Changes to the Facebook News Feed – What does it all mean?

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced proposed changes to the Facebook News Feed where the company will begin prioritising posts shared by friends and family over those shared by publishers. Zuckerberg is seeking to move from “helping you find relevant content” to “have more meaningful interactions”.

This will ultimately prove to be the final nail in the coffin of organic reach, with brands having to shift their strategies entirely to paid.

Facebook believes prioritising content that a user interacts with will reduce the amount of fake content in the news feed. Posts that resonate and urge engagement, such as comments, shares, and reactions, will be prioritised over posts that are scrolled past instantly. Researchers have found when people are actively commenting on posts, they tend to feel better about using social networks, and feel better about themselves in general.

A common theme throughout 2017 was influencers and what weight they can add to a campaign. While Zuckerberg’s announcement may have struck fear into day-to-day media planners and owners, connecting with influencers who have a growing audience they know how to engage with may be seen as a premium to certain brands. It will be interesting to see what happens when Facebook clarifies its stance on influencers, and whether the algorithm measures the amount of influencer posts that contain brands in the same way as media companies and businesses.

So, how will this affect advertisers, brands and media owners?

The proposed changes mean there will be far more emphasis on agencies and creative agencies alike to go deeper into the campaign execution, optimisation and reporting on various metrics. This announcement has raised alarm and confusion among those within the media industry as to how this will affect future planning. Since the announcement was made, we have been liaising with media owners to get their perspective as to how this will affect their campaigns going forward – particularly those that rely heavily on their social following to amplify their content. With the ambiguity around the announcement, unsurprisingly there is no one train of thought as to how this will impact.

One common response is they are entering an exploratory phase both editorially and commercially, and for the foreseeable future they will have to analyse and react according to results across campaigns. Supply for inventory is likely to be lower, and therefore the demand will drive CPC much higher than what they are buying now.

Interesting to see from a user perspective, our target audience, that there is little awareness about the change. As it’s too early to tell, this response to the Journal Poll on the subject gave us some interesting results!

Journal.ie Poll Response – 2nd February 2018

And what are we doing about it?

From our viewpoint, it is imperative to have all our Facebook reporting in a good place. Comparing and contrasting campaign performance and times of year is going to give us a clear picture as to how our metrics are affected, with a particular focus on reach and costs. Knowing this will enable us to have a more emphasised input into creative executions as we know what formats will work and when.

Overall it seems people are content with the proposed changes. Gone are the days where we have to scroll past 5 videos of people jumping through tables to get to any meaningful content, and instead it will be replaced by items that actually have meaning to us. From a brand, agency and media owner position, this is something we are going to have to keep a sharp eye on in the near term but, with the right strategies, creative and executions in place, we should be well placed to roll with these anticipated changes and embrace them in the long term. We must also be mindful of the ever-expanding Facebook owned Instagram, and Snapchat, as they continue to increase their market share on an annual basis, and how they can feed into our overall media strategies.

We’re interested to see if small business owners, who rely very heavily on Facebook, are even aware of the oncoming changes. As they are often creators of relevant, local content – given social is often one of their lead communications channels – we hope they are not the losers in the change.

A time for reflection…

From a media owner standpoint, this is a prime opportunity to diversify their offering. For those that have relied too heavily on their Facebook following, now is the time to demonstrate to agencies and advertisers the USP that makes them different to every other media owner and, when they do feel the need to leverage that following, reward those who take the time to produce high quality content.

Early indications are that the changes to the News Feed have not had any adverse effects on our Facebook campaigns from mid-January to date, but we will be closely monitoring clients, media owners and influencers going forward.