What’s happening?

Facebook is making a number of changes to the News Feed with the intention of bringing users closer together. Over the next few months, the platform will be making updates to the News Feed ranking system to showcase posts from friends and families over brands, with the intention of creating more opportunities for “meaningful interactions.”

Mark Zuckerberg outlined the update in a recent post.

The algorithm will now use signals, such as how many people react to or share posts, to determine their priority in the News Feed. Posts that drive conversations and “meaningful interactions” will be bumped up in rankings.

Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri explains, “These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion.” To clarify, this is not the same as the recent tests in which all Page content was moved to an Explore Tab.

In a recent interview, Mosseri also noted, “There will be less video. Video is an important part of the ecosystem. It’s been consistently growing. But it’s more passive in nature. There’s less conversation on videos, particularly public videos.” Facebook’s shift away from video, in particular, is a massive departure from previous announcements that they would be bringing video to the forefront of the platform experience, which resulted in many brands pivoting to video content (see F8 2017: The Future of Video on Facebook).

Long story short, public posts, including videos and other posts from brands or publishers, will be deprioritized in favor of posts from friends and family (a nod to their News Feed Values from 2016).

 

What does this mean for brands?

If you’re scratching your head, holding back expletives, and buying your paid media strategist ice cream, then you’ve understood the update correctly.

Brands may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease, and, oppositely, an increase in costs. When asked about the update’s impact on paid advertising, our Analytics Strategist, Julia Schroeder said, “I forecast that the advertising cost spikes we saw on Twitter a few years ago will be replicated across Facebook & Instagram in 2018-2019.”

In fact, we’ve already seen quarter over quarter growth in cost metrics. The Nanigan’s Q3 2017 Facebook Advertising Benchmark Report put the benchmark Click Through Rate (CTR) to 1.76%, Cost Per Click (CPC) to $0.62, and Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM) to $10.94. For comparison, the 2016 benchmarks set the CTR to 0.90%, CPC to $1.72, and CPM to $6.33. Below you can see the changes from Q2 to Q3 2017 by geographic market.

Nanigan's Q3 2017 FB Advertising Benchmark report
Credit: Nanigan’s Q3 2017 Facebook Advertising Benchmark Report

 

Moreover, Zuck notes that this this change may lead to users spending less time on the platform (i.e. even fewer opportunities to capture consumer’s attention in the News Feed).

This trend seems to be happening regardless as eMarketer’s 2018 Social Media Effectiveness Roundup notes, “Facebook penetration in the US is nearing saturation, so growth in time spent on the platform is slowing, having risen just 1 minute in 2017.” Really makes you wonder if this is preemptive change to explain the drop in engagement rather than to respond to it….I digress.

Even so, Facebook will likely still be an important piece of brand’s social strategies. In fact, a recent study found that Facebook is most likely to inspire a purchase decision compared to Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat.

It’s too soon to say how this will fully impact pages, but brands will likely need to adjust paid, content, and creative strategies to adapt to this News Feed update. More than ever, brands should focus on producing quality and engaging content, testing creative and copy, making real-time optimizations, and listening to post-campaign reporting. Additionally, brands should bolster their community management strategies to connect directly with consumers and drive meaningful engagement on their pages. Knowing that content that drives conversations will be prioritized, you may also consider including more copy that engages your audience, such as questions or polls. (Beware of engagement bait.)

For many brands, this update will not greatly affect their “pay to play” strategies, whereas publishers who rely heavily on organic traffic have reason for concern. Although the full extent of this update is to be seen, BuzzFeed isn’t leaving anything to chance and bought pointed ads on Friday directing fans to download their app.

Buzzfeed Image Asset
Credit: BuzzFeed

 

How are you adjusting your content strategies in response to this update? Let me know @anastaciadarby!