Last week Facebook announced a major change to how users’ News Feeds will work. The News Feeds will now prioritize content from family, friends, and pages that create conversation and interaction. Users will likely see fewer posts from brands, businesses, and media.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, explained the company’s reasoning for the change: “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us…But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands, and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other…I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful and social interactions.”

This isn’t the first time the platform has made changes to its News Feed. Over the past few years, Facebook has tweaked the newsfeed algorithm to ensure users see content that is relevant to their interests. During this time, Facebook has also come under fire for enabling untrustworthy news to circulate and allowing Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. While these latest changes won’t eliminate page or news content, they do seem intended to minimize sensational or irrelevant posts. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, said, “Using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”

While the changes might be welcome news to users, they do pose a challenge for organizations that use the platform to educate and inform their audiences. Gone are the days when think tanks can simply post their latest publication or blog article and expect it to show up in their followers’ News Feeds.

Instead, the changes usher in a great opportunity for think tanks to focus on personal connections that build communities around their organizations. Yes, think tanks will have to work a little harder to create content that strikes a personal chord and encourages a response. But in the long term, this can be extremely beneficial for think tanks’ brands and communications strategy. People will begin to trust you more—especially if your Facebook presence helps them connect with real people such as your staff or fellow members of their communities. And, your organization can build relationships with people who will be helped through your policy solutions. Finding and sharing their stories will position your organization as a champion for families, workers, and students in your state.

As you reconsider your Facebook strategy in light of the platform’s changes, here are a few practical things you can do:

Test, test, test. If you don’t know what kind of posts spark engagement from your audience, it’s time to experiment like never before. Try different types of post formats, messages, and graphics. Or switch up the medium and see what happens with live video.Becoming familiar with Facebook’s News Feed Values can also help you understand what content the platform is more likely to prioritize. Once you learn what content gets the most interaction, focus on doing more of it and less of the content that gets overlooked. Keep in mind that these are types of interactions Facebook is looking for:

  1. A person commenting on or liking another person’s photo or status update
  2. A person reacting to a post from a publisher that a friend has shared
  3. Multiple people or a page replying to comments on a video they watched or an article they read in News Feed
  4. A person sharing a link that they found in Messenger to start a conversation with a group of friends

Be responsive. If your content is going to create interactions and conversations, your organization will need to participate. Be sure to respond to them when they react to and comment on your posts. Even a simple acknowledgement can signal to followers that your organization is personal, approachable, and worth engaging with again.

Consider using groups. Facebook groups are a built-in community feature that give you more direct access to an audience. Unlike the News Feed, posts within groups show up among users’ notifications, giving them a direct prompt to look at the latest content and respond. Groups also allow for connections and conversations among people who share similar concerns or interests. If you have a few highly active and trustworthy followers, groups are a great way to involve them as community managers who help keep conversations going.

Consider an ad budget. Paid advertising continues to be Facebook’s primary solution for boosting pages’ content in News Feeds. For important initiatives and education campaigns, you may want to set aside a portion of your budget to promote posts or run an ad campaign. If Facebook ads aren’t a possible line item in this year’s budget, then consider adding it in 2019.

If you are an SPN member interested in upcoming SPN trainings or resources on social media strategy and Facebook best practices, please contact Meredith Turney at turney@spn.org.

Learn More

 Mark Zuckerberg’s comment on Facebook News Feed Changes (Facebook)

News Feed FYI: Bringing People Closer Together (Facebook newsroom)

Facebook’s News Feed Values (Facebook newsroom)

Facebook is Changing: What Does That Mean for Your News Feed? (New York Times)

Facebook overhauls news feed to focus on friends and family (CNET)

Facebook critics, Facebook wants feeds to be more ‘meaningful’ (Townhall)

Facebook is making a big change to your news feed (USA Today)