What To Do About the Facebook's Upcoming Changes

Things are changing over at Facebook and those changes are going to have major implications for how you manage social media for your private practice.

If you use Facebook as a way to market your practice or to share the content that you create, you’re going to want to read this article. You may have heard that Facebook is changing the algorithm that it uses to determine what shows up in its users’ newsfeeds (here’s the original announcement). Their goal is to “connect you to the stories and people that matter most” and to help people have meaningful interactions on the platform.

I’ve got two very different reactions to this. As a therapist, I applaud Facebook for this change. In the video they created to accompany the announcement above, they make reference to how passively scrolling through our newsfeeds without interaction has the effect of reducing our sense of well-being. For so many people, social media tends to reinforce negative self-talk and I’m hopeful that this change will have a net positive effect on our collective sense of wellness.

On the other hand, my marketer part is having a noticeable panicked response. While we have to wait until these changes are fully implemented to understand exactly what this means for businesses and brands, all of the major researchers (and, notably, Facebook themselves) have said that they fully expect the organic reach of Facebook Pages to decrease significantly. In other words, the chance that someone who likes your Facebook page will see any of your page’s content in their newsfeed is already pretty low and it's about to get way lower.

This isn’t new. Facebook has been reducing the amount of content from businesses and brands in our newsfeeds for a long time. I’ve noticed it on several projects that I’ve worked on as a marketer. If we’re honest, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to see significant reach on Facebook unless we pay for advertising and this move really cements that idea for us.

For a minute, though, let’s dig into this a little deeper. Specifically, let’s have a look at this excerpt from the announcement:

As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

The way that individuals interact with social media has always been about the people and the content. If there is a funny or interesting or thought-provoking video that your friend shares, you will probably want to see it. You might like it. You might share it. You might even comment on the post. If it’s a video directly from some brand itself, you might still watch it, but there’s less of a likelihood that you’ll interact with it beyond that.

Moving forward, the content that will have the best organic reach will be the content that is designed to encourage interaction.

Here’s what I think that means:

  • First, sharing content from other producers will probably do nothing for your Facebook page under this new algorithm. If you share articles on your page from The Gottman Institute, or Psychology Today, or Good Therapy, or any other source, you will probably be speaking to no one. They're great articles and if you share them, be sure to invite people to comment.
  • Sharing original content (e.g. a blog post, a photo, a graphic that you create, an inspirational quote) is going to be an important, foundational step.
  • Your posts should be written with interaction in mind but be cautious! You’ve probably seen lots of posts with statements saying “LIKE if you agree.” Don’t do this. There’s good reason to believe that Facebook penalizes this sort of behavior.
  • While we’re on the subject, don’t use ALL CAPS either. Facebook doesn’t want to artificially call attention to your post over someone else’s.
  • It might be time to go live. Yes, for lots of people, that’s anxiety provoking. But, in my own experience, the live Facebook videos that I have done on my own and with my wife at our practice (Yetman Counseling Services in Charlotte, NC) have had the greatest amount of interaction. Videos might be good. Live is better. (You can see one of our live videos here.)
  • The other type of post that we’ve seen gain a lot of traction are posts that involve us as people and not the practice as a brand. For example, when I joined the practice and we posted our professional photo and a blog post, we had a lot of our friends engage. We saw some of them share the post and even saw the overall fanbase of our page increase. If you’re adding a new clinician, if you get a new certification, if there is any reason to celebrate, post a professional photo along with the announcement.
  • Finally, if you want to build a strong presence on Facebook and you’ve not already built in a marketing budget to your practice, go ahead and do that now. Few of your posts are going to get the traction you want them to get on their own.

Perhaps the biggest implication of all of this is that we may need to change our overall approach to Facebook. Lots of consultants and marketers focus on conversions and calls to action. But, there will be a more distinct separation of these efforts from your everyday Facebook posts. Your paid marketing efforts on Facebook can still focus on getting potential clients to schedule a session with you. But if you’re going to have any kind of influence in the new Facebook work, you have the Walt-Whitman-esque opportunity to contribute a verse. You need to contribute to the conversation rather than drawing attention to yourself. You will need to ask questions and talk about the issues that people want to discuss.

This new algorithm will undoubtedly bring change to the way that we use Facebook as users and as clinicians. How can you update your approach so you are contributing to the conversation?