The goal of Facebook’s News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them. That’s no small task when you have over 1.65 billion people to keep happy and over 1,500 stories per day to prioritize for each of those individual users. Now, Facebook has announced one of their most significant News Feed shuffles.

On Wednesday, Facebook shared that the News Feed algorithm is going to shift so that it will more favorably promote content posted by the friends and family of users.

These changes are likely to mean that content posted by brands and publishers will show up less prominently in News Feeds. In the announcement, the company explained their priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.

Back in April 2015, Facebook made a similar algorithm update trying to ensure that stories posted directly by the friends you care about will be higher up in News Feed, so you are less likely to miss them. But based on feedback, Facebook understands that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends.

This update is likely to affect all types of content posted by brands and publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it anticipates that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for many Pages who’s traffic comes directly through Page posts.

The update will have less of an impact, however, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it. Links or Page content shared by friends or content your friends interact with frequently will still appear higher in the feed.

For example, the post from my personal Facebook account (on the right below) would be more likely to appear above the post from Buffer’s Page (on the left) in the News Feed:

newsfeed

What do users expect from the News Feed?

Facebook’s success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most.

To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, Facebook try to put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. The News Feed learns and adapts over time based on the content you interact with the most, too. For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, they’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.

Facebook research has also shown that, after friends and family, people have two other strong expectations when they come to News Feed:

  • The News Feed should inform. People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them — and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative. Something that one person finds informative or interesting may be different from what another person finds informative or interesting — this could be a post about a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe. Facebook’s algorithm is always trying to better understand what is interesting and informative to you personally, so those stories appear higher up in your feed.
  • The News Feed should entertain. Facebook also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment. For some people, that’s following a celebrity or athlete; for others,  it’s watching Live videos and sharing funny photos with their friends. Again, the company’s News Feed algorithm tries to understand and predict what posts on Facebook you find entertaining to make sure you don’t miss out on those.

The makeup of a successful social network (and why this update is essential for Facebook)

Despite its venture into publishing and partnerships with large news and entertainment brands, at its heart, Facebook is still a place for friends. And without solidifying our connections with those closest to us, Facebook could face struggles to keep its 1.65 billion monthly active users coming back.

To understand the inner-workings of social networks and what makes us keep using them, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studied networks like Friendster and Myspace with the goal of figuring out what factors can be detrimental to a social network.

As explained over at Wired:

They found that when the time and effort (the costs) associated with being a member of a social network outweigh the benefits, then a decline in users becomes likely. If one person leaves, their friends become more likely to leave and as more people leave, this can lead to a cascading collapse in membership.

Networks like Friendster and Myspace were the Facebook of their day. Both had tens, and eventually hundreds, of millions of registered users, but what the study found is that the bonds between users weren’t particularly strong. Many users had very few close connections, and it appears there’s a direct correlation between how connected we feel to our friends and family and our affiliation with each network.

If Facebook users are worried about missing important updates from the people they care about most, then their affiliation with the network could begin to decline as they find other ways to stay connected. And once user begins to leave, or become un-engaged, it could have a waterfall effect on the network. David Garcia, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, explains:

“First the users in the outer cores start to leave, lowering the benefits of inner cores, cascading through the network towards the core users, and thus unraveling.”

You can see how a social network unravels in the below graphic (Friendster is used in the image):
social-network-connections

For Facebook, the News Feed is the most integral part of their product to make us feel connected with those we care about. And as such, it’s important for Facebook to keep the content we want to see the most at the top of the feed.

How will this update impact business Pages?

The changes will affect all types of content posted by Pages, including links, videos, live videos and photos.

In their “News Feed Values” shared alongside this announcement, Facebook made it clear that content from friends and family will come first. And the company also highlighted the importance of authentic communication and being inclusive of all perspectives and view points without favoring specific kinds of sources — or ideas.

We expect that this update may cause organic post reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The impact will vary for every page and will greatly depend on the composition of your audience or the way in which your content is shared on Facebook. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.

