The best explanation may very well come from University of Washington computer science professor Pedro Domingos, author of The Master Algorithm. He keeps it simple: An algorithm is “instructions telling a computer what to do.” That’s all. What and how you post sends automatic instructions, or a signal, of where that post shows up in a newsfeed.
Restaurants that already post authentic content—with useful, relatable, engaging information and visuals that naturally spark comments and sharing—are all set, most likely. Content writers will tell you that this is the way content should be, anyway. For some, the algorithm change is no major overhaul by any means.
Unless your restaurant’s marketing has been, well…spammy so far.
“Many companies abused the free, organic reach that used to be available to them and just posted 12 times a day—sometimes the same exact content—just because someone told them to,” says David Forman, co-founder of Clarity Creative Group in Winter Springs, Florida, a group that offers website design, development and SEO services to restaurants and other businesses.
Those accounts relying on comment or sharing “shortcut” efforts will now penalize pages and put them further down on the newsfeed, according to HootSuite. That includes overuse of topic hashtags (#FajitaFriday); or too many prompts like, “Comment below on your favorite dish”; or tag-baiting (“Tag a friend who would love this dessert!”).
From a content standpoint, it’s important to remember that content is not always a written post. It can mean a meme or an infographic. And posts that will reportedly provide the best newsfeed placement? Not just videos, but live videos.
“This is one of the few concrete examples of content that will perform well under the new algorithm,” says HootSuite’s Shannon Tien.
“As we create new content for clients, we ask ourselves, ‘Who or what is going to get someone to engage with this content? Does it have a question or something to get a conversation going with our followers?’” -David Forman
For restaurants, maybe this means a live video of your chef cooking over the grill and explaining that night’s specials. Or maybe it’s someone in the kitchen showing off your restaurant’s recent in-season vegetable delivery from a local farmer. This messaging engages your customers in behind-the-scenes ways; it’s some extra insight into your business and doesn’t insult their intelligence by diminishing interactions to mere tags and obligatory comments and likes.
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Restaurants that have been encouraging customers to follow their Facebook page can still do so. If those customers still say that they don’t see your restaurant’s information—say the featured nightly specials you post—instruct them to click on the “following” icon, and then “See first” in the drop-down. This will ensure your social media messaging shows up in their newsfeed.
If that all seems like a lot of work to you, you’re not alone.
Susan Harrell, owner of Bend, Oregon-based catering company Susan’s Table and a former restaurant chef, understands.
“I’d do a mix of regular posts and paid posts or advertising posts. Eventually my reach with regular posts became non-existent and the paid posts became costlier to reach the same audience,” she says. “The new algorithm is difficult and I’m tired of jumping through hoops for them. Then add in the data breach and it’s even less enticing.”
For those who may want to try and grapple with the new rules, social media marketing experts have restaurant owners seeking out their Facebook guidance.
“As we create new content for clients, we ask ourselves, ‘Who or what is going to get someone to engage with this content? Does it have a question or something to get a conversation going with our followers?’” says Forman. “I am sure in a few months we will pivot again, but that will give you the best chance in the new world of Facebook.”
Robb Hecht, a New York marketing strategist with clients in the packaged foods and fast-food restaurant space, says coupons may be one way to help drive in Facebook traffic in light of the new algorithm. He recommends the dual approach—both organic and paid social—pushing ads out to demographic-targeted local audiences.
Hecht also says that with the new algorithm giving priority to conversations involving your own Facebook friends, content messaging should have calls to action and attempt to engage friends and family in discussion.
That may be where the creativity comes in.
“This engagement, for example, conversations with customers, will cause your content to be prioritized in their feeds — and ideally increase traffic to your restaurant,” he says. “Organic content has less sway.”