By Jeffrey Davis, Managing Partner, Van Eperen

A new algorithm is changing our News Feeds, and it looks like we’re entering the era of “earned social” on Facebook. Businesses can no longer rely on a “spray and pray” approach to getting their organic posts noticed, and now there’s some real work involved for brands that aren’t going to pay to boost posts.

Here’s what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in announcing the changes: “Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

In Zuckerberg’s view, conversations are the future. That means “talking at” your audience – with content such as promotional posts, holiday messages and inspirational quotes just to fill the content calendar – will be close to worthless. Will anyone miss those in their News Feed, and will any brands devote advertising dollars to such posts?

If companies want to see decent organic reach, they will need to post content that “talks with” their audience and gets people to communicate with each other. Posts that will start a conversation or discussion, that are intended to be shared, and that focus on building relationships. The “old way” of doing Facebook simply won’t work much longer.

But if the brands behind Facebook Pages won’t foot the bill to lead the conversation, then who will take on that role?

I see a huge opening for influencers. Not the celebrities or those with mega-digit followers on social media. I’m talking about the C- and D-list micro-influencers. Their stories are more believable, more relatable and they are likely more closely connected to you and your audience. They are the ones who can carry on those people-to-people conversations Zuckerberg is talking about.

This will take strategy, creativity and patience, but smart brands will identify who those micro-influencers are, find a way to start the conversation with quality content (without breaking the rules) and then encourage them to generate those interactions. It’s Zuckerberg’s company, so he gets to set the rules that we need to adapt to. It never seemed natural to be talking to a logo anyway.

Jeffrey Davis is managing partner with Van Eperen and heads the strategic communications firm’s Baltimore office. He also serves as Baltimore editor of Capitol Communicator.

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