Last week, Facebook hosted its annual F8 Conference. Mark Zuckerberg joked about testifying in congress, apologized to developers for the turbulent past few months, and announced that Facebook would launch a dating app.
But beyond the excitement—such as being able to attend virtual concerts with Oculus Room or using VR to reconstruct childhood memories—Zuckerberg and other executives revealed upcoming changes that will impact how marketers use Facebook’s platforms.
Here’s the list of the key algorithm shifts and video best practices suggested by Facebook during the two-day conference. If interested, you can view all the F8 sessions here.
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
The return of the social network
“If you care about getting more distribution,” says Fidgi Simo, VP of Video at Facebook, “Then really thinking about how to get people back to your content is going to be a very important thing moving forward.”
Whether sharing the dizzying accuracy of VR or revealing new group video features in WhatsApp, other executives hammered a similar message again and again: Facebook is about connectivity. “We are here to build things that bring people together,” rallied Mark Zuckerberg at the end of his keynote. “The vast majority of things that happen on these services is helping people get closer together.”
Connectivity means a lot of things for Facebook. Getting emerging markets online for the first time. Helping more businesses use WhatsApp to replace the telephone for one-to-one conversations with customers. Or building dating features to help lonely Facebook users find their algorithmically-perfect soulmate.
But for both paid and organic content strategies, Facebook has made the evolution of their platform clear: they want to be seen less as a media and data platform—and more like a social network.
“Our goal is to reward [content] partners who invest in loyal, engaged communities,” says Director of Product Maria Angelidou-Smith. In other words, Facebook does not want to be seen as a content consumption platform. They want to help their users find meaningful content, stay close to friends and family, and help publishers build loyal audiences with more habitual watching from audiences.
Stop chasing traffic. Start building interactions.
As Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri outlined, the News Feed will look to improve experiences for users. The challenges—as we all know—are many: fake news, Russian bots, and shouting at strangers on the internet over a political news article that appeared in our feed.
Mosseri explained that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm currently works by applying a score based on inventory (the total new posts you could possibly see), signals (past things you’ve done, such as liking a friend’s post), and predictions (which looks at how likely you’re going to watch or read a piece of content).
“What we’re doing is shifting value in our predictions away from how likely you are to read an article or how long you’re going to watch a video for and shifting some of that value into how likely we think a given story is to facilitate a conversation between you and your friends,” says Mosseri.
In other words, Facebook will shift value away from shares and clicks and promote content that sparks interactions with friends and family. This impacts the “prediction” part of the algorithm.
Mosseri was explicit that marketers and publishers will be affected by this. The News Feed will promote more content from friends and family (or content that helps to facilitate that social experience) and place less value on shares and link clicks as a relevance metric. “This has real implications for all of you who work in the publishing industry or in news,” he warns, “And I want to make sure you understand those implications so that you can make informed decisions about how to leverage our platform.”
The context for these changes involves improving the relevance of discussions on Facebook. When a popular article goes viral (such as a story on Trump’s immigration policies), your News Feed becomes filled with opinions of strangers. These conversations, Facebook believes, are not the most relevant ones to feature in your feed.
“We know that comments in the News Feed are not the shining beacon of civil discourse,” says Mosseri. “People behave better when they interact with friends rather than strangers because there is accountability.”
Facebook will explore only showing comments from friends on articles (rather than shouting matches between random strangers on news articles), which would drastically reduce the hours I personally spend yelling at racists on the internet. Facebook is also experimenting with upvoting and downvoting like Reddit, helping people to push bad content down and self-regulate conversations.
“We’re optimizing now for quality,” says Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships, “And working very closely with many of you [publishers] to figure out what those signals are.”
News content is the most obvious target for these changes (due to the ability to use virality to weaponize information). To fight fake news, Facebook will roll out a News section in the Watch tab that will reward quality publishers and become a destination for exceptional examples of video journalism. There will also be a dedicated section for news in Watch, filled by publishers who are creating video news journalism created specifically for Facebook. Again, the focus is destination: creating loyal audiences rather than quick-bursts of attention in the News Feed.
Alex Hardiman, Head of News Products, echoed these shifts. “We’re giving priority to high-quality news publishers.” In particular, Facebook is measuring “broad trust of the news source,” which means the strength of specific news brands. Facebook is also pushing news that has more substance measuring how much it informs people.
As Facebook’s mission is to connect communities, you’ll also see more local video content in your feed. Facebook explicitly stated that it will prioritize local news, using a publisher’s “geographic click density” which simply means that a local news source is likely to have the majority of their clicks at a city or regional level. They then filter out local businesses and blogs, making sure the source is indeed a news source.
Stories: the ideal video format
Instagram and Facebook Stories, says Mosseri, are better aligned with the type of content they think is valuable for users. Stories offer engaging photos and videos that are personal and help to build connections with your friends and family—the exact type of video content Facebook feels is most valuable to their platform. Facebook predicts that Stories will be the primary way people share in the coming years.
