Facebook is seemingly going back to its roots with its latest News Feed changes. But what do the modifications mean for both brands and publishers, asks Mike Berry.
Facebook dropped a new year bombshell when announcing that its News Feed is soon to be further geared toward fostering “meaningful social interactions” between people, and that businesses can expect to see their video views and referral traffic decrease.
In a post on his own Facebook page, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he had decided to give more weight to user-generated content: “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.
“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.”
So, what are the implications of this move for publishers and brands that have hitherto relied heavily on the social network for so-called organic distribution?
Facebook has clearly put a stake in the ground that users and the ‘user experience’ is more important than the brands that spend money with them. In short, those brands will find Facebook “a less accommodating environment”, as one analyst succinctly put it last week.
On the face of it (and it’s still too soon to know the full effect), this move rewrites Facebook’s relationship with publishers and brands. Businesses will have to buy more online ads to promote themselves, because their content will not generate any meaningful organic reach as previously.
Over and above this, brands will need to be smarter with their content and understand what resonates with consumers – and why. This might lead to fewer, but better, pieces of content that aim for high engagement with users.
As per other channels, the best way for marketers to reach a large audience will be to create authentic and appealing content, rather than chasing likes or clicks.
What the change does demonstrate is the risk of overreliance on any one external channel when engaging with your target audience or potential customers. For many brands it will likely be the prompt to broaden their channel mix and look for alternative ways of building relationships with customers.
Zuckerberg admits that the changes will likely result in people spending less time on Facebook but make for a more valuable user experience. Good news for them, but bad news for brands. Like?
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