Late last week Facebook announced some major changes to the Facebook News Feed. I’ve seen plenty of ‘doom and gloom panic posts’ about the announcement but I’m not so sure.
The Gist of Facebook’s News Feed Changes
The gist of it is that research (“by Facebook and academics”) has found that social interaction between friends and families on the platform is good for a person’s well-being, while passive viewing of videos and other content is not good for a person’s well-being. Facebook wants to foster well-being on its platform. So the announced changes, although ambiguous and light on detail, are that the News Feed will prioritise person-to-person interactions and you’ll see less posts from Pages in your feed. Content that is ‘passive’ may be hardest hit.
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
The announcement goes on to say that the content you will see from brands and Pages, will be held to the same standard of interaction as person-to-person posts. That is it will be deemed ‘quality’ if there is ‘meaningful interaction’ with the content. Zuckerberg specifically mentions ‘tight knit communities around ‘TV shows and sports teams’ as being positive and differentiates between ‘live video’ (more interaction = positive) and ‘regular video’ (passive = negative).
Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
Facebook’s Head of Newsfeed, Adam Mosseri, provided a little more detail saying “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.”
The reason I’m not too freaked out about this latest announcement is this has been evolutionary. Facebook has made continuous changes to the News Feed with the aim of ‘improving user experience’. Last year, Digiday provided a chronological listing of News Feed changes along with their intent and reaction.
In February last year, there was a similar announcement to last week’s, though the explanation for it had nothing to do with Facebook being concerned with people’s well-being. Instead, it was Facebook’s aim to deal with “click-bait” – posts with outrageous headlines designed to get people to “click”. The tactic drew complaints and negatively affected the user experience of the platform. At that time Facebook said, “We will rank stories higher in feed which we think people might take action on, and which people might want to see… Pages should avoid encouraging people to take an action”
In last week’s announcement again click-bait tactics were called out with Mosseri explaining 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.” It’s pretty clear that offering a $100 pre-paid Visa card for commenting on a post is a tactic that is not going to do brands any good – and that’s a good thing.
Reactions to Facebook’s News Feed Changes
As I mentioned, panic posts hit my world on Friday night. With titles like “News Flash: Facebook Pages End of Days??” But since that Henny-penny moment, mostly the commentators have settled down. On forums and in Facebook, there’s a mixed reaction from Facebook users. From my reading, I think it’s about 50/50 in two camps:
- People say they hate the News Feed the way it is now and any changes to it are welcome.
- Others are against the changes, stating two reasons: one, feeling continually manipulated by Facebook and don’t want Facebook to control what they see. And two, they like “passive” content. It’s what they use Facebook for and they don’t want it to change.
I have no doubt that Facebook will be monitoring these responses from Facebook users.
How Does Facebook’s News Feed Changes Effect Facebook Advertisers?
In Zuckerberg’s announcement, ads are not mentioned at all. In Mosseri’s statement, there is no mention of ads. An accidental omission? I don’t think so. In one forum I read, a person reported getting confirmation from a Facebook rep that the change will have no effect on advertising because the technology of the ads platform already optimises the ads to reach the people who will find them relevant and interesting (user experience doesn’t always bear this out).
What it does suggest to me is that brands who are not already budgeting for spend and spending in Facebook, need to do so. There could also be more advertisers and more competition amongst advertisers for attention. This may result in an increase in advertising costs.
What Do You Need To Do About These Changes?
There’s not a lot new here, really. Best practice hasn’t changed:
- know your audience,
- be relevant,
- don’t look the same as everyone else,
- serve rather than sell to your audience
- continue to test and learn.
Advertisers will want to make budgets go further and the best way to do that is to target the audiences that are closest to you, those people who have demonstrated an interest in what you sell by visiting your website and specific pages on your website.
Advertisers that use the Facebook Pixel well will, once again, be ahead of the game.