Let that word sink in for a minute.

How does it feel? Kind of uncomfortable, right? For many of us it conjures up images of University Math classes, or writing lines of SEO copy. For a select few of you, algorithms may feel like fun – a game to be mastered and conquered. If that’s you, then I think that you’re amazing, and also a little bit twisted.

For the rest of us, algorithms seem to slam themselves down into the middle of our work every so often, disrupting the nice flow that we had just gotten used to since the last change, forcing us to shift and adapt. It’s inconvenient, but riding that change also comes with the territory.

This week Facebook is promising the most significant change to its algorithm, potentially since it was created. I’ve enlisted the help of an industry expert who’s helped some major brands battle through similar changes to break down what’s happening and how it’s going to effect us.

Before we get to that, let’s check in and define what we’re talking about in the first place: What is an algorithm?

The basic definition is:

noun: algorithm;
a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

Source: Google Dictionary

Now in the context of social media, Facebook calls its special version of algorithm “EdgeRank”.

EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm that decides which stories appear in each user’s newsfeed. The algorithm hides boring stories, so if your story doesn’t score well, no one will see it.

For the full guide on EdgeRank fundamentals, check out:

A version of EdgeRank as we know it was introduced in 2015, promoting posts that received high levels of likes, comments, shares and clicks, meanwhile burying posts that people were not reacting to.

Then, on January 11th, good old Mark Z dropped this bomb on his own Facebook timeline:

I’ll summarize his 545 word status update for you:

  1. Facebook wants to strengthen relationships between people
  2. Community feedback is telling them that brand posts are crowding out the people
  3. Brands post higher quality content, and more often than people
  4. When people connect with people, it’s good for society
  5. Facebook is acting in the best interest of society
  6. The old goal was: Help people find great content
  7. The new goal is: Help people make great connections
  8. Priority will be given to content from people, and from brand posts that “encourage meaningful interactions between people”

Of course, the ad community freaked out.

But when we remove emotion and overreaction from the equation, what does it really mean for us? Since most of us have had little-to-no organic reach on Facebook for a while now, how will this really effect our work? And, more importantly, how will it effect the users’ experience on Facebook?

I’ll offer my own thoughts at the end of this post, and for such an impactful question, I wanted to bring in an outside voice to add to the conversation. I reached out to a good friend who is also a wealth of experience and expertise when it comes to social media changes:

Alana Golob runs AG Social, a PR and Social Media shop based out of Chicago that has worked with brands like Red Bull, Carnival Entertainment, and influential personal brands like Amber Valetta and the FOX Sports team. She got her start in traditional PR and evolved as social did. I asked her to weigh in on what the changes are going to mean in a tangible form, and what we should be doing to prepare:

Alana Golob
Alana: I’ve always told the brands I work with that it’s super important to know who your audience is and that quality of content is far more important than the frequency of content. The old strategy of high frequency and clickbait-type posts aren’t going to fly anymore. More now than ever, ambassador and micro-influencer programs will be hugely valuable for creating and distributing unique content.

Beyond the newsfeed, brands will need to utilize Facebook products such as Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, and Groups to distribute content and achieve engagement and visibility. When it comes to driving business objectives, brands will be required to spend (even more) on a Facebook ad buy strategy to drive website traffic and conversions.

Bottom line, I think that the brands that have been focusing on creating meaningful relationships (up to this point) with their Facebook community will continue to thrive. The brands/publishers that simply “use” their community for a transaction, those brands will struggle.

Me: Do you see an upside? If so, what’s your advice to take advantage?

Alana: Maybe people will go back to Facebook again because it will become a more personal experience for them and a higher level of quality content available for consumption. With that said, it will open up more opportunity for brands to step up their content strategy and make meaningful connections with existing and new potential consumers.

If you want to hear more from Alana, give her a follow on Twitter: @AlanaGolob or Instagram: @AlanaGolob.

It’s important to take our brand hats off every once in a while and remember: We’re guests here. Social media was made for, built by, and continues to exist because of people interacting with each other. Yes, our advertising dollars power the platforms, but without the foundation of people sharing with each other, we’re just a bunch of logos talking at each other.

Regardless of any theories that people might have about Zuckerberg’s motivation, anything that creates more meaningful interactions is good for the platform, good for the user, and our job is not to push back against change, it’s to ride the wave and adapt.

I’ll echo a point that Alana made because I believe that it deserves repeating: Brands that create stuff that people love will win, regardless of the platform algorithm or media source. If people love what we’re creating and feel a sense of community around it, they will seek us out, and they’ll spread our message for us — that’s the real promise of social media. It’s not a place where we get free exposure handed to us, it’s where we earn it.

Thanks for reading this week’s Social Brief. Every Monday I send a summary, plus a couple of quick updates to keep you in the loop about what you should (or shouldn’t) be paying attention to this week. To sign up, enter your info below: