Facebook’s newsfeed update… what does it mean?

On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dropped a bit of a bombshell. The newsfeed is changing in a big way. Content created by brands and publishers will now be shown less, while content from your friends and family will take priority within the Facebook newsfeed. The idea is to make the time you spend on Facebook ‘valuable’, rather than the ‘passive experience’ that reading news stories and watching videos can be. So why take this decision now and how will it affect the brands and publishers who’ve been relying on Facebook for web traffic and building relationships with new audiences for the past few years?

A response to fake news

Facebook had a rough 2017. It was constantly under fire for its role in the fake news epidemic that had an impact on several important political events in 2016. This new update is, in part, Facebook’s way of rectifying the ‘fake news’ problem they’ve had on their platform. By tweaking the algorithm to ensure news articles aren’t shown in the newsfeed as much, it makes it much harder for dishonest news stories to reach a large number of people.

News publishers to take a hit

Unfortunately, legitimate publishers, especially of news, rely on Facebook for a lot of their traffic and this update is going to affect them. In the short term, publishers only really have two options once the update is rolled out: increase their paid budget for Facebook or focus on other channels to share their news. Longer term, things may change; Facebook may decide to cater to news publishers a bit more again, however, with a main part of this update focusing on people’s well-being and making the newsfeed more positive, Facebook may not change this until current events look a bit brighter.

The comment is the new share

More often than not, brands and especially publishers have valued shares over reactions and comments on Facebook, mainly because a large number of shares can lead to a piece of content going viral and so driving an exponential growth in reach and awareness. Once this update has been rolled out, a lot of brands and publishers are going to have to change their priorities.

The update is going to favour ‘person-to-person interaction’, basically people having a back and forth conversation on a post. In order to get good levels of engagement, brands are now going to have to make sure this type of interaction happens on their posts: getting fifty likes and a few shares on a post may not matter now, what will matter is constantly encouraging conversation amongst an engaged audience.

Creating engaging content just got even more important

As posts from friends and family are now going to be given greater priority within the newsfeed, brands and publishers can no longer just rely on a regular churning out of content. Space in the newsfeed will be at a premium for all brands, so only the best and most engaging posts will achieve a large organic reach. Brands will have to think about what content themes best resonate with their audience, they will have to consider experimenting with different content types, and maybe look into a strategy that involves live video, which the new update is set to favour. 

It’s time to start spending

Of course, there is a sure-fire way to ensure your content is still reaching a large audience: boost your posts. In some cases, just 3% of a Facebook page’s audience sees the content it produces, and that’s the case even before the new update is rolled out. This means that many brands who still don’t have a paid strategy on Facebook will now have to bite the bullet and implement one. Luckily for advertisers of restricted means, even a modest budget can have a sizeable impact on a post’s potential audience.

“Brands and agencies will now have to use Facebook as a pure pay to play channel, with a robust approach to planning and audience buying and not just a catch all broadcast channel” said Nick Beckingham, Head of Social and New Media.

He added “At S&T we have always treated Facebook as a performance channel, in which we focus on using the right objectives to reach our desired audiences, and deliver tangible results that meet our client’s business needs”

Facebook’s going back to basics

In some ways this update is taking Facebook back to its roots, to a time when millions and millions of posts about people’s daily lives made it the huge platform it is today. This change has already cost Facebook (quite literally) but in the long term it should be positive for them. For brands and publishers who create good-quality, engaging content that encourages conversation, this update could be great. However, brands and publishers who fail to do this may well be penalised.