In a lengthy post on Thursday, January 11, Mark Zuckerberg announced a big shift in how Facebook will surface content to users.
The change stems from having received “feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
Based on Zuckerberg’s language, the feedback to which he refers is likely the Time Well Spent movement, which states its mission as “reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.” To address the increasing pressure from this movement and improve the Facebook experience, Zuckerberg is changing the goal for product teams “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
What This Means For Brands
In his post, Zuckerberg explicitly warns brands and publishers that the News Feed will be the first to change. Users will “see more from [their] friends, family and groups [and] less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.” The premium that Facebook is now placing on “meaningful interactions” will become the standard across the board, and something that “public content” will need to achieve to appear in the feed. Nowhere, however, does Zuckerberg mention the amount of advertising being served or its frequency in the News Feed.
This transformation will likely play out as follows:
- Publishers will experience the brunt of the initial impact, seeing a steep drop in Facebook traffic.
- Brands will see their already small organic reach decline further.
- Over time, as publishers start paying to play the same way brands have for the past few years, ad inventory will tighten up and media will get more expensive.
Brands will also have to shift their organic content strategies. Zuckerberg’s announcement seems to revive the need for brands to create content that drives engagement, which Facebook had previously de-emphasized for content evaluation.
But the type of engagement it is looking for—what Zuckerberg calls “meaningful”—extends past just quick likes and reactions. Facebook wants its News Feed filled with content that truly resonates. Leaving thoughtful comments and tagging or sharing with friends are signs that something worked, similar to the repeat viewer metric Facebook Watch has used to evaluate show performance, according to Digiday. Brands must adjust their strategies to ensure content connects on a deeper level, and then be smart about finding avenues to integrate business messaging. They will also start to find repurposing content across media less effective; instead, content for Facebook will have to be tailored to the unique strengths of the platform. Although Zuckerberg kept the announcement to Facebook, Instagram could very well experience a similar push.
Ad content strategy will also feel an impact as the tighter inventory mentioned earlier increases the bar for ad quality. For lower-funnel ads, brands should probably still create content focused on driving their key objectives (link clicks, website purchases, leads), not engagement. However, for top-funnel objectives (brand awareness, video views, engagement), ad creative will almost definitely need to spur higher quality interactions or dwell times. As the News Feed becomes more personal, ads that look and feel like ads will be more jarring than they were in a feed filled with more public content. For most brands, creating ad content that feels more intimate and authentic, and shows how they deliver value to consumers, will likely have the better pay off.
Lastly, we anticipate more brands establishing groups, which, before Facebook became such an advertising powerhouse, are essentially what Pages used to be: places for true fans to discuss the subjects or brands they love passionately. The updates Facebook rolled out to groups in 2017, combined with this announcement, seem to indicate the feature is a big part of its plan.