A Look Into Facebook’s News Feed Test and Its Impact on Brands

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Facebook is testing a new option that would have a major effect on the content in people’s News Feeds. What might the news mean for brands on Facebook?

As SocialTimes recently reported, Facebook has begun testing a new option for users—they’re giving some users the ability to choose people or pages whose posts would always show up at the top of their News Feed.

Facebook confirmed the test but offered no more detail about the option and if or when it might receive a wider release.

If it does see a broader roll-out, it would be a bit of a change for the network. In the past, Facebook has generally moved towards giving its algorithm more control over what goes in News Feeds, rather than less. Which makes a certain sense, as the amount of content that could be served to the average user has only been going up.

Last year, they did introduce the option to see fewer posts from a person or page, without unfollowing them completely.

There was once an option to get notifications from a page or a person, which appears to have been “sunsetted.”

An Algorithm Evolves

If they haven’t introduced so many options giving users more control over their News Feeds, Facebook has made several updates to its algorithm in an effort to make it more relevant and engaging to users.

A not-at-all-exhaustive list of recent algorithm changes includes an update to make posts from friends more prominent, a tweak to decrease the number of “overly promotional posts,” and an adjustment that included more real-time content in the News Feed. These changes made some people happy and some upset, which is maybe to be expected from a company with 1.4 billion people to please.

But whenever these changes have been announced, there’s been a tendency for brands, and often users, to protest that people should have the ability to choose to get more updates from certain pages.

It remains to be seen whether or not Facebook will implement these changes, but if they do, those brands will get what they wanted.

If Facebook’s aim is engagement, being the best possible “personalized newspaper” for people, it makes sense to at least test this option, to see if a mix of algorithm and opting in leads to more overall engagement than just the algorithm does.

What Would the Impact be for Brands? 

If this feature gets rolled out more widely, there are some big unanswered questions: How much will people use it? When they do, how many brands will they choose to get updates from, and which ones?

For the first, if it’s a dialogue box like the one seen in the test—one which automatically shows a list of people and pages you can choose to get posts from, rather than just letting you know that you have that option—it could drive pretty widespread use.

In terms of how many pages people will choose, it’s tough to say. It will depend on the user, how satisfied they are with their News Feed, how many people and pages they are connected to, their patience with scrolling to choose pages to follow, and their willingness to tinker after they’ve made an initial selection. All of which is to say that there will probably be a wide range.

And for which pages they will choose, well, people will pick pages they want to see posts from. Easy, no? Okay, to be a little less broad, it will be content that people find very entertaining, interesting, informative, content that reflects their personality, that they like to share, or that they think will make them a better person. People might choose to get all updates from brands they like even if the content is so-so, but it’s unlikely they’ll stick around too long if that’s the case.

It would be somewhat safe to say that some media brands will make the cut. Their job is to make good stories. This news comes alongside “Instant Articles,” entire articles from media brands embedded in the News Feed.

For the publishers who are going to participate, it’s an attractive possibility that some users might choose to see all of their content at the top of the News Feed, and that they would get ad revenue based on the ads in or around that content, with more revenue coming in when the content is more often seen.

It’s not entirely inconceivable that media brands that publish directly to Facebook could eventually get some sort of special consideration here, like being broken out as a separate option that people can follow, and have all stories from those brands at the top of the News Feed for those people.

Beyond Media Brands What Others Might Make the Cut?

Media brands might have a bit of an advantage, but any brand that’s able to produce content that fans find really compelling, or just create a close enough relationship with them so that they need to see their posts, is going to be set up for success.

That of course is easier said than done. We have some resources on how to set up a social content strategy, how to learn more about your followers (so you can create better content for them), so that’s a start. It’s a question of both building exceptional brand loyalty and creating content so good enough it keeps people coming back. For pages that manage that, having loyal fans get 100 percent of your updates could have a real effect on business. They will just have to hope Facebook makes this more than a test.

Matthew Klein is a content manager at Facebook Marketing Partner Falcon Social. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Falcon Social enables enterprises to Listen and Engage, Publish and Measure – all from a unified platform.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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