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How the New Facebook Algorithm Will Change News Feed for Marketers
Posted on August 22nd 2013
Over the next few weeks Facebook is planning on rolling out a few new updates to their news feed.
The social media giant is changing the algorithm that determines what stories appear at the top of a user’s news feed. To a normal user, this might be irrelevant, but to a marketer, this is an important change that could determine the best way to post on Facebook.
The idea of a Facebook news feed is to deliver content to a user that is both relevant and important to them.
But this is no easy task.
According to a recent Facebook blog post, “every time someone visits News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see.” There’s such a vast amount of potential stories users can view that many people simply lack the time to sift through them all.
Prior to the update, the News Feed functioned by churning out content specific to a user’s engagement. Facebook learned who users followed, who connected with, how they engaged with friends and what content they posted. The idea is relatively simple: by monitoring what people are liking on Facebook, the algorithm decided what to show more or less of. According to the blog, the previous algorithm allowed Facebook to “prioritize an average of 300 stories” a day.
The idea of the new update is to help users to see the stories they didn’t get a chance to see before: the hilarious status update lost amongst the pages and advertisements that pepper the feed and your cousin’s wedding photo that you never saw because you were getting too many updates on what level of Candy Crush your best friend has beaten. These were all lost in the old algorithm.
Facebook is fixing this problem by prioritizing popular posts that may get buried in a News Feed. The new algorithm creates a chance that a popular post will reappear near the top of a user’s News Feed. Early tests have already shown that the “change resulted in a 5 percent increase” likes, comments and shares for user content and around 8 percent for Pages content.
But what this update means for social media agencies and brands is what is particularly interesting. Facebook already offers a multitude of advertising methods from sidebar ads to full-fledged sponsored advertisements, and this update may lead to even more.
Facebook could offer a system where brands could pay to have their content shown multiple times on users’ feeds allowing content to stay fresher, longer, and avoid a burn out. On the other hand, there could be a more cost efficient strategy for marketers and brands with a well-established presence on the site. They might be alble to just produce more content with hopes of several stories gaining popularity and being shown multiple times on feeds.
The more cost effective method, however, might also have negative repercussions. Some Facebook users see advertisements on the site as a small annoyance and others as a helpful way to connect with what they like. The problem is if brands start to produce vast amounts of content, it may become overwhelming for standard users looking to simply connect with their friends. It could dissuade those users from liking certain pages that post a lot just so they appear more in a feed.
Aside from what method brands might prefer, the approach brands take towards producing content may also change. Brands can tailor content that they know will be part of the improved feed, such as posts that are created to spark heavy discussion amongst users. Content with an emphasis on creating engagement won’t burn out as quickly if its placement on a news feed is determined entirely from how much people are interacting with it.
We may see posts that create an enormous amount of discussion and stay relevant for months on end. Think about campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches. If content like that was able to take advantage of the improved News Feed, then we might still be seeing it at the top of our feeds every day.