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Facebook Announces New Operating Principles for News Feed

Yesterday Facebook announced a new set of operating principles for News Feed, which will put much more focus on content from friends and family, and content that sparks genuine conversation between these people, with a view to improving overall experience and usefulness to its users. 

Background and detail of the update 

The topic of the degradation of the FB service is well discussed with issues such as “spammy” content, hate speech, user abuse and bullying, engagement bait content, “fake news” during election periods and the endless proliferation of viral videos/articles being to the annoyance of many users. The use of Facebook currently remains high however the rise of dark social and Instant Messenger (IM) - e.g. Snap and WhatsApp – are clear signals that users are not getting the genuine personal interaction with real people that they know from FB. Clearly Facebook needs to stay relevant in this space, which is their homeland, if they are to continue their dominance of the social space. 

Zuckerberg in recent years has taken his focus away from FB, branching out to new areas including internet.org, the Chan-Zukerberg Intitiative, VR via Oculus Rift, etc. However, for 2018 his focus will switch back to FB to address the fundamentals of the platform and re-cementing it’s importance moving forward. The key thing is the re-focus of making FB a platform for everyone to have meaningful interactions with their audience. 

Potential areas of change 

  1. The scoring of content will have a vast overhaul in the coming months to favour that of friends and family, plus that which sparks real conversations.
  2. Content from Pages will still show but will be under greater scrutiny, and will be giving positive favour if the content they produce makes FB friends genuinely interact with one another.
  3.  Engagement bait style content will be penalised, read videos and articles in the current style of BuzzFeed, LadBible, et al which repeatedly “play the system”.
  4. Moving forward, FB will increasingly focus on all the ways to build community around the content that people share and watch instead of just helping people passively consume more of it. 

Implications for brands 

  1. Organic content strategy may benefit from some re-thinking considering these changes. Strategies that have worked well and gained lots of engagement by the old rules will need to evolve in order to be able to continue high levels of organic distribution (this may reduce organic reach, traffic and video views. The only risk to paid activity is if posts are boosted).
  2. Ads Rankings are not currently being changed (verified by Facebook) however if a boosted Page Post is getting less organic reach due to these changes, then that might impact the auction. Engagement is a very small part of ads ranking – FB rely on many other data points to determine what ads people see to ensure relevancy and value.
  3.  Ad creative will need to have more cut-through and “fit” within the new style News Feed environment, so continuing a focus on including branding style content in campaigns, making them as relevant as possible to users will continue to be important.