Get ready for more baby announcements and cat photos and fewer posts from your favorite businesses. Facebook has announced a set of sweeping changes designed to change what the social network’s 2 million users see when they log in. The changes are already rolling out now, with more changes in store in February.
Facebook users will see more content that has been shared by their friends and family and less content from advertisers and publishers. It’s a move that can be heralded as a return to the social network’s humble beginnings, before the influx of brands and businesses arrived to crowd out the more infrequent posts from a user’s inner circle of friends and family.
The goal of the news feed overhaul is simple, though it may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the New York Times’ Mike Isaac that the social network has closely studied what kinds of posts stressed or harmed users. Facebook wants to reduce what Zuckerberg called “passive content” — videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read — so that users’ time on the site was well spent.
“We want to make sure that our products are not just fun, but are good for people,” Zuckerberg says. “We need to refocus the system.”
Surveys of Facebook users revealed that users felt the site had shifted too far away from friends and family-related content, especially amid a swell of outside posts from brands, publishers and media companies.
The changes signal a shift from Facebook’s previous business model, which encouraged users to spend more time on the network. Zuckerberg said a dip in total time spent on the network is expected, but if its users feel better about using the network, the business will ultimately benefit.
The move adds yet another degree of difficulty to the challenge of marketing a business, product or brand on Facebook.
Encourage meaningful interaction
The last time Facebook made major changes to the way business pages worked was in 2016, when the network curtailed the organic reach of business pages, severely decreasing the reach to page fans, and ultimately forcing businesses to spend money to reach even their most loyal fans. According to the Lion Tree Group, an advertising firm that monitors social media trends closely, this changed the way marketers handled Facebook in three ways. The total number of page likes mattered less, the number of sponsored posts in the news feed quadrupled, and video and “live” were given higher priority in the feed.
In his own Facebook post about the 2018 changes, Zuckerberg said that while users will see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media, the opportunity will still be there for that content to be seen — if it encourages meaningful interaction. The Facebook CEO specifically called out the communities that have formed around pages for sports teams and TV shows as examples. If your company’s Facebook followers frequently comment, like and share your updates, they will most likely continue to see those updates.
The Lion Tree Group expects businesses will need to work on increasing comment interactions and commit to increase spending for those interactions. Page likes, post likes, and comments will be prioritized in the news feed.
Facebook’s new mission reflects its new direction. Instead of helping people find the most meaningful content, the new aim is facilitating the most meaningful interactions between people.