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Facebook Revamps News Feed for Relevancy & Meaningful Interaction


Billy Boulia & Jeanne Bright

Facebook Revamps News Feed for Relevancy & Meaningful Interaction

In today’s society, negative issues have become far too common, ranging from bullying and unfound hatred, to widespread fear over global politics. With so much chatter and online activity “talking” about these issues, it’s often difficult to open your preferred social platform’s news feed and not be faced with another hate crime, natural disaster, or concerning political action.

What Facebook Wants to Do About It

Facebook is making a bold move, and announced on Thursday, January 11, that it will be optimizing its News Feed algorithm to put friends and family first, to refocus on being the platform that helps people relevantly connect and come together. It also wants to shift from surfacing potentially negative and “passive” content, to publishing that which is more positive and empowering to help create an even more connected and relevant community for its users. Mark Zuckerberg went further to define passive content as “videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read.” 

What does this mean for the ever-evolving Facebook algorithm? As a refresher, the Facebook algorithm focuses on three components to determine a post’s organic potential to show up in the News Feed:

1. Affinity Score: how connected a person seeing the content is to the person or brand posting the content

2. Weight: how likely will a piece of content receive more engagements is related to how “heavy” the piece of content is – meaning: is it only copy or does it include images, cinemagraphs or videos

3. Time Decay: how long ago was the piece of content / update posted

With these factors in mind, Facebook will gradually introduce updates that will increase the weight that it puts on friend interactions. Posts that inspire conversations will be prioritized over the passive content previously mentioned.

What Does This Really Mean?

1. Publishers will take the biggest hit. With a majority of publisher content focused on the passive activity of “sit back and read or watch,” their algorithmic favor is bound to take a hit. When brands partner with publishers that include Facebook posts as part of a larger partnership, you should get clear confirmation that they are committed to promoting with ad dollars as organic reach is no longer guaranteed.

2. Facebook could refocus its efforts. With recent product enhancements and additions to its app ecosystem, including the Watch environment and Facebook Local, it’s possible that Facebook could begin to invest in other apps and services to keep the News Feed focused on bringing friends and family closer together.

3. Organic strategies need to be backed by data. Brand marketers may see an overall decline in organic page performance: reach, referral traffic, and total video watch time. You can combat this by focusing on a fewer-but-better posting model. The need to shift towards relevancy of content and away from “like-baiting” is now critical. Dig into consumers and fans to find out what makes them tick. Utilize social intelligence tools to research and understand what interests your fans and consumers most. What inspires them? What has them conversing and engaging on social? Ultimately, be relevant to them.

4. Brand marketer advertising is not impacted – right now. There are no updates or modifications to Facebook’s paid advertising ranking at this time. However, one can assume that these changes will fundamentally change the stickiness of the channel. The less time people spend within the newsfeed means it’s harder to reach them, which equates to higher prices down the road. It can also be assumed that advertising performance on Facebook will decline over time – specifically viewability and view time. Currently, advertisements appear more native in the Newsfeed due to the wide array of content users see, which in turn drives performance. If the content shifts so that brand ads are more noticeable, users may change their behavior by scrolling past ads even faster than they currently are.

As news and information continue to develop on this important update, keep an eye out for recommendations from us on the paid, owned and earned strategies for Facebook and your full social media ecosystem.

Billy Boulia & Jeanne Bright

VP/Group Director, Social Strategy; VP/Group Director, Paid Social


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