101 – How Facebook’s latest algorithm changes will impact marketers
Facebook has announced two News Feed algorithm updates aimed at keeping users engaged and active by offering even more relevant and personalised experiences. In the past, the platform has been criticised for hiding important updates to its News Feed algorithm, and failing to keep people in the loop on key events within their social circles. Having been open about the recent updates, it is aiming for greater transparency. But what does this mean for marketers?
Update 1: Prioritising posts from friends
This change focuses on putting more emphasis on posts from your closest friends. The platform has historically predicted who people might want to hear from based on signals like how often they interact with a given friend, how many mutual friends they have and whether they mark someone as a close friend. The latest update means that users are more likely to see posts from those they have close relationships with higher up in their News Feeds.
As explained by Facebook:
“We’ve [recently] begun surveying people on Facebook to ask them to list the friends they are closest to. We look at the patterns that emerge from these results, some of which include being tagged in the same photos, continuously reacting and commenting on the same posts and checking-in at the same places. We then use these patterns to inform our algorithm.” The algorithm will be continuously updated, based on interactions people have with their friends, as well as ongoing surveys of users.
It emphasised that this doesn’t mean New Feeds will be limited to posts from only certain people – and that they will not necessarily see more ‘friend’ content. The inclusion of this statement appears to be an effort to debunk a myth circulating on the platform, and perpetuated by duplicate posts, that Facebook “chooses who reads your post” and limits this to a pool of 25 users:
Update 2: Demoting low quality posts
In April, Facebook published the results of a user survey in which it collected feedback about what users do and don’t like seeing on Facebook and announced it would make changes to its News Feed algorithm in response. These changes included:
- Reducing low-quality content such as clickbait, engagement bait, and web pages with little substance and disruptive ads. We will continue this work in many ways — in some cases it will take direct action against new types of content that people flag up, such as web pages that have broken links, load slowly, or are otherwise difficult to use.
- Creating more personalised experiences by demoting posts and links which users have said are not “worth their time”.
- Showing comments that add the most value by reducing bullying and offensive comments and “exploring ways to understand and promote the best comments”.
In its latest update, Facebook said it was beginning to “combine these factors with information we have about the post, including the type of post, who it’s from and the engagement it’s received, to more accurately predict whether people are likely to find a link valuable”.
Is Facebook limiting reach?
The quick answer is: yes, it will reduce reach – but this is not the direct intention of the algorithm updates.
And the issue of quality should come as no big surprise to marketers.
Anyone involved in SEO will be necessarily familiar with the concept of producing relevant, useful and high-quality content to engage with their audience and stay on the right side of Google’s ranking algorithm for search results pages (SERPs).
As well as raising brand awareness, building trust and credibility for your brand and creating connections with customers, the quality and relevance of your content is a major influencing factor for SEO.
The brands that rank highly in search engines results are those that provide potential customers with original, actionable advice on topics their potential customers are interested in or tips on how to address the challenges they’re likely to face. Examples are blog posts providing useful advice, downloadable eBooks, how-to videos or infographics.
Which leads us to priority number one for Facebook marketers…
Keep publishing and sharing good content
… or face dwindling reach and the possibility of even harsher penalties on the platform. We would hope that you’re doing this anyway.
Facebook has explicitly stated it will:
- Crack down on unoriginality, ie, content that is repurposed from third party sources without adding material value.
- Double down on penalties for repeat offenders. Publishers that repeatedly post content that triggers Facebook’s quality demotions may face stricter demotions for a set period of time to prompt faster, more comprehensive action.
It underlines the importance of avoiding clickbait, and ensuring that you publish relevant, valuable content, with titles that match what’s on offer in your related links.
Social Media Today‘s Andrew Hutchinson makes the point that: “… lessening the flow of spam, and the sharing of junk links, could help improve your opportunities to reach more people with your posts, as there’ll be more space for other content”.
For businesses who rely mainly, or exclusively, on Facebook could be in-line for the most impact – especially those that rely on engagement metrics such as shares, reactions and comments, but who publish thin content.
Whatever your approach, if you do see significant drops in reach in your analytics, it may be time to re-assess your strategy.
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