Facebook recently announced what appeared to be a series of significant changes to its news feed algorithm, eliciting reactions ranging from confusion to despair among marketers. So which is to be believed? What are its true implications, not least for those running referral campaigns (built on the power of social sharing)?
Here at Mention Me, we’ve been digging into what these changes mean and the impact they could be having on referral marketing. And we have to say, we think it’s good news.
The key changes: in summary
Facebook actually announced three key developments in quick succession a few months back. Let’s get up to speed by running through each of them…
Change #1, announced 29 July:
Facebook publishes ‘News Feed Values’ document, emphasising commitment to prioritising friends’ over publishers’ interests.
What Facebook said:
Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period — you just have to scroll down. To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, we put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. We learn from you and adapt over time.
Change #2, announced 4 August:
Facebook announces a specific newsfeed algorithm change designed to reduce volume of so-called ‘clickbait’ articles
What Facebook said:
We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer… To address this… we’re making an update to News Feed ranking to further reduce clickbait headlines in the coming weeks. With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.
Change #3, announced 9 August:
Improved Ad preference controls for are released by Facebook
What Facebook said:
We’re making ad preferences easier to use, so you can stop seeing certain types of ads. If you don’t want to see ads about a certain interest like travel or cats, you can remove the interest from your ad preferences. We also heard that people want to be able to stop seeing ads from businesses or organizations who have added them to their customer lists... These improvements are designed to give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see.
Why these seem like good things for marketers (but especially referral marketing)
Basically, Facebook has prioritised the overall user experience of its newsfeed, over the capability of publishers and advertisers to spend their way in. And that feels like a big win for relevance and trust-based marketing.
The opportunity for referral marketing is fairly obvious. Referral is powered by real, authentic recommendations being shared organically via social channels. Including of course, Facebook… which has just announced it intends to make sure those authentic recommendations get seen above more obtuse, old-school paid advertising.
In fact, we took a look at Mention Me data from before and after Facebook’s main algorithm changes, and it suggests that referral may have already greatly benefitted. Comparing data 3 months prior to the change with 3 months after the change, we’ve see conversion rates from Facebook timeline sharing increase by 22%. Coincidence? We think not.
By allowing users to choose to see less of the unwanted paid-for content on their newsfeed and more authentic content from their peers, Facebook has paved the way for referral marketing to win big via the social network.
Mention Me allows brands to create, experiment, and iterate highly customised Facebook sharing templates for their customers. Strike the right combination of headline, images and copy, and the results can be amazing.
For instance, following some careful experimentation and iteration this sharing design from Bloom & Wild converted 54% higher than average referral performance…
With Mention Me, creating beautiful sharing templates that your customers will actually want to share (and their friends will want to click on) is easy. The Mention Me referral platform lets you play with a simple drag and drop dashboard and easily editable content blocks that don’t require any technical expertise.
As far as we’re concerned, Facebook and refer-a-friend is a match made in marketing heaven.