Facebook announces changes to the news feed algorithm

Shocking brands and publishers before we’ve even got through the first month of 2018, Facebook announces the news feed algorithm is changing.

In the coming year, we will start to see less content from brand pages, and more posts from friends and family.

So why change, Facebook?

Facebook launched in 2006 to ‘help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us.’

Since it launched, connecting people with people, we’ve seen Facebook grow and evolve into a platform that predominantly shares content from brands and the media.

Despite this, feedback shared in their community has revealed that people see content from media, brands and businesses as ‘crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

Over time, cat videos, memes, brand competitions and even fake news have taken priority on the news feed, drowning out meaningful updates from the connections closest to us; our friends, family and social groups.

Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users, so in a bid to keep them happy and make time on the platform ‘well spent’, the social network has decided that enough is enough for brands and the media.

So how will the new Facebook algorithm work?

For content (or posts, as we best know them) to take priority, the social network considers how many people engage with a post. This could range from whether a user has commented, reacted or shared a piece of content.

“we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”

So, for example if 30 people have engaged by commenting on a post, this will determine how high up the post appears in your news feed.

we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.” Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed

So the next time you log into the app, take a moment to check what’s showing in your news feed. Is the post trying to spark a reaction? What action does that post want you to take?

The changes are also to discourage engagement bait. This is when a post features a call to action to encourage the user to click on the post to ramp up engagement, or to encourage you to click through to a webpage to increase traffic.

This update means we’ll also see less posts asking us to ‘like if you agree’. We’ll also see less content using a call to action to comment, such as ‘tag a friend if you know someone like this’ as it won’t be considered ‘meaningful’ engagement.

To stop news feeds looking ‘spammy’ and so people and pages can’t abuse the algorithm, Facebook will monitor content and demote any posts that use this tactic.

As posts take priority from friends and family to encourage genuine engagement and conversation, Facebook has warned that brands should initially expect to see less reach, watch time and referral traffic decrease.

So what does this mean for the future of brands and pages on Facebook?

Brand affinity is key

If engagement is key to ensure your content remains at the top of the news feed, brands must be on top of their game, sharing relative, inspiring and emotive content, giving fans a reason to respond and to start a conversation.

Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

The change will encourage brands, media and businesses to really think about what they want to say and how they’re going to say it. It’s more important than ever to connect with your customers and nurture them with the right messaging because if you’re not staying apace with how your online target audiences are behaving, you risk losing them to competitors that are.

Social media is a fantastic distribution tool for content, and with browse time higher on mobile, it’s worth checking if your site is optimised to display smoothly on smartphones.

If a user can read your content well on mobile, they’re more likely to share and discuss this with friends with similar interests, who are also likely to share with their connections…

Comments are more valuable than Likes. Meaning content that inspires comments, specifically, long comments which actually take time and thought to type out will be a positive ranking signal for the algorithm which will lead to increased distribution of the content which sparked the lengthy response. Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed

Facebook is also offering users more control over content in their news feed, by introducing a ‘See First’ option in preferences, so users can also prioritise posts from the brands they care about most.

So if a person really cares about your brand and feels your brand values stay close to their own, they’re more likely commit to your business and actively keep up-to-date with your content.

What can brands do now to prepare for facebook’s news feed change?

Now is a great time for brands to consider running a social and content audit, so you can assess how social media is working for your business, check that your content is still on brand, and discover more about your target audience and what mediums they prefer to engage with.

Checking over your content can help weed out posts where the key messaging is weak and the quality needs improving. It’s also worth highlighting content that performed well, so you can write more with a similar standard.

By understanding your users and the journey they take from enquiry to purchase, you can target particular keywords to intercept them along the way. By positioning your brand in this way, you’re building brand awareness and trust. It’s then up to your content to drive home the value of your services.

With these insights to hand, a deeper understanding of your audience will help form a strategy to strengthen your brand message and drive more users to engage. More traffic referrals = more potential customers to convert.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What’s your tone of voice?
  • Does your content tell a story?
  • Does it align with your brand values?
  • Is your content relevant for your fans?
  • Why would someone engage with and share your content?
  • Are you utilising your content effectively for Facebook?
  • What do you want to gain from using social media?

If you would like help with your marketing strategy, get in touch with our team who are happy to discuss how we can support your brand.

Written by Hollie Hines

Content & Social Media Specialist

Follow Hollie on Twitter