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Facebook’s News Feed Will Once Again Focus on Friends and Family

Face­book announced that it will be over­haul­ing its News Feed that will once again shift the type of con­tent users see first, and most often.

Accord­ing to the offi­cial state­ment, Face­book will “be mak­ing updates to [its News Feed] rank­ing so peo­ple have more oppor­tu­ni­ties to inter­act with the peo­ple they care about” — as in, their friends and fam­i­ly, instead of Pages.

The news first broke by way of a post from Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg.

What Facebook’s News Feed Changes Mean for Marketers

Brands Can Expect to See Less Engagement

Face­book has been quite trans­par­ent about the fact that mar­keters and brands will be impact­ed by this change — and not for the bet­ter.

Pages may see their reach, video watch time and refer­ral traf­fic decrease,” the offi­cial state­ment reads, which is espe­cial­ly true for Pages with posts that don’t see a ton of engage­ment — by way of shares, or dis­cus­sion on the post itself, includ­ing when users share them with their net­works.

That means posts spark­ing the great­est amount of dis­cus­sion among users — espe­cial­ly when shared — will like­ly rank bet­ter. But mar­keters should pro­ceed with cau­tion: Cre­at­ing con­tent for engage­ment for share­abil­i­ty and con­ver­sa­tion does not trans­late to includ­ing such lan­guage as, “Tag a friend!” in posts. Face­book calls and inter­prets that type of con­tent as “engage­ment bait,” and actu­al­ly penal­izes the Pages that use it in their News Feed rank­ings.

Face­book has made sev­er­al mod­i­fi­ca­tions to its News Feed algo­rithm over the years, some of which have car­ried more per­me­nance than oth­ers. Mar­keters might recall, for exam­ple, that last Octo­ber, Face­book intro­duced its “Explore Feed,” which was meant to serve as a new, entire­ly sep­a­rate feed where near­ly all Page con­tent would live.

This lat­est shift is dif­fer­ent, how­ev­er. As Face­book put it, “Page posts will still appear in News Feed, though there may be few­er of them.”

And if Face­book does actu­al­ly stick with this change — which, giv­en its his­to­ry, could be debat­able — it will most cer­tain­ly present a new chal­lenge for mar­keters. Con­tent will have to be even more share­able, in a way that doesn’t clas­si­fy it as “engage­ment bait,” and also organ­i­cal­ly pro­motes con­ver­sa­tion among users.

Why Facebook Is Doing This

For a while now, Face­book has been mak­ing exten­sive efforts to com­mu­ni­cate an ethos that it is “not a media com­pa­ny.” That was like­ly the result of the scruti­ny it’s received since it was dis­cov­ered that the net­work was weaponized to influ­ence the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Face­book has clear­ly put a stake in the ground that user expe­ri­ence is more impor­tant that the brands that pay them,” says Mar­cus Andrews, HubSpot’s senior prod­uct mar­ket­ing man­ag­er. “By mak­ing this shift they clear­ly pri­or­i­tized one over the oth­er, and are poten­tial­ly a bit ner­vous about the cur­rent (real­ly neg­a­tive) nar­ra­tive about the neg­a­tive impact of social media on soci­ety.”

That helps to explain this move to shift the focus from brand­ed con­tent to the kind that is more per­son­al, and clos­er in terms of each user’s own net­work. More con­tent from friends and fam­i­ly, ver­sus news from offi­cial or brand­ed out­lets = “not a media com­pa­ny.”

Organ­ic reach for busi­ness pages on Face­book has been under assault for a long time now,” Andrews says. “This is not new.”

What Marketers Should Do Now

With all of that said, not all is lost for social media mar­keters. There are cer­tain types of Page con­tent that are said to pro­mote more shares and organ­ic con­ver­sa­tion — like live videos, which Face­book says get 6X the engage­ment as non-live ones.

What Face­book seems to tell us is that con­tent with a lot of engage­ment and con­ver­sa­tion will be pri­or­i­tized. This means com­ments and replies,” Andrews explains — and live video is one type of con­tent that tends to receive a high­er amount of that type of engage­ment.

But with so many rules around what the News Feed seems to pre­fer — authen­tic con­tent that isn’t mis­lead­ing or bait­ing engage­ment and clicks — it’s easy for mar­keters to become con­fused about what, exact­ly, they can do to please its algo­rithm.

While it’s easy to see brands as the losers here, what we’re real­ly see­ing is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to piv­ot their con­tent towards dri­ving a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion,” says Hen­ry Fran­co, HubSpot’s social and cam­paign strat­e­gy mar­ket­ing asso­ciate. “Facebook’s new algo­rithm will pri­or­i­tize posts that dri­ve authen­tic engage­ment in the com­ments, rather than pas­sive likes or shares.”

Which brings us back to a mar­ket­ing prin­ci­ple that we’ve cer­tain­ly touched on before: lis­ten­ing to users.

Brands should take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to lis­ten to their audi­ences,” says Fran­co, “and cre­ate con­tent that’s catered to their inter­ests and that will dri­ve mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tion.“

One addi­tion­al, impor­tant thing to note is that users will have the option to mod­i­fy set­tings to see con­tent from cer­tain Pages in their News Feeds (the apt­ly-named “See First in News Feed Pref­er­ences” fea­ture).

unfollow

Many users, how­ev­er, might not know about this fea­ture. That presents an oppor­tu­ni­ty for mar­keters to cre­ate engag­ing ways to let their audi­ences know about it, by way of shar­ing some­thing like sales, one-time pro­mo­tions, and the like with such lan­guage as, “Want to be the first to know about our sales? Make sure you see us first in your News Feed.” (Try using some­thing like the image above to help explain how this works.)

Be care­ful, how­ev­er, not to over­load or patron­ize audi­ences with this type of infor­ma­tion — and main­tain your focus on cre­at­ing the qual­i­ty, applic­a­ble, and per­son­al­ized con­tent that Fran­co speaks to. The user has to ben­e­fit some­how from it, and feel moti­vat­ed to share it in a way that reme­dies the neg­a­tive impres­sions of social media that Andrews points out.

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By | 2018-01-15T10:40:16+00:00 January 17th, 2018|Industry News|Comments Off on Facebook’s News Feed Will Once Again Focus on Friends and Family