Create videos that create communities
In the past, brands were advised to think and act like publishers. With the explosion of mobile video content, we were told to behave like broadcasters. But now, brands will need to return to their role as connectors, uniting like-minded consumers and creating experiences worth sharing with friends and family.
Take Facebook Live, for instance. Facebook users have created 3.5 billion live broadcasts. Data from Facebook also shows that Live broadcasts typically have six times the number of interactions than regular video content. Facebook has studied the social nature of these video broadcasts. And in the recent redesign of Facebook Live, Facebook has put social context at the center of the viewing experience. For instance, comments and audience interactions are key for videos on Facebook.
Facebook wants people to enjoy content with their friends, talk about that content afterwards (preferably in Facebook Groups), and encourage brands to think beyond traditional broadcast content into new two-way formats that go beyond passive (and solitary) media consumption.
For Facebook, the key to a successful Facebook Live broadcast comes down to making your content a social experience. For example, Facebook found that broadcasts that have two or more people (rather than just one person talking directly to the camera) are more likely to be successful.
Having two hosts, Facebook found, also increases the length of tune-in. It’s clear that videos that help to create these community experiences are going to be rewarded by Facebook’s algorithms.
How Facebook Watch will change in 2018
In terms of the Facebook Watch tab, Facebook is building tools to help content creators with three areas: social discovery (before people watch content), social viewing (during the video), and active communities (building loyalty and community after the content has ended).
“Friend recommendations have already surpassed television ads in terms of influencing people to watch content,” says Fidgi Simo, VP of Video at Facebook. As a result, marketers can expect to see engagements and interactions count much more than views or shares.
Offering a social experience is key to Facebook’s media evolution (they don’t want to shoulder the weight of being the world’s sole source for news). It’s also how they differentiate their advertising potential from traditional broadcast networks.
As Simo pointed out, video has always been a social experience. For example, with live sports you’re not just consuming content. You’re interacting with other fans and sharing the experience with friends. Facebook’s goal is to create video formats that mirror regular life, where content is the impetus for meaningful conversations.
Facebook’s Watch Party is an example of this trend in action. Now, a host can create a Watch Party for a group and then the members of the group get a notification. This is currently rolling out to all Facebook Groups. Soon, they’ll announce live commentary, allowing the host to add live commentary to the video. Facebook will also roll out polls in Live Video. This will inform content—such as reality shows including more audience participation in shaping the story arc.
It’s clear that Facebook will reward video content that creates depth and loyalty to content.
“When you are a loyal viewer and you come back to a piece of content again and again,” says Fidgi Simo, VP of Video at Facebook, “it’s much more likely you’re going to feel like a part of a community. And, as you know, that’s very aligned with our mission.”
Increasing audience loyalty with Groups
For Facebook, Groups play a key role in building loyal video audiences.
A few months ago, Facebook launched Groups for Pages. Hulu, for example, uses Groups for Pages to engage people in their show The Handmaid’s Tale.
Facebook recommends that brands use Groups as a way to acquire and retain customers. SoFi, an online personal finance company, has 42,000 people in their groups, where SoFi shares tips about money and their career. According to Facebook, much of their early success has come from using the new Groups plugin. With this plugin, they can drive traffic to their group with email or from their website.
Similarly, YouVersion, a Bible app with 300 million downloads, publishes to Groups directly from their app. This helps their “verse of the day” increase reach and engagement.
Finally, Peloton, a cutting-edge fitness company, offers an example of using Groups to build brand advocacy. Peloton’s Facebook Group has grown to 85K members and they use the Group to communicate new updates and products. But customers also help each other, demonstrating the customer advocacy potential of Groups.
“Our community are our best sales people,” says Brad Olson, SVP of Member Experience at Peloton. “Because of that level of customer advocacy, we feel indebted to our members. . . We keep track of every single support call, social post, community post, and email we receive. We add it all up at the end of the month and report it out to the entire company . . . We make everyone read it and we make sure the product team, the hardware team, the content team are creating new features and content that address the needs of our members.”
Video is the new telephone for businesses
As I mentioned, these shifts require a different view of what video is. For brands, social video has mainly been a broadcast tool for 15-second product videos, company announcements, and branded content amplification.
The evolution of video, though, will be building on video’s potential as a two-way communication—not broadcast—medium.
For example, Facebook found that people are using Live video on Instagram to just hang out. In response, Facebook launched video chat on Instagram, helping to connect people together with video.
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Facebook is also building new ways for people to connect privately with friends and businesses on WhatsApp. With WhatsApp clocking 200 million minutes of video calling a day, Facebook will also bring group video calling on WhatsApp.
Currently, 3 million small businesses use WhatsApp to communicate privately with their customers. Facebook’s next step is to help large businesses to get on WhatsApp. Messaging is about private communication, it’s replacing the telephone. Video will play a key role in these shifts.
Commerce will also play a role in these shifts as it aligns with Facebook’s mission of connecting people together. For example, Facebook’s Marketplace has shown that social is a place where people discover, buy, and trade with their neighbors. At F8, Facebook revealed that 80 million people use Marketplace including one in three people in the US. Like video, commerce is an inherently social experience.
