The recently-announced changes at Facebook relating to how we see content in the News Feed - and later throughout all Facebook products - have been coming for a while. They’ve had to, since Facebook has had a problem that it’s been aware of for some time… declining user engagement.
“We've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other” - Mark Zuckerberg
The Facebook changes will see less ‘public content’ in the newsfeed, potentially good news for users, bad news for businesses & publishers. Of that content that will still be more visible from these pages, it’s those with high engagement rates that are driving conversation that will be given preference. Facebook has said however that promoted content will remain untouched, therefore driving more business to spend to get their message out.
The decision makers at Facebook are smart. Very smart. And unlike Twitter, as soon as they’ve realised they were having a ‘fire hose of information’ problem, they’ve done something about it.
It’s a brave move to tell shareholders you’re expecting users to spend less time on your platform due to the changes you’re making, but there’s a key takeaway here on how to run a business… always think long term, even if it hurts in the short term. Mark Zuckerberg has made unpopular decisions before and pretty much every time, he’s been right. He always thinks long term and it’s why he is where he is today.
In the battle against fake news that has dogged 2016/17, it’s hard to see how these changes will help, since content that generates lots of comments and opinions between users is prioritised. Nothing gets the keyboard warriors going more than a juicy news story that isn’t restricted by having to be truthful, but time will tell on that front.
Zuckerberg knows that if people continue to get bombarded with information the way they are on Twitter, they will slowly but surely leave the platform. This is why these changes are needed. And while it will certainly hurt advertisers, we’ll face bigger problems in the medium to long term if there are fewer users to engage with.
“I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions” – Mark Zuckerberg
Now, will it really hurt in the short term? Likely, but not as much as you’d think.
Facebook generates revenue from the advertising platform that it created on the back of the most detailed user data in the history of advertising. Those that use this platform are the ‘Pages’ - businesses, publishers and public figures who want to get their content in front of the right people through targeting.
If Facebook is reducing the number of posts that we will see from these Pages organically - only showing the public the most engaged with content - then two things will happen:
- The cost to advertise will likely increase as more ‘public’ content will require ad spend behind it in order for it to reach the same objectives. More advertisers willing to pay equals a higher price in the market.
- Creative will become increasingly important. The days of daily posting for the sake of it will be gone, and you’ll need to think more carefully about the content you’re creating so the Facebook algorithm doesn’t punish your page.
Create better content or it won’t get seen organically. And if you insist on publishing it and relentlessly boosting it anyway, then it’s going to cost you more. So why not invest that difference in smarter creative that gets people engaged?
Live content was specifically mentioned, it currently receives six times the engagement rate of normal video - a pretty clear indicator that ‘Live’ (not just ‘video’) needs to be part of your content strategy in 2018.
There’s a final lesson from all of this… If you’re building a brand, it’s smart to be present where your users already are. But since you’re only ‘renting’ space on these platforms, with no control when changes like these are made, you must make every effort to create your own communities on your own platforms. Whether it’s website, blog or app based, think about where you can leverage more control over your future.