July 19, 2016

Facebook Favors Friends and Family

Facebook was built to connect people with whomever—and later, whatever—they wanted. However, recently Facebook has accumulated “far too much information for any one person to consume.” Seas of stories have overwhelmed users, as a feed full of actual news has inundated genuine conversations. Since their feeds had become so crowded, “people had started to share less about their own lives,” as well as spend less time on the platform overall. This led to missing important posts in the depths of the news feed.

To deal with this conundrum, Facebook has changed its algorithm in hopes of making each user’s news feed the “subjective, personal and unique” experience it should be. Facebook tweaks its algorithm constantly, yet not many changes are as significant and impactful as this one.

Like the previous algorithm, the new algorithm ranks the importance of each post. While this rating was previously closely dependent upon the number of likes, views and shares, posts will now also be ranked based on their category. Posts by friends and family will now appear first, as these are expected to be the most important for individuals hoping to keep in touch with those they care about the most. Information such as news will take second priority, while entertainment such as amusing videos, photos and articles will be emphasized the least. These story rankings are of course customized to each user to ensure that each profile has a distinct Facebook experience.

With this change, Facebook has again clearly outlined its values of fostering authentic communication, customizing each experience and constantly improving. The new algorithm will be more fine-tuned to the actions of the user—what most resonates with a user is what they will engage with, which will inform what they will see more of moving forward.

If you were enjoying your news feed as it was, you can find a way around many of these changes. For example, you can choose the “see first” option on pages and friends to have them appear at the top of your news feed. You can also choose to get notifications for specific posts of a page or friend to stay up to date. Similarly, if you would prefer to see less activity from certain friends or pages, merely unfollow them to hide them from your news feed. For a quick one-stop shop to manage your news feed, go to “News Feed Preferences” to manage all of your settings.

If you’re a marketer, there’s no use in pinching yourself. This is not a dream—although some media sources have labeled the change a “nightmare.” Since friends that the user often engages with are prioritized, branded content takes a backseat. Many companies rely heavily on Facebook traffic to market themselves and to increase awareness. This may soon change, however, as their content will not be as visible in user news feeds, leading to “less traffic to content sites.” Consequently, brands that still desire prominent posts will need to spend on paid Facebook marketing, costs for which will likely increase due to it being one of the only ways to make branded posts seen.

Since Facebook is now more of a pay-to-play platform for marketers and advertisers, brands will need to be more creative to maintain followers on their pages. Posts will need to be more original, attention-grabbing and interactive. Content should deliver quality over quantity, as posts should be more varied and add value to each user’s Facebook experience. This may be good news for users who have grown tired of classic marketing posts, as brands are now being challenged to join a new wave of creativity.

Essentially, the Facebook algorithm change will promote more genuine, meaningful engagement. Posts will be ranked based on value “as opposed to just click-through rates and quantity of clicks.” While positive for Facebook users by supporting more authentic connections, the algorithm will push marketers to spread their messages via more money, or else adapt their strategies to work around it.

This post was written by Renegade intern Katalina Bock. You can follow her on Instagram @katalinabock.