Facebook Puts Friends and Family First

How often do you really need to see status updates from Aunt Brenda, though?
How often do you really need to see status updates from Aunt Brenda, though?

This summer, following media attention about its lack of transparency with its trending topics, Facebook released further information about how it controls our News Feeds.

The report provided some interesting insights, but featured one particular change that’s important for marketers to know: Facebook has once again been posting content from our family and friends ahead of promoted content.

The “News Feed Values” document emphasized several key points, like that it intends to inform and entertain, that you should have greater control over what you see, and that communication should win out over ads. But first and foremost, that content is listed with photos and anecdotes from your family and friends coming up at the top of your screen. (As always, in accordance with those you interact with the most, of course.)

Not everyone will share the same ideas of what’s entertaining or informative, and computer models can’t predict structures that make sense for all users. Facebook has always relied on your own feedback and behaviors to try and cater the experience to your expectations and desires.

Although it’s obvious that people don’t enjoy seeing, for example, disingenuous or inflammatory posts, one other tidbit came through: Between informing and entertaining, Facebook seems to veer slightly more toward the former — with the caveat that recipes and celebrity news and the like are still, technically, information.

But the point is that people want to know real things, things that they can talk about later or share with one another in the moment, not just momentarily distracting fluff that’s enjoyable while you’re on hold and forgotten by the end of your phone call.

What Does It Mean for Marketers?

Firstly, if you have a branded Facebook page or post a lot of content that relies on reshares and views, you could find yourself struggling in the near future. It’s likely that your overall reach is about to decline as fewer eyes see your posts. In the short-term, there’s a potential downside.

But it’s also potentially a good thing. Because Facebook’s theory is that if it continues to prioritize user experience and contentment over monetization and investors or advertisers, then people are going to be happy using the free social media tool. And the huge amount of diverse audiences that Facebook reaches is exactly what makes it attractive to those people in the first place. That’s why you want to advertise there. So it’s definitely a matter of striking a balance for everyone’s good.

And, ideally, when people do scroll down and find your content, and share it, those interactions are more authentic and contribute more meaningfully to your connections with your audience than a more dollar-driven algorithm.

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