What Facebook's revamped News Feed means for PR pros and marketers

Facebook's news feed move was seen as a response from the company to criticism it has faced over the past 12 months for its failure to prevent hate speech and abuse on its platform, and for the sheer power and influence it wields over society.

"Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we'll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses".

Facebook users contacted on Saturday said their news feeds - the list of posts you see right when you log into the Facebook webpage or load the social networking app - were dominated by posts from friends and family members.

Facebook has been taking pride in saying that users are exposed to more divergent views on its platform than they would be otherwise, but does it account for the threat of "balkanisation" of the society.

"The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Thursday. The decision, Zuckerberg hopes, will make sure "the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent".

Facebook said its new ranking system would hurt non-advertising content from publishers and brands, like news stories and viral video posts, but not change the ranking of advertising that has been paid for.

Zuckerberg says he is making these changes to "encourage meaningful interactions between people". Publishers will now have to put up content that produces conversation without using gimmicks to inflate clicks and comments.

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The Facebook "News Feed" is the centerpiece of the social network. "We believe these changes will be beneficial to Facebook in the medium and long term", said Brian Weiser of the Pivotal Research Group. Former executives and Facebook investors have spoken out about how it and other social media sites might be hurting rather than helping society and users' psyches. Content from businesses, brands and media will be featured less prominently.

If the brand has simply been publishing content for the sake of posting and frequency, it is now more urgent to revise its strategy to that of true engagement and interaction.
"Not only will you be more effective, you will achieve greater reach at a lower cost", he said, adding that less inventory could see the cost of advertising on Facebook go up. Meanwhile, passive consumption of articles and videos made them just feel bad. "And yes, video will still outperform other forms of content", said Jason Hsiao, Chief Video Officer & Co-Founder, Animoto.

Goh Theng Kiat, CMO of OCBC Bank said the move was a positive one by Facebook for the consumer.

"Recently, we've gotten 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", he stated in the post.

Facebook's stated goal of its recalibration is to bring people together.

Facebook prioritised all things local and community-based earlier this year, so it won't come as a surprise that it's going to start surfacing those little boxes that have begun popping up requesting advice and recommendations.

Facebook might well be a field of dreams for small business advertisers, but the goalposts are changing with a revamping of the platform's news feed set to prioritise posts from friends and family above business content.

  • Desiree Holland