7 best practices to help you win with social video in 2018
So how should you act on these changes? Here are a few practical ways to rethink your social video strategy to better align with Facebook’s mission of connecting people together.
1. Go longer, not shorter with video content.
Facebook implied content partners will be rewarded for creating videos that people value, come back to, and engage with. This means you’ll want to de-prioritize the focus on short, snackable video content.
The age of Buzzfeed cat videos might have peaked. And at least for the short term, Facebook will be algorithmically rewarding more substantial content, especially if viewers seek it out, subscribe, and return to watch it.
2. How can you make this communal?
What does a true social video look like?
For Facebook, video should help to build your fan community. It should spark conversations. And it should be a two-way dialogue with your audience. The subtext here is that Facebook doesn’t want to be a platform where people passively consume media content. Their positioning is a social network, not a media platform.
As Zuckerberg stated in his keynote, “passively consuming information is not healthy.” Instead, content should help to start conversations and increase interactions with friends and family.
Facebook has rolled out a few features to help build this social experience into video. You can explore Facebook’s polling features in Facebook Live. And invest in using Groups—a feature Zuckerberg called the “most meaningful part of Facebook”—to increase tune-in to your video content. With the Groups plugin, for example, you add “join a group” button to your website and emails. Fans can discuss your content, invite their friends to your Group, and you’ll be able to notify fans when you publish new videos.
3. Create less, more better
How do you know if video content is valuable? For Facebook, two signals speak loudly: social searches and subscriptions.
Do people search for your video? Do they watch your entire video? Do they then search for it again a few weeks later to rewatch it? This is a powerful indicator of quality, for Facebook.
As Facebook revealed, pre-roll advertising is now enabled in videos that people seek out. For example, if you search for a Saturday Night Live segment on Facebook or look for it in the Watch tab, you’re showing Facebook that this video is valuable to you—and so, you’ll see a pre-roll ad.
Facebook will also be watching to see if people go directly to your video page to watch content. This signals that your video content is building loyal audiences, so they’ll offer higher payouts for these audiences for publishers.
4. Create content worthy of advertising
Going forward, Facebook will also bring some of these changes to paid advertising. For example, in order to better retain users, they’re looking for longer videos that merit ads. This means fewer interruptions during video viewing and ad formats that better match viewer intent.
An ad in a short video frustrates users. It’s here we can see the bigger business benefit (for Facebook) in encouraging video content with more depth, length, and substance. Facebook is also testing pre-roll, especially for videos that match the audience’s intent (for example, watching a high-quality segment from a popular TV show).
5. Make it unscripted
As I mentioned earlier, Facebook Live broadcasts with two hosts tend to perform better than solo videos.
Facebook is also trying to bring commerce and direct response to branded content.
This means when advertisers partner with content creators, they will be able to feature products in their content. According to Facebook, this will help to drive direct sales in addition to brand awareness. In terms of what works on the platform, Angelidou-Smith says they’ve found that branded content that is “less unpolished and more raw, it is more convincing.”
6. Explore new CTA options
For News Publishers, Instant Articles now have CTA units (for news publishers to increase email sign-ups or mobile app downloads). They also support subscriptions. So now users can pay directly for news, which Facebook sees as an important indicator of news quality. Tools like Groups can help drive depth and retention.
Facebook is also experimenting with “propensity modeling techniques,” which means based on your news consumption they can predict who is most likely to pay for a subscription, tailoring their experience on Facebook.
7. Add Messenger ads to your paid video strategy
The number of developers for Messenger doubled last year from 100,000 to 200,000 developers. There are now more than 300,000 active bots on the platform, up from 200,000 last year.
According to Facebook, successful examples of brands using Messenger include Fanta (they delivered 2.6 million coupons with Messenger ads), Air France (for creating exceptional customer experience), 1-800 Flowers (for driving direct conversions), and the Australian Open (using Messenger ads to move people through the buyer journey, earning a 24 times increase in ROI vs ads that led to their website).
Sponsored Messages allow you to retarget and re-engage in context. For example, Facebook gave the example of Quantas, an airline, used Sponsored Messages to re-engage prospects who had started conversations organically in Messenger and saw a 116 times higher click-through-rate compared to standard display ads. Sponsored messages, the airline says, are now their most effective digital channel.
Facebook is now recommending that brands add Messenger ads to their standard Facebook campaigns.
Early tests show that Facebook Messenger ads added to campaigns offer an eight percent increase in reach and seven percent decrease in cost. For example, Lyft added Messenger ads into a campaign and saw a six percent lower cost per lead, according to Facebook.
In my 2018 Social Trends report, I analyze the opportunity of social video and offer best practices to take advantage of the new video formats. You can download the report for free here.
You can publish and manage social videos—including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter—right from Hootsuite. Explore our video integrations here.
You can learn professional techniques for using social videos including Facebook Live in our Content Marketing Fundamentals, a free course offered online from Hootsuite Academy.
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