Navigating Facebook’s Latest Updates

By now, every marketer who utilizes social media as a component of their brand strategy is aware that this vehicle for consumer interaction is constantly changing and evolving. While nearly every platform – from Twitter and Instagram to YouTube – has integrated user updates at some point, no other social channel compares to Facebook when it comes to frequency of system-wide format and function changes.

Facebook today looks very different from Facebook a couple of years ago with the addition of Timeline in 2013 and the new page designs it rolled out this past June. Its teams are constantly refining designs and retooling algorithms as they gather an increasingly large amount of information about Facebook users and work to streamline functionality. The more Facebook knows about a specific user’s likes, dislikes, interests and habits, the better it can customize content based on that data.

For brands using the platform as a consumer engagement tool, now is as good a time as ever to take a thorough look at their current Facebook content creation strategies to ensure maximum fan engagement. Specifically, Facebook’s recent updates to the News Feed have significantly altered the platform’s overall look and, perhaps most importantly for marketers, the way content is presented and delivered to its more than one billion users worldwide.

A Guide to Facebook’s News Feed Changes

While the average Facebook user has approximately 1,500 possible stories filtered through his or her network each day, only 20 percent actually make it to the News Feed. Here are a few of the recent redesign and algorithm updates that are impacting how users see, and interact with, those stories:

Focus on Photo and Video

As social media in general becomes more and more visual in nature, it is no surprise that Facebook has followed suit with updates to photo and video features. Now, photos included in posts span the entire width of the News Feed, lending more prominence to brands that include more image-heavy content. While incorporating imagery into posts is certainly nothing new for most brands, the creative ante has been upped and they must focus on utilizing photos that will stand out from the often-ample competition in the feed.

As user-generated videos have increased in popularity in the past year thanks to sites like Vine and Instagram, Facebook has also integrated an auto-play video feature on both mobile and web versions of the site. These videos play automatically as a user scrolls through the News Feed and sound is only activated if a user clicks on the video. Shared videos from third-party sites, such as YouTube, are not included in this update, as only videos that are uploaded directly to Facebook have the auto-play functionality. In March 2014, Facebook began to roll out auto-play video ads among a small selection of brands, as well, giving them the opportunity to run 15-second ads that play automatically in the News Feed.

Linking Brands to Increase Views

In a move that offers brands the potential to expand their reach, Facebook has updated its algorithm to allow marketers to tag a separate brand or celebrity page in a post, enabling fans of both pages to see the post. This feature has long been operational for personal pages, however, this is the first time Facebook is allowing brands the option, giving them the opportunity to quickly increase reach through a single post.

High Quality Content Gets Resurfaced

In an effort to compete with Twitter as a destination for users to access breaking news, Facebook is also giving more weight to posts that highlight news and current events in the News Feed. Users should expect to not only see more of this type of content, but also to potentially see it more than once, as the algorithm changes will cause news stories to pop up in the feed even if they have already been read by the user. This is Facebook’s way to ensure users are given access to new comments from friends that may have engaged with the posts in the time since it first appeared in the feed.

Low Quality Content Gets Demoted

Facebook recently announced a series of improvements to weed out “spammy” stories in the News Feed, particularly from brand pages that are using sneaky tactics in an attempt to increase engagement. According to Facebook for Business, the social network is targeting three general types of spam.

1. Like-bait: The term “like-baiting” is used to describe a post that explicitly asks fans to ‘like,’ comment or share it with the goal of increasing engagement. Facebook made an algorithm change to better detect these posts and ensure they are not shown more prominently in the News Feed than high quality content.
2. Irrelevant links: Facebook can now identify posts that include links directing users to content that doesn’t meet their expectations. Facebook identifies these irrelevant links by monitoring how frequently users who click a link choose to engage with the original post by liking or sharing it.
3. Duplicate content: Facebook is de-emphasizing particular pages that publish the same content over and over again. This change does not affect content shared organically by users.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, Facebook is making a concerted effort to ensure that each user’s News Feed delivers the right content to them in a timely fashion. They have also significantly cracked down on those who intentionally create spam, but will award brands that publish relevant content. To ensure that your brand page continues to garner traffic and engagement, it’s important to develop a publishing strategy that features original, valuable, visual and interesting content for your target audience.