It has been a tumultuous year for Facebook. You can start with Facebook’s purported role in the effort by Russian propagandists to spread across the social network which many people still feel disrupted the 2016 U.S. election. This was part in parcel of the entire “Fake News” outrage directed at Facebook (and others) for the fostering of phony websites and misinformation that were rampant on both sides of the campaign. More recently, in the midst of the chaos GDPR implementation was causing in the European Union, it was divulged that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the personal data of millions of Facebook users from a researcher who collected it via a quiz app on the platform. They then apparently used the data to build psychological voter profiles ahead of the 2016 election.
These were just the public facing public relations crises that hounded Facebook. There were several internal snafus the company had to deal with as well.
In response to all of this, Facebook made a choice to update its newsfeed rankings to promulgate more opportunities for interactions between “friends and family” thus tampering posts from businesses, brands and media. The company said its research showed those posts were crowding out the personal moments that created “time well spent” on its platform by connecting connect more with “people that matter.” It no longer mattered to Facebook how much time you spent on its platform but that it was quality time.
As you might imagine, when these changes were instituted the news feed changed drastically. For many publishers, traffic disappeared and, of course, so did the revenue created by the monetization of this traffic. The problem for a lot of these publishers is that they relied on Facebook as its main traffic channel.
Everyone is familiar with the saying “you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” A prime example of this lesson occurred several years ago. Google made a significant change to its search engine results page (SERP) algorithm. Many entrepreneurs had been relying on Google’s organic search results as their primary source of website traffic. They lost their rankings and it put a lot of publishers out of business.
For publishers, a way to protect yourself is by utilizing a multi-dimensional publication strategy. This idea refers to not only where publishers publish their content and make it available, but also how. Does it make sense to publish on all channels at the same time? Would one channel cannibalize the other? Maybe. Perhaps a staggered approach would be better meaning, for example, publishing on the web and then waiting a day before publishing on say Facebook “Instant Articles.” The best, and perhaps only, way to find out is to constantly A/B test and rigorously track findings to see which method works best for a given publisher.
Another old saying is important here as well—“you need to fish where the fish are.” For publishers, this refers to the importance of finding potential visits/readers wherever they may be. We know that users consume content over different channels (the web, Google, Facebook, etc.). It’s crucial for traffic acquisition that publishers have a presence wherever a potential reader may be.
By adopting these basic philosophies, multi-dimensional publication and traffic acquisition over a wide net, publishers will have a better chance at withstanding the slings and arrows of sudden change by a traffic source.