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The Facebook Algorithm Has Changed: Is Your Restaurant Marketing Outdated?

by | Aug 29, 2019

So, you’ve jumped on the digital marketing bandwagon. You’ve got several social media campaigns in the works, and customers are posting user-generated content (UGC) on your website. The happy photos and enthusiastic videos are driving traffic to both your website and restaurant. You’re thrilled. Until you hear about the almighty Facebook algorithm. What’s that, you ask?

In a nutshell, the Facebook algorithm is a system that ranks the content you see on your news feed. The platform decides which posts to prioritize in your feed based on your past engagement with similar content.

Here’s the basic truth: Not only do major ad platforms (Google, Facebook, and Amazon) release new features multiple times a year but they also tweak their ranking algorithms constantly.

And, one small algorithm tweak can put your ad campaigns in big trouble. Recently, Facebook rolled out a massive algorithm update that’s fundamentally changed the ways ads are displayed, recommended, and targeted to people across the platform.

Let’s look at these new changes, and talk about ways your restaurant can thrive in this new Facebook ecosystem.

Understanding the Facebook Algorithm

As has been noted, the Facebook algorithm is a set of instructions that dictate how the platform reacts to input. But, to be fair, that’s a pretty basic definition.

Let’s say this instead.

The Facebook algorithm determines what your customers see on their news feeds, based on how likely they are to engage in content from you.

So, the Facebook algorithm effectively decides whether your ads or organic content even show up on your customers’ news feeds.

The following factors determine whether your content is relevant for a user’s feed:

  • Inventory: the total number of posts that can display on a user’s feed
  • Signals: all of the info pertaining to a piece of content, such as content type, average time spent on content, comments, comment replies, post/comment reactions, engagement on post shares, and link sharing of posts over Facebook Messenger.
  • Predictions: the likelihood a user will have a positive reaction to your content
  • Score: the value assigned to a post or piece of content from your restaurant

Why Should You Keep Up With Facebook Algorithm Changes?

Let’s take a quick look at how powerful Facebook can be as an advertising tool.

  • 68% of Americans use Facebook, and they spend an average of 58 minutes a day on it.
  • 78% of American consumers have used the platform to discover and buy products on Facebook.
  • 72% of consumers have used Facebook to make a restaurant decision.
  • 79% of people will visit your Facebook page looking for coupons or discounts, which can quickly lead to purchase decisions.

At its heart, understanding Facebook’s algorithm is how you get in front of millions of hungry customers who are ready to engage with and consume the content (and food) you’re offering.

Over the past year, Facebook has been making constant adjustments to its algorithm. The Cambridge Analytica scandal and subsequent data privacy concerns have certainly caused disruptions on the platform. At present, Facebook is making strides in ensuring that only highly relevant content are displayed to users. This means that content from friends and family show up as a priority on news feeds.

Last year, Facebook announced updates to its algorithm and recently (May 16th, 2019) the social media giant announced that it would continue its campaign to reduce branded content and provide more relevant updates to news feeds.

So, this means that you have to recalibrate your restaurant’s Facebook strategy in order to keep your customers and potential diners engaged.

The Newest Facebook Algorithm

In the post-Cambridge-Analytica era, Facebook has been focused on removing “fake news” and de-emphasizing spammy content and junk links.

Let’s go over a brief timeline of releases that has led up to this newest update.

  • January 2018: Facebook announces a renewed focus on friends and family in news feeds — cutting down on the influence of paid ads.
  • March 2018: Cambridge Analytica scandal officially hits the news cycle with an expose in the Guardian and in the New York Times.
  • October 2018: An algorithm update de-ranks sites with stolen, spun, or plagiarized content.
  • November 2018: Facebook announces that the news feed will now demote content that’s “borderline” close to breaking the new content rules.

Post-Analytica, Facebook has been heavily focused on its Remove, Reduce, and Inform strategy — which removes offensive content, reduces the reach of Facebook Groups that share “misinformation,” and informs users about “fake news” posing as trustworthy content. To aid the latter, Facebook added trust indicators to the Facebook context button.

However, included in the newest update is a unique method for determining what people actually want to see.

Facebook Is Using Surveys To Uncover What Users Like

Facebook algorithms have changed in New York City.

That’s right!

Facebook’s newest update quite literally sends users surveys to determine what they find useful or worthwhile.

So, what does this mean for your restaurant’s social media strategy?

5 Tips That Will Help Restaurants Win With Facebook 2.0

As Facebook continues to push towards more relevant content in the News Feed, the strategies and methods that restaurants are using on social media need to change. Below, we show you how your eatery can stay relevant and engaging in this new social media economy.

1. Aim for Engagement, Not Likes

In a recent blog post, Facebook announced that it was changing how content on news feeds will be ranked. Instead of the traditional social media system — where likes and clicks are the primary currency of engagement — Facebook now wants people to comment and engage with your posts.

The rationale is that commenting on posts takes more effort than scrolling through and clicking links on one’s feed.

For restaurants, this means that you must create content that sparks conversations.

The posts that start with “Like this if bacon is your BFF!” are no longer going to rank as highly as they did previously. Likes are no longer the de facto rank currency — it’s engagement. So, try to spark conversations with your content.

