Well, it’s happened again. Mark Zuckerberg has decided to reduce the number of Facebook posts from businesses that show up on their fans’ news feeds. He makes this announcement, in various forms, about every four months or so. And, predictably, bloggers breathlessly predict the End Of Facebook Marketing as we know it.

Rather than relying on bloggers’ best guesses, we decided to put the new News Feed to the test, to see what the real-world effect you can expect on your own brand page.

Through our agency work, we have access to dozens of our clients’ social media channels. We’ve spent the time since the big announcement aggregating the analytics of our clients’ pages to see whether this is a real change, and one we should worry about.

TLDR: It’s real. It’s already happening. There are ways to combat it.

We measured the reach of our clients’ pages back a full year and can say that we’re seeing the lowest levels of reach in that time period. Despite Facebook’s claim that this will roll out “over time,” it seems clear that the level was pulled within days of Zuckerberg’s announcement.

That said, we’ve already been able to mitigate much of these losses by employing three tactics — tactics you should consider adopting immediately if you don’t want to suffer a loss in reach.

1. Reduce Organic Posting Frequency

We used to recommend an average of 2-3 organic posts on Facebook per day (knowing that only a certain percentage of fans would see them all). With the reach numbers where they were, the average fan would probably see 1-2 posts per week at that frequency — about right for continued brand awareness. But with organic reach dropping even lower, it’s not clear that spending the time to craft these posts, find the images, get approval on the text, and so on is worth the battle. Thus, if you’re posting more than 21 times a week, consider dropping this to between 10-14. It’s still important to have an organic presence, but heavy posting may not be the right call at this time.

2. Increase Promoted Posts, but Do It Right

This News Feed change probably has little to do with Zuckerberg’s claim of making the world a better place, and a lot more to making his shareholders’ wallets a better place. Reduced organic reach will force brands to pony up cash to get their message out. This increased activity in the ad market will push prices up. You may find good results with a smart Promoted Posts strategy. Take an annual budget (say, $2000) and split it up into 52 weeks. That gives you about $38 per week. Then, twice a week spend $19 on one of your posts. You could target your own fans or target by interests — using a “restrictor” such as “People who like movies BUT ONLY THOSE who are engaged shoppers,” or “People who are interested in the environment BUT ONLY THOSE who are parents of kids aged 3-5.”

3. Dramatically Increase Engagement

Facebook’s made it clear — really, the only posts which will surface for free on the news feeds of your fans will be those which have genuine conversation happening in the comments. So when someone makes a comment, engage with them. Ask them another question. Ask when they’ll be coming back. Ask if they had a good day. Try to engage your commenters in a brief, but real conversation back-and-forth to ensure Facebook sees your post as worthy for the News Feed. We recommend Sprout Social as a top platform to capture and act on this engagement.

4. Experiment with Facebook Lives

Facebook specifically called out Facebook Lives as one of their preferred organic posts. This isn’t as difficult a thing to set up as it seems. Your smartphone can “go live” or you can use a tool like Ecamm Live which lets you “broadcast” from your desktop. If you decide to go with this, try to set a regular time — like a television show — and schedule it on the platform in advance. Your fans will be notified and can get a notification reminder to watch when you actually do start broadcasting. And what do you show? Interview an executive. Take a walking tour of your office. Unbox one of your products. Show off your latest promotions. Host a Q&A. There are lots of options. Experiment. It’ll be worth it.

In short, Facebook’s new News Feed is already reducing your reach. But by responding to nearly everyone who comments on your page, putting a bit more money into Promoted Posts and restricting to a more targeted audience, and playing with the live broadcasting tools, you’ll be well positioned in 2018 to weather the storm.

Want to learn more? Check out engageQ's free in-person workshops at http://engageQ.com/sessions