• Facebook announced that the company is making a “major change” to the social network’s News Feed algorithms, to make sure that “the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent”. 
  • Facebook’s News Feed algorithms will shift toward favoring content from people, rather than content from businesses, brands and media.
  • Companies, brands and content publishers will need to change their Facebook content strategy significantly to keep up with Facebook’s stated intention of demoting certain types of posts and promote others

Facebook recently announced a major change to their News Feed algorithm. This will significantly affect how people see content in their News Feed.

Facebook wants to focus on “the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other”. The goal is to make sure that people feel like their time on the social network is “well spent”.

Late last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and founder, announced he is “changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

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This means that Facebook’s News Feed will continue to shift away from publishers and toward more towards favoring content from people. The change means that posts from news outlets, publishers and brands will not show up in people’s news feeds as much as posts from family and friends.

The goal is for Facebook users to “see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” and more posts from friends, family and personal connections. The intention, according to Facebook, is to “encourage meaningful interactions between people”.

Zuckerberg also acknowledged that as a result of this change, “the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.”

This is a massive change for the social network, and especially for the 70 million businesses that currently have company Pages on Facebook. It means that all the efforts to build those Pages and publish content to reach their audiences may be in serious jeopardy.

Facebook News Feed - Menlo Park Headquarters

What’s the Reason for the Change?

In recent months, Facebook has faced increasing concern and negative publicity.  Fake News, fake Russian trolls, online bullying harassment and other types of abuse has caused the social network to a hard look at itself. One of the challenges it faces is to decide whether it’s a media company or not.

If it is a media company, Facebook faces enormous hurdles. It might no longer be considered a cool “tech” company with an enormous valuation, currently sitting at $500 billion.  It would also have to deal with much greater scrutiny and regulation, similar to other media companies.

Facebook offers multiple ways for publishers to distribute content, including News Feed, Instagram, Facebook Spaces, Facebook Ads and Facebook TV. It distributes content, generates revenue from ads run within that content and produces its own shows and media. However, it continues to insist it is not a media company.

In late 2017, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, denied that the social networking giant is a media company. In an exclusive interview with Axios editor Mike Allen,  Sandberg insisted that since Facebook is run by technical workers and engineers, it can’t be a media company.

“At our heart we’re a tech company,” Sandberg said. “We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist. We don’t cover the news. But when we say that, we’re not saying we don’t have a responsibility. In fact we’re a new kind of platform … as our size grows, we think we have more responsibility.”

Whether Facebook is a media or tech company still remains to be determined. The fact is that content is delivered and distributed on its platforms (including Instagram and WhatsApp), and it derives its main source of revenue from content advertising.

Facebook News Feed - Austin Office with employee holding handheld device

What Does This Change to Facebook Mean for My Business?

As a result of this change, many brands, businesses and news sites that rely on driving traffic to their websites from Facebook will likely see a significant drop in that traffic.

According to Facebook, business “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.”

In other words, Facebook will prioritize posts that drive interaction and conversations between friends. Businesses that publish content with very little interaction or engagement will see a decrease in views of their content. This means that many businesses, brands and content/media publishers will have to change their Facebook content strategy drastically.

What Types of Page Content will Show Higher in News Feed?

Brands and content publishers that post poor quality content will be almost completely cut off from the News Feed.

According to Facebook, “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”

Focus on Quality Content including Video and Groups

Facebook’s values quality content. While their algorithms focus on family and friends first, content that’s informative and entertaining will be prioritized as well. High quality content is authentic, interesting and conversation-generating. That means creating informative, entertaining content should be a high priority for businesses. Facebook also considers video, Live Video and public content from groups to be high quality content.

Video and Live video will become one of the most valuable ways to drive engagement. Facebook notes that Live videos often lead to more discussion and interaction, receiving 6 times as many interactions as regular videos. Groups (that are public) may also see their content prioritized in News Feed, since people tend to interact more often in group settings.

Content that focuses on engagement-bait will continue to be demoted in News Feed. Engagement bait is a tactic that some publishers use to goad people into interacting with the post. For example, “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!” or “Share this post with 10 of your friends!”.  Facebook sees these types of posts as taking advantage of its News Feed algorithms, by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach.

Facebook New Feed Engagement Bait screenshots

In addition, spammy, sensational or misleading content will be flagged and demoted. Use these tactics at your own peril. Facebook is clear that it intends to punish Pages that use these types of engagement bait by demoting not only the posts but the Pages themselves – and your page could even be entirely shut down as a result.

Strategies to Stay Visible on Facebook

Over time, Facebook has been changing its algorithms to suppress poor quality content that doesn’t get engagement. Most social media marketers also knew that less than 1% of Facebook users who like or follow a business page are likely to see an organic (not a paid ad) post in their news feed. This means that of the 1000 people who’ve liked or follow your page, only 10 may see that post you crafted and published so carefully.

In fact, Facebook’s recent algorithm changes mean that businesses, publishers, media and companies are even less likely to have their content seen in people’s News Feed. This will require a much more intentional effort by businesses to reach people on Facebook.

The best strategy is to build content that aligns with Facebook’s News Feed values.  

One of those key values is authenticity. Facebook knows that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most, and prioritizes stories and content that encourage real conversations and engagement.

We think businesses will also need to rely more heavily on specific types of strategies such as:

Companies will need to be more intentional, more creative and highly strategic if they want to be successful on Facebook.

The Take-Away

Some publishers and businesses that have built almost their entire business strategy on Facebook are panicked. Many are going to have to revisit their entire paid advertising and content strategy and how they use Facebook.

More than ever, high quality, engaging paid ads will likely have to be prioritized. This will likely be one of the only ways to ensure that businesses get their content into the News Feed. Organic business Page content is probably, for all intents and purposes, buried six feet under the News Feed.

The main take-away? Platforms change.

Don’t bet your business or strategy on the current state of any social network because platforms change.

If you haven’t looked at your Facebook strategy in a while, now’s the time to update it. Make sure all your efforts to build your business Page and distribute your content to your audience don’t go to waste.

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