Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Facebook have had a busy 2018 so far, having already announced or rolled out three major changes to ensure that, in Zuckerberg’s own words, “the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent…”.
The First Change: Less Public Content on News Feeds
On January 11, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has received “feedback from our community that public content- posts from businesses, brands and media- is crowding our the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other”.
Based on this, the social media giant will be making changes to ensure that such public content will show up less and less on people’s News Feeds, and a greater emphasis will be placed on content and posts from friends.
Naturally, this announcement led to great speculation among those of us who work in digital communications and social media, including debates around whether Facebook was trying to kill content or pages. There was much talk of this being a catastrophe for businesses, including law firms, who have been using Facebook as an effective way of strengthening their presence online.
The Second Change: “Trustworthy, Informative, and Local” News
This widespread speculation continued with Facebook’s further announcement that, in addition to limiting the amount of public content that appears on News Feeds, it will also be prioritizing “news that is trustworthy, informative, and local” and coming from trusted sources only. This is largely a response to the recent controversies around “fake news” and illegitimate sources of information and Facebook’s possible role in that.
Zuckerberg noted that to maintain objectivity, he wants the Facebook community to decide which sources of information are broadly trusted. This will be done through a series of ongoing quality surveys which will ask Facebook users whether they are familiar with a specific news source and whether they trust that source.
This is where the outlook for businesses appeared to get slightly sunnier. This second change isn’t intended to change the amount of news that appears on your News Feed but is supposed to shift the balance of news that you do see towards sources that have collectively been determined to be trusted by the community.
The Third Change: More Stories from Local Sources
Zuckerberg’s last announcement focused on promoting “news from local sources” since “local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives” and “research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement. People who know what’s happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference.”
Based on this, Facebook will be showing more stories from news sources from a user’s local town or city and your feed will show information based on your geographic location.
With this latest announcement it became clear that, rather than killing content or pages, Facebook’s recent changes will be more than likely beneficial to law firms who are publishing or providing commentary on local news, providing information about their involvement in the local community, and hosting events. Local traffic will be driven towards stories and websites commenting on relevant local issues and events. This may be a benefit to firms who have struggled to find a place on the News Feeds of potential and current client and referral sources, particularly in highly competitive centers. Now, if you’re a firm producing regular, high-quality content, you will be more likely to show up in high priority on the feed of someone in your geographic region.
How to Take Advantage of these Changes
Facebook’s changes will be gradual, beginning with users in the U.S., and it will take a while for them to fully roll out. In the meantime, and in preparation for the pending changes, there are several ways law firms can start using these changes to their advantage.
Continue Producing Quality Content
Facebook has made it clear that it will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people…posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments”.
Continuing to post high-quality content on breaking news stories and relating it back to your practice areas, blogging about commonly asked questions that people may have and including links to the blog on Facebook (and across your other social media channels!), and otherwise creating high-quality and informative content remains key to keeping yourself at the top of people’s News Feeds.
In addition, continue posting about lawyers from your firm interacting with the local community through volunteering, speaking at local events, appearing on local news and radio, etc. since, as Facebook points out, “local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”
Focus on Groups
Groups may turn out to get priority over Pages, since, in most cases, the fundamental intention of groups is to promote “meaningful interactions”.
Groups allow people with common interests to come together, discuss issues important to them, express their opinions, share resources, post photos, and share relevant content. As Facebook notes, “[i]n Groups, people often interact around public content.” There are groups for almost anything you can think of that lawyers should consider joining and sharing information in, including divorce and separation support groups, parenting groups for first time (and repeat) parents, and others. These groups can be a powerful way to create connections with the community and build a referral base. Groups are also a safer way for people to interact with lawyers or firms on Facebook things that they or discuss or “like” posts that they may not otherwise post on their News Feed, since groups are not necessarily public, and many are “invite only”, limiting their visibility to other members of the group only.
As always, we will continue to monitor trends in the digital space and will provide commentary on why and how this may impact lawyers and law firms. In the meantime, if you have questions about how you can maximize your presence online, help use social media to your advantage,or use content marketing we can help. If you would like to learn more about how we could assist you please contact us online or at 416-356-4672.