At the beginning of this year, Facebook announced major changes to its news feed algorithms that will alter the future of the site’s experience for both users and brands. The changes ensure that posts from family and friends, sorted by their popularity, make it to the top of the news feed while advertisements, brand promotions and seemingly random content now feature much less prominently. Facebook made the decision to reprioritize content after acknowledging studies that prove the negative impact social media can have on people.
Facebook advertising is massively profitable and accounts for the majority of the site’s revenue. Before the change, users could expect to experience marketing from third-party organizations who pay large sums of money to be on your feed. Think of sites that post funny pictures and memes, sell clothing, or deliver articles about the world. Buzzfeed, Asos, and The New York Times are just some of the prominent characters. In 2017 alone, Facebook generated 39.94 billion U.S. dollars in ad revenues.
After the Change
By default, the new algorithm will scale back the presence of third-party advertisers and their engagement will be reduced. If you would like to see posts from your favorite brands and publishers, you still can! You now have to prioritize the pages and publishers you would like to see under the News Feed tab on Facebook. The new Snooze feature gives people the option to hide a person, page or group for 30 days, without having to permanently unfollow or unfriend them. Mark Zuckerburg stated that the change aims to “Prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people,” and to “Prioritize posts from friends and family over public content.”
Facebook is striving to promote greater authenticity and interpersonal relations, albeit through a digital medium. In a joint statement, David Ginsberg, Director of Research at Facebook and Moira Burke, Research Scientist stated, “We’ve made several changes to News Feed to provide more opportunities for meaningful interactions and reduce passive consumption of low-quality content — even if it decreases some of our engagement metrics in the short term. We demote things like clickbait headlines and false news, even though people often click on those links at a high rate. We optimize ranking so posts from the friends you care about most are more likely to appear at the top of your feed because that’s what people tell us in surveys that they want to see. Similarly, our ranking promotes posts that are personally informative. We also recently redesigned the comments feature to foster better conversations.”
Why Is Facebook Updating the News Feed?
Facebook invests in reviewing, conducting and driving social media research, which is starting to uncover what many can surmise– it’s not always good for you. Mobile phones are redefining social interactions. Psychologist Sherry Turkle asserts that mobile phones are making us “alone together.” Technology use suggests increases in teen depression, as psychologist Jean Twenge notes an increase in teen depression corresponding with technology use in her generational analyses of teens. These recent findings all lead to bad press for Facebook. As one of the top social media platforms, it is largely considered a guilty party driving these negative trends.
Facebook is the first of its kind to stand at such an intersection of changing social interactions and big business. While the company is beholden to powerful stakeholders, it is simultaneously shaping the way the world interacts. There is a lot of responsibility on the company from a lot of angles, forcing the company to be incredibly self-aware.
What Does This Mean for Advertising?
Chris Larkin, Director of Online Advertising for Arcalea states that “How this impacts advertisers remains to be seen. The advertising formats (placements) and styles (content types) have not changed so far. Costs for our brands have not gone up (some appear to have decreased over the last 90 days). Marketing companies are taking a wait-and-see approach before making any changes or planning around any proposals from Facebook.”
Going forward, it is interesting to consider how Facebook is supposedly prioritizing social interactions over obvious business profit. What does this say about the company and the future of the social media business? Will this change have a significant impact on Facebook’s business and advertising interface? Time will tell.
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