Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced a major overhaul of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm that would prioritize “meaningful social interactions” over “relevant content”.
The social media platform will de-prioritize videos, photos, and posts shared by businesses and media outlets, which Zuckerberg dubbed “public content”, in favor of content produced by a user’s friends and family.
Zuckerberg wrote “The balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do – help us connect with each other.” This move will further challenge cannabis companies wishing and trying to use Facebook as a social platform. As we all know Zucky hasn’t been too friendly to us.
Facebook announced major changes to the way it will organically serve page posts. Mark Zuckerberg states that Facebook will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people… [and] posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with [its] News Feed values.” He goes on to state that as a result of this update, “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.”
So what does this all mean, in English and to the cannabis companies that survived his chopping block? Well, publishers and brands will be the losers.
Facebook is not being coy about this: Those third-party organizations that took over large swaths of your News Feed years ago — sites that post funny pictures and memes, sell you clothing, or deliver articles about the world — will have the visibility of their posts scaled back under the new arrangement.
Those who still want to see posts from their favorite brands and trusted, wonderful publishers, one of whose articles you may be reading at this very moment, will be able to. The options under the News Feed tab on Facebook will allow users to prioritize the pages (and friends) whose posts they are most interested in. But, honestly, who really will do that?
This is a huge hit to all business, not just cannabis, but in my opinion, pages still matter — a lot. They offer a free, easy-to-maintain online presence for people to discover and learn about a business. They work across desktop, mobile and tablets without requiring any extra configuration, and contain complete information about a business. They also offer tools to create videos, photos and events that bring a business’ story to life.
What many cannabis businesses may not realize is that Pages are an important destination for their current and potential customers. In October, for instance, nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages. Of those visits, more than 750 million happened on mobile devices. Many businesses also use Pages as a customer service channel. Businesses should think about their Page as a cornerstone of their online identity, not simply as a publishing service. The businesses that are doing this well understand the discovery and communication that happens when people come to their Page.
I’ve received a ton of calls asking me if there is a way around this. Well, maybe. If you’re an Influencer, you just leveled up even further. Connecting with Influencers who have a growing audience that they truly understand will be at a premium for most marketers. It will continue to be the most effective way to influence cannabis consumer behavior via social media and beyond. The key is for Influencers to have a deep understanding of their followers and of their brands equity. The real question is, will Facebook begin to regulate Influencers and treat their organic content the same as businesses? Will they use the algorithm to measure the amount of posts from Influencers that seem to contain brands either in the content or caption and begin to penalize their reach just like the media companies and businesses? After all, Influencers began their accounts as regular people, connecting with friends and family and not partnering with brands. Time will tell.
Companies that rely on Facebook and Instagram to build businesses are definitely at a loss with the changes, but there is still hope. For most cannabis businesses, it will be as simple as understanding what the ambition of your brand or product is and aligning that with the target consumer that has a similar ambition.
The good thing about social media is that with the right data and proper social listening, you can unearth your target audience and figure out which Influencer speaks to them. Picking an Influencer that has a lot of followers in your niche, telling them to post your brand or product, and tagging your account isn’t Influencer Marketing. The best way to utilize an Influencer’s audience is to understand your objective, learn about the factors that influence your target audience, and activate an Influencer that blends your brand or product narrative seamlessly within their own. I call that “equity match making.” That’s when you get comments like, “This is the best ad I’ve ever seen!” or “This should be on TV,” while satisfying your objective and growing your business. That’s the Holy Grail of Influencer Marketing.
The other option may be Groups. Groups were listed as being tagged out of the news feeds. This may be an option. The social media team at The Cannabis Marketing Lab HQ is researching that possibility.