Facebook’s Ambitious News Feed Changes Are Shaking up the Ad World

A New Algorithm for the New Year

On January 11th, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg struck fear into the hearts of marketers everywhere with the following phrase,

The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

For Facebook users stricken with ad fatigue, this news may come as a welcome respite but for advertisers, Zuckerberg’s announcement feels like a death sentence. As a way to promote meaningful social interaction betweens friends, families, and groups, the social media giant has decided to reduce the amount of promotional content seen on the news feed.

According to Zuckerberg, this significant shift stems from a few major concerns. The first is, surprisingly, rooted in the mental health of Facebook users. Zuckerberg claimed that content coming from businesses, brands, and media are taking away from social interactions between friends and family.

Because of this, community posts are few and far between and users aren’t able to properly connect and keep up with their ‘friends.’ Zuckerberg made it clear that this change can help curb feelings of loneliness and improve user well-being.

The second concern is rooted in reputation. The domination of ‘fake news’ on Facebook hasn’t been kind to their rep and many users are migrating to other social networks because of it. For anyone who checks their feed on a daily, or hourly, basis, the spread of hateful, misinformed, and poor-intentioned content has put a damper on what made the site enjoyable in the first place.

As a slight acknowledgement to the ‘fake news’ and tool misuse crisis, Zuckerberg mentioned in his blog post that any public content you see will be held to the same standard – promoting meaningful interaction.

Should We Start Panicking?

Marketers will have to make some pretty significant changes to their social media outreach plans but there’s no need to start hyperventilating. Going forward, we all need to put down our paper bags and start thinking of ways to overcome these algorithmic changes. In the short run, link clicks may suffer due to a lack of ad quantity popping up on our audiences’ news feeds, but that doesn’t mean our overall outreach has to crash and burn.

As the changes start rolling out, quality over quantity will be the name of the game. Zuckerberg’s long term goal is to win user trust back and to promote quality social connections between advertisers and users; even if that means slashing branded content in half. This sounds scary but for any good content or digital marketer who understands the value of genuine audience engagement, it shouldn’t be too terrifying. The ad world has always been competitive and there will always be speed bumps we have to overcome.

To overcome this particular speed bump, we should start thinking less like corporate entities and more like regular people. Thoughtfully curated content that is meaningful, relatable, and inspiring will survive any algorithmic shifts Facebook, or any other social media platform, can throw at us.

According to Bloomberg, analysts have said that the change won’t have a major impact on Facebook’s advertising revenue and over time, a more relevant news feed should create more meaningful engagement. As the social network gets back to its’ social roots, marketers may be able to target relevant audiences in their niche with more precision.

The long-term outlook for advertising on Facebook may not be as terrible as we think but stocks have already started trading down and engagement will falter in the short-term. Smarter, more emotionally driven, content strategies may help brands survive, but for marketers looking to maintain their current clicks and conversions rates, dedicating more time and creative energy to other channels like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat isn’t a bad idea.

According to Zuckerberg,

I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

The new algorithm may make Facebook the first major (negative) disruptor of 2018 but we’ll survive, our brand’s will survive, and content marketing will continue to evolve as it often does.

As we move forward with quality over quantity in mind, l think back to a quote from Ann Handley,

Be valuable to your audience. Publish less. But publish with more integrity and intention and empathy for the audience.”