Facebook, described delightfully in The New Yorker as “a tyrannical boy king with a short attention span“, has tweaked the News Feed. Again. As is their right, of course. But let’s consider the reasons why. Facebook have continued to alter the algorithm, the API, and everything in between with the core underpinning values of “Friends and Family Come First”, and “A Platform for All Ideas”. These two lovely but naturally opposing concepts can make it difficult for anyone, from the social butterfly to the social media marketer, to really know what’s going on. So let us turn to our qualified friends at TechCrunch, for a breakdown of how Facebook decides the content you get in the News Feed…roughly.
Consider the above, for a number of different functions. Firstly, everyone hates ads. This is a near universally accepted truth. People will tolerate a targeted ad, and will enjoy an entertaining ad. But, on the whole, if taking all ads everywhere and contrasting against all natural content – there’s only one winner. We can take two things from this. One, that this is why ad agencies get to charge what they charge (and rightly so). Two, that the way business approaches Facebook is going to change. People who use their Facebook Pages have long bemoaned the fact that Facebook was becoming less about engaging content and more about digging deep into our pockets. With this update, we can expect to see the Facebook News Feed heavily favour the updates from your friends and family, and filter out business and celebrity. The result? Referral traffic and reach is going to struggle to gain traction naturally, so if people are to see more from your page, they’re going to have to like or share from it. Here’s what we think are the top three things to consider for the latest Facebook man-child update.
1) Likes and Comments could stop being vanity stats.
Ask anyone who’s paid for a lot of Facebook ads, and many will confirm that the goal is to drive relevant and targeted people to your website, and get them to purchase. This makes sense, or rather it should, because this is how advertising works. Show the pretty picture, person likes the pretty picture, buys the pretty picture. Repeat ad infinitum. However, if company pages and content are going to be less prominent, this might not be as possible without a substantial backing of relevant likes and shares. We’re cautious about pushing it, but are inclined to say that in the not to distant future we’re going to see much more “like and share” focused content – as even if a user likes the page, they might not see your content without a friend sharing it. Good for the user, who will hopefully find more enjoyable and less sales-focused content. Bad for the social sales funnel, which might have got a little longer.
2) The Small Biz Cash Grab hits Publishing
You’d be forgiven for thinking while reading this that we resent Facebook. It’s far from true. Hell, we’re hoping to be able to automate everyone’s social media and help you find success – we can’t do that without the biggest platform. However, the fact remains that for many small businesses and retailers, Facebook has been far more pay-to-play than it ever really should be. To naturally choose to depress small business content, on account of a limited initial footprint, makes it near impossible to gain traction without digging into your pocket. In many regards, this is a fair price to pay in order to be part of Facebook’s glorious empire. But, it’s still a sad day for publishing. News, as we know, is rarely cheerful. Doom and gloom sells papers, happy go lucky news doesn’t. But the same is rarely true on social media. Consider the recent criticism of Twitter, and the reliance it had on the news of the day to gain clicks and capture your attention. Publishing of news is a vital part of a social economy, and it feels a real shame that a tightly squeezed sector will be forced to get the wallet out to reach the people who already want their news. More news behind a paywall is not an enjoyable thing.
3) This will almost certainly fail
The Facebook algorithm is an evolving and ever-changing being. As such, it’s not fair to look it in the eye and say it failed, because it’s only ever a few hours or days away from another tweak. And anyway, Silicon Valley is built on the principles of failure. Facebook is an angry teenager, who’s techno we must learn to love. And like an angry teenager, they’re going through changes they don’t quite understand – all this content from all spheres, overloading their mind, on top of having lost out on the girl they loved to Microsoft, before claiming they weren’t all that into her. Most people, rightly or wrongly, get a little bored with seeing the same people talk about the same things everyday. Humans are creatures of habit, and to keep the platform fresh and retain users, we need to be able to see new content from new people. This can’t work with the existing News Feed state, and in time, will gradually be adjusted.
The short summary – This is just a phase, and Facebook will come around. Everyone stay patient, and be ready to give them a big hug. We always loved Facebook, no matter how messy their bedroom is.