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How Facebook’s algorithm change will impact B2B social marketing

The fallout from the decline of organic reach on Facebook is taking shape. Business to business marketers watching from the safe harbour of their LinkedIn posts, had better take note as their B2C brethren try to figure out what to do next. It’s going to reverberate on the B2B side particularly with LinkedIn, much like the proverbial elephant’s twitches and grunts are felt by the mouse sleeping next to it. (Apologies for bastardizing Pierre Trudeau’s famous quote.)

LinkedIn is best known as a social network for business professionals, but now publishers beyond the business space are eyeing the platform to see where they can capitalize on it.

According to Keywee, a content marketing tool, the amount of money publishers spent to distribute branded content on Facebook is rising dramatically. This was already happening in the months before Facebook’s most recent algorithm change in January. In the fourth quarter of 2017, spending on branded-content distribution leapt 159%. Spending grew 231% in the prior quarter, year over year, according to Keywee.

Granted some of this growth can be attributed to the fact that content studios are popping up at what seems like an hourly rate, producing more campaigns that require more paid distribution. According to branded content distributor Polar, worldwide spend on branded content totaled $5 billion in 2017, up from $3.6 billion in 2016. But that’s only part of the story as the cost per click businesses pay for Facebook ads grew over the past two months by 16% year over year, so says Keywee.

In other words, if you’re building a branded content play that plans to leverage Facebook, you had better be setting aside a good chunk of change to get the same level of reach you once expected to get for free. And, that organic reach is expected to continue dropping.

“Everybody understands Facebook’s been tightening the algorithm a bit,” Chris McLoughlin, SVP of The Foundry, a branded-content studio at publishing company Meredith, told Digiday. “It’s going to mean margin pressure for those who relied exclusively on organic distribution.”

Still, despite the hysteria that followed Mark Zuckerberg’s January 11 announcement that Facebook would be changing its news feed algorithm to prioritize content from “friends, family and groups,” ad execs, say they have yet to see the kind of apocalyptic drop in reach that some were predicting.

Yet, even if that drop occurs, no one seriously expects businesses to abandon creating branded content for Facebook audiences, given the social network’s targeting capabilities and the ease with which companies can use the platform to distribute.

While B2B businesses that rely less on Facebook may feel that these issues don’t impact them, they should note that many consumer brands, annoyed at having to pay for something they once got for free, are also considering alternate distribution options. LinkedIn is right in their sites.

This could affect rates and organic reach as competition for eyeballs stiffens on the worlds top social platform for business professionals.

Greater attention and revenue to LinkedIn could also mean more robust targeting and better UX for content being posted there, as the business network reacts, which will have a net positive effect for B2B businesses leveraging the platform.

LinkedIn is already moving to leverage this new interest, testing native videos on the platform, which it rolled out last August.

News UK titles The Times and Sunday Times don’t post any content to LinkedIn, but the publisher said it plans to make publishing to the biz platform a bigger focus in 2018, according to Digiday.

Meanwhile, HuffPost UK is working on an editorial series of work-related videos and text articles more suited for LinkedIn. Lifestyle publisher Shortlist Media is hiring several people to focus on LinkedIn. Publishers like the Financial Times, the Economist and CNBC in the U.S. are also taking a close look.

The overall impact means that creating engaging content on LinkedIn might represent very real and expanding opportunity in 2018.

Peter Vamos