On January 11th, 2018, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri made a huge announcement.
‘Facebook was built to bring people closer together and build relationships. One of the ways we do this is by connecting people to meaningful posts from their friends and family in News Feed. Over the next few months, we’ll be making updates to ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about. Mark outlined this in a post today.’
The world’s largest social media platform stated that, as it moves ahead, it would update its News Feed algorithm that filter and rank the content on Facebook. The logic behind the move, according to a post by Mark Zuckerberg himself is so that people can have a better chance to interact with relevant content.
The News Feed update rolled out after the social media giant faced scrutiny due to accusations that it published fake news during the US presidential election in 2016; and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
What was the Cambridge Analytica scandal?
Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, was charged with illegally gathering personal user data to manipulate the impartial voting system. Facebook lost over 100 billion dollars’ worth of market capitalization after governments and protestors demanded answers from the CEO, Mr. Zuckerberg.
Six months Facebook’s algorithm update had led to a decline in user engagement for Business Pages.
‘2019 to date has seen the most engagement on its content with over 6 billion engagements to English language web content already this year. This compares to around 5.5 billion in 2017 and is more than 1.5x the engagement we saw in 2018 over the same period, which was just under 4 billion engagements.’
‘This remained true for average engagement as well, with 2019’s content garnering around ten percent more engagements on average than we saw in 2017, and more than 50 percent more than we saw from 2018. A lot of the shares on web content come from non-public Facebook Pages. As such, there is a possibility that Facebook’s friends and family focus, getting people to read what their networks are sharing rather than what pages are promoting, may have contributed to this increase as people shared articles they enjoyed on the network.’
NewsWhip investigated the engagement of Pages on Facebook compared to the content that was shared on the social platform. NewsWhip assessed the interaction rates of more than 20 million online articles to find what type of content, in terms of format, subject matter, authors, had the highest rate of engagement on Facebook.
According to NewsWhip’s findings, links to blog articles and content that originated outside the Facebook borders increased by more than 1.5 percent in the three months to March 2019 when compared to the same period last year.
Considering the bulk of the content shared on Facebook was derived from external sources, it suggests that the News Feed algorithm update did its job. In other words, users were interacting more with content shared by mutual friends and family members, in contrast to native content from Facebook.
Best performing content of Native Facebook Pages
The native Facebook page content was another area that NewsWhip investigated. After Facebook’s unveiled its News Feed algorithm update, it claimed that live videos had a higher rate of engagement compared to prerecorded videos. This prompted many business pages to increase their output of live videos.
However, NewsWhip’s study indicated that the worst-performing type of content was live video. Photos took the number one position with nearly 50 percent of the top 10,000 Facebook posts.
Native videos came out on top with more than 50,000 average shares followed by photos, links, and live videos.
Live videos performed best in terms of average comments. This could be down to the fact that live videos usually address trending topics such as breaking news, or sporting events that gain a lot of traction and engagement.
The huge stream of comments that come with live video content could be down to the users wanting to interact with one another in real-time.
What does the future hold?
The fact that live video content had the highest average comments compared to other kinds of content on Facebook points to the conversational nature and desire for social interaction between users. This brings us back to Mr. Mosseri’s quote that the whole purpose of the News Feed update is ‘so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.’
Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the fact that he wanted the Facebook News Feed update to make users’ experience of the social network more meaningful by giving each user ample opportunity to interact with friends and family with engaging content.
‘For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching a video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.’
‘Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.’
To read Mr. Zuckerberg’s full post, click here.
The key takeaway from all of this is that content that welcomes large social interactions, like live videos, is the way forward. Facebook’s algorithm is constantly changing so it would be a smart move to keep up to date on all the announcements and press releases so that you can stay one step ahead of your competition.
It also boils down to what your business goals are. If you want your target audience to engage in lengthy online conversations, then live video content is the way to go. If, on the other hand, you create and post native video content then you should expect a high share rate.
“By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent,” concluded Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the start of 2018. Two years down the line, has Facebook’s algorithm update achieved what it set out to?