Your Social Network Isn’t Your Social Network
Two of the most powerful companies in the world love to control what you and I see in our personal searches, timelines, and news feeds. Facebook has been messing around with their EdgeRank algorithm for the last few years, and Google’s made several search algorithm updates with Panda, Penguin, and the recently announced new algorithm they named Hummingbird. There’s also been news this week on a Facebook News Feed Update. Essentially this means our social media networks aren’t really ours, they’re theirs.
It’s no secret among digital marketing consultants and social media “experts” that a Facebook News Feed update would be rolled out by the social network, yet again. Facebook, like Google, is notorious for rolling out algorithm updates and not really telling us about it. That’s what control is all about. Another Facebook News Feed update could cause even more problems with social media marketers and community managers.
In early January of 2011 a significant announcement was made by Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts. Google changed the way it ranks websites by introducing an algorithm update they called Panda. Search would never be the same again and this was actually a great thing for users.
Google Panda punished spammy sites that publish thin content, duplicate pages targeting the same keywords, have way too many ads on-page which give the site a cluttered look, and black hat link building practices such as buying inbound links.
According to Google, the Panda update affected almost 12% of all search results. The chart below illustrates what some website owners may have seen in their analytics.
Facebook does the same type of thing but with a different approach. Which makes sense, as Facebook is not a search engine per se, like Google. Facebook controls what users see in their News Feed with their own algorithm, which they call, or called, EdgeRank.
There’s some debate on whether or not Facebook EdgeRank is dead or still alive and kicking. It looks to me that Facebook does indeed have a new, unnamed, News Feed algorithm and just this week they announced that they are once again changing what users will see in their News Feed.
Facebook News Feed Update
So there in fact is a new Facebook news feed update! Apparently, Facebook has done research and surveys to find what users want to see in their News Feed. The data collected told Facebook that they need to be better at identifying what is of value to users. They found that users are enjoying seeing articles in their Timeline over random meme-like photos. Facebook feels that the articles provide better value for the user than a meme. So is this News Feed update Facebook’s Panda?
“The goal of News Feed is to show the right content to the right people at the right time whether it’s from a close friend or a news source halfway across the world. In the last year, more people found news on Facebook than ever before. In fact, as reported in October, average referral traffic from Facebook to media sites has increased by over 170% – almost tripled – in the past year. Today’s update to News Feed ranking recognizes that people want to see more relevant news and what their friends have to say about it.”
Interesting. Why does the Facebook News Feed update get to choose what I want to see more of or what I deem as relevant? Facebook says they surveyed users and the data tells them that on average users prefer to see content that links to high quality articles about current events, sports they follow, or shared interests, to whatever’s hot in pop culture that day.
I find this amusing as Facebook used to be all about photos, memes, more photos, random images, and selfies. Isn’t that why Facebook bought Instagram for $1 Billion?. However this Facebook News Feed update is hitting the nail on the head with it’s focus on providing users value in teh form of high quality content in their News Feeds.
Then again, it does make sense. Things change and people have Instagram for uploading photos, the kids are moving off of Facebook to social networks like Instagram and Snapchat, and the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is the 45 to 54 year age bracket at 46% and 56% respectively. All these factors convince me of why Facebook is making this change.
“We’ve noticed that people enjoy seeing articles on Facebook, and so we’re now paying closer attention to what makes for high quality content, and how often articles are clicked on from News Feed on mobile. What this means is that you may start to notice links to articles a little more often (particularly on mobile).”
Facebook has always wanted to keep their users in their own ecosystem. That is, Facebook prefers, (or preferred), users to consume their content on Facebook, to stay on Facebook, and to not click on a link that takes the user off of Facebook and on to another “competing” site. Competing in terms of eyeballs and engagement. For example, large websites like BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and The Huffington Post or smaller blogs and sites like veepopat.ca!
This would suggest that they’d prefer to show more photos and meme-like content so users can stay on Facebook, engage with photos hosted on Facebook, and post endless irrelevant status updates.
Publish High Quality Content
As mentioned above, things change. It seems that Facebook’s News Feed and Facebook’s overall outlook has also changed. They, like any other website and social network, wants to focus their users on “high quality content”. Facebook wants to provide better value for it’s users and they see this as the best way to achieve that goal.
As a digital marketing agency that manages client’s social media marketing, I’m very interested to see how this change will affect publishers of content – brands and SMBs specifically. It’s hard enough getting your full reach to see your posts organically. If you want the exposure to your News Feed, you have to pay (i.e. boost and promote your posts).
This is all good news for content creators who publish in-depth, relevant, and useful articles each and every day. Turns out that towards the end of 2013, Facebook shows us once again that high quality content is king.
If you’re not creating high quality, relevant content for your business on a regular basis, publishing to your website daily, and sharing on social media, you’re going to have a very difficult time keep up with your competitors that have their content marketing and social media strategy rocking and rolling in 2014.
This stuff is confusing, I know. And it changes way too often. I hear that. If you need some help understanding things or managing it all, shoot me an email and let’s work it out.