The Titanic didn’t change directions easily. It changed directions almost reluctantly, because A) it was an ordeal to maneuver such a large vessel, and B) the staff didn’t want to cause concern among the wealthy elites on board (and I don’t have to tell you how that worked out; James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster probably handled that already). This example is an apt metaphor about how surging ahead blindly in a straight line, without planning far ahead for directional changes, can be the downfall of a large organization. In a recent statement from its founder, Facebook essentially said they’re changing directions, and they aim to avoid such a fate. Here’s what you can expect from recent Facebook newsfeed changes…
Time Well Spent
Facebook will often casually roll out cosmetic changes, to the mild and temporary frustration of users, but typically does not make major changes to the framework. So why the announcement? In keeping with the Titanic example, they must be observing something the rest of us can’t see – a distant iceberg that can be avoided in the future by acting now. Opinions on this bit of news vary. To the average user, the promise of improving the user experience sounds good. Speculation from some is that Facebook has observed a concerning trend of certain demographics dropping off in their time spent on the platform, and therefore they feel the pressure to, as Zuckerberg puts it, “making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.” In other words, cater the experience to users, not to advertisers. Therefore, it raises questions for advertisers. Zuckerberg’s comments could imply that advertising will have less of a presence, and hinder the ability of companies to find and engage their customers effectively. But would Facebook really choose to scare off their investors if it was that simple?
For the average Facebook user, the idea behind this is simple; that users will see more of what they actually care about, which to some people implies less ads. Some people have assumed that it means, for example, instead of every 5th post being an ad, it will be every 7th slot, thus decreasing the total ads you are exposed to as you browse. But this is not the case. What Facebook is trying to avoid is the frustration some users feel when they view their newsfeed and see a bunch of posts that they care little about. We’ve all had the puzzling experience where we see things in our newsfeed such as: a friend you barely know liked an article from a business that you don’t care about that was posted by some other friend of theirs who you don’t know at all. That feeling of “I don’t care about this” is exactly what every digital content platform wants to avoid for their users.
Interaction is the New Engagement
Facebook has several ongoing measures to combat this type of negative user experience, such as the ability to un-follow people while remaining accessible as contacts, the option to “see less” of particular types of posts, and the ability to choose which of your friends whose posts you’d like to prioritize. All of these tools have been deployed because Facebook wants you to enjoy, and find value in, browsing their product. If you enjoy it less, obviously you’ll use it less, right? These tools are great ideas, and they are accessible as consumer-facing features. However, Facebook’s major update in question has more to do with the back end; the algorithm which determines what to show you without your direct input.
Speaking to our partner support reps at Facebook, our first question was whether this update could entail a decrease in available ad real estate (inventory, as they call it). The answer is that the opposite is actually true. Between newsfeed, right column, messenger, audience network, etc, plus a steady increase in total users, there is no shortage of ad placements available. What is more affected is the potential reach of organic posts, particularly those of businesses. Things like comments and shares on a post are going to be weighted more heavily than simple reactions (such as likes, or the other array of emotions available at the push of a button).
Strathcom Can Help
To reiterate these Facebook newsfeed changes: ads will still be shown. From an advertising perspective, this update is not a reason for concern. It is, however, a reminder of the importance of organized, regularly maintained, strategic, managed advertising campaigns. The best Facebook business pages have outstanding organic content, plus a healthy advertising strategy attacking multiple levels of the marketing funnel. Relying simply on organic posts will be less and less effective as Facebook endeavors to show its users more of the organic posts that they want to see and interact with, not just the organic posts that businesses want them to see. If you are of the belief that your business’s organic posts have sufficed so far, and you don’t see the need for an advertising plan, let’s just say you may not have noticed the iceberg damaging your Titanic, but don’t be surprised when you start to take on water and your Facebook traffic sinks.
Inquire about these recent Facebook newsfeed changes or about an online advertising package with Strathcom, and while we can’t literally make you “the king of the world”, we can at least keep your online presence afloat.
If you haven’t read it already, here is Mark Zuckerberg himself explaining the genesis of this change and the theory behind it.