The world somehow survived recent Facebook changes. We’re doing fine, thank you very much.

Hundreds of millions seemingly become more dependent on Facebook each day. The smallest changes from the social media giant send ripples across the social universe. If Facebook changed the way we communicate, and now Facebook is changing again, how much damage did it create?

According to Facebook, delivering relevant content in a way that won’t be missed by Facebook users is the goal. This was explained in a blog post by Facebook. The objective is to remove content that is “gamed” in the news feed to gain more distribution than it normally would. Facebook engineers went to work to scrub three major areas aimed at reducing news feed spam.

I saw the early accusations against Facebook. The company claimed that just 6% of a business’ page feed would appear on followers news feeds. “How dare they?” and “Facebook should be free!” angrily rang out.

This behaviour, coupled with Facebook’s rising ad revenue, would have social media critics crossing their arms and telling us, “I told you so!”

Facebook is clearly on the lookout to suppress certain types of content. Like-baiting, frequently circulated content, and spammy links now face intense scrutiny. That’s the Facebook company line.

However, others are not so sure. A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells Valleywag that the social network is “in the process of slashing “organic page reach” down to 1% or 2%.

Marketers have been on a honeymoon with Facebook. Now it’s time to pay the wedding bill. 

Businesses have benefited from the free promotional power of organic reach. They will want to rethink their social strategy.

Imagine a small- or mid-sized business audience of, say, 1,200 likes. Last year’s doughnut sale was a hit. It drove traffic into the store and got folks talking socially about the “buy a dozen for a penny” sale, thanks in part to their message reaching over 1,000 news feeds.

A strong promotional message reaching that audience will produce sales results. Now, after organic reach is slashed, that same doughnut sale reaches a couple dozen, at best — no pun intended. That’s no way to run a doughnut shop. 

How should you position your digital agency sales team to turn Facebook lemons into lemonade?

  1. Diversify your content plan. Help your accounts go big with fresh content. Facebook changes of this magnitude were bound to happen sooner or later. Things that are free and good at some point either stop being free or no longer are good. Facebook chose the former.

    If Facebook is your primary communication medium, devise a plan NOW. Don’t forget about using other social networks. However, they, too, will eventually follow Facebook’s lead.

    Be in charge of your communication plan. You drive the conversation. Build an audience with a monthly e-newsletter. Drive loyalty with a powerful VIP loyalty texting programme.

    Decide to add compelling content to your Web site with a blog. Video is a value-added approach. It builds engagement and helps you make friends with Google.

    For some small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), their Facebook business page might be their “Web site.” Don’t let Facebook control your brand. Developing even a simple site is the best way to begin regaining control of your communications. Now with serious news feed restrictions, every Web project MUST consider a mobile build, too.    

  1. Commit to the content. You will do well publishing varied, two-way communication. Think of your content plan as you would your relationships. Be real, be sincere, and be helpful.

    It’s give and take. Business cards don’t make the phone ring; they only show your number. Use your content to tell your story and show that you care. Writing and publishing great content online shows your unique strengths.

    What is the shorthand for your brand? Commit your content to telling your story.

  2. Remember, you’re the expert. Illustrate your agency customers’ professionalism. Chances are, your account is best doing what he or she does. Make that shine through their content.

    Spend as much time proving their expertise as you do promoting their business. Years of service, testimonials, customer track record, referrals, and the power of being unique all position your account as the expert.

  1. Unleash the power of community. Leverage content to evangelise your connection to the local community. Remind your audience of the value of giving back. First, lead by example.

    Perhaps you sponsored a team in a fundraising walk; highlight those individuals in your blog. Maybe your customer or their employee was honoured by the local food pantry. Be sure to include their photo and a short write-up in your next e-newsletter.

    Or just remind your social, digital, and offline audiences about upcoming community events. Even events in which your business or brand doesn’t participate.

    Creating content about community is great. However, when you are passionate about the cause, event, or fundraiser, that’s even better. Your copy will sing and stand out as something you really care about.

    When others “share” your powerful community content, you connect with wider audiences for your brand. This is your opportunity to show your relationship with the community and its members.

  1. Use promotions, offers, and sales. Announce and remind your audiences of the value of being your customer. One-day sales and Internet-only specials are examples of powerful “give back” tools. Everyone loves a deal.

    But when you make your loyal audiences feel like it’s just for them, you get above the noise. Keep your customers happy. It’s much easier and cheaper doing business with existing customers than acquiring new ones.

    Promotional content must be kept in check, however. Any audience will quickly tune out when the only messaging they receive is promotional. Remember to diversify. Use equal parts of each to help your promotional messaging take off.

Is there life after the news feed?

Without question. The silver lining has shown us what happens when we rely too heavily on any one channel or audience. Facebook is running its business. Your customers are running a business, too. It’s our job to help our customers communicate and market their business, so they can do what they do best. 

We can’t control what Facebook does next. Now is the time to take control of your customers’ content and audiences with the five steps above. Content marketing will position your account as the expert, show they’re connected to the community, and help their promotions get above the noise.