As with all Facebook algorithm updates, it may take a little time to determine exactly what will continue to work and how to increase organic reach (though Facebook feels like it’s shifting more towards a pay-to-play market for businesses). 

One tactic that could become increasingly important is the amplification of brand content. With Facebook favoring content shared by users rather than Pages, it feels essential to find new and innovative ways to encourage your audience to share your content directly to Facebook. Ensuring your content is discoverable away for the Facebook News Feed could be another key play as well.

It also feels important to keep a focus on what people are looking for from the News Feed. As mentioned earlier, aside from friends and family, Facebook users turn to the News Feed to be informed and entertained. With those goals in mind, it’s worth thinking about how the content you create for Facebook can satisfy those desires.

Over to you

In their announcement, Facebook says their work is “only 1 percent finished” so it feels like there are plenty more twists and turns ahead for the News Feed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this update and how it may affect the way you use Facebook and the types of content your share? Please feel free to leave a comment below and I’m excited to continue the conversation with you. 

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • I find this shift interesting, given their obvious desire to leverage as much non-personal content as they can for advertising and revenue purposes. Then again, the move to promote more brand content a few years ago must have hurt their engagement metrics with Page-posted content versus Profile-posted.

    Either way, playing the waiting game to see this rolled out into the News Feed and see how it affects content posted by a page, then shared by a profile.

    • Maria Price

      Facebook already lets you put stars next to the people and pages you want to see 1st in your feed when you open it. Is the algorithm just an automation of this?

      • So I haven’t been online in quite some time, but that is what I believe it is.

        Adding the star means you’re putting them on your “Close Friends” list and get notified of their postings and things, which isn’t necessarily what people want.

        They just want less advertising and stuff from Pages in their normal home feed.

  • Deborah Fries

    Just as I’ve been trying to streamline/trick the algorithm of my Facebook News Feed by un-following friends, so that I can quickly see what’s coming in from Slate, Quartz, the Washington Post, New York Times and New Yorker, it seems I’m on the wrong side of trending. I hope someone fills the curated news gap. A phone app newsfeed is not as satisfying as scrolling down my FB newsfeed and opening the stories that appeal to me.

    • Agreed that Facebook’s curated news is a huge part of how I tend to use it. But then, I tend to open articles shared by my friends and conversation partners.

    • You can set “see first” for the Pages

  • I anticipate that this will impact my organization’s page pretty heavily, and we’ll have to be creative about reaching people. On the other hand, I’m glad Facebook is taking steps to protect the user experience!

  • Posts from business Pages will still gain exposure IF they are shared an commented on. But how will they get seen in the first place? Seems like Facebook is becoming more pay-to-play every day. There is a danger in placing too much reliance on Facebook as an organic means of content distribution.

    I personally use Facebook mostly for friends and family anyway and find that Twitter lists can be a much more effective way of surfacing professionally written content that I want to read.

  • So…
    Another change to make business posts less visible in newsfeeds.

    Newsflash – SO WHAT? If all you do is post and try to work the system to get them seen, no matter what you do you will fail – don’t blame Facebook or their algorithm.

    Want results, get off your ass and drive people to your content.

    I drive engagement and CTR close to double the average for similar sized pages with little to no reach. Success on social, most notably Facebook, requires you to spend the time, be active, engage, be visible, add value on the content of others and make them WANT to find your content!

    PS: content does not mean what you post. Comments ARE content too and written well can build relationships, establish authority and credibility and drive actions better than anything you might post yourself.

  • I would like to use my Fb groups more and get a view so I can only see group post updates.

    • Nataniel Stnwsk

      You could try out using the FB groups app.

  • I think we’ll see a shift to more business owners using their personal timeline to promote themselves, as well as the use of Facebook groups for networking, client support, etc.

    • Denis Sokol

      And then FB will need to figure out how to filter this content out 😉

    • That’s exactly my strategy Gloria, to invite fans to join my new group … and do most posting on profile and/or group. The fan page is dead unless you pay to play!

