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Facebook algorithm: Storytelling is the real winner in the new News Feed

Written by: Sabine Hoffmann November 26, 2014  

It’s all perfectly simple, actually. Facebook’s guiding principle when it comes to changes in the Facebook algorithm is as follows: “We want the best Facebook experience possible for our users.”

But why is there such an outcry every time a change of this sort is introduced? This is one of those eternal questions, not dissimilar to “Why does it always rain on me?” It attests to a certain unwillingness to deal with any change, and a lack of openness. Any experienced editorial department, however – like the 12-person team at ambuzzador – will be unruffled by the Facebook announcement. A survey has shown that Facebook ads do not disturb users; these are more or less self-regulating, thanks to Facebook’s control mechanisms and professional, targeted playout. It is not these ‘paid advertisements’ that need to be cut back from January onwards, but ‘promotional creative’ content. In other words, posts pretending to be relevant – and then actually doing nothing but hard sell. ‘Buy me now!’ content should be played out to specific target audiences, as ads – as anyone on our media team will gladly tell you. (This is precisely why ‘Media’ is allotted its very own department at ambuzzador, and is happy to match with the Editorial Department – or cooperate within the framework of campaigns.)

Users want to see more posts from their friends and from the pages that interest them in the News Feed. So much for the theory from the survey. But based on our practical experience of a vast range of different storytelling campaigns, we know that the mantra ‘content is king’ has been replaced in recent years by a new one: ‘story is king’. When embedded in a story co-told by the community itself – could there be a better storyteller? – product information can be communicated in a way that’s charming. This produces posts that already generate a high level of commitment in the target audience with organic reach. This content should then be backed up by targeted ads and placed in the News Feed of the selected target audience, as high up as possible. The result? Relevant content. For today, that is. Tomorrow, next week, three months down the line, you’ll need a hundred new ideas, probably more.

The editorial pinboard at the ambuzzador office shows all visitors our ‘Best of News Feed’.

The editorial pinboard at the ambuzzador office shows all visitors our ‘Best of News Feed’.

Individuals in the industry and social media managers at companies these days very often find themselves confronted by precisely this challenge, as the groundwork is done, with a strategy and clear objectives, the first successful posts with stories highlighting the company are celebrated, and content is dug up. But what then? Now you need a storyline for 200 more posts, which have to work just as well with the community. Sitting there on your own in front of the computer, you can often reach your limits very quickly. And if Facebook then also turns around the organic reach in a way that appears to be completely arbitrary, things can become uncomfortable.

But as anyone who has seen the LEGO movie will tell you, everything is awesome, everything is cool if you’re part of a team (*sorry not sorry* for the catchy tune there). It’s tough for an individual to cover all the skills needed for successful Facebook editorial work. To implement a strategy in day-to-day work requires a broad know-how of the background to storytelling, its archetypes, tools and processes. This know-how then needs to be challenged and tested regularly, to keep those stories sharp. By keeping an eye on the numbers you can use a lasting ‘trial and error’ system, as lessons learnt are immediately exchanged within the team. As an individual, however, you have to make all those mistakes yourself first… A pool of ideas has a tendency to fill up quickly – because creativity and empathy are required to create posts suiting the mood of the community and brand, and which also generate more business impact, algorithm or no algorithm.

That’s why the reference to the 12-person ambuzzador Editorial Department is not merely some Act of the Apostles; it’s just supposed to show the complexity of a theme we are presented with day in, day out– in more than 28,000 posts and over 8.3 million conversations since 2011. And our internal mark of quality? That our communities are so positive: the positive-negative ratio is 10:1!