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November 13, 2019

Changes to the Facebook News Feed Algorithm: What Does it Mean for Music Festivals?

Facebook is the primary marketing channel for the majority of music festivals worldwide. It likely accounts for a significant proportion of your ticket sales. But what if, one day, your Facebook presence just disappeared?

That’s what is at risk of happening, thanks to a major change to the way in which Facebook handles posts from Facebook Pages.

In this article, we explain what a change to the Facebook News Feed algorithm means for music festivals. Euphoria Festival Marketing Director, Oscar Voigt, will be advising us how you can mitigate the damage, so it remains effective in driving ticket sales.

What’s happening to the News Feed algorithm?

Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to “fix Facebook”. In a note on the platform in January 2018, the tech billionaire said that his focus for the year is to ensure that time on Facebook is “time well spent”. https://www.facebook.com/zuck/...

In order to do this, he announced a major change in the way that Facebook products will operate, beginning with the News Feed: in the coming months, users will see significantly less content from Facebook Pages, and much more content posted from people.

Zuckerberg said that this move is a reaction to the explosion of public content on Facebook, especially branded video.

He believes that ‘passive’ consumption of this content is bad for users (Ever got stuck in a Facebook video-hole? I know I have!), and that research conducted by Facebook in tandem with academics shows that prioritizing personal connections on the platform can help to make sure that Facebook isn’t “just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”

What does this mean for music festivals?

The changes are set to be rolled out in the coming months, but will be apparent most immediately in the News Feed.

Zuckerberg said: “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.”

So where does this leave music festivals? Facebook has long been the most effective marketing channel for festivals of every size, and many rely on the platform for a large chunk of their ticket sales and brand awareness.

However, the returns that festivals and other businesses are seeing on Facebook have been significantly dropping. In the immediate term you're likely to see the following effects:

1. Organic reach will continue to drop

You've likely already experienced this over the last few years, and quite honestly, it sucks. Unfortunately it's only going to get worse. This is happening by design – Facebook is deliberately de-prioritizing content from Facebook Pages, in favour of content from people.

2. Paid spend on Facebook is going to deliver less

With organic reach dropping, brands are expected to ramp up their paid spend. This is going to drive up the cost of Facebook ads.

One anonymous digital publishing executive told Digiday: “My gut says a lot of people are going to have to increase paid budgets to hit their guarantees.” The same Digiday story suggests that some brands and publishers were paying less than a penny per view on Facebook, but that this cost is likely to increase significantly.

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

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

How can music festivals beat the News Feed algorithm change?

It’s not all doom and gloom. While the News Feed algorithm cause pain in the short term, it will also help festivals diversify their marketing and become less reliant on Facebook.

The days of free organic reach are well over, but that doesn’t mean festivals should be abandoning the platform altogether.

Oscar Voigt, Marketing Director for Euphoria Festival in Carson Creek, Texas, has some tips on how to survive and thrive off the back of the News Feed algorithm changes...

1. Mitigate the damage

"As a first step, mitigate the damage" says Oscar. "Encourage existing fans of your Pages to change their preferences in order to make sure that they see your future posts first."

This can be done from the drop-down that appears when users click the ‘See First’ button.

As a way to encourage people to do this, you might also think about offering incentives to people who like and comment first on posts first.

For example, the first commenter receives some handpicked festival merch, festival tickets, or the most prolific engager might even receive some sort of money can't buy experience.

See how social media legend Gary Vaynerchuk is doing it with his 60 Seconds Club.

2. Reassess your content

"Festivals also need to think carefully about the content they produce for Facebook" says Oscar.

According to a detailed statement by Facebook "pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect."

This means the content you create should be optimized towards getting people commenting on posts -- likes are far less valuable.

Content you create for Facebook should be optimized towards getting people commenting on posts — likes are far less valuable.

Oscar Voigt, Marketing Director, Euphoria Fest

3. Invest time into Facebook Groups

According to Oscar it's time to get serious about your official and unofficial Facebook Groups.

"Whether by a loyalty program, curate an engaging Facebook Group, or empower your super fans via social recognition -- it’s time to hire a dedicated community manager and/or devote more time communicating directly with your fans."

Engagement on Facebook groups tend to be much more conversational, so are likely to be less affected by these changes.

4. Prioritise ambassador programs

With your organic reach dropping and paid ads costing more, Oscar says "the value of ambassadors, hard ticket sellers, micro-influencers, and peer-to-peer ticket sellers will drastically increase."

"You can create a powerful revenue stream by using your most influential fans and giving them tickets to sell, with an ambassador program like Verve".

The value of ambassadors, hard ticket sellers, micro-influencers, and peer-to-peer ticket sellers will drastically increase

Oscar Voigt, Marketing Director, Euphoria Fest

5. Get more word-of-mouth

It's time to go back to basics. Every festival organizer knows that word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing.

Ambassador programs are great for influencers with big audiences, but don't ignore everyone else. The word-of-mouth from your regular attendees pulled together is MASSIVE.

"With posts from people prioritized compared to pages, it's time to leverage the power of your attendees & encourage them to amplify your message" says Oscar.

You can increase word-of-mouth using Audience Republic, using gamified presales, competitions and waiting lists to make your event go viral through incentivizing fans to share & invite their friends.

This way your message is coming from people, not your Facebook page.

6. Go live

Finally, remember Facebook Live. "Facebook Live wants to be the de facto real-time content medium as it continues to battle Snap" says Oscar. "Live video is being prioritized in the News Feed by Facebook." Facebook even claim that Live videos enjoy 600% higher engagement rates than non-live.

But remember – there’s a world beyond Facebook

Facebook remains the number one marketing priority for a huge number of music festivals. This in itself poses a risk.

If you’re over-exposed to Facebook, changes with the News Feed algorithm could cause you serious problems.

Recent years have seen festivals putting a huge amount of resources into building up their Facebook Pages. But, as Facebook has shown, an over-reliance on those platforms can spell danger.

Your audience is amongst the most valuable assets your business holds, and it’s likely you’ve spent years building it up. Do you really want to put this in the hands of a third party?

Today owning your own audience is critical. This will be the subject of our next article, so you can reclaim your audience and rely less on Facebook / paid advertising. You can subscribe here to be notified when it's live.

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Article by
Jared Kristensen

Jared is the CEO & Co-founder at Audience Republic. Jared is also the Executive Producer of the Music Tech Summit which explores how technology is completely changing the music industry.