The new Facebook algorithm 02 Nov 12 12:05PM EST |
Since its initial public offering in May this year, revenue has become a key priority for Facebook, and this is having consequences for users, businesses, and non-profits alike.
Facebook has implemented a new algorithm to control what people see in their newsfeed, so not all their friends or pages' posts will show up. As a result, people who like hundreds of pages and have a lot of friends won't have their newsfeed clogged up by information they do not want, which has some obvious benefits for users who may want to avoid being bombarded every time they log on. But it also makes it harder for pages to reach their audience.
Currently, it’s estimated that a given page will only be able to reach 16% of people who have “liked” it. The page owner’s ability to get their posts on the newsfeeds of their fans depends on several factors.
Firstly, Facebook prioritises more recent posts over older ones. This means that successful posts must be able to make a large impact within a short period of time in order to ensure a large overall reach.
Secondly, Facebook tries to match a person’s feed to their interests. The algorithm learns what these interests might be through a user’s actions over time. It will prioritise certain kinds of content depending on what it can learn about a user.
The positive side of this is that pages are forced to adapt their content to suit the desires of their audience. Users are better served by content that is of more interest to them. There are strategies that pages can implement to organically grow their audience, which mostly revolve around trying to learn what it is that appeals to their fans. Users can also tell Facebook of pages they want to keep track of by creating favourite page lists, and pages can encourage their audience to do just that.
However, the best way for pages to expand their reach is by paying - which many page owners (especially non profits) do not have the resources to do.
One potential drawback of this system is that it can create a “filter bubble” which isolates users from different content. People may find it harder to stumble upon interesting or new information, unless it is paid advertising. And for non profits to ensure they have an effective Facebook presence, they will need to develop strategies to tailor their content to the interests of their fans. However, for those who are dedicated to enacting change, it can be difficult to create content that both appeals to the existing interests of their followers, while also attempting to stimulate new ways of thinking.
All audiences are likely to be different, so every organisation will need to take some time to learn about their followers. This requires a lot of trial and error as pages will need to see which posts do well, and which ones do not.
In addition to attempting to follow a user’s interests, the algorithm prioritises updates made directly to Facebook rather than through third-party applications such as HootSuite. It is also likely to give greater weight to Facebook content, such as videos uploaded to the site, as opposed to embedded YouTube videos.
The Facebook algorithm has both positives and negatives for consumers. But one thing appears certain - as Facebook continues its efforts to boost revenue, this will be the first of many changes.
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