On January 11, 2018, Facebook CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced in a blog post that Facebook would be changing the algorithm of its news feed. This, he said, was being done to prioritise “friends, family and groups” over “public content”.
Recently Facebook has made some sweeping changes to the way people experience it. Few months ago it experimented with a second news feed called Explore and also shut down the human-assisted part of its digital assistant ‘M’. Zuckerberg is making these changes in an attempt to overhaul the social media giant.
The changes announced in January will focus more on what family and friends have to say and user’s news feed would no longer be flooded by paid ads. “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.”
According to Facebook, it has “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.” In this light, Facebook’s action to improve the user experience seem genuine and are warmly received by its users. If you are a user of Facebook’s services, you may be pleased with the changes being made in this direction. Facebook has become the go-to place on social media for marketers to exhibit their products. There must be times when your news feed is overflowing with ads (blogs, photos and videos) interspersed with a few posts from your friends and family. You would be well within your rights to be frustrated with the situation. This is what Zuckerberg says Facebook is out to rectify.
Those of you who want to see posts from your favourite web comics or be updated about bands still have the option to do so. “The options under the News Feed tab on Facebook will allow users to prioritize the pages (and friends) whose posts they are most interested in.” The See First option on the news feed ensures that you won’t miss any posts from the Pages you like.
Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed on Facebook, in another blog post said, “With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.”
However, if you are a small business that works only or mostly out of Facebook, things may not look so rosy for you after all. The reach of organic content had already been declining over the years. Now with these sudden and sweeping changes to the news feed algorithm, your marketing strategies will need further tweaking.
Regarding what these changes mean for businesses, Mosseri said, “As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. 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.”
Facebook has tweaked its algorithm to promote content on Pages that generates conversation between people. So if you want your the content from your Facebook Page to be on people’s news feed, you will have to come up with content that engages people. These can be posts, live videos, regular videos or even discussions on groups. The content has to be organic and genuine. However, Mosseri has mentioned that “using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.” Thus, we can see that Facebook is trying to decrease the menace of click-bait content and false news that was once prevalent on the social media platform.
With social media having pervaded every corner of the world, its ill-effects are being talked about openly in the public sphere. These have not gone unnoticed by people at Facebook. In a blog post titled ‘Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?’ David Ginsberg, Director of Research, and Moira Burke, Research Scientist at Facebook, talk about the pros and cons of social media, and to what extent is Facebook involved in it. In their post, they say, “We’re working to make Facebook more about social interaction and less about spending time.”
In their attempt to understand the influence of social media on people, Ginsberg and Burke mention that Facebook has employed “social psychologists, social scientists and sociologists, and we collaborate with top scholars to better understand well-being and work to make Facebook a place that contributes in a positive way.”
You can argue that Facebook’s solution to the problem with engagement being more engagement comes across as self-serving and perhaps disingenuous. However, what they are trying to do is take people’s opinion into consideration and provide them with a better experience. This may, in fact, be in response to the revelations regarding Facebook’s role in the 2016 US Presidential elections. However, Facebook started revamping its news feed in 2015 itself.
In an interview with The New York Times, Zuckerberg said that the company expected a downfall in the engagement of its users on Facebook as they would “gravitate” to other social media platforms to “get their viral fix”. Further explaining this point, in his blog post Zuckerberg said that he expected “the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.” However, he also expected that “the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.” Zuckerberg continued to say that “if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
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