Opinion: Content distribution post Facebook’s algorithm change is all about RSS

Luc Wiesman
By Luc Wiesman | 17 June 2014

Much has been made of the changes to Facebook's algorithm, the shadowy numerical beast that stalks the internet changing the way things work and making digital and community agencies gnash their teeth because organic reach has suddenly gone off a cliff.

That could force a shift in the agency landscape as businesses set up around community management start to die off (see the 13 June AdNews print issue for the views of GroupM's Ciaran Norris, James Hier and Thomas Lyngsfeldt).

But Luc Wiesman, founder and editor of Australian men's style blog D’Marge reckons there is life post-News Feed. Rich Site Summary (RSS) readers are the strongest traffic driver and a way to turn the reach back up again.

For many brands, blogs and publishers, Facebook was an easy win to deliver content strategy. Create something, publish it, and boom, the traffic rolled in. At one point we would see thousands of Facebook referrals off a fan base of 15,000. There wasn’t a cloud in the men’s fashion blog sky.

Forward to December 2013, when Facebook took action to turn down the reach on page posts. Facebook's stated reasoning, while perfectly logical (wanting to clean up the News Feed) was met with irritation and the loss of easy clicks from loyal page followers. We saw a 30% drop in social traffic overnight, and others experienced much worse. The days of relatively free content distribution on the world's largest social network were done.

Brands and publishers had few options. Either pay up, so Zuckerberg can afford some more Adidas sandals, invest in creating better content that busts the algorithm, or seek life elsewhere.

The best advice is a little of each.

Six month later, brands and publishers are learning to adapt and found that it’s not all doom and gloom, rather being smart where you spend money and gather subscribers.

Instagram has emerged as a new favourite, however it’s difficult to drive traffic with no external linking provided with the application. Twitter provides a constant trickle of traffic referrals serving the tech and news industries best, but content must be published repeatedly to ensure it’s seen. And the weekly email newsletter has never been more important, offering an easy spike in return traffic. The key take out here is to ensure you’re filling the bucket (with subscribers) faster than they are draining out.

That’s the obvious stuff but the strongest driver (yes, much bigger than all of social combined) for us is now RSS (Rich Site Summary) readers. Flipboard, TheNeeds, Pocket, Prismatic, Zite (now owned by Flipboard), News360, Pulse and Feedly are multi-device applications that allow users to curate their own virtual magazines. Users curate their favorite news, sport, blogs, brands and entertainment into a single feed or category (i.e style, cars, etc). Flipboard alone has over 100 million users globally and what began as Pulse was purchased by LinkedIn and morphed into their own news aggregation service.

Why are they so popular? They give users a concise and digestible selection of favourites without the clutter and content Russian roulette delivery that Facebook’s News Feed offers.

Facebook has seen this and recently launched its alternative to Flipboard called Paper. Paper’s not available in Australia (yet), but we can assume it’s a method of reading/curating different Facebook pages in a notebook/magazine format. Again, another method of keeping the users within its four walls.

If you or your clients want to take advantage of these applications, ensure your audience is aware your content is available on these news services. If it’s not, get your social media manager or digital producer to add it manually or provide the RSS link to your readers via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Be sure to announce this regularly in any communications you have to your audience. Also pop up windows may be annoying, but they’re effective when reminding users to subscribe to any of your distribution points.

The last and most important point is the idea of well-designed or user optimised content. Regardless of where traffic goes or comes from, aim to construct pathways that are easily followed from one piece of content to the next. This builds new roads into Rome and allows you to see what content your readers truly value and how they’re arriving, optimising your model a little more each time.

Luc Wiesman
founder and editor
D’Marge

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