Being prepared as a health care marketer always wins. Instead of trying to “hack” the Facebook algorithm, let’s work with the algorithm while it evolves, not against it. The planning and strategy an organization pours into understanding the algorithm while making a conscious decision to adapt to change, will drive your business forward.

The Facebook algorithm is like a recipe that determines what a user sees in their News Feed at a given time. To say it has a huge impact on the Facebook experience would be an understatement. By now, you’re likely familiar with the headlines and assumed modifications to the algorithm, but let’s revisit what it really means. Here are the need-to-know changes right from the mouth of Mark Zuckerberg and what you can do about it.

Let’s break it down.

In January, Facebook announced they were altering the algorithm, and now today, most people’s newsfeeds are shifting from being dominated by brand content to family and friends. Zuckerberg says Facebook wants to change that balance, so that the feed will be dominated by posts from friends and family, as well as Facebook groups users are a member of.

Zuckerberg cites “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being” as justification for the change, admitting that businesses are going to have to work harder than ever to gain their customers’ attention on the platform.

While many marketers and business page owners took this to mean the end of their Facebook content reach or the effectiveness of their Facebook ads, industry experts have reassured page owners that this recent change merely requires an adjustment to their Facebook strategies and may actually benefit those using their Facebook presence to authentically engage and interact with their community.

But what are those changes exactly? And what can we, as marketers, do to adapt to them?

  1. Friends and Family Come First

What they said:

“Facebook will be prioritizing posts from family and friends over public content … to help you have more meaningful interactions.”

What we heard:

  •       Facebook wants users to feel like their time on the platform is well spent.
  •       Provide an environment for people to have lively conversations.
  •       Prioritize content from friends and family, especially those looking for advice, recommendations, etc.
  •       For posts that already have lots of comments, longer ones will be prioritized over one word responses, tags, etc.
  1.              Quality News & Authentic Stories Matter

What they said:

“News will always be a critical way for people to start conversations on important topics … I’ve asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local.”

What we heard:

  •       Less fake news! (hopefully)
  •       Local publishers may be able to break through with more success; however, news will still only make up 4% of newsfeed content.
  •       Facebook will prioritize genuine stories from trustworthy sources, news that is informative, and relevant to local communities.
  •       The change will prioritize news from publications that the community rates as trustworthy.
  •       News that people find informative and that is relevant to people’s local communities will find its way into news feeds.
  1. Strive for Authentic Engagement

What they 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.”

What we heard:

  •       The algorithm will de-prioritize/down-rank posts that specifically ask for users to interact by “liking, sharing, commenting,” etc.
  •       These posts are targeted because they’re trying to “play” the algorithm not prompt meaningful conversation.
  •       This goes for individual profiles too; Facebook will now demote posts from people using engagement bait.
  •       5 types of engagement baiting: vote baiting, react baiting, share baiting, tag baiting, and comment baiting.

Here’s what health care marketers can do about it.

Marketers have reacted with panic, but remember, we’ve all survived algorithm changes of the past! As Charles Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent … it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” So let’s be the strongest marketers, and react with action instead of reaction, and implement change now.

Rule number one is to stop thinking like a marketer and think about being an everyday user. Your business page needs to act like a user page to create reach, visibility and engagement. Ultimately, connect with your future consumers and patients.

How to Adapt: Don’t do this

The algorithm does not favor the following.

  • Clickbait
  • Like-baiting
  • Posts that include spammy links
  • Frequently circulated content and repeated posts
  • Copy-only posts and status updates
  • Posts that ask for Likes, comments, or shares
  • Posts that are frequently hidden or reported (a sign of low quality)
  • Posts with unusual engagement patterns (a like-baiting signal)
  • Overly promoted content—pushing people to buy an app or service, pushing people to enter a contest or sweepstakes, posts that reuse the exact same copy from ads

How to adapt: Do this

The algorithm will sing your praises if you optimize in these areas.

  • Videos (uploaded to Facebook) that receive a large number of or long duration of views
  • Groups
  • Live video
  • Quality over quantity
  • Content that creates conversation
  • Targeted ads (pay to play)
  • Invest in influencer relationships
  • Posts with links
  • Posts with high engagement in a short duration of time  
  • Posts that are timely or reference a trending topic
  • Pages with complete profile information

As health care marketers, we can look at using some of these strategies to reach and engage our audience, and tap into what Facebook is looking for—meaningful content and human interaction. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these methods.

Create Groups

Facebook groups related to your brand page allow you to add your followers, customers, audience and any users who are interested in your content and services. They already operate on the basis of audience engagement and will serve you well alongside advertising efforts.

One way to tap into Facebook Groups is to target a subset of your audience or followers to share and discuss content that’s most relevant to them, such as a group just for new moms or creating healthy habits.

Use Live Video

Zuckerberg said, “Live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook—in fact, live videos on average get 6x as many interactions as regular videos.”

This means if you haven’t already invested time and energy into posting live videos on Facebook,  you definitely should do so now. This is one of the few concrete examples of content that will perform well under the new algorithm included in the announcement, so we would all do well to pay attention to it and take advantage. The trick is to prepare the audio and good lighting, overcome vulnerability and share content that may not be as perfect as you would like it to be.

Up Your Ad Budget

We know that organic reach as been declining across channels over the years. As Facebook is re-prioritizing content from brands and publishers, paid ads targeted to the right audience will be more important than ever. Increase your budget to make sure you receive the reach and engagement you desire.

Yes, it’s been a few months since we’ve been notified of the algorithm change, ad prices have not hiked, and things are mostly business as usual. But there is a caveat: there might be less inventory of ads in the newsfeed, which will result in an increase in cost per click or cost per thousand impressions. This means you might end up paying a little more for Facebook ads, but the results are worth it.

While nobody knows exactly what the full impact of the news feed changes will be until we can look at the data, there are certainly ways for health care marketers on Facebook to work with the new algorithm (not against it) and continue reaching their customers through “meaningful interactions.” Continue to challenge your organization to create engaging content on Facebook that acts like a user, rather than a brand, to more deeply connect with your audience.