Facebook algorithm changes? Focus on own media


Gizmodo UK

Facebook algorithm changes? Focus on own media, this is the only way. The platform is somehow acting childishly to its stakeholders and shareholders, with its constant changes, while its market decision-making resembles a pure ‘monopoly’. What’s going on? Has Mark Zuckerberg become a Sire? Will they drive publishers crazy, or we should not worry that much? What should bloggers, pages, and purposeful communities do?

Facebook algorithm changes?

Two weeks ago Mark Zuckerberg in his published FB post announced new changes in the platform’s algorithm. I’m not exactly sure how it will go, or how it will be deployed, but the sure thing is that these changes will diminish at absolute zero the pages’ published content in our personal account timelines. Good for family and friends, bad for publishers, brands, communities, agencies, and advertisers.

Of course, you can’t be sure if these changes will be permanent on Facebook for us, its users. The platform is somehow acting childishly to its stakeholders and shareholders, with its constant changes (300 per year?), and while still experimenting, its market decision-making resembles a pure ‘monopoly (it is like hearing Mark and his management team pompously saying “I’m the Sire, I decide so”). For now, Facebook says it plans to transform the newsfeed to promote “meaningful posts”. Most meaningful posts? Who judges that?

What sparked it all?

I think it all boils down to an FB’s plan to quiet down the corporate pitches and news, especially the fake news, to get back to letting friends hang with friends in a better “neighbourhood”. To tell you the truth, they do have a point. Every lousy (fake) entrepreneur was marketing a slides’ collection video, hidden political groups were splashing hate on the timeline and so on.

Here is (the Sire) Zuckerberg in his own words: “Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do–help us connect with each other. We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”

Facebook brings many disputes

Every company is an experiment. A learning on the way. And yet even among all tech giants, few experiments seem so emotionally laden as Facebook’s. The company has inserted itself between us and our friends — and between us and the news (fake or real) — and the ultimate result is anyone’s guess. The company and its positioning bring along a trust and credibility issue.

Facebook knew it had a problem. It’s the cry of a mother for the kid stop wasting time on the platform. It’s the page/publisher who promotes (internet) ‘get-rich-quick schemes’ and lousy seminars. It’s the fake news ‘clan’ promoting hate and political racism. It’s the communities doing social causes and wide good. It’s recently redundant who now produces cupcakes. It’s the pensioner trying to find what’s going on in the (timeline) world. All of them on the same platform.

Facebook failed on “Social = happy”

Zuckerberg cites research that has been done (by Facebook and other sources) about the impact of social media on the population, and the results are not great. In December, Facebook admitted in a post titled, Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us? that it poses a mental health risk: “…when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information–reading but not interacting with people–they report feeling worse afterwards…researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison–and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering.” The same research suggests that those “actively interacting with people” do feel better.

The platform became full of fast, cheap video, which meant lots of stock footage with captions over it. This sort of video is one of the obvious losers in FB’s announcement. If you like passively watching 90-sec videos with the sound off, start looking at them elsewhere.

Facebook promised to be the most sophisticated advertising platform

Facebook smartly aggregated all of these communities and audiences in one place (almost 2 billion people), so it created the very foundation for a sophisticated advertising platform. It has become a media platform (whether they like that title or not). Around it many new digital/FB agencies and freelancers appeared, promising that they hold the ‘magic stick’ of likes and shares. Now the ad industry is in shock and advertisers will soon realize how expensive sport it will be.

In the long run, it will ultimately charge a much-much higher premium to advertisers. Now by cleaning up our timeline, it will charge more for brands / pages / publishers offerings. Where does this leave a business that’s been working hard over the past 10 years (or more) to get customers to “like” brands on Facebook, follow your posts and engage with them on the platform?

Facebook’s throttling of business content has actually driven their stock price north for many quarters to a US $526.33 billion market cap (and it does not look to be slowing down in a media world where ad spend is expected to hit about $580 billion with 4% growth from last year).

Now the platform plans to promote posts that generate discussions over those that are passively consumed, it said. Company executives say they hope the changes will make people feel better about using Facebook, following a year in which critics have warned of its negative effects on society and the news.

Facebook no more a news publishing powerhouse?  

Facebook was fighting hard for 10 years to activate all of its users (staying more on the platform) and news publishing (yes, even fake news), pages, videos helped it a lot at this strategy. Mark will have a tough stock-market-time now, turning the back to the revenue from publishers. FB is now a data powerhouse but engagement goes down rapidly as people’s feeds get filled with brands constantly trying to promote. Tough equation: are you after the people well-being, or after the advertisers’ money? Does Facebook see advertising revenue as their core business model or are they realizing that the pervasive flow of fake news in recent years is just another form of bad advertisement? Tough calls…

Facebook has angered publishers with its recent algorithm update. And now some are now calling to be paid for the news they produce! Things are heating up fast between Facebook and publishers, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch thinks he has the solution: Facebook should pay publishers a “carriage” fee!! His announcement comes after Facebook claimed it would ask users to vote for “trusted publishers” who would then receive special treatment on the newsfeed. Murdoch’s point is that if (trusted) publishers are indeed enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content, then Facebook has to pay for it!

Murdoch also shared his belief that the actual situation was caused by Facebook and Google themselves. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Murdoch claims that the platforms have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable.[/inlinetweet] It is true that Facebook and Google  have failed to solve the fast-growing problem of “fake news.”

