Last week, Facebook made yet another announcement about changing its algorithm policies. But this time, you’ll be seeing more weddings, babies, engagements and all the recipes your aunt is trying this summer, in your news feed.
With this latest update, Facebook will now show you fewer stories from publishers in your news feed and more updates from your family and friends. Which made a lot of people scratch their heads mostly because Facebook had been heavily courting publishers of all sizes, asking them to depend more and more on the social media king to expand their audiences.
In the past year, Facebook welcomed publishers and outlets like BuzzFeed, CNN and the New York Times who all created content specially for Facebook. Facebook Instant Articles became a mainstream distribution channel for many publishers and, more recently, Facebook Live has surged as a streaming platform for publishers' live content. But now, with the recent change, those very same pieces of content will have far less eyeballs.
While I can see why Facebook is going this route (Facebook really originated as a way to connect and stay in touch with your family and friends), I’m also a little shocked. For many like myself, Facebook is often where we read and then share news stories. And we’re not alone - some 44 percent of adults in the United States regularly read news content on the site, according to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center. And more than 40 percent of referral traffic to news sites comes from Facebook, according to data from Parse.ly, a digital publishing analytics company.
So you’re probably wondering, what are publishers going to do? No doubt they’ll have to change their social media strategies when it comes to Facebook and get more strategic with engagement. Publishers will need to be sure that their content is authentic and perfectly tailored to their audiences in hopes of driving greater organic reach. So you’ll still likely see all those articles your Aunt Mary shares about her preferred political party (sorry about that). Publishers - not to mention brands and content marketers - will also have to do some serious listening to learn where their customers are, what they’re saying and what interests them. Which is probably best in the long run but will take more time to create those niche audiences. And to successfully reach them will undoubtedly also require more paid media strategies.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months. How will publishers get creative to connect with their large audiences? Will we be longing for more “news” in our news feeds? What I can guarantee is that you will be seeing many more photos from your cousin’s 4th of July party and lots of pictures like the one at the top of this post.