This week, Facebook announced it is making another change in the way the social media platform chooses to show content to its users. The big shift, as you likely know by now, is that Facebook will prioritize posts from friends and family in its news feed over public content from pages, like that of your library. In particular, the Facebook team will give top priority to posts that drive conversation between friends and family.
The announcement is causing consternation for many libraries, which rely heavily on organic, unpaid traffic for their promotional efforts. I honestly don’t know what the end effect will be. I have the same worries as most of my library colleagues. We’ve adjusted well since the last major algorithm change in 2015. So will we have to start over? In the wake of this announcement, I’ve wondered if the chicken comes before the egg. In other words, do our well-performing posts get more interaction because, prior to this week, Facebook has shown them to people in anticipation of interaction… or do they perform well because people are interacting with them? (Deep thoughts!!)
In the Facebook group, Libraries and Social Media, I asked social media marketers at libraries to comment on the change. Caleb Sheaffer of Shreve Memorial Library in Shreveport, LA said, “I never know what to expect until it actually happens. Right now, all the posts that perform well for our library are ones that have the most interaction anyway.”
Jennifer Redford from Boise, Idaho added, “I think that we’ll just need to focus more on writing and sharing great content. We’ve also started using events more and I wonder how that will be affected by the change.”
Finally, Molly Wetta, manager of the Santa Barbara Public Library, told me, “These announcements are pushing me to move forward more quickly with an idea I’ve had for a while. We’re experimenting with linked groups – I started one for youth services specific content, and we may also try one for smaller communities and branches within our system if this one is successful. The goals are to work more to create community connections in addition to marketing our events/services. I do love the events feature, and the notifications will hopefully be helpful but not intrusive. We’ll be sharing book recommendations and answering book-related questions, sharing early literacy tips and activities, and hopefully answering questions.”
The bottom line is that your library’s page may see your overall statistics drop. Your reach and referral traffic, your shares, and your comments may drop. MAY is the key word there. My overall impression of this change is that it will force library marketers to work smarter when using Facebook. All of the pointers in this recent article on Facebook still apply.
And now, more than ever, you must make sure your posts are really good. Share content from other sources related to books and literature–don’t just promote your own stuff, particularly on posts. Use events to promote your events. Ask questions. Create polls. And most importantly, shoot video. As we know, Facebook users respond in a big way to video. Facebook says live videos often lead to discussion among viewers and live videos get six times as many interactions as regular videos. So video marketing must be part of your plan.
You can also explain to your followers what is happening and ask them to choose to see your posts. People who want to see more posts from your library page can select See First in News Feed Preferences. You can also do what Molly’s library is doing and experiment with groups. One of my favorite Facebook pages did that this weekend and they put a little money behind it to make sure all their followers know about the move.
Finally, don’t bait people to interact with your posts. In this week’s announcement, Facebook made it very clear that they will penalize pages which use engagement bait, like. Use real questions and conversation starters. Read this article to see how to avoid engagement bait.
Here’s the thing to remember: posting content on Facebook is like building your house on rented land. It doesn’t belong to you and as much as it pains your library system when changes are made, there is little we can do about it. The big lesson is that we need to start relying on our own platforms and websites for promoting our programs and services. That means we should be building our own audience with blogs, podcasts, and other content delivery systems. We should be developing email subscriber lists so we can target and market to our specific library cardholders and give them the content they really want.
Facebook is great, but they’re not the only way to reach customers. Let’s make a concerted effort to start moving to other content delivery platforms where we have more control. Our fans are loyal and they’ll respond when we deliver content specifically targeted to them.
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