  • Andrea Pacini

    Thanks for the update, Ash.

  • So here”s what you do. You continue to use your Facebook Page as normal, post your blog updates, share other Page posts, create memes, videos etc.

    Alongside that, create personal accounts for your customer service person/team and have that account share the content your Page produces. Use your page to encourage people to become friends with your customer service person/team (now would be a good time) so that they can receive a personal service and make sure they get the updates they want.

    This has a three-fold affect. Firstly, it increases the chances of your content getting seen, even if only via the personal account(s), it makes your customers feel like they have a personal and DIRECT connection with your brand/product/service and it increases the organic reach of your Page, if only marginally.

    Now I realise this requires quite an investment in time from your customer service person/team as he/she/they will have to spend quite a bit of time on Facebook addressing customer queries and complaints as well as sharing the Page posts but I’d say that if you’re not already using Facebook as a customer service channel you’re missing a trick and in my view the investment will more than pay off in terms of brand reputation, brand loyalty and overall sales and revenue.

    What do you think?

    • Absolutely! I second the fact that social media marketing managers are now going to put more emphasis on their personal profiles. But one cannot say anything about how it will affect posts from business pages since Facebook’s work is only 1% done.

      Ben Greenwood, I liked your suggestion on creating personal accounts for your customer service person and then encouraging people to become friends, but I think you can accomplish more with your/their own personal profile rather creating a profile for a person who already might have a Facebook account.

      Besides, even if you are liking and sharing posts from your personal account and I know it has a chance to be seen by other people but still you have to share some extraordinary stuff. I mean people will like Buzzfeed’s video post more than a simple link post. So, I’ll say invest in producing videos which are entertaining or informational. I have seen people in my connection sharing links posts from brands which I barely open.

      Facebook already lets you star pages or people and puts them above all of your posts, but for doing that you have to revamp your Facebook marketing strategy.

      What do you think?

      • The only downside to your suggestion is that staff of ecommerce businesses might, quite rightly, not want to use their personal profiles for customer service related to their jobs. So create a new, work-only one (and it makes sense for the marketing team to have access to it too).

    • Fabian Pontén Söderlind

      I like the idea @Ben Greenwood, very interesting! Two potential problems I could see with this tactic though is that:

      1. People will have to like/follow/friend your both Facebook Business Page as well as the “Customer Service Person”, which could be confusing. “Who should I try to contact? Maybe I’ll try both?” This could easily end up with duplicate support errands which I would personally try to avoid.

      2. How do people know that this person is in fact an employee of the company? If someone wanted to interfere, damage or destroy your reputation on Facebook it would be quite easy for anyone to just create an account, use the same name as customer support and start pretending to be employed by the company, don’t you think?

      I think it is a very interesting idea though and please let me know if you think I’m completely wrong! 🙂

      Thanks!

      Kind regards,
      Fabian

      • Hi @fabianps:disqus. You raise some good points there. I’ll try and address them!

        1) There is the potential for that to happen, but I think it can be managed with a good strong support structure in place. Setting out how you would go about implementing my proposal is the first thing that should be done – and as I said, there will will be hurdles to overcome, but I think this particular one can be managed.

        2) Another risk and one you can’t really mitigate against – but then, there is potential for someone to rip off your brand with a fake Facebook Page too. I agree, however, it is far easier and far more effective to rip off a personal profile. That one would require some thought and vigilance!

        • Fabian Pontén Söderlind

          Yep I agree! 🙂

          Thank you for your reply, hope you have a great day @disqus_tBsu0NGAdx:disqus !

          Kind regards,
          Fabian

  • I rock my personal profile! Whatever updates they do won’t change the way I make my content.

  • Honestly, most fb users are frustrated by the fact that the algorithm method goes first above the chronological news feed.

    Speaking of fb, I’m still super angry that they switched instagram over to a weird algorithm and NOT leaving a chronological view option available. I have a feeling that more and more people will be switching over to Twitter for that reason.

