to spend a little less time on Facebook, a little less time mindlessly scrolling and consuming advertisements and cat videos, a little more time pursuing relationships with family and friends and a little more time engaging – online and off – in conversations that mean something and add value to someone else’s life or to society as a whole.

Sure, there may be a lot of ifs in that statement, but what if they do succeed? Aren’t all nonprofits and businesses centered on the greater good the winners in that, too?

Consumerism and passivity are very real enemies to my generation and our culture at large. Mission-driven businesses and the social enterprise movement as a whole need a generation that is active, engaged and knows how to leverage the power of community to make sustainable change and culture shifts.

So if the largest social media platform on earth, who has played no small part in facilitating and exacerbating that consumerism and passivity, suddenly wants to switch course and only reward active, quality and meaningful engagement with your community … let them! Help them!

Challenges and Opportunities for Mission-Driven Businesses

Apart from deception about their intent or a failed execution of their intent, I see no reason why the changes Facebook is implementing should hurt a mission-driven business that is willing to engage in a way that they really should have been all along.

The challenge will be learning to embrace your natural strengths and intentionally engaging your communities. Don’t get stuck in static, passive content or fall into the trap of talking so much about yourself or even about your good cause that you fail to invite your supporters to take part in the conversation.

Don’t bow out when you could be leaning in for the win. Ask questions. Pose challenges and seek solutions. Create communities by inviting people to reach out to one another and make ‘Facebook friends’ with fellow change makers.