On January 11th, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took to his own Timeline with a long-winded message about changes to the platform in 2018. This change would bring about a $3.3 billion loss to Zuckerberg’s personal net worth as a result of stock price decreases according to a Forbes calculation.
“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent” began the 33-year-old CEO. Zuck’s entire diatribe vaguely depicting the changes coming to Facebook can be read here on his Facebook Timeline. However, you’ll have a tough time Google-ing “Facebook” without coming across hundreds of posts screaming bloody murder about the changes coming to the world’s largest social media platform. At over 2 billion active users (yes, with a B), Facebook’s News Feed change will impact over a 4th of the world’s population (source: Satista)
Here’s what you need to know.
Zuckerberg and the Facebook executive team rarely ever divulge exactly what will happen with new algorithm changes to Facebook or Instagram, so there’s only so much we know for sure at the moment. Only time will tell us for certain.
In Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook post, he mentions that:
“Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”
Fair enough. Not too much to argue here…
“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
So, here’s where things can get a bit subjective. I’m not sure if “feedback from [the] community” means a couple users in a focus group or a statistically significant portion of the user base and I’m certain the Facebook top brass won’t tell us.
Facebook for Everyday Users
Zuckerberg continues with: “We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
Right. So, the general idea here seems to be that Facebook wants you to see more of what IT thinks you want to see: your friends and family. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very active on Facebook and sometimes the last thing you want to see on your feed is the kid from your high school still trying to become a rapper.
Facebook is not just a social network.
It’s a way to absorb and convey all types of information, whether it’s current events, posts from pages you like, or even memes and humorous content. Some users genuinely get their news from Facebook. They shouldn’t, but they do. You can read all about Facebook’s issue with “fake news” here, but that’s for another post.
Others log on to Facebook to get the latest from a page they follower, or perhaps a brand they really engage with. Some users blatantly don’t give a damn about what their “friends” are up to and just aimlessly scroll the newsfeed to find some interesting viral videos to consume.
To get to the point, not everyone on Facebook is concerned with engaging with their friends and family. Personally, If I wanted to engage with a friend or relative, I’d shoot them a text or give them a call. Contrary to Facebook’s belief, my relationship with a person is not indicative by how many times I comment on a photo of their sushi or cute picture of their dog.
Remember when Facebook and Instagram changed the News Feed to sort from chronologically to what it thought you wanted to see? Users, influencers, and brands were livid at the thought of having their hard work be pushed down the feed and engagement drops across the board.
Moving on, the Facebook CEO addresses the direct change in the News Feed: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Ah, there it is. Fewer posts from businesses, brands, and media. But, Mr. Zuckerberg, what if some of us actually enjoy these often informative and engaging content? Are we still forced to see the statuses and updates of the people on our Friend’s List?
No offense, Johnny, but I couldn’t care less about your trip to Arkansas. Show me the content from pages I liked myself so I can see the content that I customize my News Feed to project. The News Feed is the first thing a user sees when he/she logs into Facebook and perhaps the place where they spend the most time browsing.
What happens when you change something that wasn’t broken and replace it with “curated” content that doesn’t stick? Your daily active users will drop like flies.
What Happens to Facebook Ads?
However, perhaps the absolute biggest change here are the fewer posts from public profiles like businesses, brands, and media. Less exposure in the News Feed means a direct (and probably substantial) drop in engagement for these companies.
Boo hoo, right? The big bad corporations might have a few less likes on their organic media. But it’s not just that. Aside from the fact that there are users who genuinely enjoy and engage with the content put out by these pages, this change shows us a bit more as to why Facebook could be making this change.
We’ve seen this before with the Instagram Feed. Moving to a “curated” Feed pushed brand content down. To make up for lost engagement, these companies had (and still have to) resort to paid ads, which makes Facebook money.
I believe we’re seeing a similar change to the primary Facebook platform itself. Facebook Advertising keeps the social media free to every day users. It only makes sense for the company’s executives to push for changes that generate more boosted posts, more targeted ads, and more general ad spend.
But wait! John Hegeman, A Facebook Vice President said in an interview that advertising on the social network would be unaffected by the changes. Are you so sure about that, Mr. Hegeman? I can’t imagine how filtering out organic brand posts won’t impact advertising on Facebook, but only time will tell!
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Give me the honest truth because I would love to hear your thoughts on this change. Let’s start a dialogue. Leave a comment below or fill out this form and we get go over these changes in more detail, and maybe even feature you on our next blog.
By Frank Tkachenko