Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last week the social networking giant will be prioritizing posts from friends and family that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people” over content from brands and media companies in users’ News Feeds. The company is hoping that putting the posts, videos and photos shared by friends and family that have spurred lively debates in the comments first will help people spend time on Facebook in what it thinks is a more meaningful way.
Facebook Major Overhaul to the News Feed
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us,” Zuckerberg explained Thursday in a Facebook post announcing the reason behind the change to the News Feed. “That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience… But recently 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.”
This move to overhaul the News Feed, which displays a computer-curated selection of posts from other users and Facebook pages, and raise posts from people you know to the top aims to correct the perceived imbalance between public content and personal moments on Facebook. It comes as the company tries to quiet some of the criticism it has received in the past years that using the site has become hazardous to people, leading to bad mood and decreased sense of well-being.
Facebook itself admitted in December that passive consumption of information — reading news articles like this one or surfing ecommerce websites — is often bad for your mood. The social media giant cited a 2015 paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that showed passive usage of the site, even for just 10 minutes a day, had a negative effect on students’ sense of well-being. The News Feed update, which will reportedly roll out gradually over the next few weeks, seeks to reverse this negative effect and make the site not "just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being.”
“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent,” Zuckerberg said, adding he expects time spent on the site and some measures of engagement will go down with the change. "But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable," he noted.
Now What for Brands and Publishers?
It’s already difficult for publishers, marketers and businesses to gain visibility in the News Feed. Sadly, with Facebook shifting focus from helping users find relevant content to helping them have more meaningful social interactions, websites that post funny memes and pictures, motivational quotes and videos, news articles, sell items like coaching programs, or deliver blog posts about varied topics may now have the visibility of their posts scaled back even further under the new arrangement.
“As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease," Adam Mosser, Facebook’s head of its News Feed team, wrote on the company’s newsroom blog. “The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
If you primarily use Facebook to distribute your videos, blog posts or articles online, and to drive traffic and revenue to your website, it may be time to rethink your strategy and reduce your reliance on Facebook. Posts that publishers don’t pay to have inserted into people’s News Feeds will find Facebook a less accommodating environment than before as it de-emphasizes public content on its service.
“Using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.,” Mosser also said.
Facebook users who still want to see posts from their favorite brands and trusted publishers, however, will still be able to do so. The News Feed will be customizable. Options under the News Feed tab will allow users to prioritize the pages (and friends) whose posts they are most interested in.