Patient Influencers See a Boost from Facebook News Feed Changes

POV by Jack Barrette, CEO & Founder, WEGO Health


What has changed?


Mark Zuckerberg announced in January that Facebook changed its algorithm to promote more personal content over content created by publishers and brands. Zuckerberg wrote, “As we roll this out, 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.”


What this means:


The big brand you’re following is no longer on a level playing field with friends and family. Personal posts that are sparking conversations via shares and comments will essentially win out in the fight for placement in your Facebook news feed over a brand’s post about a new treatment or discount card.


What’s the impact to the user?


It depends on the user, but Facebook has acknowledged that it wants users to have a better experience by seeing more content from family and friends over organic business and marketing content. The key here is the term, “meaningful interactions,” from Facebook’s announcement. The best proxy for “meaningful” that Facebook has is engagement. Posts that bring the engagement via comments are going to be much more common in the news feed.


What it means for brands and marketers:


Brands are no longer a real “friend” to consumers. Facebook has always known brands were not really friends (they can’t call and ask for a ride to the airport) and now Facebook appears to be programmatically adjusting its algorithm. A strategy change will be needed for brands that have historically seen a positive ROI from organic content to consumers.

It is still to be seen what the drop-off will be but philosophically there will be more of a focus on influencers and advertising from brands.


What it means for Patient Influencers:


Influencers just got a two-handed boost from Facebook for being real people. Since influencers fall in the bucket of “friends” in the friends vs. brands universe, their content is now more likely to be seen by users (with fewer brands clogging user feeds). It’s almost like Facebook wrote this announcement for Patient Influencers, “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health.”

Unlike celebrity influencers who trade on massive audiences, Patient Leaders are driven by real connection with their communities – and Facebook sees that engagement as a signal of authentic friendship.



Case Study: Bob DeMarco, Founder, Alzheimer’s Reading Room


When Facebook’s changes were announced about a month ago, we immediately had a loose hypothesis on what would happen. We saw this as a sign that the authentic content that Patients Leaders were producing would see a lift in engagement rates. What we didn’t expect is that lift would happen so quickly – or so dramatically.

We reached out to one of our top Patient Influencers in our Patient Leader network, Bob DeMarco, Founder of Alzheimer’s Reading Room, to help explain how the Facebook changes impact influencer reach.

We took a sampling of 144 organic posts from DeMarco’s Facebook activity from August 11, 2017 to February 6, 2018 and looked at post reach and post engagements before and after the Facebook changes. Here’s what we found:

Since the change, engagement rate has been the highest and most consistent in the 9-year history of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room Facebook page.




We also asked DeMarco three questions to gain insight from a Patient Influencer’s perspective. Here’s what he said:


1. What do you think people enjoy most about your content?


Authenticity, empathy and real tactics that actual work. We understand, first hand, how Alzheimer’s caregivers feel. We provide content that is designed to help them live a better life each day. We gently hold their hand. live along with them, and walk them through the process of coping and communicating. No one does it better than us.


2. How do you think this change of higher engagement rates will impact your presence and ability to help others?


On Facebook engagement rates have more than tripled since the algorithm changed. This indicates we are now reaching caregivers that are both energized and interested in high quality content that works and helps them to live a higher quality of life with their loved one.


The “proof is in the pudding.” Facebook is in the process of rewarding smaller properties with high quality content. As a result, we are now reaching a higher number of Facebook users that really need our help and can benefit from our knowledge and intellectual capital. It appears to us that Facebook is now bringing high quality content out of the darkness and into the light. What is changing? For the first time you don’t have to be big to get rewarded – you have to be “good.”


3. What advice would you give another advocate to create better content and engage their audience?


The first rule of engaging high-quality audiences is consistency. This means you have to publish on a consistent schedule. You must have a clear “vision” of what you are trying to accomplish. Ask yourself these questions:


  • Do you understand how your audience is thinking and feeling each day?
  • Can you help them live a better life?
  • Are you letting them know – they are not alone?
  • Are you helping them to better understand the situation they are in?
  • Are you helping them cope?


If a reader comes to believe that you understand how they feel, and share their feelings, they will then identify with you and stay with you. Nothing jumps off the page more than shared empathy.



So, why did Facebook change the algorithm for news feeds – why is this happening?


There are differing opinions on whether this is good, bad or the apocalypse. When you step back to look at changes Facebook has made over time, it’s not really that surprising. When you objectively look at the recent news feed changes, this falls in line with driving Facebook’s core mission.


Facebook is a social media platform with the goal of connecting friends at scale while producing revenue for shareholders. The “fake news” hangover most likely expedited this change but the change itself does hit the major checkboxes Facebook needs to fulfill its purpose:


  • Provide a good user experience and increase engagement – getting more real interactions and increasing time on the platform / decrease user churn without needing “fake news” to drive these interactions.
  • Increase revenue from brands – the verdict has been in for a long time that Facebook is an effective place for brands to get a return on their ad dollars, so why give it away organically when they’ll pay for it?
  • Continue the extremely public cleanup of “fake news,” biased content and click bait – this is a PR win for Facebook without hurting their bottom line long-term. They feel they can claim some moral high ground without really doing anything drastic to what Facebook actually is.


What should Patient Influencers do with this newfound power?


  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. We know what Facebook hates: user complaints, click bait and poor content – so steer clear.
  • Make your audience happy. If you provide great content that benefits both your audience and Facebooks engagement rates, then everyone wins.
  • Be an authentic person. The more your content starts to resemble click bait or brand spam, the more likely it is that Facebook will prioritize the evaluation (and ultimately deprioritizing) of your content.


How brands should adapt:

Leverage the truly authentic voice of the patient. User-generated content that features trusted Patient Influencers and their real stories will likely increase Facebook engagement rates and be prioritized in audience news feeds.

Brands that don’t understand the best practices in influencer marketing may be hurt by this new algorithm.


How are the recent Facebook changes impacting you and what are you going to do to adapt?


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