In a move that could have a sizeable impact on travel
agents, Facebook has announced a change to the algorithm governing its news
feed and determining which posts, and from whom, appear higher in a user's
The new algorithm could force agents to change what they
post into content that drives engagement, as measured by comments from
followers, shares and other factors.
At the same time, organizations that provide social media
content to agents, such as hosts and consortia, will also have to review their
offerings to ensure that posts drive the engagement Facebook is emphasizing.
Rosemarie Reed, vice president of marketing and sales for
Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., said the change "has
everybody kind of in an uproar right now, only because small-business owners
who are not marketing experts and don't spend a ton of time trying to dissect
the information that's being put out about the changes get nervous."
Change isn't new to Facebook. Reed pointed out that the
company made "significant changes" to its news feed algorithm in 2014
to encourage businesses to pay for advertising. Businesses adjusted to that
change and have harnessed the social media giant's advertising platform to
reach new groups of potential clients.
"There's no reason to panic," Reed said. "If
anything, yes, this will mean a change to how you should be interacting with
people on social media. But the base concept of social media doesn't change. It's
introduced as media that people are very social on -- it's exactly what it's
called. It's what Facebook is trying to do more of."
In a blog post explaining the change, Facebook's Adam
Mosseri, head of the news feed, said Facebook determines how high a post will
appear in the news feed based on a variety of factors, including the number of
users who react to the post, comment on it or share it.
"With this update, we will also prioritize posts that
spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people," Mosseri said.
"To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with
your friends about, and show these posts higher in the feed."
The posts selected will be ones that have discussions taking
place in comments as well as ones a user might be inclined to react to and
share. Additionally, posts by friends and family will be prioritized.
Mosseri said businesses and "publishers" (those
who have made pages on Facebook) will likely see their reach decrease. How much
it decreases will vary, but pages with posts that lack comments and reactions
will be the most affected.
No one knows exactly how much change will take place on
Facebook users' news feeds. But agents who use a personal Facebook page, as
opposed to a business page, will feel fewer effects from the change, according
to Abbey Ramage, senior director of brand marketing at Avoya Travel. She said
most of Avoya's agents use a personal page.
"For the most part, this is actually probably going to
be a welcomed and positive change for them," Ramage said. "It's very
much focused on the relationship building. It's very much focused on having
that engagement with their clients and creating those really close,
personalized relationships, which is what agents are known for."
Agents could actually get a boost in users' news feeds if
they're using personal Facebook pages, while larger brands with pages will be
pushed farther down.
At Cruise Planners, many agents use a combination of
personal Facebook profiles and business pages, according to Vicky Garcia, COO
and co-owner. Cruise Planners provides content for agents' business pages that
they can customize.
Oftentimes, Garcia said, agents use their personal profile
and business page in tandem, sharing posts from the business page on their
personal page, which has been effective in driving engagement.
She also pointed out that travel itself is a high driver of
"We have it pretty easy, in that what we do is pretty
cool and sexy," Garcia said. "If you go on a cruise, you post about
it. Whatever you eat at whatever restaurant on the trip you're on, you post
Other industries, such as insurance, don't lend themselves
to engaging posts, "whereas travel, you just post the exterior of a ship
and people get excited about it," Garcia said.
Going forward, it's clear that agents should focus on
posting content that will drive comments and shares among their friends, Ramage
said. For example, if an agent has had success with Facebook Live videos, post
more of those.
Facebook's Mosseri pointed to live videos specifically as
something that drives a lot of engagement; he said they typically get six times
more interactions than prerecorded videos.
It is clear that passive content that isn't driving
engagement will not appear high in a user's news feed, Reed said. That will
force agents and social media providers to shift their strategy going forward
as changes roll out.
"We want to evaluate, really, and test, because it's
all about testing and finding out what works best with our users ... and then
go from there," she said. "But short-term, we're going to direct our
agents to leverage their personal Facebook profiles."