Facebook recently announced that it will be giving its newsfeed algorithm a bit of a “face lift” over the next few weeks, both to the excitement and chagrin of most social media marketers. Much like other Internet giants (i.e. Google), Facebook is trying to place a greater emphasis on high quality content while eliminating junk or spam content on the site (who isn’t tired of seeing Candy Crush Saga game updates from their friends?). While this works to the benefit of your average Facebook user, social marketers aren’t too sure how they feel about the upcoming changes over the next few weeks.
The changes have been based on user feedback, and Facebook announced:
We used the results of this survey to build a new machine learning system to detect content defined as high quality. The system uses over a thousand different factors, such as how frequently content from a certain Page is reported as low quality (e.g., hiding a Page post), how complete the Page profile is, and whether the fan base for a particular Page overlaps with the fan base of other known high quality Pages. Coming up with an algorithm to detect this is complex, and we will continue to refine it as we get more feedback.
Out With The Old
Prior to the new News Feed algorithm, a user’s News Feed displays content based on a variety of factors, such as:
- Who a user followed
- Who a user engaged with
- How a user engaged on the site
- What type of content they’d post
Facebook then shows content on a user’s News Feed based on the assumption that because a user likes “x” that they’d also probably like “y” and ‘z”, too.
A Revamped News Feed
According to Facebook, its new system will be taking more than a thousand factors into account when trying to best determine what should and should not appear on a user’s News Feed. Some new factors include:
- How often content from a particular Page is hidden
- How complete a Page’s Facebook profile is
- Whether or not the fan base of one page overlaps with that of another higher quality Page
Facebook estimates that it may be able to prioritize up to 1500 stories from friends, followers, and Pages once this new algorithm fully rolls out (this is 5x higher than the site’s current algorithm). They’ll now be prioritizing the most popular posts on a user’s News Feed, so these will stay at the top of a News Feed for a longer period of time. This is particularly important for marketers, as some pros have estimated that the lifespan of an average Facebook post is only 30 minutes long.
It is with this development in mind that I have for many months been recommending that my clients, when requesting articles and blog posts for their websites (to which they then link from Facebook posts), to also have me do a human rewrite as well (not digitally respun). They are then able to add the full rewrite to their Facebook pages perhaps a week after posting the link to the original article. From the rewrite they can then link to another page on their websites (obviously not the original article!). This is giving both Facebook and Google what they want – original and relevant content.
The Potential Improvements And Problems
How this new algorithm will affect social marketers is speculative at this point. Social savvy marketers who already support pages with top notch engaging content will certainly benefit from the new roll out, as this algorithm change has the potential to keep their stories at the top for long and at no additional cost. Marketers will also be able to find out almost immediately whether or not a post is “working”, and make adjustments to that content to best optimize it. Many suspect that this new rollout will add even more advertising methods to Facebook’s already vast advertising options, such as giving marketers the opportunity to pay to have have their content stay fresher for a longer period of time.
This rollout isn’t without its foreseeable drawbacks, however. If you’re constantly churning out high quality content, then users may become overwhelmed by constantly seeing your company’s content at the top of their feed. This may result in less interactions (i.e. likes, shares, comments), or may even result in a user disliking your page all together – just to get you and your content out of their face. As with most things online, don’t overdo any one strategy. Just because you have a team that can write in quantity, doesn’t mean you should publish in quantity in any one medium.
How can social media marketers prepare for this change?
It’s hard to say. With these upcoming changes, it’s important to continually test to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Take some risks and measure your success. By publishing real content instead of just links on your page, you may be surprised by just how quickly this algorithm change will increase both your fan engagement and your lead count.