Thursday evening, Facebook announced a sweeping change to News Feed, to refocus on connecting people with friends and family instead of businesses, brands and media.
Here’s what it means
Starting immediately, Facebook will prioritize posts that facilitate conversations and inspire meaningful interactions between people. Major points:
- This change doesn’t go as far as many had feared – there was talk about moving Page content altogether from the News Feed. Page content will remain in the News Feed, although with a drastically reduced reach. (We have yet to find out how much.)
- No matter how engaging your Page, Facebook will prioritize profile to profile interactions over Page to profile interactions.
- “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
- Interactions between people like comments, shares, and messages will be valued more than reactions and likes.
What the heck is a “meaningful interaction”?
Here are some examples that Facebook has provided.
- A person commenting on or liking another person’s photo or status update
- Multiple people or a Page replying to people’s comments on an article or video posted by a publisher on Facebook
- Someone sharing a video posted by a publisher along with their own commentary
- A person reacting to a post from a news publisher that a friend has shared
- A person sharing a link to an article over Messenger to start a conversation with a group of friends
Here’s how to react
This change will encourage us to think about social differently from how we’ve been programmed: no longer only as a broadcasting mechanism (“What is the MAXIMUM audience that we can reach via social?”) but also a way to build engaged, invested, loyal audiences. Yes, these audiences will be smaller, but the potential for turning these audiences into email subscribers, donors, or even loyal members of your station, will be higher with this focus.
The best strategy in the short term is to diversify – double down on getting your content out in as many different channels as possible where there are invested audiences. That means exploring Show pages on Facebook Watch, investing the time and energy needed to host a valuable Facebook Group, and opening up a 1-1 audience channel on Messenger. This also means thinking beyond Facebook: Is your news site optimized for Apple News and Google AMP?
It also means thinking more about the shareability of what you post on social media. Publishers and media brands will benefit from producing content that is easily shared by individuals on the News Feed, and by investing in collaborations, influencer marketing, and outreach.
It also means that content that inspires real, meaningful engagement — think long threads, where people are reacting and commenting not only to your content but to each other — will be the true social successes of the future. This is not easy; this takes time and an investment in true community management.
Finally, it forces us to reckon with the truth that Facebook is largely now “pay to play.” Now is a great time to look at your marketing mix, and start to evaluate what investments are giving you the highest return. It might mean a much higher investment in social media advertising, with its potential for targeting specific audiences by interest, activity, demographic, or location.
The bigger picture
see this as a turning point for social media, where different platforms (and different features) take on different roles. For example, the 1-to-many broadcast model (Social TV) is still very much alive and growing with Facebook Watch, YouTube and Twitter TV; but social media as a communication channel is cutting a divergent path, with the rise of Messenger, Snapchat and WhatsApp. A third, and emerging, industry is around deep niche engagement around specific issues — and tomorrow’s News Feed will encourage this growth.
Depending on what your goals are, you might invest heavily into one, or all three — but it’s important to see that it is no longer one size fits all.