Late last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is putting an emphasis on ‘meaningful content on users’ feeds’, prioritizing posts from friends and family in the News Feed and taking priority away from businesses, brands, and media/publishers. As a result, brands and publishers should expect to see a downturn in reach, referral traffic, and total video watch time. Net-net, News Feed content that elicits conversations and interaction amongst friends and communities will be prioritized while content from brands and publishers will take the backseat.
This move is a little reminiscent of Snapchat’s redesign approach to put ‘social’ back into ‘social media’. Is Facebook taking cues from Snapchat again? *insert speculation emoji* Regardless, brands will now face new challenges and will be required to say more with less.
From our perspective, there are a few key motivations behind these changes.
Creation: Re-sparking content creation and social sharing
Over the past few years, Facebook has seen a continual decrease in creation by everyday users as brands and media publishers began to oversaturate the space. As a result, there was a rise in rivals like Snapchat where users create and shoot video and photos to friends obsessively.
Community: A culture of connectedness
Zuckerberg has acknowledged that the volume of passive observation has made users feel alienated. The changes to come are directly meant to combat passive information consumption and re-prioritize talk value and community engagement on the platform.
Culture: Rebuilding trust amongst users
Historically, the most popular posts were given preferential placement within the News Feed, essentially encouraging creators to be extreme and polarizing with their viewpoints to get noticed. While the spread of misinformation to disrupt the election has been most exemplary, there’s also been a rise of tabloid-esque content in the News Feed as of late, creating a culture of negativity and conflict rather than connectedness and community.
As a result of these shifts, we anticipate a number of implications for publishers, brands and Facebook users.
Media – Brand advertising is safe for now, but will likely see cost increases.
Facebook advertisers may see an increase in News Feed costs as News Feed inventory becomes a premium placement. The shift to an engagement-driven model suggests there are new, engaging ad products on the horizon, which will justify the higher costs of the placement.
Content & Creative – Talk value takes priority.
For the past few years, Facebook has seen a migration to passive engagement (views) versus active participation (comments, creating posts, etc.). This shift puts more emphasis on content that encourages users to interact and comment, likely in hopes of encouraging Facebook users to create and share more on their own pages, harkening back to original Facebook user behavior when the platform was first introduced.
Consumer & Community – Prioritizing community experience = potentially increased platform penetration.
Facebook began as a place that brings people closer together and enables meaningful social interactions. While Facebook is saying they’re focusing on ‘how time is spent’ vs. ‘how much time is spent’, a shift in the types of content seen and driving active engagement amongst friends could lead to more time spent on the platform, incentivizing brands to prioritize spends on Facebook.
It’s still early and there’s a lot of speculation about how this may or may not impact marketers, but there’s one definitive takeaway for brands in this shift: say more with less. Define what matters to your brand and your audience. For brands, it may mean talking or posting a lot less and being creative in how you bring it to life in ways that drive conversation. This shift is going to require brands to evaluate their content strategies in their entirety and ask the question – is the content we’re creating and publishing talking with consumers or at them?