This changes everything--or does it? How PR pros are planning for a new News Feed

The Social Network got everyone's attention late Thursday when it outlined plans to take News Feed back to its origins: more "meaningful" content from friends and family and less from brands and publishers. PRWeek reached out to a handful of top communicators about what they plan to do next.

This changes everything--or does it? How PR pros are planning for a new News Feed

Adam Cossman, chief digital officer, W2O Group
This change furthers what we as marketers have been talking about for some time: brands must focus a tremendous amount more effort on meaningful social engagements rather than utilizing social as yet another targeting and media distribution channel. Since the beginning of "digital," we’ve experienced brands that see each new channel and corresponding tactic as a way to push messages to people we believe are our ideal audiences, regardless when and where they want to receive it. Such approaches simply water down the value that digital can provide.

Matthew Courtoy, senior social media manager, Carvel
I’m definitely concerned with how it impacts our ad spend and the frequency on how those ads deliver. The one opportunity that a change like this presents is that it will push me to be more disruptive and creative in those ads, and on other platforms. We’ll just have to push ourselves even harder to break through.

Eddie Garrett, EVP, global digital strategies, Porter Novelli
In the short term, it will mean Facebook becomes even more expensive for brands to use.  From a content-development perspective, I believe you’ll see employee activation becoming a key focus.

Brittany Hunley, VP, director of channel strategy, EP+Co
The reach paid Facebook advertising has provided has been great, but our focus has always been creating brand experiences that drive first-person action on a brand’s behalf beyond the stuff that you can buy, such as impressions and clicks. Getting people to take action on a brand’s behalf whether it’s creating positive mentions, brand-relevant user generated content, or providing insight to inspire broader efforts drives successful marketing efforts beyond an individual piece of content or social campaign. If you've been relying on paid metrics alone to measure your social media success, this new move might leave you scrambling.

Kriselle Laran, SVP, digital, Zeno Group
As we work with our clients to evolve their strategies, we’ll look to continue emphasizing content strategies that engage people in conversation at a deeper level. The right integration behind paid, earned, and owned strategies can help build a brand narrative that connects to their audiences — including employees — and can create results. It’s more critical than ever to use the right data and information to build and distribute the right creative and content.

Jim Lin, SVP, creative director, digital strategy, Ketchum
Organic reach for brands has been pretty much a futile endeavor on Facebook for a while, so I am assuming that these changes apply to the accessibility of News Feeds from even paid pathways. If that’s the case, the answer is the same as it’s ever been: create more engaging and compelling content. Leveraging consumers to create conversation around and about your brand or share your content has always been the Holy Grail of social media marketing. It is simply more important than ever because being able to tap into consumer actions—what Facebook would consider personal—to promote your brand has now become a much higher imperative. Impressions can no longer be taken for granted, but rather something that brands need to earn by truly appealing to their intended audiences. In other words, brands need to think harder and understand the actual needs of their audiences, rather than regard social media as simply a better billboard. I applaud that wholeheartedly.

Kevin King, global practice chair, Edelman Digital
This is likely a short-term hit for Facebook, but they can absorb it. The question will be for advertisers and if they see a hit in their performance as a result. That could alienate some brands, but I highly doubt we’ll see any mass migration off the platform. For media companies, it’s a different story. Fewer views on Facebook can translate to increased pageviews on their websites, which could inject new life into ad revenue. In some cases, it could even lead to paywall subscription increases. So, media companies win, Facebook plays the long game, and users may just start getting their information from places in addition to Facebook.

Amber Mizell, VP, digital consulting, WE Communications
Connecting brand messages and meaningful moments with the right people at the right time is core to our social media approach. Facebook’s prioritization of conversations between friends and families will impact a number of brands, but also provide new opportunities. Brands will have more insight into moments that matter for customers and should respond with an approach that prioritizes deeper engagement. 

Jeremy Pepper, communications consultant
The shift back to friends and family is a good thing for Facebook and its users and will make things much harder for brands and agencies who aren't good at storytelling. Brands are pushed now to create engaging, non-link baiting, content. For b-to-b companies, that is going to be harder, and for b-to-c brands, that's going to be a fine line between link bait and engaging. When it comes to publishers and PR, finding the best way to get out the news is going to be extremely challenging.

Bob Pickard, principal, Signal Leadership Communication
This is a clear sign that we’re approaching ‘peak-Facebook’ and it is scrambling to engineer ways to keep its network compelling as people start to tune out or use the platform in a warier way. Every PR pro who works hands-on with Facebook knows that it’s become a pay-to-play place where advertising money conspicuously manipulates and distorts and controls what and who people can see in the stream. The changes Zuckerberg described seem to acknowledge that there was a growing backlash. From what I have seen so far, Facebook’s coming News Feed pivot should allow us PR people to profitably apply our most valuable assets to the new system: our publicist’s mindset, our eye for angles, our relationships-centrism, plus our peer-to-peer knack for community cultivation and engagement. We've always been better at earning it rather than needing to buy it.

Jeremy Rosenberg, MD, digital, Allison+Partners
As Facebook has said, this will certainly diminish the reach of brands and publishers. It will continue to be ever more important for brands to create content that is meaningful to people in order to gain engagement and extend reach. While this will likely limit the organic reach of brand materials, which has continued to slide to new lows every year, it may not hinder the ability for paid content to reach its audiences as much. This will also further emphasize the importance of a well-rounded social strategy that focuses on a range of channels and mix of organic and paid content.

Scott Schneider, chief digital officer, RFI
With these changes, the voice of content is more important than ever. If Facebook is de-emphasizing publishers’ content, then we need to make an effort for our clients’ brand content to sound even more human. This change also will give rise to amplified Facebook Influencer strategies, as Influencer voices feel more like friend content, but can often act as surrogate for publisher news.

Hillary Werronen, VP, digital marketing, Lewis
We’re already seeing brands shift from organic to paid media strategies on Facebook, and this algorithm update will solidify that trend. As more brands begin to spend dollars on Facebook, clicks and impressions will come at a higher cost, keeping pace with Twitter and LinkedIn. The brands that have a strong paid methodology will win out in the end. Additionally, the Facebook algorithm change should be seen as an opportunity for brands to activate their secret weapon: employees. Employee and customer advocacy programs will become crucial for brands to stand out on Facebook and the broader digital landscape.

Rachel Winer, director, digital paid media, Ketchum
I predict the most prominent impact will be on Facebook organic client page reach decreasing at first, as we've seen as a common trend line with other platform optimizations for some time. To combat this, it should cause brands to evaluate their content strategy in the coming weeks in order to prioritize garnering Facebook audience engagements over website clicks. In doing so, likely at an initial slightly higher cost per action, paid Facebook ads will need to correspond with this new content approach in order to maximize overall ROI.

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