Facebook feed change makes businesses work harder for eyeballs

facebook-news-feed-updatePromoting your business via Facebook? Of course you are. And now the social network wants you to get a lot better at it, or face the prospect of your posts being buried in users’s news feeds under an avalanche of cat videos and song lyrics.

Yesterday Facebook officially announced it would be changing the way the news feed works, with the goal of showing “all the posts people want to see in the order they want to read them.”

The technical details of this involve re-surfacing older posts that have received high engagement from users’s friends to the top of those users’s news feeds. The idea is to give everyone a chance to see “interesting” content they might have missed when it was originally posted. Facebook says beta testing of this feature “resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages.”

The company also reports the proportion of total news feed stories seen by the typical user jumped from 57 percent to 70 percent.

If Page posts are getting more interaction, that would seem to be good news, but not everyone is convinced. SFGate’s Jim Edwards writes that only 15 percent of a brand’s followers typically see any given post on a Facebook page. If “more interesting stories” are bumped up above newer stories on the feed, well, something has to take the hit and be pushed down and off the page, right? As Edwards notes, “boring” posts–which probably include the announcement of the 2.1.7 release of your company’s app–will necessarily have to be shuffled down and off the page.

Now Facebook may be suggesting (but it does not explicitly state) that this algorithm update doesn’t just change the way posts are ordered but that it also changes user behaviors such that they scroll further down the news feed. That would explain the increase in interaction with Pages, but the logic seems dubious. Will a bunch of old stories at the top of your news feed actually make you use Facebook more? Time will tell whether the beta test results pan out with a broader audience. The update rolls out to the Facebook user base starting today.

Facebook also notes that this change does not affect the way paid content is displayed.

Facebook has always played pretty fast and loose with chronology. I don’t know about you, but the top story on my Facebook news feed as I write this is 23 hours old, followed by one posted 20 minutes ago, then one from Monday, then one from this morning. How Facebook decides this priority has always been a mystery to me–and now it seems it will be even more mysterious.

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