Zuckerberg looks again to its community member, the customer

Facebook realized that more ads and more corporate content that is paying to be in the news feed, are not really helping Facebook brand and positioning. Let’s face it people do go to Facebook for their news, to relax, socialize, and primarily have fun. Of course, they connect with brands and more.

Ultimately, it sounds like Zuckerberg and his team are figuring out what those of us in the media have known for a long time: quality content rules, too many ads poison the well, and understanding your consumers (what they really want to consume and connect with) can open up much better monetization models than disrupting them with ads that aren’t even close to being relevant.

Every company is an experiment. A learning on the way. And yet even among all tech giants, few experiments seem so emotionally laden as Facebook’s

Fake news?

What will happen with fake news? Connected to US, Brexit, and many E.U countries’ elections, the awareness about actual and possible fake news has increased. There are lots of ongoing discussions about how to stop fake news. Stopping fake news before it has a chance to spread might be the main trend on all major social media platforms. In Germany, Facebook has announced a major initiative against fake news. And hopefully, this is driven by Facebook’s fear of becoming less credible as an aggregator of content.

Mark (as if we are friends…), a piece of advice, go and acquire nice A.I. solutions to fight hoax and fake. Don’t just talk; act!

What will happen now to pages/publishers?

What will happen now with the pages, communities, content and presence of so many groups? Indicative examples: NFHS Network Hoops for kids loving basketball, the very qualitative Fast Company content, the humorous School Myths stories, the new Agency 2.0 – The Premier Crowdfunding Agency and the video-production offering of Goanimate?

There are many tight-knit communities around TV shows, disabled kids, special schools, and sports teams. It is obvious that the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. Big time! Will it be more qualitative time and newsfeed? Who knows?

An FB user commented to Zuckerberg: “I’ve directed more than $1,000,000 into FB since 2009. We’ve spent years and thousands of dollars building brand pages, online communities and following for our clients. We’ve already seen them reach less, and less and less of their audience. It’s common to see a page with 100,000 likes have a reach of 1500-3,000. 3%? Come on. And now, this will be further reduced?” ..and much more were loud and disappointed “People make FB possible, but the companies paying into the ad manager pay the bills for everything we see here. Please do not even further restrict and constrain active, engaged and responsible businesses for just trying to reach the people who liked their page to see their content in the first place.”

What should you do?

It might be simplistic, but let’s not treat Facebook as everything in our marketing activity. If you are a business, a local SME, a blogger, here’s my take (being experienced enough after the social experiment 99 days out of Facebook – I’ve done this in 2013):

For the Facebook activation

  1. Target only meaningful interactions: build your presence, aggregate comments, dialogue with friends and acquaintances – the desire for your expertise or offering will come – company pages of big retailers and support systems will continue to receive user feedback and complaints
  2. Monitor and understand what Facebook platform likes more: be in the know, and continue creating your content and opinions, but stay out of ‘polarizing’ public issues, away from ‘fake news’ groups
  3. Don’t waste money on paid advertising, just for the sake of doing it: wait to see how Facebook will look like in 2-3 months. For sure paid promotion will have lower effects. If you promote, do it for a Most Wanted Action to achieve; advertise on purpose, on a specific action that stands top in its game and your market
  4. Use Thought leadership content: be at the top of your industry/market; strive to deliver future-looking, objective, and valuable content – the essentials of thought leaders
  5. Use video: but do it with a purpose, with thought-lead and practical items – not for the sake of seeing your self in front of the camera. Live video is still being prioritized over all other forms of content because Facebook continues -2 years now- to chase a market position in the events business.
  6. Become relevant: to your audience needs, their challenging issues
  7. Offer value and content: all your e-books, white papers, bold opinions, public agenda discussions are above the commonalities you hear and see around; do it with an end-user/consumer plan in mind. Don’t ever forget that content, people, and sharing breaks over machine algorithms.

For your wider marketing presence and activation

  1. Rethink and optimize your marketing and public relations efforts and plan for word of mouth and online sharing.
  2. Look again at your own website, the centrepiece of attention
  3. Blog more, blog loud, and blog with excellent views to share
  4. Start learning SEO
  5. Start collecting e-mails to communicate with your users/followers (next pit stop: GDPR…)
  6. Start developing the presence on other social media platforms, based on your audience profile and content themes: Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram

The three important actions you should do

No1. Consider channel alternatives as described above. Primarily, I urge you to go offline, out there, in events, in communities’ initiatives, in conferences and more. Go and interact with more people. Support causes. Continue building your professional and expert profile…as if FB wasn’t in the picture

No2. Partner with credible influencers (partners, employees, loud voices). Social media platforms were meant to be ‘noisy’, and a huge following doesn’t guarantee massive reach anymore. On the other hand, businesses, websites, influencers must have a truly engaged audience. Companies and brands of all sizes should be moving their communications towards using credible employees, micro influencers, and joint events with experts.

No3. Act with a new mindset in social media. Today it is possible for companies and brands to track exactly where someone came from and to know if they convert to their  .com and own media. Sell directly through these platforms. So it will be in everyone’s interest to unlock the optimal approach to the social commerce of product and service industries.

End closing

For Facebook: when you are a big corporation you should pay respect to markets, stakeholders, and shareholders. That said, no big company ever surprises its customers, users, partners (agencies) as Facebook is doing from time to time. It’s not only how often the platform changes, but how transparent it is for its promises and positioning.

For people like me, marketing their views, opinions, events, services. Commercialization has become social, but don’t underestimate your presales physical efforts, and the importance of spreading your influence efforts to other channels as well.

Life doesn’t start and end on Facebook. What’s your view?

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