In a recently published blog post, Facebook has alluded to further changes in their news feed algorithm. That magical formula that all social media and digital marketing experts spend their lives trying to discover and exploit. There have already been many changes to the way that Facebook decides what you get to see on your own feed since it's inception, so what can we expect from these new changes?
Well, it seems that Facebook's new approach is all about relevance and balance. They want to build a news feed full of stories and content that you actually want to read. They want to populate users' news feeds with content that both spurs engagement and leaves the audience satisfied with it's quality. The company announced on Monday that they're focusing heavily on human assessment of what constitutes decent and relevant content, instead of simply using the old vanity metrics of likes and comments on a post to prove it's popularity.
What you may not know is that this system has been around since early 2014 when Facebook created a group of 1,000 users who voluntarily rate the quality of posts that appear in their news feeds. Early analysis of the results from this group have shown that there are many posts that users are interested in, but wouldn't necessarily click 'like' on. For example, it's only human to be interested in a post which laments the loss of a loved one, or details a specific misfortune. You'd want to be kept up to date with such developments amongst your close friends, you may even want to comment and offer your sympathies, but it may not be appropriate to actually 'like' the post.
On the flipside there are plenty of posts that you'll have seen in your news feed which have hundreds and thousands of likes and comments, but actually have little interest to you personally. No doubt you've seen plenty of spurious posts that attract plenty of engagement but have very little quality or end up frustratingly being about nothing like the headline suggested before you clicked through. Pictures of cats, videos of toddlers falling over and clickbait articles to lads magazine type websites instantly spring to our minds.
"News Feed will begin to look at both the probability that you would want to see the story at the top of your feed and the probability that you will like, comment on, click or share a story. We will rank stories higher in feed which we think people might take action on, and which people might want to see near the top of their News Feed."
So what does this mean for business? Well, page-owners who use clickbait or content completely un-related to their brand or business in the hope of encouraging more likes and comments will see their traffic decrease significantly. Facebook has also made it very clear that pages that attempt to artificially engineer likes and comments through stories that their audience wouldn't ordinarily want to read will also suffer with their reach and who gets to see this kind of content. Likewise, it is possible that the ability to 'boost' or 'promote' such posts through paid channels will also be removed at Facebook's discretion.
Essentially, Facebook is trying to become more human and more sociable. It's trying to understand what users like and what they don't, to show them more of the former and less of the latter. Business pages that consistently post relevant, quality and engaging content will continue to be rewarded for being themselves and being true to their audiences. Some experts have predicted that this will see an end to virality, but we don't think that's the case at all. What it does mean though, is that your content needs to meet a certain level of quality before even being considered to reach a wider audience and the potential to go viral as a result.
But shouldn't we all be focused on creating quality content over quantity and cheap gimmicks anyway? As ever, we'd love to hear your thoughts.