Yesterday, Facebook made some big announcements about upcoming changes to their newsfeed algorithm. No one except for Facebook really knows exactly what these announcements will mean for people using Facebook and for businesses trying to market themselves on the platform but there are a lot of predictions and guesses. I have a few predictions of my own and they make me even less optimistic about the future of Facebook than I’ve already been for the last year.
Let’s take a look at exactly what Facebook has announced, for anyone who hasn’t already heard about it. They are claiming that the purpose of this newsfeed shift is to encourage more interaction and engagement between family and friends on Facebook. That means that personal posts will have priority over posts from business pages (though I’m guessing there will be one exception to that which I’ll address in a minute). Here are their exact words:
“We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values.”
And here is what Mark Zuckerberg said about their reasons for these changes:
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
Now, I actually don’t buy this at all and there is plenty of research that disagrees with what he is saying here. I also don’t yet understand how he and Facebook plan on forcing those of us who prefer not to engage or interact, to do just that. Where exactly is all of this new connecting going to come from that will in turn make us all so happy and healthy?
In respect to Facebook business pages, they are making it very clear that you will see your reach drop even more than you already have. And if you don’t currently get a lot of back and forth engagement between people on your posts, you will be dinged even more. Here’s what they said (highlights are mine):
“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.
As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
The ironic thing here is that since Facebook has been working hard for awhile now to dramatically decrease the organic reach on your business posts, in an attempt to get you to pay to boost them, you probably don’t get a lot of engagement anymore. And from now on, any time you post something and no-one sees it, and therefore no-one engages with it, it is going to hurt your reach even more. That’s what the Honors English kids would call a Catch-22. Lesson here – unless you have an amazing, super active audience or you’re going to pay Facebook to show your post to more people – don’t even bother posting.
When I first started helping businesses with their social media marketing Facebook was a great place for a business to connect with people on a more personal level and to offer up useful information to customers. This was especially important to the smaller businesses that I’ve worked with as it allowed them to maintain a small-town, close-knit community feel while also letting customers know what they were up to.
Things have obviously changed dramatically since those days. Facebook Marketing has turned into Facebook Advertising. And I think this update is only going to make that worse. Yes, your marketing efforts are probably going to suffer. But what really bothers me is that the personal experience is going to suffer even more. Of course, if it annoys people enough to get them off of Facebook a little more, I won’t complain.
Here’s how I think your Facebook experience is going to change:
1. More ads from businesses you don’t follow: You’ve decided, personally, to follow a business page for some reason or another. Maybe it’s a local restaurant and you like to see their daily specials, or a book store and you like seeing their book recommendations. Now, you aren’t going to see anything that those businesses post. Even though they are the ones you told Facebook you want to see. Instead, I predict that you will just see more ads from businesses you never wanted in your newsfeed to begin with. My guess is that whoever is willing to pay the most money is going to be given the prime spot in your feed. Note how there is no mention of ads anywhere in the announcement.
2. More political/controversial posts: With an emphasis being on posts (personal and business) that cause back and forth discussion and lots of engagement we are going to see even more controversial posts. You know, those posts that drive you crazy but suck you into the comments section anyway to see just how snarky everyone is going to be (or is that just me). An example here would be what I have already noticed happening with the Wall Street Journal. The only posts of theirs that I see in my newsfeed are the super-outrageous editorials. And that is because people get fired up and annoyed by them and comment like crazy. Pretty much the opposite of the posts I want in my feed.
When Facebook says that they will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people” I am curious to know what factors they are going to use to measure just how “meaningful” an interaction is. I’m not incredibly confident that they will get this right. Not to mention the fact that “meaningful” is completely subjective and different for everyone. Side note – where will my beloved baby goats in pajamas videos fit in on the meaningful scale (that I happen to only watch with the sound off. Apparently another no-no because it means I am not engaging appropriately)? They are pretty much the only thing on Facebook that brings me joy.
As I said, these are just my predictions. We don’t know what’s actually going to happen. Facebook could change their mind tomorrow if they want to. They could mean something totally different from what we all think they mean. What I do know is that as long as their business model is to make money through advertising (using the data that we all freely offer up to them every single day) and in order to accomplish that they need us to spend as much time as possible using their site (even though Zuckerberg claims that he doesn’t want that anymore), any change they make will not be better for us as people, individually and as a whole. And I definitely don’t see it “bringing people closer together”. But, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
If you want to read the full news story from Facebook about the changes it can be found here: [News Feed FYI: Bringing People Closer Together | Facebook Newsroom]