    • I think you’re right. And I’m guessing this is way so many people are slocking to Snapchat – it’s become the best place to see what friends are up to without the having to scroll through the never ending stream of sponsored content.

  • Alwi Mohamed Suleiman

    Organic social media reach has been dying a slow painful death for a while now. This is just another nail in the coffin.
    For significant reach, publishers must sponsor/boost their posts

  • km
  • Miró Cassetta

    This whole thing makes me just go, “UGGGHHHHHH”

    BUT, so curious to know what FB is saying to all the companies that pay them $$$ to get their content seen. Not just boosted posts, but the big guys like NYT who are partnering on live video, etc.

    Instead of creating an extra headache for marketing people and making them create new FB profiles (also it’s really not a good idea to mix personal and professional. And if you’re just a “shell” account only posting stuff about work no one will want to engage with you.) now is a good time to focus on launching ambassador programs with bloggers and social influencers.

  • Elizabeth Iman Torres

    I usually share product information, tech news, etc, but I get 3 likes from my 1k+ facebook friends. Why? Because I built my fb network out of high school friends, neighbors, club friends, etc… people that couldn’t care less or are in another country or are not in the same business as me (and the ones that are I add them to my linkedin, twitter, not facebook!). So it can get frustrating for a brand whose target users have the same facebook-friends-problems as me. Groups are good but disrupts the user flow when sharing content.

    Probably the only ones unaffected would be Buzzfeed and anyone that posts news.

  • Chloé Bitton

    Thank you for your great update, Ash. I am heading an NGO’s Communications and feel quite concerned about Fb’s changes. We have an official page for our NGO and views of our post have quickly declined over the past weeks. Boosting our posts by paying for it is not a sustainable options for non-profits, as we don’t have the budget for that. I have the feeling that Facebook strategy, antagonizing individuals versus companies have somehow forgotten about the non-profit sector and that there’s an important critical mass using Facebook not simply to get informed or to be advertised, but to be part of a cause. Those causes deserve visibility and non-profits will have to re-think quite globally about their presence on facebook and the outcomes they can get out of it – or not.

    Thanks again for your article & best.

  • Hi Ash,
    Now this is some new news.
    Facebook has been dominant from the other entire social media platform such as Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Stumbleupon etc. Facebook contributes almost 30% of Business conducted on Social media.
    Social media is good platform to reach huge no. of audiences for your Website. It is very Fast, Easy and cheaper way to market your product to new people. There is Millions of active user on each social media, which makes a huge market for the businessman.
    Now news of Favouring user generated Content over Publisher is good news as per my concern. Facebook has been started with the purpose of connecting the friend and family members. Even now most of the user of Facebook uses it for connecting with their peers. For them every Professional news feed is just an irritation.
    For publishers now they will have to connect more personally with the readers if they want their posts to be seen by more Facebook user.

    Thanks for sharing valuable news with us.
    With regards,
    Saurav

  • Good to see that Facebook is giving the love back to the families and friends. What Facebook was initially created for.

  • WinePress

    I’m already experiencing frustration, because my PRIMARY use of Facebook is to connect to bloggers, products, & news in which I’m interested…if I need to know what my “friends” are posting–and I typically don’t–I’ll generally do a search…I don’t want to have to do that with my Pages Feed…but I’ve been having to…aarrgghh!

  • I think this is just so wrong. It not fair to pages that already aren’t getting enough reach. This is gonna kill startup pages. 🙁

  • Well, as facebook tries to make all of its users happy, it’s giving marketers another challenge to overcome and master. I guess this would mean for an age of promoting personal branding as marketers would likely to increase their influence though their facebook profile. It doesn’t have to be choosing between having an informational or entertaining post, it has to be both if you want your post to be more engaging than others. Don’t forget though that facebook is just one of the other social media platform, you don’t have to spend all of your efforts there.

  • Bob

    I use the app, great to have a similar format for desktop

  • Chandra Avula

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  • Chandra Avula