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June 29, 2016, 11:52 a.m.
Audience & Social

Facebook is making its News Feed a little bit more about your friends and a little less about publishers

The impact will apparently be “noticeable” and “significant” but “small” and not “humongous.”

Has your employer built its audience strategy around Facebook traffic? Welp, today’s not a good day for you. Facebook announced today it is changing its News Feed algorithm to give more weight to content and links shared by friends and family — and less weight to what publishers share:

Our top 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. That’s why today, we’re announcing an upcoming change to News Feed ranking to help make sure you don’t miss stories from your friends.

We previously made an update that tries to ensure that stories posted directly by the friends you care about, such as photos, videos, status updates or links, will be higher up in News Feed so you are less likely to miss them.

We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about. For people with many connections this is particularly important, as there are a lot of stories for them to see each day. So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.

What kind of impact will this have on publishers?

Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. 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. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends. As always, Pages should refer to our publishing best practices.

In other words, your audience sharing your stories will be more useful than you sharing your stories, no matter how many fans your Facebook page might have.

This is another step in the continued devaluation of large publisher followings on Facebook; the social network has over time reduced the share of your fans who see each of your posts (though they’re happy to take your ad dollars to show them to more!). Add in Instant Articles and the strong preference given to Facebook-native video and you see, once again, the primary hoarder of Internet attention consolidating its position. And various undulations in publisher Facebook traffic — seemingly driven more by algorithmic decisions rather than publisher success or failure — have shown over the past year or two that small tweaks can have big impacts.

Reaction around the news and social-media-marketing worlds was mostly low-key bummed. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo:

These moves highlight a truth that tends to get lost in commentary about the social network’s influence over the news: At Facebook, informing users about the world will always take a back seat to cute pictures of babies (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Because Facebook does not think of itself primarily as a news company, it seems to want us to stop expecting it to act like one. Whether we should, though, is a more complicated matter.

Like adjectives? Brian Stelter quotes a Facebook official saying the change will be “noticeable” and “significant” but “small” and not “humongous.”

Facebook logo pixellation by Jorge Caballero Jiménez used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     June 29, 2016, 11:52 a.m.
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