Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced major changes to the way your newsfeed will look. In the coming weeks, Facebook’s main newsfeed will start showing fewer news articles and less marketing content.
Instead, users will start to see more holiday snaps, family photos and other family-friendly content posted by their friends - with business posts, celebrity posts and news articles showing in a new ‘explore’ tab. These changes have the potential to dramatically change the way people interact with the social network.
This is a bit of a U-turn on the previous shift, which moved Facebook from being a social network that connected friends & family, to one of the world’s largest online news distributors.
The best person to explain it is Zuckerberg himself. In his eyes, the increase in marketing material and news articles has created an imbalance that “is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
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Internal research and external studies have found that people are happier and have a better well-being when they use social media as a social tool to connect “with people they care about.”
But it has to be noted that missing from Zuckerberg’s post are the controversies that have plagued Facebook in recent years, with the excessive sharing of fake news in the run up to the American Presidential Election and its refusal to share the iconic photo of the young girl fleeing her village during the Vietnam war. It’s likely that these kinds of editorial dilemmas have had a hand in the change as well. Having long argued that they are not a media company in the traditional sense and more of a platform that distributes other publishers’ content, showing less of this kind of content on their newsfeed eliminates some of the headaches Facebook has had to face in the past.
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Facebook has clearly decided (and arguably rightfully so!) that user experience is more important than the businesses that pay them.
As ever, there is good and bad news. In short, the bad news is that it will be harder to get traffic from Facebook posts, especially organically. The good news is that those who adapt well will see a larger portion of the traffic available.
With Facebook de-emphasising news and business posts on the platform, businesses face the prospect that traffic to their website will fall with the drop in engagement, predicted by the platform founder himself. With fewer impressions and less reach, your organic social posts are likely to do less well than previously seen. This, along with the predicted decline in time users will spend on the platform, means that if you haven’t reduced your reliance on organic Facebook posts for website traffic, you definitely should from now on.
When looking at content creation for Facebook you will need to focus on what will encourage interactions between followers, friends and family. Well thought out posts that encourage these interactions and conversations will perform better than page content that drives passive consumption.
To appear at the top of the explore tab, you must look to create content around timely news, motivational/inspirational content and videos (around 45-60 seconds long). Negative feedback will cause Facebook to penalise posts, and posts linking to external websites will rank lower. So, the key from now on will be person-to-person engagement through more creative content.
Zuckerberg does not mention paid advertising and what the impact on this will be, but it’s been said that advertisers will still appear in the main newsfeed. It’s likely that businesses will be driven to buying more ad space on Facebook to promote themselves, which may result in a rise in ad prices. But simply creating content and attempting to share it on the news feed for free will no longer work like it used to.
The initial reaction is to think that this is awful for businesses, but longer term we think it could be a positive shift. Encouraging and facilitating interactions between people is what social has always been about and if these moves encourage more people to engage with their Facebook pages on a regular basis, then it will still be a very important place to maintain profile.
We also think that labelling the explore tab as some form of content graveyard could be premature. Many Facebook users use the platform for updates from their favourite news and sports channels, as well as updates from bands, teams and other areas of interest. These will be found under the explore tab and we can envisage a situation where it will be regularly browsed. The brains at Facebook believe users will find this a more ordered experience and we think they could be right.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on our own client data in the coming weeks to understand the impact and consequences. Please contact us if you’d like a more detailed analysis of your own circumstances.