Facebook News Feed Update – No More ‘Overly Promotional’ Posts

Wait? WHAT?? Another algorithm update?

Yup, you read it right. Facebook is going forward with another algorithm update and this time it plans to crackdown on ‘overly promotional’ posts in its News Feed beginning January 2015. And here’s the bad news – this change is coming up because Facebook users aren’t too happy with the way the Pages they like and follow are sharing content.

Just when you thought that you were all settled with your social media marketing plan for Facebook, here comes another (BIG?) change!

I know, I know – news such as this can be quite unsettling and can make you re-think your entire social media marketing strategy.  So, what does this mean for your business? Are you going to be affected by this change?

Let’s go ahead and break it down.


The Facebook News Feed


The goal of the Facebook News Feed,

“is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so that they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.”


Ideally, Facebook would want to display all the posts its users wish to see, one after another, in their News Feeds.

An average Facebook user’s News Feed contains about 1500 stories from their friends, people they follow and Pages they like. But Facebook chooses to display only about 300 of these stories based on user feedback (likes, comments, hide stories etc). Therefore, one can safely say that the News Feed is a rather competitive place and if your business Page wants to secure a place in a user’s News Feed, your updates need to provide good value.


What do people expect to see in their News Feeds


According to Facebook;

“One of the main reasons people come to Facebook is to see what’s happening in their News Feeds. Our goal with News Feed has always been to show people the things they want to see. When people see content that’s relevant to them, they’re more likely to be engaged with News Feed, including stories from businesses.”


and again;

“As part of an ongoing survey we asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their News Feeds. People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”


Of course, this makes perfect sense! I mean, think of what YOU as a user likes to see in YOUR News Feed. Updates from friends and family members you wish to stay in touch with and brands/Pages that you like. Simple right?

But if the Pages you liked started sharing merely promotional content or blatantly asked you to buy stuff from them, you would most likely go ahead and hide their stories or even take the drastic step of un-liking their Page.


What does Facebook want


Facebook wants its users to be happy with their News Feed content. The data that they collected as a part of the survey indicated otherwise – that most people were not too happy with the organic content they were seeing in their News Feeds.

In Facebook’s own words;

“We dug further into the data to better understand this feedback. What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads.”


And so Facebook wants to keep a tab on Pages which focus heavily on promotional content via their organic posts.

Now that can be quite scary if you are a business using Facebook’s organic post reach because if your audience perceives your updates as being TOO promotional, there are chances that Facebook might just stop showing your posts altogether in your followers’ News Feeds.

Which brings us to the question…


What is an ‘overly promotional’ post


Okay, so here is the slightly confusing part.

Facebook doesn’t lay down any rigid ground rules as to what constitutes an ‘overly promotional’ post but says that according to their survey organic posts sound too promotional when they contain the following three traits.

  • Those that push people to buy or install something such as a product or an app.
  • Those that force people to enter promotions and sweepstakes without any context.
  • Those that reuse the same content from ads.

Here are two examples that Facebook cites to explain what an organic promotional post could look like.

Example 1: (Source: Facebook)


The reason this is classified as a promotional post is because Tiger Therapy is trying to sell you a DVD while promoting their TV show. My guess is that the post would have been fine if they hadn’t pushed for the DVD sale even though they seem to be ‘promoting’ the TV show.


Example 2: (Source: Facebook)


This is clearly a promotional post because Bunny Puzzle Cube’s only intention is to make you download and install its app. The post doesn’t provide any real value and is very advertise-y.


What is Facebook changing


Based on the above two examples here is what I can say – if your Page’s only goal is to solely ask your followers and target audience to get to “Do things” such as “Click on this”, “Buy this” or “Download this” without providing any real context then Facebook plans to penalize you by,

“significantly reducing your organic distribution over time.”


This basically means that as time goes by, after January 2015, your audience will see less and less of your Page’s posts in their News Feeds.


However, the thing to keep in mind is that this change will ONLY apply to organic promotional posts and NOT ads.

In fact, Facebook encourages businesses to use advertising in order to target specific audiences and achieve specific business objectives such as driving sales or app downloads. This is because Facebook has been closely monitoring ads within the News Feed and has controls over the numbers of ads a person sees as well as ad quality.

Furthermore, the data collected from the polled users indicate that they do not consider ads to be as promotional when compared to promotional posts by Pages.


How should businesses/marketers deal with this change


Here are some tips to keep in mind while sharing your content to avoid being called upon as ‘overly promotional’.


1. Avoid using promotional sales jargon

Stay away from using sales-y terms such as “Buy this”, “Download this”, “Click here”, “Comment on this post”, “Like this” and “Share this” in your posts. Treat Facebook as a means of sharing quality content with your audience.

For example, if you’d like to direct your audience towards a resource they can download, instead of pushing it with a “Click here to download now!!” use a more affable sentence such as “Find more information here”.


2. Do not use click-baiting headlines

Click-baiting is when Pages post a link with a headline which encourages users to click on it without sharing any real information. Here is an example of a click-baiting post. (Source: Facebook).

Avoid the above at all costs! Whip up an interesting headline while being true to your content.


3. Be honest with your updates

People follow businesses on Facebook because they like and trust them. Avoid using click-baiting to direct people to a sales landing page and the likes via your shared posts.

For example, a user sees an interesting image in your post and clicks on it expecting relevant content. But he/she is directed to a completely different page (a sales landing page or an unrelated promotion).

Once again, you are more than welcome to share articles/posts from your websites/blogs/landing pages but you need to do so in an honest way.


4. Don’t force people to join contests and sweepstakes

Sometimes Pages use this method to encourage people to join a contest/sweepstake merely for the purpose of collecting emails and click-baiting likes. A strict no!

If your contest doesn’t provide any value, Facebook will consider it overly promotional. If you do have a relevant contest to promote, do so via your email newsletter rather than Facebook.


5. Connect with your fans

Treat your Facebook fan base as your friends and not as a marketing tool. Agreed, you are on Facebook to let people know about your business but that should not be your only goal.

Share updates which provide value to your fans and engage with them when they like, share, and comment on your posts. Even a simple “Thank you for sharing” will make them feel appreciated.


6. Use Facebook ads for promotions

Facebook closely monitors its ads so that it can provide maximum value to its users. If you need to promote content use Facebook’s paid advertising to target a specific user base but do not use the exact content from your ad in your Page posts.


7. Review your business page info

Your Facebook Page provides a gateway for your customers to get to know and interact with your brand/business. Make sure your page has;

  • A custom cover photo which reflects your brand.
  • A link to your website.
  • A contact form or contact details.
  • A suitable profile picture – your logo or your own picture if you are the face of your brand.
  • All other relevant business information.


To conclude


“The only thing that is constant is change.”


I don’t mean to bore you with this quote but the world of social media is always in constant change. And Facebook is no exception to this rule!

Even though this News Feed update seems intimidating at first, it actually benefits marketers and small businesses in the long run because now there will be a clear distinction between high quality content and unnecessary sales pitches.

Just remember that Facebook’s ultimate goal is to keep its users happy and engaged and to this effect, Pages do matter a lot. Sticking to Facebook’s posting guidelines is the best way to go.

What has been your Facebook posting strategy so far and what do you think of this change? Let me know in the comments below.