What Facebook Algorithm Changes Mean for Dental Practice Marketing

Facebook has changed its News Feed algorithm. Here's what that means for dental practice marketing efforts in 2018.

Shortly into the new year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a lengthy statement to his personal Facebook page. It was a quasi State of the Union address that focused on how people utilize Facebook.

A cliff notes version of Zuckerberg's address is that he wants to ensure "the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent." As a result, Facebook will, over the following months, begin changing its News Feed algorithm. The goal, as Zuckerberg puts it, is for Facebook users to engage in more "meaningful social interactions" while on the platform.

So how, exactly, does Facebook quantify a meaningful social interaction? And more importantly: What does this Facebook algorithm change mean for your dental practice marketing plans?

Meaningful Social Interactions

According to Facebook's reps, here's what the company classifies as meaningful:

"Meaningful social interactions are between people on Facebook. These interactions can be shares, comments, messages, reactions, or likes on content and can occur on any type of content created or posted by a person or a Page.

"There's nothing new here. Interactions equal engagement. Prior to this algorithm change, Facebook gave posts more reach based on engagement.

However, a change within this new algorithm will weight the different types of engagement. According to the Facebook rep, comments, shares, and messages will carry more weight than likes or reactions. So while people giving a thumbs up or smiling reaction to a post is great for optics, your reach will increase more if a patient comments or shares your post.

Here are two examples of meaningful interactions, per the new News Feed updates:

  1. The friend of a patient reacting to your post after it was shared by your patients
  2. Multiple people or a page replying to comments on a video or article you posted

Another point of emphasis for Facebook is that all interactions happen organically. In a Newsroom post shortly after Zuckerberg's statement, Adam Mosseri, head of the company's News Feed, reiterated that any "engagement baiting" will result in posts being demoted.

"Using 'engagement-bait' to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed," Mosseri wrote.

In other words, don't actively request people to share or comment on your posts.

Content That Carries

Both Zuckerberg and Mosseri continued what has been a major initiative for Facebook: video. Facebook will actively push video reach. And, since videos tend to generate more engagement, these posts will generally perform the best.

"In addition to promoting videos that bring people together, News Feed will also continue to favor video content that people actively seek out or return to watch," said one Facebook rep.

However, the rep also emphasized that video posts will not carry simply because they're video. They must still spark meaningful engagement, or risk being squeezed by the algorithm.

"Content from pages that drive interactions between friends and people will perform better than ... content that drives only consumption without any person-to-person engagement. Pages that do not drive these types of interactions may see their reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease over time."

In other words: your best reach will likely come from videos; however, if the videos don't resonate with your audience, then they'll ultimately fall flat as well.

What this Means for Dental Marketing

This whole algorithm change is pretty overwhelming, right?

Well, the good news is that not much will change for dental offices or for much of your dental practice marketing.

In making this change, Facebook was primarily concerned with publishers who generate the majority of their web traffic by posting to Facebook. According to Zuckerberg, "public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other."

In other words, content factories have been flooding timelines and removing the personal element from Facebook. Too much CNN, Fox News, and Entertainment Weekly; not enough family photos, vacation videos, and friendly banter.

As long as you keep following the Facebook best practices with your page, you'll be fine. Anytime somebody comments on your page, respond. Just keep serving up awesome content to your followers, and you shouldn't notice much difference.

If you haven't invested much time in video, start weaving that into your dental marketing social media plan.

Give video tours of your practice. Fun interviews with your team will build a greater sense of community. Jump aboard the hashtag train (#MondayMotivation, #TipTuesday, #WednesdayWisdom, etc.) and deliver helpful video tips. You'll be pleasantly surprised with how much your Facebook audience will love these.

"At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together ... we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent."

Keep treating patients like family, and Facebook really will be time well spent -- for you, and for your patients.

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