For social marketing professionals, it’s a constant challenge to stay up to date with the latest changes on social media platforms.
Your social media strategy is the map that guides your social media marketing plans for the upcoming campaign, quarter or year. You’ve planned out the trip in a way that makes the most sense for your goals. Unfortunately, when social media platforms change their features, algorithms or other standards, it’s like your route changed right in the middle of your journey–your map is no longer up to date and you’re probably left lost, confused and unsure of how to continue.
Fortunately, it’s possible for marketers to be prepared for social platform changes. We’ll walk through what you need to know about recent changes on social channels and what they tell us about the next year in social. Plus, we’ll give you some tips on how to react to social media changes and keep your campaigns moving even when the unexpected occurs.
Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared for this year’s social media updates and keep up with your strategy without missing a beat.
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If 2019 was the year of Facebook Stories then 2020 is the year of the whole novel…that is, more platform updates.
These social media algorithm changes made so far, according to Facebook, are to provide a better experience for users and reduce misinformation. Part of these changes mean users are more frequently seeing posts from personal connections like friends and family rather than brands. Adapting to these Facebook algorithm changes hasn’t been the easiest task for marketers, but brands can adapt and test out new tactics to keep their approach fresh.
Based on Facebook’s current messaging, it appears likely that the emphasis on personal connection and friends and family-centric timelines will continue. So let’s discuss what your action plan needs to be to sidestep any pitfalls and prepare yourself for Facebook’s future platform updates.
Use paid ads
Supplementing your organic content with a paid strategy is key to reclaiming reach when it’s limited on the organic side. This doesn’t necessarily spell a major change to your budget–the good news is with Facebook’s diversified ads, you’ll have more opportunities to promote than before.
With Instagram and Facebook Messenger ads, you’ll be able to connect with followers in different ways that keep your brand top of mind. Above is just one example of a direct to inbox Messenger ad that represents another way to get more reach on Facebook for your brand’s messaging.
Spark meaningful interactions
Users are missing the “social” in social media, so Facebook is prioritizing posts it considers to have “meaningful interactions.” Basically, posts with more engagement get more prime time on people’s news feeds. So to keep your posts front and center, make sure your brand and its customers have plenty of interactions with each other. Spark engagement by thinking beyond typical promotional blasts and focus on conversation starters, like open ended discussion prompts, relatable lifestyle content and informal polls.
Use more videos
Video can be another way to boost organic reach. Video has continued to climb in the last few years, meaning it’s likely that a video will outperform your average post. So add more video posts to your content calendar, and don’t be afraid to go live. Live video engagement is twice as high as overall engagement on the platform. While you don’t need a lot of resources to pull off a great Facebook Live stream, you’ll want to make sure you take time to prepare thoroughly–check out our tips for a successful Facebook Live broadcast.
Takeaways for Facebook
Overall, when preparing for platform changes on Facebook, your main focus should always be giving your followers quality content and encouraging genuine engagement. As long as you continue to offer relevant content and keep the conversation going between your brand and its customers, you’re halfway there. Supplement your organic posts with a paid strategy, and use these two channels as coordinated parts of a whole that is focused on achieving your overall marketing goals.
If you’ve been on Instagram in the last year you may have noticed changes in your engagement and views, as well as sweeping platform-wide changes like the current test of removing likes in multiple regions.
Community, we want to know. How do you feel about Instagram removing likes?
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) November 26, 2019
We're here for it. We think that it will force brands to have actual conversations (😱) with customers to drive engagement online, which will in turn create stronger relationships!
— Kanuka Digital (@KanukaDigital) November 26, 2019
Sounds like IG is getting back to the basics -> community and engagement 👍🏾
— Louis Martin Jr. (@LouisMartinJr) November 26, 2019
Instagram has also continued to roll out new platform features that let brands do more, including expanded options for video and Instagram shopping. Unsurprisingly, you’ll notice some shared themes between Instagram and Facebook when it comes to the platform’s priorities this year.
Engagement is king
Facebook’s platform changes have heavily shifted to focus on engagement, and the same is true for Instagram. You’ll get rewarded by encouraging interactions between your brand and its followers, but on the flip side, if your content doesn’t get a lot of engagement when it’s initially posted, it’s likely that the Instagram algorithm will lower its priority. Focus on content that draws in your community and builds meaningful connections with your followers.
Be on time and be seen
It’s easier to get engagement right when you post when you publish at the right time of day. Another way to increase visibility is to post more frequently (and always consistently). This not only helps your chances with the algorithm, but helps your followers set expectations about when they should be looking out for your latest content. You can also supplement your content with Stories – not only can you highlight recent posts in Stories, but their top-of-feed position reminds followers that you’re actively posting new content.
Your followers deserve the best
Currently, the Instagram feed shows users posts it thinks they’re more likely to interact with, and is less likely to present posts it thinks they won’t really be interested in based on their past behavior. So make sure to keeps close tabs on your best performing content in a tool like Sprout Social and adjust your strategy when you notice winning trends.
You should also think about ways to amp up your standard promotional posts with elements that help connect with your fans and drive engagement. Reposting user-generated content and tagging fans is just one great way to connect with your brand’s community and encourage further sharing of your content.