Tips To Raise Engagement

  • Think about using language that engages conversations. This could be something as simple as “We’re known for our chicken; what’s your favorite homemade chicken recipe?” or ” x % of customers prefer grilled to fried chicken, citing health concerns.” When all else fails, take a leaf from popular culture: “Does the ending for Game of Thrones make you want to drown your sorrows in food?”
  • Avoid direct requests for comments. As part of the Remove, Reduce, and Inform strategy, Facebook is demoting content that asks for likes, comments, or any form of engagement. The engagement has to be a natural byproduct of the content itself.
  • Don’t post anything political! Sure, those who agree with you may love it. However, those who don’t probably won’t be buying from your brand again (at least, not in the near future). Social Sprout reports that users will boycott a brand due to ONE offensive Facebook post.

2. Cut Down on Spam

Coming up with original content for EVERY post can be a challenge. However, you don’t have much of a choice in light of Facebook’s new policies. In the past, marketing agencies actually recommended that restaurants recycle posts. After all, there’s only so much you can say about fried chicken. Today, that’s a catastrophic social media faux pas.

Not only should your posts be unique — but your hashtags should be also. Using #chickenparty on every post won’t increase interest or engagement with your brand.

Here are some tips on how to make your content more engaging:

  • Create a content schedule. Find a time during the day/week/month to create some content. You want to be creating unique, engaging content on a schedule. This will cut down on repetitive content.
  • Double check content. Make sure you aren’t using repetitive hashtags or phrases.
  • Avoid “engagement bait.” Zuckerberg has made it clear that “engagement bait” is going to decrease your relevance. It can be tempting to ask for reactions, likes, and comments: “Do you like ice cream!? Comment below!” Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be a little more subtle. Try posting a video about the making of a new dish to encourage interest in your restaurant, or announce a food challenge (preferably with very attractive prizes) without asking for participation.

3. Use More Videos

Facebook (like all other social media platforms) is pretty secretive about the intricacies of its algorithm. However, it did let one little detail slip this year: Videos are prime engagement tools on the platform. While this doesn’t necessarily confirm or deny that videos get better ranking than texts — statistics do.

  • People stare 5x longer at posts with videos attached to them.
  • People retain 90% of your videos, but just 10% of your written content.
  • 62% of people say they’re more interested in consuming products if they see a Facebook video with those products.
  • Facebook has 8 billion video views per day.
  • Most importantly, videos have the HIGHEST engagement rates.

Not to mention, some Facebook execs have predicted that Facebook will offer primarily video-only content by 2022.

So, you NEED videos. But, not all videos are created equally. For restaurants, finding a way to incorporate videos into their branding campaigns can be challenging. However, these three tips can get you started: record your kitchen staff preparing a signature dish, post a Q&A with your chefs (like this great one from Damson Restaurant), or do a testimonial video like Wagamama.

Want to take things to the next level? Make your own rap about guacamole!

Use Our Best Video-Making Tips

  • Make sure your videos work without sound. 85% of people view Facebook videos without sound. To do this, think about recording the video without sound then adding a soundtrack. That way, you know that the content works without words. Take this Dominique Ansel video showing how he makes a Kouign Amann (French pastry). It works perfectly without sound.
  • Optimize your videos for mobile. People are 1.5x more likely to watch your videos on their phones.
  • Use HD videos. You want gorgeous shots of your food. High-quality videos will make your dishes look more appetizing — which means you get more sales!
  • Leverage your culinary talents to the utmost. Take videos of that hot bakery bread coming out of the oven. Show people all of that melty chocolate icing being spread onto a fresh cake. Additionally, give them that slow-motion shot of cheese being sprinkled onto freshly cooked, steaming pasta. Make their mouths water with every shot!

4. Start Creating Live Videos

In a recent Facebook update, Zuckerburg claimed that “live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.” That’s A LOT of engagement. Here’s the problem — how do restaurants use live video?

Great question!

Here are a few killer examples.

  • Tastemade (a food and travel video network) creates live videos on Facebook for its adorable tiny kitchen series.
  • Chef Chris Cho has a vlog highlighting his daily work and social life interactions.
  • Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro gives viewers a live look at its restaurant and includes shots showing an array of mouthwatering menu selections.

5. Get Employees Onboard To Increase Your Facebook Footprint

With the new algorithm changes, posts that family and friends engage with are more likely to show up on a user’s news feed. But, how do restaurants take advantage of this?

Use your employees! The more employees you have engaging and sharing your content, the more reach your brand is going to have.

Here are some tips to help.

  • Ask your employees to participate. Including your employees in videos and posts will make them want to share that content with their friends! So, make videos featuring employees of the month or how key employees succeed in their jobs.
  • Create a social media culture centered on your brand. Make social media a part of your company culture. Talk with employees over social media and share non-restaurant content with them. Encourage employees to share content, and reward employees who have high levels of engagement. Rewards can take the form of gift cards (to restaurants, grocery stores, etc.), paid-time-off, free desserts, or electronic gifts.

Let 9Fold Help You Reinvent Your Digital Strategy

Are you still putting out the same recycled social content? If you are, stop! Start to create highly relevant, super engaging content today.

That said, what about the rest of your digital strategy? You may have social media locked down, but are you still juggling expensive 3rd party apps to earn more customers? With 9Fold, you can completely transform your revenue takings by cutting out 3rd party platforms altogether! Interested in learning more? Contact us today.


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