Since its takeoff in 2004, Facebook has always been on the lookout for ways to improve user experience, and has seen a number of modifications over the years. From the launch of the news feed and status updates in 2006 to the ‘like’ button in 2007, from numerous design updates to video view counts and click bait control, the Facebook algorithm is continuously evolving.
As long as we continue to use the networking site, the information we share, and the way we interact with friends and content will continue to influence new Facebook algorithms. As regular Facebook users or brands using the site for marketing purposes, it’s important to stay updated on changes in these algorithms to be able to best alter the manner in which we absorb or present content to meet this changing virtual environment.
The Latest Algorithm Update
The new update, which has been in effect since june this year has prioritised posts from friends and family above those of marketers and content publishers. The implications of this change could be devastating to digital media and Facebook users the world over. A study by the analytics and optimisation company, Parse.ly (a technology company that provides web analytics and content optimization software for online publishers) showed that Facebook provided 39% of inbound traffic referrals in the previous year, placing it ahead of Google, while Factordaily (a platform for Stories, breaking news, insights and commentary on technology and how it’s shaping the future of India, the world’s largest democracy) showed a loss of 100 million page views to Indian news sites due to the new algorithm.
How Brand Marketing Can Adapt
Since Facebook now prioritises posts differently, it goes without saying that marketers should alter their content accordingly. Aim to create content that’s less mechanical and more human. Tackle angles that are closer to everyday life, encouraging your audience to share your content with their friends and family. Those shares are more valuable now than ever before.
Facebook Trending and the Echo Effect
A majority of Facebook users get their news from the platform. Two out of three, to be precise, based on a study by the Pew Research Centre. This places an enormous responsibility on the platform to encourage objectivity and provide its users with balanced content. Meanwhile, a report by Gizmodo alleges that the stories and news sources shared on Facebook Trends are influenced by the political prejudices of the editors in charge.
The change to the News Feed and the Facebook Trending algorithm sparked an ongoing outcry. In an announcement, Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management at Facebook stated, “We don’t favour specific kinds of sources—or ideas. Our aim is to deliver the types of stories a person wants to see, based on the individual feedback we’ve received.” Thus the question becomes, what do people want to see on their Facebook Trending Topics lists?
A review conducted on 10.1 million accounts in the US, showed that users suppress content that opposes their beliefs in the Trending Topics on Facebook more than Facebook’s algorithms do. And since the amount of content we see on our News Feeds is limited, altering the algorithm to favour posts of friends and family (read people who are likely to share values and ideas) only restricts the much needed exposure to opposing perspectives.
We can only hope that the next algorithm update rectifies this prioritisation issue, because as long as it remains in effect, we can expect Facebook’s echo chamber to keep getting louder as people become increasingly oblivious to diverging viewpoints.