Takeaways for Instagram
Your priority should be to focus on posting content you know your followers will respond well to, so make sure engagement is a KPI you’re closely monitoring–and reacting to. Making sure your content actually resonates with your followers will be the single most important thing you can do. Keep up with this year’s trending strategies and try to get your followers to engage with as much of your content as you can.
Don’t forget that just because likes are hidden on posts doesn’t mean you can’t review your own post performance. You can still track which posts are getting the most likes and engagement in your Instagram analytics or a tool like Sprout.
By now you’re noticing a pattern for social platform changes across the board. Yep, Twitter’s most recent update is all about engagement, too. Another key element of Twitter’s upcoming focus is user control, with new features on the horizon that will help users find conversations on their interests, as well as strike a happy medium between going totally private with their account versus being completely open to replies and interactions from anyone.
Features that I’m looking forward to in 2020.
– Remove me from this conversation
– Don’t allow RT of this tweet
– Don’t allow people to @mention me without my permission
– Remove this @mention from this conversation
– Tweet this only to: hashtag, interest, or these friends
— Dantley (@dantley) November 5, 2019
Following Twitter Topics
In November 2019, Twitter introduced the ability to follow Topics similar to the way specific users can be followed. This new feature lets audiences tap into a more curated selection of the top Tweets on a specific theme (with more topics to roll out in the future). This helps audiences access the most influential, important or buzzed about Tweets around a topic without doing a lot of the manual work that this could have required in the past, such as trying to figure out all the best accounts to follow, being limited to a specific hashtag or searching through less relevant posts in chronological order. With such a new feature, there’s plenty of room for brands to experiment with creating content that will bring value to topic-driven conversations.
Controlled Tweets & audience segmentation
As Dantley Davis’ Tweet above suggests, more granular control over Tweets could be on the horizon, which is great for users’ personal accounts and will have significance for brands too.
Your brand could use changes like those proposed to your advantage by removing yourself from conversations you don’t want to be a part of. Or you can use Tweets targeted by a hashtag, interest or specific group of users to segment your audience and talk about topics that are relevant to some of your followers without alienating or spamming the rest. This feature could have interesting implications for the increasing trend towards private groups on other platforms, since Twitter has typically been seen as a more wide-open network with less organic segmentation.
Takeaways for Twitter
As we look to what 2020 holds for Twitter, it appears that more flexibility for audiences to control how they participate in conversations and how they discover conversations in the first place will be key themes. As with any platform, understanding the driving philosophy behind their upcoming platform changes makes it much easier for you to prepare even when specific, unexpected features are released.
On that note, let’s take a moment to discuss how social media marketers can be prepared for social platform and algorithm updates of any type.
Preparing for social media algorithm changes
Social media platform changes are frequent and continue to roll out at any time. So it’s important to have a marketing strategy that will continue to work for you no matter how you need to adapt.
Additionally, you should be prepared to explain social media changes to your colleagues and your manager—and ready to educate your team on how to evaluate the impact and opportunities they present. Every social media manager has heard questions like, “should we be on Tiktok?” and, “does Instagram getting rid of Likes affect us?!”
It’s important to educate yourself on these types of updates, from new features to fresh metrics and algorithm changes, as soon as they come out. This allows you to adapt and make an informed recommendation to your team. Here are a few questions to ask when assessing this kind of update:
- How does this affect our current strategy on this platform?
- Does this change offer new or different ways to reach out target audience?
- What is the greatest threat to our brand with this update, and what is the greatest opportunity?
- Will we need to change our strategy for this platform? If so, is this urgent, or what timeline will we use to make changes?
- Who else at my organization needs to be informed, and what’s the best way to share that information?
Proactively sharing an update and your plan with your manager or colleagues demonstrates that you’re an expert in social and that you’re thinking ahead about this quickly-changing industry.
Futureproof your strategy
Another way to prepare for social media changes is to develop your social media strategy in a way that helps you survive any algorithm change. Here are a few tips to build into your strategy and stay on top of platform changes.
1. Focus on quality rather than quantity
Regardless of platform, it’s been a consistent theme that recent social media platform updates reward engagement and the high-quality content that entices more of it.
While it’s impossible to guarantee a certain approach to social media content is foolproof, consistently posting content your audience wants to see and is motivated to interact with may be the next best thing.
2. Keep a detailed publishing calendar
A thorough social media posting calendar is your productivity and organization, as well as ensuring you meet your goals. If a platform update occurs, having a calendar will make it easier for you to tweak your schedule without missing a beat or catapulting your strategy into chaos. Use a tool like Sprout to visualize your calendar for the next week or month and fine-tune it as needed.
3. Stay on top of trends
Notice what’s being buzzed about and what your followers are doing. If a new rollout is announced and you notice your followers are leaning into it, follow suit. You want to meet them where they are and give them the best experience with your brand that you can. You don’t want your brand presence to feel stale and out of touch.
How have you tackled adjusting to new social media changes? Do you have a strategy for staying ahead of algorithm updates? Follow Sprout on Twitter and let us know your favorite tips!