What Facebook's new strategy could mean for cultural organisations
It's a new year for all of us, and for Facebook, it seems like a whole new direction too. Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he will be making major changes to what content will be prioritised in newsfeed.
"I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions"
In essence, the new emphasis will be on the original format of Facebook - people sharing personal stories with friends, and commenting and interacting with other people's posts. Posts and videos from pages, especially those who don't lead to comments and interaction, will be de-prioritised.
So why is he doing this? The company has faced criticism for the proliferation of 'fake news' and from some academic studies that have linked time spent on social media with a decrease in people's well-being. Zuckerberg wants to shift this balance, and make Facebook more of a positive influence in people's lives.
"The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good."
He admits this will impact on time spent on the platform - so people will be scrolling through their newsfeed less, but hopefully spending more of their time actively commenting and asking questions on the site.
What does this mean for arts, culture, and heritage?
It's not clear yet how all of the changes will affect how the platform works, but Facebook has clearly has said that it is de-prioritising advertisers' and brands' ability to reach audiences. Most likely, your posts will have a decreased reach.
Commenting and interaction may overtake sharing as the best way to get your content seen. So there will be more of an emphasis on posts that get people talking in the comments below.
How can we make sure we still reach our audiences?
Keep a close eye on your Facebook performance month to month and see if you're seeing less return on your time and investment. Be honest with yourself - if email newsletters are bringing you better results and conversions, then your plans and budget should reflect this.
Look back at your Facebook posts and see which ones have been gathering comments and creating discussion. See what topics work for you. Shift the focus from you telling your audience about upcoming events, to engaging them in discussion. To get people talking, you'll need something interesting for your audience to talk about, and then give them a clear invitation to comment.
Go back to your target audiences and customer personas - what is it your audience wants to know about, and where can they bring their own experience into the mix? We're running a free event on how to understand your online audiences this February, where you can pick up some more tips.
Live video is growing, so this could be a great time to test out doing live Q&As with artists or performers. Focus on video which may result in comments, rather than video which will be watched passively. However, video still has the best over all engagement rates of any post type.
On the plus side, these changes sound like they'll be making Facebook a more enjoyable place to spend time, and show that Facebook is taking steps to improve the platform's retention rates into the future, rather than just looking at the current bottom line. So they loyal following you've built up on Facebook may still at least be there, even if they are seeing your content less and less.
Arts, culture, and heritage are uniquely placed to get people excited and engaged. Whether it's sharing memories of times past on a heritage page, or discussing a controversial new play - culture can get people talking.