The old adage says “Never build a house on rented land.” Why? Because the owner can sell the land – and your house – out from under you at any moment. Facebook is in the process of doing that to countless political campaigns right now.
You’re probably wondering what exactly is happening with Facebook, what it all really means, and what your campaign can do about it.
I’m going to break it down.
What is Happening with Facebook?
On January 11, 2018, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted this update to his Facebook profile:
Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri colored things in more, writing, “Over the next few months, we’ll be making updates to ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.”
Mosseri detailed this, stating:
With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.
To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed.
These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.
We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content…
Then Mosseri dropped the bomb that has made many call these changes the “Facebook Apocalypse.”
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.
What will this mean to your campaign?
It means that if you’re relying on Facebook as your sole or primary online campaign tool, you’re going to be in trouble.
You see, your campaign’s Facebook page is “public content.”
Now before you freak out because you feel like you’re being singled out, that’s not the case.
All Facebook Pages are in the same boat as you, as are all individual users.
No one is going to get past these changes unscathed.
Let’s look closer at Adam Mosseri’s announcement and the impact of these changes.
The first place you’re going to notice the changes will be in your Facebook News Feed.
You’re not going to see as many posts from Facebook Pages.
The posts people are going to see more of are the ones where there are greater comments.
But that doesn’t mean those with a large amount of short comments under the post.
Facebook wants “meaningful conversations” to take place between users.
Posts that have longer comments and more interaction between users will get pushed in the News Feed.
But these comments and interactions aren’t going to be coming from your Page.
Facebook wants the people seeing your Page’s posts to be the ones commenting , not your Page.
Video posts, with the exception of live video, is going to received less exposure.
Posts with links are also going to have much less visibility on Facebook — especially if no one is commenting what you’ve shared.
It’s pretty safe to say that if you’re sharing links to articles or information on your campaign website, less people are going to see it.
What can you do about these changes to Facebook?
There’s five steps you need to start taking immediately to adjust your Facebook campaign game and successful navigate these coming changes.
1. Share Only Quality Posts on Your Facebook Page
Since Facebook wants more “quality interactions,” you must be pickier about what you share.
Don’t share every story, every thought, and every picture you can on your Facebook Page.
The days of that being an even half way effective Facebook strategy are officially over (if it ever worked).
Decrease your frequency of posting and share only the best things.
Those should be things that help generate conversations among those following your Page.
Fortunately the things I’ve seen that generate the longest comments and most back and forth are political posts.
Since you’re running for office, you’ll naturally be sharing things that of that nature.
Don’t shy away from controversy. You may actually want to get closer to it.
If people say negative things about you and your campaign, don’t delete or block them.
Instead, you might want to encourage them to do so, but have a defensive strategy ready.
You or your supporters will need to refute the haters who comment on your page.
Preferably your supporters should be the ones defending you.
Such back and worth may turn out to be a good way to get higher New Feed visibility especially with longer comment threads and more interactions.
2. Encourage Your Supporters to Make Long Comments
Since Facebook wants longer comments and more conversations to promote a post, then help out with this.
This doesn’t mean writing things in your posts like “Please Comment” or “Please Discuss” or anything else of that nature.
Facebook knows you’re going to try to get around their changes this way and is already waiting for you.
The algorithm will penalize you if you use such engagement bait hoping to raise your News Feed visibility.
Put together a small group of hard core supporters that will comment on your Page’s posts.
When you share something to your Page, let them know via email, text message, or maybe even Facebook Messenger.
As mentioned above, you could and should encourage them to comment on your post at that time.
Ask them to make longer comments on your posts, not just one word or one sentence remarks.
This is also where your defensive strategy against negative comments comes into play.
If someone starts attacking you in comments, your hard core supporters can rush to your defense.
This will help keep you above the fray while also building longer comment threads that Facebook now wants.
3. Make Facebook Live Videos on a Regular Basis
While pre-recorded video is going to be penalized, live video on Facebook will gain preference.
Live video on Facebook gets six times more interaction than other video shared on the platform.
This may simply be due to the draw that comes from watching people doing live broadcasts.
Facebook also spent a good deal of money the last couple of years promoting Facebook Live.
Despite the other changes they’re making now, they don’t seem ready to abandon their live video strategy.
One of the good things about Facebook Live is you can ask for comments and questions as you stream the video.
Users will type them in, they’ll pop up, and you can answer them in the video.
As far as I can tell that won’t count as “engagement bait” because it’s part of broadcasting live.
If you haven’t done Facebook Live before, start practicing on your smart phone.
Maybe “go live” on your personal profile a few times with friends and family before you do so on your campaign page.
It may be a bit nerve wracking at first, but like anything, once you get the hang of it you’ll become quite comfortable.
4. Pay for Targeted Facebook Ads
I always thought the best thing about a campaign having a Facebook Page was Facebook’s ad targeting ability.
As with direct mail, telephone calls, and precinct walking, Facebook Ads allows you to target specific voters.
This is a major benefit that Facebook has over both radio and television advertising, plus it’s cheaper.
All you need to do is upload voter email addresses and telephone numbers into Facebook Ads Manager.
Facebook will then match your lists with user profiles and allow you to only target those individuals with your ads.
You can also micro-target by breaking your lists down by certain demographic fields like gender, age, location, and political party.
With Facebook you can even drill down further based on a the users interest the platform constantly collects.
If you’re not using Facebook Ads to reach voters, you need to get on that right away.
This does not mean to simply hit the button that says “Boost Post.”
Boosted Posts often go wide and don’t put your content before targeted users.
Always be sure you are targeting voters with your Facebook Ads, not just boosting them.
5. Build Your Own Campaign Email Lists
The reason nearly every website you visit has a pop up trying to collect your email address (including mine) is because email lists are valuable.
Having peoples emails allows you to communicate directly with them.
You can send your messages directly to their inboxes, without having to go through a gate keeper, like Facebook.
Remember what I said earlier about never building a house on rented land?
That’s what Facebook is — rented land.
Your website however is your private, personal property. You own it outright.
You can do with it whatever you want. Including building a house.
The foundation of that house for your online campaign are your voter email lists.
Yes, email lists plural.
You should have multiple email lists starting with all targeted voters, narrowed to prospective supporters who are uncommitted, and then those you’ve identified as committed supporters.
These email lists are pure gold and essential parts of having a strong online campaign.
No matter what Facebook does or doesn’t do, you’ll still have your email lists.
And having email lists is the equivalent of earthquake insurance in the online world.
When Facebook starts shaking, and all the houses built on this rented land start tumbling, your campaign will be able to rest easy.
Like the wise man who built his house on a foundation of stone, having your own email lists will protect your campaign from the ravaging digital storms of the so-called Facebook Apocalypse.